By Danny Bedwell
BAMSouth.com Contributing Columnist
In September of 2013, Governor Bryant of Mississippi announced that the Mississippi Development Authority had struck a deal with Feuer Powertrain to build a crankshaft manufacturing facility in Tunica. The Governor heralded this project as testimony to Mississippi’s new attitude of being a business friendly state. The architects of this deal tell us that the $140 million dollar project has the potential to bring 300 much needed jobs to the delta of Mississippi. Of the $140 million dollars, nearly $20 million of it will come from the taxpayers.
Feuer Powertrain was established in 2003 and is an OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer. They manufacture crankshafts for new cars, trucks and heavy equipment, and then ship them to the various automobile plants for installation into vehicles. With Tunica’s relative proximity to the Nissan plant in Canton, and the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Tunica seems like a good fit. Feuer has five plants in its hometown of Nordhausen, Germany, where they make crankshafts for everything from farm equipment and boats, to cars, trucks, and generators.
The Delta region of Mississippi has historically suffered from high unemployment and lagging economic numbers. It has always been rich in culture and has fertile soil perfect for crops such as cotton and soybeans. For generations, farming was the mainstay for employment. Then the casinos came along. Today, the casinos in Tunica employ around 11,500 people, down from a peak of 15,000 in 2006. These jobs, even though they fluctuate with the economy, are a good thing. Any time jobs come to an area like the Delta, with its high unemployment rate, and its limited opportunities, it’s generally considered a good thing.
But before we celebrate this job creation at Feuer, let’s take a few moments and consider a few things the Governor forgot to mention in his press release.
Through the magic of something called “Economic Development,” we can transfer ownership of that $1 from a poor person in Mississippi to a wealthy industrialist in Germany.
As mentioned, the taxpayers of Mississippi gave $20 million dollars in incentives to Feuer Powertrain. If we were to mark a $1 bill with a red felt tip pen, we could track the journey of that $1 bill from the beginning, when it left the pocket of a low income family in the Delta, until it is deposited into the pocket of Dietrich Feuer, owner of Feuer Powertrain.
Through the magic of something called “Economic Development,” we can transfer ownership of that $1 from a poor person in Mississippi to a wealthy industrialist in Germany. Laundering that $1 bill through the Mississippi Department of Revenue, The Mississippi Legislature, the Mississippi Development Authority, and then finally through the County Economic Board, does not change this. The $1 bill started out in the pocket of a low income farmer in the Delta, and ended up in the pocket of Dietrich Feuer, a wealthy German industrialist.
The supporters of this deal tell us that the $20 million was not paid directly to Dietrich Feuer. It was instead paid to local utility companies and contractors for site preparation and land acquisition. While this may be true, I argue that if the citizens of Mississippi had not paid for those necessities, Feuer Powertrain would have. Or they would have built their facility in another state.
But again, this is not a question of jobs. It’s about taking money out of poor people’s pockets in Mississippi and transferring it into the pockets of wealthy people in foreign countries. In my example, I used $1 as the amount transferred from the poor to the rich. The truth is, it’s a lot more than that. The Mississippi Legislature in 2009 gave the Mississippi Development Authority a $468 million dollar line of credit. The MDA has been using this slush fund to finance wealthy tire manufacturers in Japan, as well as wealthy auto manufacturers.
The people in the Delta need more than a job. They need someone to stop the theft. We all do.
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