Avoyelles Port Commission working on several projects
Although there is “nothing we can put our finger on and say ‘This will happen in 2019,’ there are a few things the Port Commission is working on,” Port Commission President Barry Laiche said.
The port near Simmesport on the Atchafalaya River is considered to be one of Avoyelles Parish’s best hopes for economic development.
The hiring of Sam Ducote as the port’s first director is considered a positive first step toward progress. Ducote, a lifelong resident of Simmesport and a longtime business owner, will be the face, voice and marketing presence for the port.
Laiche said a few commissioners have met with state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain to seek assistance in locating a soybean processing plant at the port.
Thousands of acres of soybeans in Avoyelles and neighboring parishes went unharvested or had to be transported to a processing plant in Mississippi to try to salvage something from their crop.
Another item on the Port Commission’s “wish list” is the construction of a loading dock.
That capability “would be the single biggest boost to development of the port,” Laiche said. “It would give us something to market to attract other tenants.”
Unfortunately, at this time the commission is faced with a “chicken and egg” scenario. It needs a tenant requiring the dock before it can hope to get grant or government funds to build the dock. However, it needs a dock before it can attract a tenant needing the facility.
Laiche said the best way out of that Catch-22 situation would be for a company to locate at the port and build the loading dock.
The port is also seeking state assistance in an effort to expand the Helena liquid fertilizer operations by adding one or two more tanks at the port site.
Laiche said the Canadaville Group investors are in the preliminary stages of obtaining permits for an oil refinery and/or oilfield support industry to be located at the port.
The group is not connected in anyway to Magna International, the Canadian company that established the former “Canadaville” community that was located on property donated to the port after the community closed in 2010.
A refinery could create up to 1,000 jobs if constructed.