Officials: Hammett position helps parish

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 3, 2004

FERRIDAY &045; With Concordia Parish looking for industries and business to boost the economy, a strong voice on the state level and a good relationship with the new administration are key, local officials have said.

State Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, is one voice Concordia Parish and all of District 21 has, most recently with his reappointment to be the chairman of the Ways and Means committee of the state House of Representatives.

Just last week, Hammett, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, members of her staff, Economic Development and Industrial District Director Teresa Dennis, Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland met with the owners of TXEL, the rubber plant that has committed to come to the Vidalia Industrial Park.

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&uot;Without Rep. Hammett’s input on this, it would not be a reality,&uot; Copeland said Friday.

And Hammett said the project is something state officials are &uot;positive&uot; about. Hammett said it was important the governor sat in on that meeting.

&uot;It is very important for a company to realize the governor is willing to take time out of her schedule to sit down and hear the game plan,&uot; he said. &uot;That goes a long way.&uot;

Hammett said his appointment to chair the committee puts him in constant contact with the governor and her staff as well as the leaders of the legislature, putting him in a fairly influential position.

Fiscal policy decisions come through Ways and Means or the Appropriations committees. One major project that originated in the Ways and Means Committee that has been important in Concordia Parish is the capital outlay bill.

In fact, Copeland said the proposed port for Vidalia, which is still in the preapplication stage, will probably see funding from the state through capital outlay funds. And capital outlay funds are being used in the Ferriday downtown revitalization plans as well.

With capital outlay in Hammett’s committee, &uot;that is a great benefit to my district for local projects,&uot; he said. &uot;We are able to get a fair chance at that.&uot;

While local officials are confident in Hammett, he is confident in the new administration.

Since the governor’s campaign, Hammett has forged a more personal relationship with Blanco.

&uot;She has shown some confidence in me,&uot; with the appointment to chair the Ways and Means committee, Hammett said.

Blanco’s &uot;mantra&uot; right now is economic development for the state and Concordia Parish is no different, Hammett said.

&uot;Just knowing where it is (Concordia Parish) and knowing the mayors and leaders in the community and knowing how hard we are working, I think she is going to do everything to help,&uot; Hammett said.

Industry, port updates

Hammett said local and state officials will meet again at the end of this week to talk more about funding for the new rubber plant. The EDAP, or economic development awards program, is a major avenue for seeking overall funding to get textiles to come to Concordia parish, Hammett said. The plant has received state, federal and local commitments for funding but everything has to come together to produce the final product.

&uot;We will take it one hurdle at a time,&uot; Hammett said.

Copeland said he hopes construction can begin within six to eight months on the plant,

which should bring about 55 to 60 jobs initially.

One thing essential to the plant is a loading and unloading facility. A proposed port for Vidalia, which would be a slack water port instead of right on the Mississippi River, is in the final stages, Copeland said. The proposed slack water port would be off the river and form a u-shape for boats to come off the swift river, into calmer waters, for loading and unloading, Copeland said.

&uot;Our main objective is to get the loading and unloading facility built,&uot; Copeland said. &uot;We think that will open the door for industrial recruitment for the Miss-Lou area.&uot;

And, Copeland said, with the port about half a mile away from the industrial park, there is a possibility of putting in a rail spur from the park to the port to ship goods back and forth instead of using a truck.