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|Audit shows port's assets roughly $12 million|
The Greater Ouachita Port Commission has roughly $12 million in net assets today, a stark difference from four years ago when it literally had nothing.
On Wednesday, the port commission was presented with its annual audit, which was conducted by Johnston, Perry, Johnson & Associates CPAs.
The Monroe firm's audit said there were no findings, meaning the port received an unqualified opinion for its 2007 fiscal year.
An auditor's unqualified opinion by definition means the auditor believes a "company followed all accounting rules appropriately and financial reports are an accurate representation of the companies financial condition."
"It's really impressive with the assets we now have and how well we have done in securing financing," said Dr. Matt Sanderson, port commission treasurer.
"Again, our audit showed we are in good standing and everything is in order, with no deficiencies," Sanderson said.
Ricky Guillot, chairman of the port commission added, "It's a credit, especially to Matt, and all commissioners for making sure that we handle our financial affairs the way they're supposed to be."
"I think this audit report is a reflection upon everybody, not just us," Guillot said. "For all practical purposes, the entire group, not just the commissioners, but everyone involved should be commended."
"What we've been able to accomplish is $12 million in assets, a continual income stream, virtually no debt, and no taxes," Guillot continued. "That's something everyone should be very proud of. You don't see very many balance sheets like this. I thank everyone for what they've done, and let's keep doing it."
Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson said the economic impact of the port goes beyond its net assets because it has helped expand several local businesses, such as James Machine Works.
Last summer, James Machine Works was able to secure work to build refinery scrubbers here in Ouachita Parish. Once fabricated, the company ships the scrubbers from the port to refineries around the country. One scrubber typically costs several millions of dollars to construct. They are used by refineries to place on smoke stacks to clean out any toxins that may be emitted.
"The real economic impact is well beyond this $12 million," Guillot said. "I'm a firm believer that success breeds success, and once we start really shipping containers on the water, it's going to get a lot of attention. It's going to wake some folks up that we can do this and do it well. That will not only expand existing businesses here, but I think we'll get some serious looks from a lot of folks."
Port director Paul Trichell said the port is waiting on contracts with steamship companies to allow the port to do major water shipping from Ouachita Parish.
Local shippers such as Graphic Packaging and International Paper in Bastrop must agree to contracts with steamship companies since containers used for water shipping belong to the steamship companies.
However, Trichell said working with the steamship companies is not an easy task.
"We're cocked, locked and ready to rock," Trichell said. "Everything we need to do to put container on barge is sitting here ready to go. We just need shippers and steamship companies to get on board. Of course, steamship companies … as independent as railroads are, imagine a worldwide railroad, and that's what you have with steamship companies. None of them are based in the United States."
Negotiations have been ongoing among local shippers and steamship companies, but no agreements have been reached.