Vidalia mayor: Local projects progressing

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019


VIDALIA — Vidalia has added several developments lately, and an economic development official offered a glimpse at how those projects are coming along during Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said he feels strongly the town’s economic development projects are moving in a positive direction, despite some skepticism from members of the board of aldermen.

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Concordia Parish Economic Development Director Heather Malone said Vidalia has seen a large amount of success with projects such as the newly opened TownePlace Suites hotel and other projects including Syrah Resources, Vidalia Denim and the Vidalia port.

Last year, the Town of Vidalia sold the former Fruit of the Loom building in the town’s industrial park to Vidalia Denim for a total of $12 million, $8 million of which the town agreed to grant back to the new owners for infrastructure improvements and equipment within two years after the company met certain criteria, Malone said.

Malone said $7 million of the $8 million to be granted back to the facility has already been spent on infrastructure work on the building, materials and equipment, while only a single employee had been hired to date.

Alderwoman Sabrina Doré expressed unease in response to Malone’s update on Vidalia Denim.

“Did I hear you say that $7 million of the $8 million grant has been given back to (Vidalia Denim)?” Doré asked Malone during Tuesday’s meeting. “It was my understanding from the first meetings that we’ve had was that they had to meet certain benchmarks, and part of those benchmarks were employees hired.”

“They have two years to spend the money,” Malone said, explaining that if the company failed to maintain $9 million in payroll — or approximately 300 employees — for a five-year period, they would pay back the $8 million along with a penalty.

“The way it was presented to us … once they hired so many individuals, then they would get phase one of their grant,” Doré said. “Then when they expanded to the next phase of employment they could get the next portion of their grant. They can get their entire $8 million up front and they’ve only hired one employee, so we’ve really only sold that building for $4 million.”

Malone said it was a requirement that the money be spent on capital improvements so that all of the money would be invested back into the property — and ultimately back into the community.

Malone said Vidalia Denim plans to start hiring workers to install equipment and would start spinning cotton in June.

As for other projects, Malone said TownePlace Suites, by Marriott, opened to guests just last month on the Vidalia riverfront and now has a full staff of 25 employees.

Syrah Resources, an graphite plant, has 50 construction workers building up the facility and four full-time employees to date, Malone said, and expects to be rolling out its production line in three to four months.

Construction of a new barge loading facility at the Vidalia port is expected to be complete by the end of March, Malone said.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting of the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen, with Alderman Jon Betts absent, the board:

  • Approved minutes for previous meetings by a vote of 3-1, with Doré voting “no,” because Doré said she had requested a sentence be added to the minutes stating that full videos of town meetings are available on the town’s website at The sentence was never added, Doré said.
  • Approved outdoor sign applications and alcohol licenses for local businesses.
  • Approved a new hire for a full-time patrol officer for the Vidalia Police Department.
  • Introduced a motion to amend an ordinance that would allow the board to increase the salary of the city clerk that will be reviewed during the next meeting.
  • Approved a donation of a surplus vehicle from the Vidalia Police Department to Ridgecrest.