Projected 300 new manufacturing jobs lost
Agreements for Attala Technology Group LLC to lease and then lease-to-buy the 367,000-square-foot former Jack Post building on 68 acres off East Jefferson Street in Kosciusko from Attala County have been terminated. The company — affiliated with Sustainable Energy Technologies Incorporated (SETI) —planned to initially house a carbon black and graphene battery manufacturing operation at the site, which had been unoccupied for the past several years.
The project’s local representative, Don Coleman, said last summer that those planned and operations at the site could eventually bring as much as $100 million in investments and as many as 300 new jobs to the area.
When The Star-Herald contacted Coleman Monday after hearing rumors that the project had been canceled, he forwarded a letter he said was written by Paul Cheeks, one of the project’s principals, addressed to Board of Supervisors Chairman Stephen Goss.
“...It is with deep regret that we bring to you, the board of supervisors, Taylor Casey, Attorney Scott Pickle, Darren Milner, and the good citizens of Kosciusko and Attala County, unfavorable news that SETI (Sustainable Energy Technologies Incorporated), will not be able to move forward and purchase the Jack Post Property at this time per contract extension terms,” the letter reads.
The document cites poor economic and political conditions — particularly related to the COVID-19 pandemic — as concerns that prevented the group from gathering enough investment to move forward at this time. It thanks local officials and Coleman for working diligently to see the project succeed.
But before their lawyers approved that letter to be sent to county officials, Coleman said the group received notification from Scott Pickle, attorney to the Board of Supervisors, that the county was exercising its option to terminate the agreements.
Pickle told The Star-Herald that supervisors voted in executive session Nov. 16 to terminate agreements with the group after a $2,500 lease payment to use the high bay area of the building for equipment storage was not received on time for the month of November.
That agreement was in place pending execution of a final lease-to-purchase agreement for the facility by the end of this calendar year.
Had the final deal gone forward, the county would have received $12,000 per month in lease fees, 90% of which would have been counted toward the $2.5 million purchase price for the property.
Pickle said that when the lease payment did not arrive on time, KAP Executive Director Darren Milner, who has served as a liaison between the sides, contacted company representatives. It was then, he said, that it became clear the group had been unable to gather the investors needed to pursue the project.
The county then terminated both agreements on Nov. 25.
“We were really hoping for it, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t happen because they couldn’t come up with their investors,” Pickle said. “I don’t doubt for a second that it’s true when they say COVID is a factor in getting their investors.”
According to the letter provided by Coleman, the group intends to pay the delinquent rent and remove the equipment owned by Karen Bertram/Integrated Energy Solutions. Pickle said the agreement gives them 30 days to remove the equipment, though other arrangements are possible.
Pickle said the county would be willing to speak with this group or another group seeking to pursue the project if circumstances change, but that Milner will continue showing the property to prospective tenants or buyers on the county’s behalf in the meantime.
“The county has bent over backwards to try to make this happen. This board is pro-business and pro-jobs,” Pickle said. “They get a lot of criticism about not bringing industry here, but we’re like every other rural county. We’re all competing for those businesses and jobs.”