By Bonnie Culverhouse
After voting 11-1 to deny tax breaks to a new business, Webster Parish Police Jurors are re-thinking their decision.
“I voted no because I just didn’t know enough about what I was voting on,” juror Bruce Blanton said. “I think we need to revisit this because while denying a break to this company, we are also denying money that will go to our budget.”
At the last police jury meeting, Canada-based E. I. Williams, a manufacturing company with a new facility located in the North Webster Industrial District, requested a five year-tax break.
“We would give them an 80 percent break for five years,” Blanton said at a special meeting of the jury’s Economic Development committee. “That’s 20 percent for us. It’s new money not in our budget.”
If the jury does not grant an extension after five years, they will receive the entire amount.
E. I. Williams manufactures silencers and mufflers for generators. Thus far, they have hired around 20 people, however, their goal is 100 jobs and a payroll of $4.1 million.
Juror Nick Cox said newly-acquired information would likely change his vote, if the jury puts it on June’s agenda.
“This company had to start operations before they could apply for the tax break,” Cox said. “If we deny this, we are sending out a message that will close other opportunities for us.”
Ashley Busada with North Louisiana Economic Partnership said E.I. Williams wanted to come to the area because Minden’s Fibrebond is one of its largest customers.
“When they first came, we showed them nine sites,” Busada said. “From Shreveport all the way to Monroe. They chose NWID, and we fixed them up with local contractors and banks.”
Busada said economic development is competitive, and companies are looking for incentives.
Blanton said the committee meeting was two-fold and asked that jurors consider creating guidelines for business tax breaks in the parish. He said Louisiana Economic Development guidelines required the business go through the start-up phase prior to filing for tax breaks.
“It’s always been my feeling that we should support a new company coming into our area, regardless of where they’re from,” Blanton said. “We should welcome them with open arms and help them out as much as we can.”
The Webster Parish Police Jury meets the first Tuesday of every month in the police jury annex across the street from the Webster Parish Courthouse.