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Land of Opportunity

Pointe Coupee Parish attracting plenty of attention

The Audubon Bridge has made Pointe Coupee Parish a strategic connection between South and Central Louisiana.

 

Les Cantrell is an optimist, a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.

But when he talks about the future of Pointe Coupee Parish, Cantrell can barely contain his enthusiasm. In fact, his cup is practically running over with excitement.

“Every morning I get out of bed, I tell myself, ‘It’s a great day to make a deal, so let’s make something happen,’ ” said Cantrell, the Director of Economic Development for Pointe Coupee Parish’s Chamber of Commerce.

Pointe Coupee is home to False River, Old River and historic towns like New Roads, Livonia, Fordoche and Morganza. It boasts a population of 22,703 and lots of unspoiled land.

In fact, land is relatively cheap and plentiful. That is why Pointe Coupee is the only parish in Louisiana with five sites certified by Louisiana Economic Development as ready for industrial or manufacturing development. In fact, there are more than 3,245 acres in inventory, just ready to entice industry and business to come to Pointe Coupee.

Among the shovel-ready sites are:

  • Kent Industrial Park (903 acres certified).
  • Port of Pointe Coupee (33 acres certified).
  • Major Light Industrial Park (72 acres certified)
  • Olinde Power Park (1,542 acres certified)
  • NRG Site (640 acres certified)

In addition, Pointe Coupee has a port in the northern part of the parish and its eastern boundary is the Mississippi River and its western boundary is the Atchafalaya River. It has a regional airport and is interconnected with rail track. The Audubon Bridge has made the parish a strategic roadway between South Louisiana and the central part of the state.

The parish has so much to offer, businesses looking to take advantage of Louisiana’s generous incentives and locate here are beginning to take notice of all that Pointe Coupee has to offer.

The Louisiana State Bond Commission recently approved $1.25 billion in tax-exempt bonds for five BioNitrogen plants to be built in northern Pointe Coupee Parish. BioNitrogen Corporation is a “clean tech” company that utilizes proprietary technology to build environmentally-friendly plants that convert biomass into urea fertilizer. The proposed five plants are projected to produce 1,800 tons of urea daily or 621,000 tons of urea annually, potentially the largest facility of its kind in the world.

“The port is a major key,” said Cantrell. “BioNitrogen is going to take waste from lumber, sugar cane, storm clean up and extract the urea. They’ve decided to locate here because of the port and the Audubon Bridge.”

Cantrell credits LED and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber with working closely with him to secure the deal with BioNitrogen.

“That deal is a game-changer for us,” Cantrell said.

Wal-Mart has also decided to invest in Pointe Coupee Parish. The world’s largest retailer has scheduled its new 123,000-square-foot store in New Roads for a July opening and is looking to hire 350 full- and part-time employees. The store, which is part of a 21-acre development and is located at 460 Hospital Road, will replace the existing store on False River Drive. That store will close the night before the new store opens.

Historic New Roads hosts a number of festivals and parades during the year.

The parish is also in the final running for another major project that will be announced by mid-June, but Cantrell is not at liberty to discuss it because of the confidentiality that usually accompanies such negotiations.

“It’s been going great,” he said. “We had our second economic summit in April at the Cottonport Bank Center and invited our elected officials, and people from BRAC, LED and Congressman Bill Cassidy spoke. We had a shrimp boil social and took a tour of False River on a party barge. We’re on their radar for projects looking for a home.”

Cantrell said the nature of his job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week because there are overseas companies that seek information or have questions.

“We’ve turned this into what’s like a real estate company,” said Cantrell. “BRAC and LED are the brokers that entice the companies to look at the state, and I’m like the agent who shows them the sites.”

He credits his economic development team, which includes the Chamber along with Louis Hebert and Parish Administrator Jimmy Bello, who also serve as port commissioners. He said the land owners have also been very supportive with helping to expedite the certification process.

Of course, they have some financial incentive as well, because there’s potentially a huge difference between the industry prices versus farm prices for land.

“We’re just getting this stuff off the ground, that’s what’s so exciting,” said Cantrell, who has a background in oil and gas leasing. “We’re going to be utilizing a full-blown marketing plan.”

A number of factors make the five certified sites so attractive: They are all connected with the river, rail track or roadways and none of them are encumbered by oil and gas leases, which can hold up economic development.

Cantrell said the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale development that is going on in St. Helena, Tangipahoa and the Felicianas has slowed down in Pointe Coupee, largely he said, because of the mushy composition of the earth where the shale is located.  That frees the large land plays for industrial and manufacturing development. Biomass, or green energy is also part of the mix.

“I’m marketing these sites and the Parish every day,” Cantrell said. “Most of the industry that we’re seeing is domestic, I thought we’d see more international but we haven’t – yet. But I’m continually working deals every day, that’s the way it works. I have to be available when they’re available.

There are other “green” industry potentials for the parish. Growing “switch grass” which is used to make fuel pellets, is currently being developed on more than 25,000 acres from Pointe Coupee to West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Ascension Parishes. The pellets will fuel a plant that is being built at the Port of Baton Rouge and for export to foreign countries.

Cantrell also said Pointe Coupee is perfect for timber which can be used for biomass production because of the tremendous amount of waste that is generated once the usable wood is extracted.

“Louisiana is now on everyone’s list for manufacturing and industrial expansion and hopefully, we’re also part of the conversation,” said Contrell.

He has plenty of reasons to be optimistic.