By Bonnie Culverhouse
Certified business sites are reportedly important to economic development.
Sarah Haynes, a Minden resident who wants local economic development, told members of the Minden City Council in a workshop Tuesday morning there are two sites on or near Industrial Drive (Service Road) that could qualify as development ready.
“We started on this project a year and three months ago,” Haynes said. “Sometime in April Louisiana Economic Development (LED) informed us that they needed to clear one acre on one site and possibly on the other.”
When Haynes, with former Minden Economic Development Director Phillip Smart, began working on the project, they did not realize that acre needed to be cleared.
“We have obtained funding for the projects – both sites,” Haynes said. “MEDC (Minden Economic Development Corporation) has contributed more than $5,000. SWID (South Webster Industrial District) has contributed more than $5,000 and SWEPCO (Southwestern Electric Power Company) has contributed $7,200.”
Now, Haynes has been tasked with locating around $10,000 to give to LED.
“That’s so if any additional things are needed, we could get that pushed across the finish line,” Haynes told the council. “The only thing they are waiting for at this point is the funding to clear the acres on the sites.
“The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) should state that you will get the money back when the site is sold,” she continued. “It is a loan.”
One site, located on Ryans Way is owned by Kitchco, Paul Kitchens and the heirs of Judge Graydon Kitchens Jr.
The second site, on Industrial Drive, is owned by Webster Land Corporation. That group consists of Amy Mealey, Joyce Carey and Greg Carey.
“At this point and time, there have been $72,000 invested in getting both of those properties to the certification level,” Haynes said.
Advantages of LED certified businesss sites include the following:
- Development ready
- Substantial due diligence completed
- Significant site information gathered and documented
- Independent third-party engineering review
- Uncertainty and potential obstacles eliminated through enhanced site knowledge
- More competitive
- Greater marketability
- Granted priority in site proposals
“Similar cities do this all the time,” Haynes explained, “because they want the certified sites so businesses and industries will look at them. We got MEDC, SWID and SWEPCO to invest in it because it would be worth their while when the property sells.”
District A Councilman Wayne Edwards said he thought there were laws on the books that would prevent the city from making a “loan.”
“The reason we want y’all to (loan) the money to LED is so they can use that pool of money to disperse to whatever project needs to get across the finish line,” Haynes told him.
Interim City Clerk Michael Fluhr told Edwards the city has never loaned money to LED, to his knowledge.
District E Councilwoman Pam Bloxom asked Haynes if there were potential buyers for either property.
“Amy (Mealey) has a potential buyer, but this will make the site more versatile to other industries right now,” Haynes said. “I think the person looking at that property is looking at housing, which I don’t believe will pass the (Minden) planning commission because we want it zoned industrial. The Kitchco property is zoned business/commercial.”
Edwards asked if City Attorney Jimbo Yocum has seen the proposal.
“Not to my knowledge, but this is not final,” Haynes said. “When I talked to them (landowners) I said, our city cannot donate to an individual personal account. It has to be made to LED. We’re going to do this collectively, so is this an option for you (council) to give the money to LED.”
District D Councilman Michael Roy, who was present in a conference call, asked if $8,000 to $10,000 was the amount needed.
“That’s just an estimate to get one to two acres cleared,” Haynes said.
“Who in their right mind is going to clear those acres for $10,000?” Edwards asked.
“We do have one bid in, and they can do it for 10,” she said. “Three acres would’ve been $15,000.” However, bids are subject to LED approval.
“If we don’t do this, what happens?” Edwards asked.
“If we don’t get the funding, Kitchco could quite possibly get across the finish line, but I’m not sure how we are going to get across the finish line with the Industrial property.”
Haynes went on to add that LED says the two locations are prime.
“They are close to the interstate, they’re on an industrial drive, and there are plenty of major highways going north and south,” she said. “From all of the sites, these are the best looking locations.”
With all council members present at the workshop, it will likely take more study before they are ready to vote. Edwards reiterated asking for an attorney’s opinion.
“The city is not in the loan business,” District C Councilman Vincen Bradford said. “We won’t get it back until the property is sold? No interest or anything? If this takes 10 years, we just have this money out there.”
Haynes said she doesn’t feel it could be a bad investment if LED has invested $54,000 in the project.