Missouri has a sweet mess on its hands. A half-completed manufacturing facility, financed with industrial revenue bonds underwritten by the small municipality of Moberly, has gone bust.

The politics around the project, called Project Sugar, also appear very messy. Originated by the American and Chinese firm Mamtek, the project was shopped around to 13 communities without adequate due diligence by the Missouri state economic development agency. The SEC has issued subpoenas to most of the players in the project.

Maybe over-eagerness to create jobs in a hard-pressed area made so many public officials blind to the viability of Mamtek. On the other hand, maybe there is criminal wrongdoing. Project Sugar will surely become the poster child for improper use of municipal revenue bonds and the fallibility of government officials as they try to pick economic winners and losers.

But the saga is not over; the Bond Buyer has the latest:

In the most recent development, the former chief executive officer of Mamtek has formed a new company and hopes to take over the project. The [bond] trustee is reviewing an agreement between the city and the new company, American Sucralose Manufacturing Inc., submitted last Tuesday. “The trustee is reviewing the implications of this agreement with its counsel,” the notice read.


The trustee also reported that last Wednesday it learned Mamtek had assigned its assets to Development Specialists Inc. to be liquidated and distributed to creditors. The trustee is reviewing the “implications of this assignment,” it wrote.