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|OEDC poised to shutter operations|
The Ouachita Economic Development Corp. could become part of the northeast Louisiana regional economic development alliance as soon as June 26.
That's when the OEDC board of directors is expected to consider a proposal to shutter operations at OEDC and donate the organization's furniture, fixtures and some $185,000 in cash to the yet-to-be-named regional economic development alliance, according to a member of the OEDC board of directors, who spoke to The Ouachita Citizen under the condition of anonymity.
That same board member said the OEDC executive committee, which advises the OEDC board of directors, was expected to take up the matter at its regular meeting on Tuesday morning.
However, the proposal was not discussed during the meeting Tuesday. Instead, the OEDC executive committee opted to go into executive session, effectively barring outside visitors, including the media.
The northeast Louisiana regional economic development alliance has been champion by Ouachita businessmen James Moore and Todd Perry, James Davison of Ruston, former Senate President Randy Ewing of Quitman, Elton Kennedy of Mer Rouge and CenturyTel CEO Glen Post.
Though joining the new regional alliance was not included on the agenda for the OEDC executive committee meeting Tuesday, OEDC interim president Pat Regan suggested the committee move into an executive session to discuss "personnel matters."
Committee member Pam Accardo made the motion to go into executive session after members of the media declined an offer to sign off on not reporting the events of the executive committee meeting.
Accardo's motion passed unanimously, effectively barring the media from the meeting.
While OEDC's fate, including its assets, could be determined at the organization's board of directors meeting on June 26, it is unclear what the future holds for more than $3 million OEDC Land Corp. holds. The land corporation secured the money from the sale of the old State Farm Insurance property off Interstate 20 in Monroe. The state bought the property from OEDC, which turned over the proceeds from the sale to the land corporation. The land corporation is a private, non-profit corportation, though its actions are subject to the same public records laws as OEDC.
Following the executive session, the OEDC executive committee reconvened in public session to receive reports on OEDC activities.
Regan told the executive committee that OEDC had recently entertained communications with four companies interested in locating in the area.
One business prospect sought some 60,000 square feet of space while another one was looking for as many as 80 acres on "deep water or barge water."
A third prospect requested land adjacent to the Mississippi River while the fourth requested land south of Ouachita Parish in either Calcasieu Parish or west, toward Shreveport.
Regan said he was working to determine why that prospect had excluded Ouachita Parish, though he suspected ground water may have been an issue.
"I suspect one of the reasons they are not looking here is the Sparta Aquifer," Regan said.
Regan pointed to the strain existing industry has placed on the aquifer and said several prospects had indicated they would require more than a million gallons of ground water per day to operate here.
In other business, executive committee member Kevin Crosby commended Regan for his involvement with the West Ouachita Industrial Park's advisory board.
Crosby told board members Regan's attendance at meetings had been welcomed by the board and that the board appreciated Regan's comments and recommendations.
OEDC chairman Bill Kight said Regan's involvement with the West Ouachita Industrial Park was a positive for both groups because prospective employers visited the site regularly and "first impressions are important."
"They really need to clean that place up," Kight said.
(Sam Hanna Jr., publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, contributed to this report.)