Dearing: Nissan good for Natchez

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

State Sen. Bob Dearing told Natchez Lions Club members Tuesday he is confident a prospective automobile plant in central Mississippi will have a positive economic effect on Natchez and Adams County.

Dearing, D-Natchez, spoke at the civic club’s weekly meeting after wrapping up a legislative special session about the Nissan plant late Monday night. Unofficial reports claim Nissan will make an announcement Thursday on whether the plant will be located in Canton, he said.

Mississippi spent more than $295 million to lure the $900 million plant to the state, Dearing said, including bonded money that will be spent on highway improvements, infrastructure and job training.

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In return, estimations on average salaries for the 4,000 jobs the plant will supply range between $35,000 and $50,000, Dearing said.

&uot;(Local residents) are not going to be interested in moving to Jackson (to take a Nissan job), but they don’t mind commuting for a $50,000 salary,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s going to be great for Mississippi,&uot; Dearing said.

In addition to commuting employees, Dearing said Southwest Mississippi stands to profit from service companies that will branch away from the main plant, such as railway lines.

&uot;It’s not out of the realm of possibilities at all,&uot; he said.

Also, tax incentives included in the legislation surrounding the plant call for exemptions only in &uot;gap counties,&uot; which Dearing defined as those areas well below the poverty level.

Dearing, who was recently named chairman of the state’s Highway and Transportation Committee, also updated the Lions on regional highway projects, including U.S. 61 and U.S. 84.

&uot;The first thing I asked (the state highway department) was when is Highway 84 from Natchez to Brookhaven going to be completed?&uot; Dearing said.

The highway, which connects Natchez to Interstate 55, was to have been four-laned by Nov. 1 of this year, Dearing said.

Work on the highway has resumed and the final 13 miles is on-schedule to be completed by March, Dearing said.

Also in March, work is scheduled to begin on a portion of U.S. 61 North from the Adams County line to Fayette.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation awarded a bid on the expansion project last month. Dearing said work is stalled, not because of lack of funding, but because the heirs for two tracts of land cannot be identified.

&uot;(The construction company) is ready to get to work now and not get paid until March because they want to keep their workers through the winter,&uot; Dearing said.

Dearing said he recently met with MDOT representatives at a transportation conference and asked that the legality of beginning work earlier be researched.

&uot;We can work all the way around those two tracts of land,&uot; he said.

A related four-laning project on U.S. 61 South through Woodville was slowed when the town opted to bring the highway through rather than construct a by-pass. Woodville is now in the process of collecting bond monies to transfer the underground utilities before work resumes, he said.