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Concordia Parish still in the running for shoe company

FERRIDAY — A Memphis-based tennis shoe company said Thursday it is still interested in locating to Concordia Parish despite some knots between public officials.

Concordia Parish Economic Development District Director Heather Malone said she spent a majority of Thursday morning on the phone with the chief executive officer of the company attempting to iron out any wrinkles from a Wednesday Town of Ferriday Board of Aldermen meeting.

“I just wanted to let them know that the town council was fighting for them, and that both them and I have their best interests in mind,” Malone said. “They’re definitely sold on the area and are still very interested in the parish.”

The company, 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.

The confidentially agreement was broken at Wednesday’s meeting when several aldermen named the company in the public meeting.

But Malone said the CEO was planning on starting marketing efforts in the area soon and wasn’t too concerned with the company being named at the meeting.

Neimaj LLC is a footwear company that specializes in “eco-friendly” shoes that include lightweight safety work boots, sports shoes and custom branded footwear.

The company was started by Memphis native Jamien Sills, who received his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA in business from Mississippi State University.

The company specializes in the design and outsourced manufacturing of footwear products for the “everyday hero.”

Malone said the company was a perfect fit for the parish and one that she will continue to pursue despite misunderstandings between herself and Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen.

“We have to go out and pursue companies like this that are willing to make an investment in the parish and bring jobs here,” Malone said. “It will benefit all residents of Concordia Parish.”

The initial agreement, which was voted on and signed by the previous Ferriday administration, was a five-year contract with the Kelly’s Kids building and included a clause requiring the company to bring at least 50 jobs to the area.

At a specially called board meeting Wednesday, several back and forth arguments ensued between the aldermen and Allen regarding the whereabouts of the original contract and the project’s future in Ferriday.

Allen said no files regarding any tennis shoe company were at the Town Hall and no one from the company had contacted him about the contract.

“I can’t talk about any project until I have the information on it and there are no files here,” Allen said Thursday. “I will gladly talk to the company or whoever and discuss everything once I have all the information.”

The arguments also revealed a series of meetings with parish officials and the company — one of which Allen wasn’t informed of and didn’t attend.

Allen met with representatives of the company at the Comfort Suites on the Vidalia Riverfront in between the time Allen was elected and took office in July.

Allen said since he had not been sworn in as mayor, he sat in on the meeting only to listen — not to take any action or voice his opinion.

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.

Allen was not contacted.

Allen said he was told McGlothin attended the meeting to represent Ferriday, while Malone and McGlothin said he went in his new position with the City of Vidalia.

Allen said being kept out of the loop on business that directly involved the Town of Ferriday is where things went wrong.

“I don’t have any problem with the economic development office, but I would at least like to have some knowledge about what they’re working on if it involves Ferriday,” Allen said. “If she’s going to handle a project, she needs to contact me and keep me up to date and let me know where it’s going.”

Malone said she took full responsibility for Allen not being involved with the July meeting, but also said she hoped it did not stop the project in it’s tracks.

“Right now my goal is to communicate to the company that we’re still working to get them here and these are the locations available in the parish,” Malone said. “They don’t need to go through all this or have all the governing bodies contacting them — that’s why I’m here.”

Malone said she was working to send Allen and all the aldermen all the information about the company and it’s previous contracts with the town before the weekend.

Included in Allen’s packet of information will be notice of a meeting with the company scheduled for Oct. 15.