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|OEDC agrees to disband; organization to donate assets to new alliance|
The Ouachita Economic Development Corp. will disband and donate its assets to a new regional economic development alliance, OEDC's board of directors decided Thursday morning.
OEDC chairman Bill Kight said he was proud of the move.
"It's time for us to step up to the plate and say we've got to do something, fellas," Kight told OEDC board members ahead of the vote to shutter its operations and donate its assets to the yet-to-be-named regional economic development alliance.
OEDC's board made its decision at a meeting held at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce's offices.
Board members unanimously approved a proposal to disband OEDC and donate its furniture, fixtures and some $180,000 to the new regional economic development alliance.
That means, after more than 30 years, OEDC will cease operations.
"For whatever reasons, and there a lot of them, OEDC has not been successful," Kight told the board. "One of those reasons is funding."
By volunteering to help fund the new regional alliance, Kight said OEDC could become part of a major success story for the region.
"The bottom line from our committee is that we'd like to try something different," Kight said.
Not included in OEDC's donation is some $3.5 million held by OEDC Land Corp., a non-profit, sister corporation of OEDC. The land corporation acquired the $3.5 million from the sale of the old State Farm Insurance site off Interstate 20 in Monroe. State Farm donated the site to OEDC for economic development purposes. The donation occurred not long after the insurance conglomerate closed its regional offices here in 2005. The land corporation sold the State Farm site to the state in 2006.
OEDC Land Corp. will be rechartered to become an economic development board to support projects that benefit Ouachita Parish, according to OEDC Land Corp. President Ben Peters.
OEDC's board opted to join the regional alliance after more than a year of study.
Todd Perry, who has been working to finance the new regional economic development effort, said more than 90 percent of the individuals surveyed during the year voiced support for regionalization.
"We have been working since February…going around and profiling the area," said Perry, a parish businessman who owns an environmental consulting company. "We've conducted more than 50 interviews and put out numerous surveys."
Perry, who also is an owner of Calvert Crossing Golf Club and Pines Hill Golf Club, said the regional alliance has contracted two consulting firms that specialize in fundraising and CEO searches for economic development corporations.
"We suspect in August or September we will officially have our kickoff," Perry said.
Besides Perry, efforts to create a new northeast Louisiana regional economic development alliance are being led by Ouachita Parish businessman James Moore, James Davison of Ruston, former Senate President Randy Ewing of Quitman, Elton Kennedy of Mer Rouge and CenturyTel CEO Glen Post.
The structure of the new organization will include five representatives each from Ouachita, Lincoln, Jackson, Morehouse and Richland parishes.
Perry said a regionalized marketing effort could help attract new businesses to the region.
"It will take our strengths, package them to help us get out there and sell them," said Perry.
"We're looking at being the primary driver of the external marketing efforts for the region," Perry said.