Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.

Since 2009, Mississippi taxpayers paid nearly $4 million to help Peco Foods Inc. and Koch Foods, both food processing companies targeted in immigration enforcement raids in early August.

Mississippi offers a variety of economic development programs to businesses, including tax incentives, grants and loans to encourage companies to locate or expand in the state, with the ultimate goal of bringing jobs to Mississippians.

Mississippi Development Authority spokesperson Melissa Scallan said that none of the food processing companies raided in the recent immigration enforcement operation — the nation’s largest in a decade — received traditional tax incentives from the state.

Families search for answers following immigration raids; 680 people working at food processing plants detained

The companies benefited from other incentives awarded to local governments for help with infrastructure improvements, including road construction and water and sewer systems. In some cases, the awards went unspent and returned to the state because either the company or local government could not meet certain requirements.

When taking the unspent funds into account, the state has earmarked close to $9 million for the Peco and Koch companies in the past decade.

MDA, the state’s economic development agency, administers grants through its Community Services Division, its Financial Resources Division and the federal Hurricane Katrina Community Development Block Grant to assist communities affected by the 2005 hurricane.

The development authority awards grants through its Community Services Division and the federal Katrina grant to local entities, such as towns or counties, to make public improvements benefiting nearby plants in exchange for those companies’ promises to add jobs to their facilities.

Grants from the Financial Resources Division go directly to companies, but they must have a local sponsor, such as an economic development group.

Regional development agencies also assist companies in receiving similar grants. In 1999, the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District prepared a grant application for the city of Canton, according to a 2018 report celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, which led to $1.2 million in infrastructure improvements to support expansion at the local Peco plant.

Here is a list of grants the state awarded to three of the companies — Peco Foods, Inc., Koch Foods and Pearl River Foods — targeted in the raids:

Peco, 2008, $1.09 million: Bay Springs received a $1,093,480 Katrina block grant and spent $1,092,800 of it “to replace damaged and underperforming equipment at the city’s existing wastewater treatment facility.” In exchange, Peco promised to retain 550 existing jobs at its Bay Springs plant, one of those raided in August.

Peco, 2009, $1.29 million: The town of Lake received a $1.3 Katrina block grant and spent $1,289,416.26 on infrastructure improvements, such as water and wastewater extensions and a new access road for Peco’s new feed mill in exchange for 28 new jobs.

Koch, 2011, $712,327: Morton received $712,500 in Community Service Division funds and spent $712,326.78 making improvements on publicly-owned Koch access roads. Koch created 36 jobs.

Koch, 2014, $897,640: Morton received $1.06 million in Community Service Division funds and spent $897,639.50 making improvements on publicly-owned Koch access roads. Koch created 80 jobs.

Pearl River Foods, 2016, $0: Leake County received a $1.5 million Community Service Division award for improvements to publicly-owned sites and buildings, but bids for the project came in much higher than $1.5 million and the county could not make up the difference. It left the money on the table and Pearl River Foods paid for the improvements.

Peco, 2018, $0: On behalf of Peco, local development agency Golden Triangle LINK received a $2.5 million grant for building improvements and $500,000 in “MS Works” funds for workforce training through the development authority’s Financial Resources Division. Peco acquired an empty warehouse in West Point to transform into freezer, cooler and storage space. The state awarded Peco the grants in exchange for 300 new jobs, but Peco “was not certain it would be able to create 300 jobs,” Scallan said, so the funds were never transferred.

Peco received 10 years of ad valorem tax exemptions from West Point and Clay County and reduced rates for city water, according to a May, 2018 story in The Columbus Dispatch.

Any unspent funds are “deobligated” and returned to the state’s coffers.

Read Mississippi Today’s full coverage on the recent ICE workplace raids.

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Anna Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers inequity and corruption in government safety net programs, nonprofit service providers and institutions affecting the marginalized. She began reporting for Mississippi Today in 2018, after she approached the editor with the idea of starting a poverty beat, the first of its kind in the state. Wolfe has received national recognition for her years-long coverage of Mississippi’s welfare program, in which she exposed new details about how officials funneled tens of millions of federal public assistance funds away from needy families and instead to their friends, families and the pet projects of famous athletes. Since joining Mississippi Today, she has received several national honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, the Livingston Award, two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Sacred Cat Award, the Nellie Bly Award, the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Sidney Award, the National Press Foundation’s Poverty and Inequality Award and others. Previously, Wolfe worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide newspaper, where she covered city hall, health care, and wrote stories about hunger and medical billing, earning the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism two years in a row. Born and raised on the Puget Sound in Washington State, Wolfe moved to Mississippi in 2012 to attend Mississippi State University, where she currently serves on the Digital Journalism Advisory Board. She has lived in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating in 2014.