JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he'd prefer that the state not invest in startup companies like failed solar equipment firm Twin Creeks. The Republican says he's steering the Mississippi Development Authority away from loaning or giving money to such companies.
"I do not have a preference for startup companies," Bryant told The Associated Press Friday. "I am conservative because of my audit background and would look more toward companies such as Nissan, Severstal, heavy manufacturing companies with a background in the industry, a clear record of achievement. That would be more of a targeted industry for this administration."
In a separate phone interview with AP, Bryant's predecessor, Republican Haley Barbour, defended the state's $27.7 million investment in Twin Creeks, a San Jose, Calif., firm that's liquidating after a bank pushed the company into selling its technology. The company was supposed to invest $132 million and create 500 jobs in Senatobia.
The state signed its incentive deal with Twin Creeks in April 2010, when Barbour was governor. His second term expired in January 2012.
Barbour said he's confident that the company will repay any money that Mississippi officials can't get back from the building and equipment that were funded with state loans to the city of Senatobia.
"The state will recover all of its incentives given to Twin Creeks," Barbour told AP Friday. "I am not worried at all. I think that the risk to the taxpayer is next to nothing."
Barbour referred to Twin Creeks' offer to give the state an estimated $1.25 million in cash, plus the rights to up to $8 million in royalties from patents that were sold to GT Advanced Technologies of Nashua, N.H. for $10 million.
He predicted that Senatobia would lease the building for enough money to cover its loan payments to the state. MDA has waived the first payment of $1.2 million. Senatobia was supposed to collect that amount by Dec. 31 and pass it on to the state by Jan. 5. The state loaned Senatobia $18 million to prepare the site and build the building. It gave another $1 million in grants for site work.
Barbour also said the state's investments in Twin Creeks and a number of other alternative energy firms under his administration were not overly risky. Besides that company, Mississippi also signed agreements with alternative energy companies including solar panel maker Stion; smart window maker View, formerly Soladigm; solar silicon maker Silicor Materials, formerly Calisolar; biofuels maker KiOR; and biofuels maker Virdia, formerly HCL Cleantech.