NATCHEZ — Even though the former Belwood Country Club property is under contract to KiOR, county officials say the valuable industrial property isn’t necessarily locked down to the financially struggling alternative fuels producer.
Other port properties are being actively marketed as well.
The supervisors extended a contract for the 120-acre tract of land to KiOR in February to replace a similar contract that had expired.
The difference with this contract is it’s for a shorter-term commitment than other similar contracts, with KiOR and Adams County having to renew it every six months, Adams County Board of Supervisors Vice President Mike Lazarus said.
“We have never quit marketing the Belwood property,” Lazarus said. “We would rather have $150,000 every six months until they build something on it, and then if they didn’t pay we could put it back out there.”
Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the Belwood property is part of the industrial recruiting agency’s portfolio.
“Even though we have an option on the property that secures it, it is still listed as an active piece of property in our port because we haven’t closed a land transaction on it,” he said.
KiOR has not missed a payment to Adams County, but the contract also allows the county to non-renew the contract even if the company is compliant with payments, Lazarus said.
“With KiOR, we have been getting money for land that has just been sitting there for years,” Lazarus said. “If they are able to build something there, great, and if not, we still won on that deal.”
KiOR announced in 2012 plans to build a cellulostic fuel plant on the Belwood property. Since the beginning of the year, however, the company has publicly announced the shutting-down of its only full-scale plant in Columbus and has discussed problems with cash flow, including the potential need to file for bankruptcy later this year.
The former International Paper property, which the county purchased in August 2013, has some active interest, Russ said.
“We have a significant and active portfolio on that area that either has proposals or has been shortlisted on projects,” he said. “Those projects are for the three sites left in the port area, and they range from container board to petrochemical to traditional metal fabrication.”
One thing that is being taken into consideration is the proposal of selling a portion of the International Paper property so a loop track can be built on it, Lazarus said.
The loop track would be a short, closed rail line around the property.
“Every design we have for the different prospects on that property include the loop track,” he said.
Russ said Natchez Railway will have to address some issues on the track east of Natchez before the loop rail can be installed, but it’s something that needs to be considered for the future and for present port business.
“We have got to continue to work with Natchez Railway and those customers in order to make the business case on it, but the reality of it is — if we end up with a large user of that IP site that is doing something energy related — it will need significant rail infrastructure, so our maps of the site includes a rail piece on that is there and prevalent.
“It is definitely something we think the site will lend itself to, especially with someone in the specific field of petrochemical or energy-related production — most of those will need some type of loop track or added rail infrastructure in order to be served,” Russ said.