GEOFF PENDER: Incentives are way of the world

Lastly, the Continental plant will help an economically depressed area: western Hinds County and Jackson. As Bryant put it: “Hinds County needs this plant.”

Now, the State Port of Gulfport project is a fish of a different color. Its state investment — borrowing $11 million plus tax breaks — is more of a pragmatic deal. A post-Katrina, federally funded $570 million pipe dream of “The Port of the Future” hasn’t panned out and created the jobs the state promised HUD it would.

Now, the feds are breathing down the state’s neck and have threatened to make the state repay hundreds of millions of dollars. State officials have been trying to count anyone who walks by the port and has a job as being a maritime employee. The 1,000 jobs from the planned Topship yard, on nearby inland port property, would appear to come close to satisfying HUD’s jobs requirements.

In a perfect world, states should stop doling out all these incentives. But could Mississippi afford to go first? Bryant says, no.

“I’ve often told people that if everybody else quit doing it, we would quit,” Bryant said. “But if they’re not going to put their swords down, I’m not going to.”

ClarionLedger
2/6/16