Terri Ferguson Smith of the Meridian Star published an article February 9th on tax breaks that Kemper county is seeing because of Mississippi Power’s Kemper Project, a lignite plant projected to open later this year.
The reduction in taxes makes the county more business friendly, according to Craig Hitt, executive director of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority.
“This naturally is good for Kemper county. Like many rural, small counties, it didn’t have a lot of income and a large tax base,” Hitt said. “They’ve seen that growth in their tax base and have been able to reduce the millage all across the county.”
The Kemper Board of Supervisors lowered the millage rate 17 mills at the beginning of the current fiscal year, according to Jocelyn Robertson, tax assessor and collector.
In fiscal year 2012-2013, the millage rate was 111.63. It was reduced to 95 for the fiscal year 2013-2014, Robertson said.
“The taxpayers are very happy,” she said. “Their land taxes and their car tags have been reduced greatly.”
For example — and this is just an estimate, Robertson said — a person owning a house valued at $100,000 would save between $100 and $150 a year in taxes.
The $8 million that Kemper County has pulled in just this fiscal year from the Kemper Project hasn’t only pleased the tax payers, but also businesses, both big and small, looking to move in to the area.
The tax reduction is just one of the things that makes Kemper County a good place for business, Hitt said.
“I have talked with different business owners and property owners because over the last two months they’ve been paying taxes. They are very thankful for that,” Hitt said.
This opens the door for new opportunity for business and industry, he said.
“We’re calling this the new Kemper County,” Hitt said. “We feel like there are new opportunities that the county has not had in the past and this refers back to the new tax base. We feel like the tax levy will be enticing to those who are looking to grow their business.”
Kemper is already planning for industry expansion with the construction of infrastructure in preparation of people setting up shop in the area.
To capitalize on that potential, Hitt said the county has to be ready for new growth, which would likely be in the area of Highway 45 because it is already a four lane highway and has rail service as well as ample utility service, except for natural gas.
“We have a committee that’s been working for over six months looking to create a gas utility district,” Hitt said. “That will allow us to move forward to extending a natural gas line to Highway 45 and the town of Scooba and East Mississippi Community College.”
Natural gas access is necessary for Kemper to compete for new industries, he said.
“We have to be ready for folks who are interested in Kemper County,” Hitt said.
Hitt said there is a small parcel of land in the Stennis Industrial Park, but officials are seeking a large spot to be able to offer potential business ventures.
“Our efforts are still being directed toward identifying additional properties and making sure those properties are ready,” he said.
Once property is selected, officials would like to go ahead and get environmental studies to be prepared in case there is a company interested in the location.
“Once we have something to market, then we can work with our partners; Tennessee Valley Authority, the Mississippi Development Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission,” Hitt said.
Also in the county’s favor, he said, is its workforce and a workforce program at EMCC that businesses can use to train employees.
All in all, he said, the future looks good for Kemper County.
“We have an available work force, we have a low millage rate and we have a leadership that is willing to work with an industry in every way that they possibly and legally can do to make them feel welcome in Kemper County.”