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Company asks Jackson County for lease option on IP site

A company called Mississippi Gasification is interested enough in the old International Paper Co. industrial site in Moss Point to ask the county for a lease option on the land. according to county officials.

That's the biggest nibble Jackson County, the port and the Economic Development Foundation has had on the 185-acre site since the county bought it for redevelopment about eight years ago.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors is expected to agree to the lease option Thursday in a special called meeting of the board.

The agreement would give the company control of the site for a period of time for a price. Currently Chevron Pascagoula Refinery is leasing about half of the acreage for storage and parking for workers working on a refinery expansion.

Port officials have said that Chevron's agreement on the property held an option that if the county got a better, more permanent offer, Chevron would clear off.

George Freeland, director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, called Mississippi Gasification a “serious candidate” for the property.

International Paper had been located at the site for decades before shutting down and leaving Moss Point in the lurch without the tax revenue and employment the paper mill had provided the city and the school system.

Freeland said the county has been talking with Mississippi Gasification since January and is still cautious about creating expectations with the public.

“We still have things to work on,” Freeland said. “There are contengencies that will have to be met and overcome as things go along.”

But Freeland said the county and port have been picky about the industry they wanted at the cite. County leaders have said they wanted relatively clean industry along the river and Freeland said they wanted an industry that “embodied a degree of economic impact for the community.”

If things go through for Mississippi Gasification, they economic impact would be there, but details of that will not be released until the county formally signs off on the lease option today, officials have said.

Read more about this development in Thursday's Sun Herald.