By JACK WEATHERLY
Stion Corp. is getting relief for the second time from its agreement with local government in Forrest County and Hattiesburg.
The solar panel maker is entering a “payment and forebearance agreement” whereby it promises to pay $75,000 a month to the county and city toward $2.3 million in accumulated fees in lieu of ad valorem taxes.
In November 2015, Stion renegotiated its memorandum of understanding with the Mississippi Development Authority, city of Hattiesburg and Forrest County in which its commitment of jobs creation was cut in half and its time limit was lengthened by five years.
The maker of solar panels agreed in March 2011 to create 1,000 jobs by the end of 2017. Under the renegotiated memorandum, it will have to create at least 500 jobs paying an average of $43,000 by the end of 2022.
Published reports last week quote Frank Yang, vice president of business development and marketing at Stion, as saying that the manufacturing plant now employs about 125.
Yang said last year that between 2012 and 2014 the solar industry was oversupplied “due to dumping from Chinese companies,” which led to heavy tariffs by the United States, the European Union and India.
The state lent the company $75 million and the city and county agreed to accept fees in lieu of ad valorem taxes.
“Project support payments” from the city and county are now linked to jobs creation. If Stion has created 350 but fewer than 500 jobs by Feb. 1, 2023, the payments, which are not defined in the amended memorandum, will be reduced by the city and county
Stion, whose headquarters are in San Jose, Calif., agreed to invest at least $250 million in the project by Dec. 31, 2019. If the goal is not met by the end of 2018, the support payments will be eliminated.
If that investment goal is not met by the end of 2019, the company will have to pay $3.75 million to the state “within thirty (30) days of demand made by the state.”
If fewer than 500 jobs but at least 350 jobs are created starting at the end of 2022, the company will have to pay 1 percent of the balance of the loan annually, with the penalty rising eventually to repayment of the loan balance if fewer than 100 jobs are created.
Stion is providing “additional collateral,” according to the 2015 agreement.