Meridian Star

Local News

November 18, 2012

Vacant building could still produce some revenue

MERIDIAN —     Although the Handy Hardware building will be vacant after the end of the year, it will still produce some revenue for the area through property taxes and lease payments.

    Handy Hardware officials announced last week that they would cease operations in Lauderdale County on Dec. 31, just  two years after opening the 463,000 square foot distribution center next to I-20 east of Meridian.

    Handy Hardware employs 107 people in Lauderdale County. It is part of a 1,300 store cooperative and is based in Houston.

    The building was constructed for Handy Hardware. Capital One financed construction and will own the building after Handy Hardware vacates the property.

    If Handy Hardware still has a presence in the building in January of 2013, the exemption will continue for that year. Taxes would not be billed until the end of the following year.

    The 40-acre site upon which the building sits is owned by Lauderdale County. Capital One will be expected to pay property taxes on the building and pay a monthly lease.

    Joe McCraney, county administrator, said the lease is for $1,000.

    Joe Norwood, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, said Capital One will not be eligible for property tax exemptions, as was Handy Hardware. An official with the Mississippi Development Authority confirmed that.

    "There would have to be a document giving them that authority," said Dan Turner, spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority. "To my knowledge, there is not one."

    Tax exemptions are typically granted to companies that promise to create jobs for an area, he said. Capital One would have to actually create a specific number of jobs for the area in order to be considered for tax exemptions.

    Even companies that are granted property tax exemptions still have to pay the school portion of property taxes. MDA gave Lauderdale County a grant of $3.6 million in 2009 for site preparation work, access road, water and sewer improvements. to assist with the project and it wants Handy Hardware to repay the money, Turner said. As to how that will be pursued, he said MDA is still studying the situation.

    "That's something we're still looking at," Turner said. "Each industry is dealt with individually. Each situation is different so we have to approach each one individually."

    The Memorandum of Understanding was between MDA, Lauderdale County and Handy Hardware, so MDA could ask the county for repayment, which would then ask Handy Hardware for repayment.

    Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, said there is already work under way to get a new business for the building. Just two days after Handy Hardware announced the closing, Jones was in Atlanta and called on three consultants who represent companies that are looking for new locations.

    He also attended the German-American Chamber of Commerce gala while in Atlanta and came away with some good news.

    "They've afforded us at MEBDC the opportunity to present to German companies moving to the United States," Jones said.

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