A county commissioner in Alabama wants to revoke a tax break that was granted to a local GE Plastics plant in the early 1980s because the business is being sold to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. This story from the Montgomery Advertiser explains Lowndes County Commissioner Robert Harris' plan to revoke a property tax break for GE Plastics' Burkville plant.
Harris, who called Lowndes the second-poorest county in Alabama, doesn't care for a foreign government owning the major employer in the county. "We are looking at the contract itself," he said of the ongoing tax break for the plant. "We don't know clearly yet if we can do anything." SABIC is a state-owned company that produces basic chemicals, intermediates, specialty products, polymers, fertilizers and metals. It recently announced it will purchase the GE Plastics division for $11.6 billion, and part of the deal will include the Burkville plant. If the county's legal team decides the commission can change or revoke the tax break, Harris thinks that will happen quickly. "I am sure we would not have any other choice but to look at that," he said.This is just about the craziest idea I've heard. If Toyota (a "foreign" company) wanted to build a plant in Lowndes County, would the commission give it a tax break? Of course it would. The really surprising thing to me is how this bias is cropping up in towns where GE Plastics has a long history as a responsible corporate citizen. Remember that back in March, the Berkshire, Mass., Eagle ran a very stern editorial that called a proposed GE Plastics sale to Sabic "the worst case scenario for the sale of the company." That column went on to make a link between Sabic and terrorism. I think this anti-Saudi bias is going to continue to surface. It will be very interesting to see how Sabic, and GE Plastics, deal with the issue. Perhaps we're already seeing part of the strategy. At Chinaplas last week, one observer pointed out that none of the executives at Sabic's booth were wearing traditional robes -- they were all dressed in western-style business suits. Was Sabic trying to send a subtle message?