Leaders: High unemployment doesn’t represent future

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 5, 2007

Though unemployment rates in Concordia Parish were the state’s fourth highest in November, officials have an optimistic outlook for the parish’s future.

According to the Louisiana Department of Labor, Concordia Parish’s unemployment rate for November 2006 was 6.1 percent, slightly higher than October’s rate of 5.9 percent.

Vidalia Alderman Ricky Knapp said one factor for the parish unemployment rate was that Concordia Parish is an agricultural community.

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“Farming is the biggest contribution to (unemployment) rates because farm hands and workers are laid off during the winter months,” Knapp said.

With new industries like the Vidalia rubber plant, the new Natchez casino and U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp., a company planning to produce biofuel from soybeans, coming to the Miss-Lou, Knapp said the city is looking for the unemployment rates to go down.

“As far as the City of Vidalia is concerned, we seem to be doing all we can do to bring in new jobs,” Knapp said. “I think our efforts will prove successful. It just takes time.”

Concordia Parish Police Jury president Melvin Ferrington also said unemployment rates will go down in the parish once farmers get back into the fields.

Ferrington said parish unemployment rates were a sad thing, but Concordia wasn’t the only parish losing jobs.

According to the press release, Catahoula Parish’s November unemployment rate is up 5.2 percent, up from 4.7 percent in October. Tensas Parish saw an increase from 5.6 percent in October to 6.7 percent in November.

Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen said another factor contributing to Concordia Parish unemployment rates was the loss of Miss-Lou industry within the last seven years.

More than three years ago, International Paper in Natchez shut its doors. The company employed more than 600 people, many who lived in Concordia Parish. Within the last five years the Miss-Lou has also seen the closing of Diamond International, Johns Manville and Titan Tire, formerly Armstrong Tire, Allen said.

“We (Ferriday) are trying to remedy that problem,” Allen said. “We have some projects in the works that will give jobs to those who want to work.”

Allen said the town would open its community center and business incubator, which would have space for people wishing to open businesses. Construction should end this fall.