Vidalia industrial prospect could bring 300 jobs

Published 12:03 am Friday, March 10, 2017

VIDALIA — Vidalia officials hope to announce in April a manufacturing company expected to employ a minimum of 300 people at an annual payroll of $9.2 million.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said Thursday while the deal with a company codenamed “Project Blue” is not finalized, he feels good about the progress that has been made.

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“This comes in a time where we need some jobs and investment in the area,” Russ said. “I think regionally this is a great opportunity. Both the employment and the investment is significant.

“It would be good for the region to get a win.”

Project Blue would pay Vidalia $1.3 million annually in a lease agreement for the former Fruit of the Loom facility. The company has the option to purchase the town-owned facility for $12 million.

Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said the company is looking to make a minimum investment of $40 million.

Malone said should the company locate in Vidalia, the town would be in line to receive $24.9 million in local taxes over the next 20 years.

Due to a confidentiality agreement, Malone said she could not announce the type of manufacturing the company would be doing or the name of the business.

Malone said while some positions will migrate in with the company, they plan to hire as many as possible from the local region.

“Some of the higher level management will have to have a background in the company’s industry, so we will see a handful of migrants,” Malone said. “Everyone else, they are planning on hiring from the local area.”

The company has also qualified for Louisiana Economic Development FastStart incentives, which will help Central Louisiana Technical Community College Ferriday Campus.

Malone said details about the college program would come closer to when the company is ready to start making hires.

Interested applicants looking to get ahead, Malone said, could sign up for the Miss-Lou Work Ready Community initiative’s WorkKeys System assessment.

“We should see some hiring begin toward the end of this year, and then of course they should have the bulk of their hires complete by early 2018,” Malone said. “We will have local job fairs.”

Malone said the next step in the process would be to finalize and execute the cooperative endeavor agreement and lease documents the Vidalia Board of Aldermen recently approved for Mayor Buz Craft to sign.

Malone said the company also has to finalize its financing package.

Craft said he is excited about the future of the area.

“I am glad to have been involved in the whole process,” Craft said. “If it comes to completion, it will be a game changer for our region. I think our people should be very excited — this is going to be a springboard for many things to come.”

As town officials work to provide clean water, energy and the community with offerings such as recreation, Craft said Vidalia and the Miss-Lou as a whole is in a good position for the future.

“We feel like we are somewhere people would love to come live, worship, play and work,” Craft said. “We are right across the river from an incredible community with a lot of rich history.

“I believe this is just the beginning for a lot of good things to come.”