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KiOR misses contract payment; County reaching out to company for next move

NATCHEZ — Financially struggling fuel maker KiOR missed a key payment to Adams County this week that would have allowed the company to continue holding onto its undeveloped proposed industrial site in Natchez.

KiOR announced in mid-2012 plans to build an alternative fuel production facility near the Natchez-Adams County Port on the former Belwood Country Club property, but its plans have since been stalled by technical and financial quagmire at its only full-scale plant in Columbus.

Two weeks ago, the company warned it would run out of money in September and could face bankruptcy, and the company had multiple rounds of employee layoffs.

The company had a $150,000, six-month contract on the county-owned Belwood property, but when the payment was due Tuesday, it was not made.

“I have instructed (board attorney Scott Slover) to respond to them with a letter informing them of the situation so that we will know if they are going to pay or not so we can know if we should put it back on the market,” Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said.

While the county had at one time committed to building a levee around the flood-prone property, the project never moved forward as the supervisors waited for KiOR to give the nod that it would begin building its infrastructure.

The only money spent on the property was approximately $500,000 to relocate a sewer line that ran across the center of the property to run alongside the existing ring levee surrounding the port.

“We didn’t expect to spend any money on that, and thought a grant would underwrite those costs,” Grennell said. “The option agreement helped cover some of it, and at least (the property) will be prepared for future industrial developments.”

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the property can be effectively considered to be back on the market.

“There is interest in the property in general, and so we will be moving fairly quickly to see how to best put that property back into it’s highest, best use,” he said.

Grennell said he has been told of at least two companies interested in the property, but said he did not know who they were.

KiOR reportedly spent at least $10 million in preparation for the proposed Natchez cellulostic fuel plant, which was projected at one time to create 320 direct and indirect jobs.

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