By GARLAND FORMAN
The federal government has awarded the Avoyelles Parish Port a grant in the amount of $1.2 million for water infrastructure improvements at the port site in Simmesport. It was the final grant needed to complete funding for a $2.514 million project, and help earn the port national certification.
The announcement came simply as a letter entitled “Notice of Investment Award” to Port Chairman Tommy Maddie last week. Maddie made the announcement Wednesday, September 25. The letter was sent by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau. The funds will be used to construct water lines and a storage tank as part of a $2.514 million project. The entire project will consist of water, sewage and road improvements at the port. While EDA awarded a $1.2 million grant, another $1 million came from a grant from the Red River Waterway Commission, a $144,000 grant came from USDA and a $150,000 grant was awarded from the Delta Regional Authority. Funds coming from the Avoyelles Port Commission will be $20,000. According to the EDA letter, the anticipated impact will create 65 jobs and save 35 jobs. It will lead to leveraged private investment of an estimated 3 million.
“This EDA investment supports the construction of water lines and a storage tank for an industrial park at the Avoyelles Parish Port in Simmesport,” the letter reads. “This project increases industrial space for construction and logistics companies, and leverages the Port’s transportation assets.”
EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds.
“The Port Commission, along with grant writers, Danny and Kendell Magee of Frye and Magee of Alexandria, helped write this grant,” Maddie said. “This will help us in our efforts to become nationally certified as an industrial park.”
A national certification will tell companies the port property is ready to be developed with the infrastructure already in place. The biggest element of the water project will be a 300,000 to 500,000 gallon elevated water tank put on the Port’s property near the baseball field. The size of the water tank has not been determined. The tank will be able to provide needed water and water pressure for companies willing to locate at the port. The project also calls for water lines to be put in place to the Helena Chemical buildings aleady in operation at the port. Also water and sewage lines will be run to 50 acres of property located on the riverside of the levee south of the Helena Chemical off-loading site. The road project will entail an access road on the riverside that starts in front of Brudd Construction’s maintenance building and will run south on the property.
“These improvements will allow us to attract tenants for any part of the entire 940 acres of property including all the property on the riverside of the levee,” Maddie said. “The construction start date will depend on when the federal government gives us our notice to proceed.”
Maddie said five or six companies have already expressed interest in possibly locating at the site. He said since they are in the negotiation stage he could not elaborate because of confidentiality. Maddie said there is plenty of room for growth, with plenty of additional port acreage. There are currently three tenants at the port- Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel, Helena Chemical and Brudd Construction.
“Over the past few years we have acquired $28 million in grants and land donations for the port without asking the local taxpayers of Avoyelles Parish for any millages,” Maddie said. “The Avoyelles Parish Police Jury has only given us $300,000 over the years. I feel that is a great rate of return for the citizens of Avoyelles.”
Maddie continued, “Even though the port is located in Simmesport, it is for all of Avoyelles Parish, as it will improve the the quality of life in the parish.”
He is hoping in the years to come the port and other economic developments across the parish will raise the level of income for workers.