Tech company could bring jobs, funds to parish

Published 1:01 am Friday, April 20, 2018


VIDALIA — In a swift round-up of Concordia Parish’s three governing bodies, an Australian technology company took one step closer to opening a business — and bringing jobs — in the area.

Were Syrah Technologies to set up business in Concordia Parish, the area could receive 25 or more jobs and approximately $50 million in returns over the next 10 years.

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Syrah Technologies, a subsidiary of Syrah Resources in Melbourne, Australia, hopes to open a spherical graphite plant in Louisiana and has narrowed the possibilities for future operation to three locations.

One of those locations is Concordia Parish’s former rubber recycling plant.

Paul Jahn, chief operations officer for Syrah Technologies, approached the Concordia Parish Police Jury, Vidalia Board of Aldermen and Concordia Parish School Board in successive meetings Thursday in an attempt to secure an eight-year industrial tax exemption.

All three governing bodies accepted the proposal unanimously.

Heather Malone, with Natchez Inc., proposed the agreement in which Syrah Technologies would receive a 100-percent tax exemption for the first five years of operation and an 80-percent exemption upon renewal in the following three years.

That exemption would cost the parish approximately $1.5 million in lost tax revenue over the full eight years, but a Louisiana Economic Development impact analysis said the company could return approximately an approximately $50 million financial impact to the parish over the next 10 years, Malone said.

Half of that $50 million return would come from Syrah’s upfront investment of $25 million; the other half arises from payroll and revenue comes from taxes other than those on property.

The 25 initial jobs would have an average $60,000 annual salary as well as up to 30 additional jobs indirect jobs, Malone said.

Though Syrah Technologies currently employs a management team of three people, Jahn said almost all other jobs would be locally employed.

Syrah Technologies would transport raw graphite from Mozambique, Africa, to the new plant to create spherical graphite — a key component in lithium ion batteries, Jahn said.

Specifically, lithium ion batteries for electric cars.

“We’re the first company looking to manufacture it in a different location, knowing that the automotive industry is interested in diversifying their interests,” Jahn said, noting that this would be the first spherical graphite manufacturing plant in the United States.

Currently, the primary spherical graphite manufacturers are based in China, Jahn said, making Syrah the only America-based producer of the product.

Though the contract provides an initial employment promise of 25 jobs, Jahn said the company could grow to 100 employees by 2020.

If the Vidalia location is selected, the company would purchase the former Louisiana Elastomer rubber plant as well as the 25 acres on which the facility resides.

“We are still in a competitive stage with this company,” Malone said. “They are looking solely at Louisiana, but there are two other possible locations. We really want them in Concordia Parish.”