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Miss. officials eye $38 million for Cooper Tire

TUPELO, Miss. – Local officials are supporting tax breaks to modernize Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s Tupelo plant, while state officials mull a contribution.

The Lee County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to cut property taxes for 10 years, which could save the company $18 million during that time.

Cooper, based in Findlay, Ohio, wants to invest $140 million to modernize the Tupelo plant, guaranteeing to retain at least 1,300 workers for the next decade. The company now has about 1,600 employees.

The proposal calls for the state to contribute $20 million in bond money, $8 million in the first year and $6 million in each of the second and third years.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he’s he met with Cooper officials and called the meeting productive.

Cooper is trying to recover from a failed sale to India’s Apollo Tyres. A joint-venture partner in China balked at the deal and workers there went on strike. When they resumed work, they wouldn’t make Cooper-brand tires.

Cooper’s financial statements were delayed, with the company releasing its earnings for June through September 2013 only Friday.

The company said sales fell 24 percent in 2013’s third quarter compared to the same three months of 2012. Sales dived even as overall tire industry sales grew.

The company swung from a $74 million profit in 2012’s third quarter to a $168,000 loss in the 2013 period.

Cooper said it will release fourth quarter and full-year results later this month.

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