‘Certified Sites’ attract new businesses faster

Speakers for the City of Minden’s LED Site Certification announcement program on Thursday, June 15, 2023 included (from left) Paul Kitchens, representative of Kitchco, LLC; Mike Wise, MEDC treasurer; Minden Mayor Nick Cox, SWID president Hunt Powell, LA State Rep. Wayne McMahen, and Daniel Michel, Site Development Program Manager, LED.

By Marilyn Miller

The City of Minden celebrated a milestone on June 15, 2023 with the announcement of two Louisiana Economic Development (LED) “Certified Sites” designed to attract new businesses and industries to the area.

Minden Mayor Nick Cox told a full house of dignitaries and visitors at the NW LA Technical Community College (NLTCC) on Thursday that the two sites are located “in the Minden city limits along Industrial Drive, parallel to I-20 between exits 44 and 46.” The first certified site is a 50-acre tract owned by Kitchco Properties and the second is a 25-acre tract owned by Webster Land Corporation. Both sites lie north of 1-20 to the east and west of the community college.

Mayor Cox pointed out that the tracts of land are important in that they come pre-certified based on zoning restrictions, title work, environmental studies, soil analysis, and various other surveys developed by LED and the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP).

Companies which acquire pre-certified sites can shave almost a year off their project completion time, Mayor Cox explained, “since all the necessary due-diligence work is done and certified by the State.”

“A huge part of industrial growth relies upon having great sites for business and industrial development,” Mayor Cox said. “We’re excited to unveil these initial two sites in Minden, which represent great opportunities to grow the economy and create new jobs.”

Sarah Haynes, Master of Ceremonies for Thursday’s program, introduced a slate of people who worked behind the scenes to certify the two sites, including Daniel Michel, Site Development Program Manager, LED.

“Louisiana’s LED Certified Sites Program has surpassed a milestone of 100 sites, with our State’s 137 sites representing one of the largest inventories of State-sponsored industrial sites in the United States,” Michel said. He stipulated that “any landowner can apply to see if they qualify for certification (OpportunityLouisiana.com).”

Minden Economic Development Corporation treasurer Mike Wise talked about the organization of MEDC in 1968, noting that land on Erwin Thompson and Davenport Drives now includes Fibrebond Corporation and Webster Machine. The land has been developed and has been thriving for over 55 years. “MEDC knows the importance of economic growth,” Wise said. “These development-ready sites are valuable new assets in Minden that are sure to attract new businesses.”

Hunt Powell, president of the South Webster Industrial District (SWID), said that “We also understand the importance of having land ready for business and industry to locate in our area.” SWID started with tax-funding and constructed a ‘spec’ building in the industrial park, Powell explained. “So when we heard about certifying sites, we knew that would be something we would support.”

Ms. Haynes recognized the third partner in the certification of both sites, AEP SWEPCO. Eric Basinger, Economic & Business Development Manager, applauded Minden for being proactive and developing new property to market, and LED for its premier site certification program.

Fourth partner, Justyn Dixon, CEO & President of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, explained that NLEP “sponsored the sites for inclusion in the Certified Sites Program.”

“With 75 percent of funding from the State of Louisiana and remaining costs shared at the local level, LED Certified Sites undergo rigorous review by a third-party engineering firm. Utility, zoning, geotechnical, environmental, cultural and wetlands evaluations lead to a site suitable for construction within six months of a site decision,” Dixon said. “Having available, vetted sites is imperative for successful growth and economic development in our communities.” This is why site certification is a top priority in NLEP’s new strategic plan for Webster Parish.

Dr. Jayda Spillers, chancellor of NLTCC and host for Thursday’s program, said that “As businesses begin to consider the benefits of locating on Industrial Drive, we stand ready to partner with them in developing their workforce and training needs.”

Mandi Hart, vice-chairman of the Greater Minden Chamber of Commerce, congratulated the partners on the certification of the two sites, noting that “this improves Webster’s economic competitiveness and ensures that businesses looking to start, relocate, or expand in our region will have a place to land.”

Presently there are talks in process for additional sites in Minden and Webster Parish, including in the SWID park, and a 100-acre tract of land near Camp Minden owned by Dr. Eddie Moore.

But right now, all focus is on Industrial Drive in Minden, which “features some of the highest, most desirable land in the southern part of our parish, and has access to I-20, Hwy. 80, and I-49,” Mayor Cox noted in closing. “Being on the LED’s Certified Sites list ensures that this is not only marketable, but also ‘shovel ready’ for business.”

A standing-room-only crowd of dignitaries and visitors attended last Thursday’s City of Minden Program for the Louisiana Economic Development Certified Sites announcement. The program took place at the Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College on Industrial Drive, where both sites are located.