A key component in Amazon Web Services’ commitment to spend $10 billion to construct two “hyperscale data centers” in Madison County is an agreement with Entergy to provide the large volume of electricity that such an endeavor will require.
Officials said the project — which will include building solar power fields — will not increase rates for other Entergy customers, and could possibly lower them.
Lawmakers on Thursday agreed to put up $44 million in taxpayer dollars for the project, make a loan of $215 million, and provide numerous tax breaks.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, said the plan is for Entergy to locate multi-million dollar facilities in neighboring Hinds County and in Washington and Tallahatchie counties in the Delta to generate that power. Power-generating facilities also could be located in other counties.
Bill Cork, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, confirmed that part of that power generation will be made through solar panel fields.
“I would argue this company’s desire is to have a different mix of power generated so they are going to bear the costs of the solar plants that are going in and are going to bear most of the costs of the gas generating facility that will be constructed,” Harkins told senators during Thursday’s special session where legislators passed the incentive package used to lure the Amazon data operations to Mississippi.
The “cherry on top,” Harkins said, is that the power-generating facilities will provide economic boosts in the areas where they are located.
The $10 billion project will be the biggest capital investment for a new economic development project in state history and Amazon’s second-largest investment in North America.
“Mississippi is building a business climate that is ripe for further growth, especially in the technology sector,” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said. “On top of that, we’re doing what it takes to prepare our workforce to take on these high-paying jobs of the future.”
Amazon has committed that the data centers that will store the company’s technology will employ at least 1,000 people in two locations in Madison County – one in southern Madison County near the Hinds County line and the other on I-55 near the Nissan plant.
Haley Fisackerly, Entergy’s chief executive officer, estimated between $2 billion and $3 billion will be spent on the power generating facilities, both solar and natural gas. He said the facilities will benefit not only Amazon but all Entergy customers. Entergy provides electricity to a large area of the state, including much of central Mississippi.
During Thursday’s special session called by Reeves, the Legislature wasted little time approving the incentive package agreed to by Amazon and the governor’s economic development team. One senator and two House members voted against different parts of the proposal.
On Thursday, Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, the House minority leader, unsuccessfully offered an amendment mandating that 25% of the jobs at Amazon’s data centers in Madison County must be held by Mississippians.
“Twenty-five percent is very little,” Johnson said. “I would like to see it more than that, but we get people in here all the time where they bring their people and leave.”
The legislation passed Thursday gives Entergy the authority to build power-generating facilities without obtaining the authority of the Public Service Commission, as would normally be required. But PSC will still regulate the rates levied by Entergy for the project, though the commissioners would be required to expedite the process.
The legislation approved Thursday commits the state to provide $44 million through appropriations, plus multiple tax breaks. Those tax incentives include a permanent exemption of sales and use taxes on equipment purchases, other temporary sales and use tax exemptions, a 10-year exemption of corporate income taxes and a rebate of 3.15% of some construction costs. In addition, for 30 years the tax breaks will continue if Amazon makes an annual investment of $500 million and adds an additional 50 jobs a year.
The bulk of the $44 million appropriation — $32 million – will be for workforce training with the rest to get the project off the ground. The state also will provide a loan of $215 primarily for sewer improvements and for other infrastructure work.
Cork said a study by the state economist indicated that the state would recover the funds committed to the project within 10 months “and then there will be revenue for miles.” The state, Cork said, would still be receiving the payroll tax and other tax revenue from the project.
The special session comes on the heels of a special session held last week to provide at least $350 to construct a plant to build batteries to power electric commercial vehicles. At that time, Democrats voiced concerns that enough was not being done to try to locate economic development projects in impoverished areas of the state. Plus, Democrats tried to mandate that a certain number of jobs at the battery plant be reserved for Mississippians since the plant will be constructed in Marshall County on the Tennessee state line.
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