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|Going 'green' in God's country|
Who would have ever thought northeastern Louisiana could evolve into the vanguard of the environmental movement in America?
That's what could be taking place in light of a formal announcement this week that some venture capitalists with ties to former Vice President Al Gore were leading the charge to bring an automobile assembly operation to the former Guide Corp. plant in eastern Ouachita Parish, creating some 1,400 new jobs along the way. Don't forget about the prospect that another 1,800 jobs most likely will be created by suppliers that will be called upon to provide goods and services for V-Vehicle, a start-up company which is expected to churn out some sort of a fuel efficient car.
To surmise, it would appear we're going "green" in God's country.
Once a vibrant facility, the former Guide plant off Interstate 20 east of Monroe employed some 800 people when it shuttered operations here a few years ago. Head lamps were produced at Guide for years, dating to the mid-1970s.
It was a United Auto Workers facility, meaning it was only a matter of time before the powers that be at Guide discovered head lamps could be built south of the border and beyond for a great deal less money than UAW employees demand.
In time, the Guide plant suffered the same fate that many facilities with ties to the American automobile industry encountered: It closed.
That's about to change thanks to a few heavy hitters, including venture capitalists Ray Lane and billionaire John Doerr of Silicon Valley in California. Lincoln Parish businessman James Davison, a billionaire in his own right, is involved in it, too.
Lane and Doerr are partners at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB), a California-based venture capital firm. Gore, the former vice president, is associated with the firm as well.
KPCB can point to Amazon.com, Google and America Online as projects it funded in some fashion or another. It also is financing—in part or outright—Fisker Automotive, a company involved in the hybrid automobile industry.
Doerr is close to the Obama administration. In fact, he serves on the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Most everyone knows Davison, who bought the former Guide facility last year. Remember, Davison's the fellow who sold some 49 percent of one of his companies to Genesis Energy, a publicly held concern in Houston, Texas. Davison collected some $600 million cash from Genesis and secured control of Genesis's board of directors.
A damn fine deal if you can get it.
Though it's crystal clear the men spearheading the effort to breathe life into the former Guide plant are what we would describe as "tall timber," they're businessmen. In other words, they make investments in a company or companies they believe will yield a solid return for their money. They also will invest in an environment (pardon the pun) in which a state is willing to offer incentives that make it more than attractive, or lucrative, to invest their hard-earned money.
That's where Gov. Bobby Jindal and the folks at Louisiana Economic Development Corp. arrived on the scene, offering V-Vehicle what amounts to a $100 million incentives package to the company to northeastern Louisiana. Let's not forget about the $15 million local governing bodies in Ouachita Parish offered in conjunction with Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. The land corporation obtained its wealth from selling an asset it was given to the state of Louisiana.
While the details are sketchy on the finer points of the state's incentives package for the new auto plant, suffice it to say some lucrative tax breaks are involved. Delta Community College will play a role in the matter, too, offering training for people who desire to work at the new auto plant.
It remains unclear as well how local governments in Ouachita will pay for the $15 million in incentives it offered Lane and Doerr and company. A two-mill property tax has been bantered about, though it is within reason to suggest a new tax proposition in Ouachita Parish would be about as popular as chitlins cookin' on Deborah Drive in north Monroe.
Yet, we should bask in the moment, give thanks for being offered an opportunity to continue to rebuild our economic base, and let's worry about the details later.