Ferriday talks shoe companyPublished 12:04am Thursday, September 27, 2012
FERRIDAY — Broken lines of communication between the mayor of Ferriday and Concordia Parish economic development director might cost the town an interested business prospect and 50 jobs.
At a specially called Town of Ferriday Board of Aldermen meeting Wednesday evening, Alderman Elijah “Stepper” Banks raised questions about the town’s involvement in a company that had expressed interest in locating to the Ferriday Industrial Park.
The prospect, with which the city had signed a confidentially agreement, would take over the former Kelly’s Kids building on Louisiana 15 for warehouse and distribution purposes, with plans to expand to a manufacturing facility in the future.
“I’d like to know, mayor, where this project stands and what kind of communication we have had,” Banks said. “And are we moving forward?”
The company, according to Banks, had been granted a five-year agreement with the Town of Ferriday for the building under the previous administration.
Mayor Gene Allen addressed Banks and the rest of the board initially saying no information on the prospect was available for him to review.
“There are no records in this Town Hall, and no one has approached me about that project,” Allen said. “I wish someone would bring me the information to the Town Hall and let me see what in the world we’re talking about, and I can intelligently discuss it.”
After several back and forth arguments between the mayor and aldermen regarding which project specifically they were discussing, Banks stated it was a company wanting to “make tennis shoes.”
“Mayor Gene Allen does not have any records and no one has contacted him about a project coming here to make tennis shoes,” Allen said.
Alderwoman Somer Lance said she had been in contact with Concordia Economic and Industrial Development District Director Heather Malone in an attempt to get a timeline of what agreements were previously made and where the project was heading.
“What she said to me is that the company still wants to put a company in the Kelly’s Kids building,” Lance said. “If we could get that to go, is that something that you as mayor would be willing to do?”
Allen replied saying that he was in agreement with the board regarding bringing new business and employees to Ferriday, but that the proper information needed to be brought forward first.
“We all want companies and businesses to move here, but if we all don’t know what we have to move forward with, that’s real sad,” Allen said.
Alderwoman Gail Pryor said that perhaps Allen was waiting on the information to be brought to him instead of seeking it himself.
“Sometimes everything ain’t going to come to your house, you have to go out and get it,” Pryor said. “We would like for you to go get this company as opposed to us waiting for it come to us.”
Allen said he agreed, but didn’t know how to seek out a company that he had no information on.
“Until I get a file here or something, I can’t move forward,” Allen said. “They need to show me the decency to contact me, and give me information so I’m not in the blind.”
Through more back and forth conversations between the mayor and the board, information regarding two meetings with the prospective company — one of which Allen didn’t attend — was brought fourth.
After the meeting, both Allen and Malone, who was not present at the meeting, confirmed that Allen met with representatives of the company at the Comfort Suites on the Vidalia Riverfront.
“That meeting was before I took office, so I just sat and listened real carefully,” Allen said after the meeting. “But I wouldn’t remember their faces if they walked in here today.”
Four days after Allen took office in July, Malone said the representatives of the company called her and former Mayor Glen McGlothin directly to set up an informative meeting in Hattiesburg.
Malone said Allen was not contacted directly to attend the meeting.
“I will take full responsibility for (Allen) not being involved with that meeting, but the meeting was simply informative with representatives from the parish,” Malone said. “It shouldn’t be the company’s fault for not contacting him, Mayor Allen had only been in office four days, so I don’t think they knew what was going on with the change of administration.”
McGlothin’s role in the July meeting is where Allen and Malone disagree.
Allen said he was told that McGlothin was invited to the meeting as a representative of the Town of Ferriday, something he should not have done since he was no longer mayor.
Malone and McGlothin said that he attended the meeting in his new position with the City of Vidalia.
“The mayor of Vidalia, my boss, told me to go to that meeting because the company also had interest in the Vidalia Industrial Park,” McGlothin said. “I went to represent the City of Vidalia, not the Town of Ferriday.”
Malone said McGlothin’s presence at the July meeting came up in another meeting last month in Ferriday Town Hall between her and Allen.
“Once we got to that point, (Allen) asked that because he was not included in that meeting, he wanted to negate all agreements with said company,” Malone said. “That’s been my last conversation with the mayor.”
Even after hearing Allen’s request, Malone said she drafted two letters and sent them to the Town Hall — one asking Allen to reconsider the company’s future in Ferriday and another confirming the negation of all contracts.
Allen said he has never received anything regarding the company.
“She hasn’t brought me or sent anything regarding any projects for the Town of Ferriday,” Allen said. “I’m a businessman, and I want to do business with companies, but I need information to know what’s going on and if they’re going to help move the city forward.”
No official action was taken at Wednesday’s meeting.
Malone said she would provide Allen and all the aldermen with the information in hopes of salvaging any chance of the company still locating to Ferriday.
“I don’t want them to be drug through the mud in any way shape or form,” Malone said. “I’m going to provide the pertinent information to the mayor and aldermen, so they can agree upon a decision.”