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|West Ouachita industrial district ready for competition|
West Ouachita Industrial Park advisory board members welcome competition from a proposed east Ouachita industrial park, but one member says the western district needs to acquire more land if it wants to compete in attracting new business to the park.
"We're in competition right now basically with the city of Monroe's industrial park around the airport," said Kenny Solley, a member of the West Ouachita Industrial Park board.
"They've got some light industrial site available out there, and I can tell you there is interest in creating an east Ouachita industrial park," Solley said. "That's fine."
"It's great for our whole area, but if that happens, our competition goes up, and we're going to have to get rolling if we want to have some additional property and have something to offer," Solley added.
The west Ouachita advisory board wants to acquire a 54-acre tract of land currently owned by Tom Shelton's family. The property is located west of the existing industrial park. Several advisory board members say the Shelton property is needed to expand the west Ouachita industrial park. The district currently owns two pieces of property beside the Shelton land.
The advisory board and Shelton's heirs have been in negotiations concerning the land purchase for several years. An agreement has not been reached.
If the district can acquire the Shelton property, it would give the industrial district more than 100 acres of land to develop. The district would then be eligible for federal and state grants to fund infrastructure improvements such as roads, drainage and sewage work on the land.
In the meantime, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury recently submitted a $4-million capital outlay request to the state to establish an industrial district in southeastern Ouachita Parish.
Police juror Dorth Blade has advocated establishing an industrial district in that area of the parish for several months. Other jurors have been receptive to the idea.
Blade has said a southeastern Ouachita Parish industrial district would spur more economic development and create more jobs in southeastern Ouachita.
Parish engineer Don Harrison has told the police jury that without the state funding to advance the project, there isn't much the parish can do to establish the southeastern Ouachita district.
Harrison has suggested the proposed district be located south of Interstate 20 on at least 200 acres of land.
The West Ouachita Industrial District currently has 250 acres.