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|Blanco announces prospect for Guide plant|
Northeast Louisiana will soon be home to an automotive assembly plant that is projected to produce some 800 jobs within five years, according to Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Blanco made the announcement during a speech Thursday to a business group in Baton Rouge.
Blanco declined to name the automotive manufacturer, which is expected to occupy the old Guide Corp. plant off Interstate 20, east of Monroe. The manufacturer would initially employ some 200 people.
The Ouachita Citizen has learned, though, that the agreement between the state and the unnamed automotive manufacturer is "not a done deal yet." According to an individual who is close to the negotiations between the state and the manufacturer, details of the agreement between the state and the manufacturer remain unresolved.
The Ouachita Citizen also has learned the automotive manufacturer is based in England. The company makes what are commonly referred to as "smart cars," or small automobiles that can comfortably seat two people.
Blanco spoke with The Ouachita Citizen Thursday afternoon.
"It's just been a really fun piece of work," Blanco said in a telephone interview. "It came to us when we were in New York when I was speaking at the Bloomberg offices."
Blanco said a site selector for the yet-unnamed automobile manufacturer approached her after her speech at the New York publishing house and suggested the pair sit down about a possible relationship.
"After I told them about Louisiana and the opportunities we have here, this perfect stranger came up to me, gave me his card and said we needed to talk because they needed to come to Louisiana," Blanco said.
Several months later, Blanco's economic development team can see the goal line, Blanco said.
"The principal with the company we've been dealing with has authorized me to say it is imminent," Blanco said.
The announcement came 11 days before Blanco is set to leave office, paving the way for Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal to begin his tenure as the state's chief executive. Blanco did not seek re-election in the fall 2007 elections.
In light of the timing of Blanco's announcement, the governor dismissed a suggestion that she was trying to build a legacy prior to leaving office. Instead, Blanco pointed to what she said was a strong track-record of success as governor over the past four years.
"If I had been able to make it happen before the end of my term, I would have done that," Blanco said. "A business deal is complex. Am I proud to be working on it? You bet."
Blanco said she is proud of her administrations achievements in economic development across the state, including northeast Louisiana.
"My legacy will go forward into the future based on the work we have done," Blanco said. "What do I care if this is not a legacy project? I'm proud of it."
The proposed plant has been shepherded through the process by Don Pierson, deputy secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Corp.
Pierson said he had fully briefed Jindal on the project, but because of the ongoing nature of the process, Pierson declined to elaborate.
Pierson pointed out there are many projects currently open under the Blanco administration that will be completed by the Jindal administration.
"The Blanco administration has been very supportive of a smooth transition and I think we'll see multiple projects that have a genesis of 12 to 18 months in the past but are successfully concluded by the new administration," Pierson said.
Pierson, a northeast Louisiana native, has been tapped to remain at LEDC as deputy secretary in the Jindal administration.
Last year, Guide closed operations at its Monroe plant, shuttering some 800 jobs and an annual payroll of some $53 million.
(Sam Hanna Jr., publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, contributed to this report.)