State Politics

D'Iberville begs to keep $96M tax incentive for mall

An artist's rendering of the proposed Gulf Coast Galleria shows a mix of shops, restaurants and water features.
An artist's rendering of the proposed Gulf Coast Galleria shows a mix of shops, restaurants and water features. RAMCO DEVELOPMENT

D'IBERVILLE -- The City Council called a special meeting Thursday to ask the state legislature to overturn an amendment to Senate Bill 2922, which would kill a $96 million tax incentive for the proposed Gulf Coast Galleria shopping center if construction isn't complete by July 1.

"You can't (even) build a house between now and July," said Christiana Sugg, in-house counsel for management consultants Gouras & Associates, which helped secure the tax incentive in 2013.

The Senate bill was transmitted to the House on March 18 and hasn't been assigned to a committee. Tuesday is the deadline for floor action in the House.

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said the program wastes money because it would create low-paying jobs and competition for existing shopping centers.

The amendment also would affect shopping centers in Flowood and Ridgeland and a total of $175 million in incentives.

But D'Iberville officials say the shopping center would bring 64 new stores and restaurants not in the state and create 1,875 new jobs. Mayor Rusty Quave said it also would help capture some of the $540 million annual leak in retail spending now going to neighboring states.

The Mississippi Development Authority in January extended Gulf Coast Galleria's certificate through June 20, 2020.

"We urge you to take affirmative steps to protect and honor the commitments made by the state to economic development projects by defeating Amendment 2 to SB 2922," D'Iberville City Manager Bobby Eleuterius wrote in a letter Thursday to members of the Coast legislative delegation.

Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich attended Thursday's meeting and said he is opposed to the state pulling funding from a project.

"We're right here with you," he said of Biloxi. "Everyone should be right here with you."

The mall is proposed to be built on 100 acres at the southwest quadrant of the Interstate 10/110 intersection, and Eleuterius said the state Department of Transportation invested $40 million in roads in that area in part because of the project. A sign on I-10 marks the exit for the Galleria Parkway.

If the Galleria tax incentive is allowed, the city has agreed to forgo for 15 years the sales-tax revenue the project would generate. The developers must invest $326 million, and to realize the full $96 million rebate would need sales of $1.9 billion.

"The only way it works is with private investment and a performing project," Sugg said.