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Shoe company eyes options in Concordia Parish

FERRIDAY — Representatives of a Memphis-based shoe and apparel company said Tuesday they are continuing discussions with local leaders to relocate their business to Concordia Parish.

Neimaj Footwear and Apparel, a company specializing in the design and production of eco-friendly custom and traditional athletic footwear, announced plans to utilize facilities in Concordia Parish to house its distribution warehouse and research and development center.

“We greatly appreciate the progressive and forward thinking of Concordia Parish in believing in our vision,” said Jamien Sills, president of Neimaj, LLC, in a press release. “We look forward to playing a vital role in the economic development of the area and joining the community.

“Our goal is to provide jobs that not only benefit the economy, but also affect the environment in a positive manner.”

The company’s plans also include expansion into a full manufacturing facility which would utilize the future Vidalia port and other industrial parks in Concordia Parish to produce its footwear products.

The company had originally entered into an agreement with the previous Ferriday administration to take over the former Kelly’s Kids building on Louisiana 15 for warehouse and distribution purposes.

The initial agreement was a five-year lease for the building and included a clause requiring the company to bring at least 50 jobs to the area.

The company made some minor changes to the lease and sent it back to Ferriday Town Hall for approval, but Concordia Parish Economic Development District Director Heather Malone said it has not since been reviewed or approved by the new administration.

“I’ve asked if the town attorney ever received the final copy of the document and never heard back, so I’ve sent that to the Town of Ferriday with other documents and asked them to review that,” Malone said. “They’ll have to review those changes to the lease, agree to the terms and move on from there.”

Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen said he received several documents from Malone last week — including the lease without any signatures from town officials — but still hasn’t seen the documents he feels are absolutely necessary to move forward.

“I need to see a business plan and financial statement before I lend someone our building for five years,” Allen said. “If they want to come, sure I want them here because I want all the businesses to come here, but I need those things to make an intelligent assessment that’s best for the Town of Ferriday.

“Once we have all that information, then we’ll make a decision.”

Malone said the company was currently preparing to send business plans and financial statements, which she would forward along to Allen.

“All of those documents are on the way,” Malone said. “This company has spent a lot of time and research looking at this building, so they want to salvage this deal and continue to work with the Town of Ferriday.

“However, they are willing to look at other options in the parish in case the town doesn’t offer them a new lease, so they have something else to fall back on.”

Those other options, Malone said, would be a space at the Vidalia Industrial Park, but that is still something she would like to keep as an absolute last resort.

“They’ve had people come in and look at the (Kelly’s Kids) building to decide the number of machines in the layout and other things, so this is further along than it sounds,” Malone said. “Our first and main option is the (Kelly’s Kids) building.”

But with representatives of the company planning a visit trip to Concordia Parish in mid-October, Malone said the wheels need to keep moving to ensure Ferriday wants to pursue the company.

“Essentially, I would like for the town to decide at their next board meeting whether or not they would like to pursue this prospect,” Malone said. “That way my office can figure out if we continue to court them with the Ferriday option, or court them with other options.”

Allen said the matter being brought up at the next board meeting hinges upon his office receiving the proper paperwork first.

“I’m going to send her a formal letter requesting that information because she has told me not to contact the company directly to ask for it,” Allen said. “I just don’t know how we can move forward with a company before we review a business plan or financial statement.”

The next regularly scheduled Ferriday Board of Aldermen meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 9.