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|Officials consider options to pay for incentive package|
Local officials will begin work immediately to review financial options to facilitate the $15 million local incentive package that helped lure V-Vehicle to the former Guide plant.
Ouachita Parish Police Jury president Shane Smiley along with Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris have had several discussions regarding the financial commitment by local governments.
Earlier this month, both cities and the police jury agreed to support funding up to $15 million to bring V-Vehicle to the former Guide plant.
The state has offered an incentive package worth $67 million, which will help fund improvements at the facility and expand the complex. V-Vehicle plans to double the size of the Guide plant from 425,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet.
"We are on tap to have to figure out some type of funding mechanism, but I don't know to date what that exactly will be," Smiley said. "There has been some talk of a millage, with the millage being anywhere from 1 to 2 mills."
One economic development official told The Ouachita Citizen a two-mill property tax was being entertained. The official said the two-mill tax would need to be levied for no less than 10 years.
"We just really have to put pencil to paper and figure what it's going to take and if that's the route we want to go," Smiley said of the proposed property tax.
"We will start that process as early as tomorrow," Smiley continued. "If we do have to pass a millage, I think it can be done in a situation where it is not a great burden on everybody.
"Our ultimate goal is to find a way to get it funded, and this really has the best interest of the parish at heart. We didn't want to be caught in a position where we turn down 1,400 jobs.
"I think the support for this (company) is tremendous, and if we have to go with a millage, I think the community will be behind it. This is day we have been waiting for. We have dreamed of it for months, and now we're just pinching ourselves.
"We are very excited this day is here. It is probably one of the biggest days our community has had in many years."
Norris said local officials would review several financing options before making a decision.
"We are going to figure out what our options are, but this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up," Norris said. "We have a short timeline to do it, but we are going to make it work."
"As a business decision, our commitment is such a small part of the total investment," Norris continued. "It's a quick payback and I cannot think of any reasons we should not pursue it. We will follow up and meet our obligations. I really think this has a lot more potential than what we really envision right now."
Norris said V-Vehicle could help attract other companies to the area to do business with it.
"The potential is just tremendous and we cannot afford not to take advantage of it," Norris said.
Mayo added, "The three governmental entities made a strong commitment to be the final piece of the puzzle to make this happen."
"We realize that now is the time to follow through on that, and we are going to do that because this is one of the most significant events to happen to our city and our region in about 50 years," Mayo continued. "I am very optimistic we will sit down very soon and go over all the different options we have to make it happen. There's no question in my mind that the community is behind it."
"We will be very successful with what we put forward to make this happen," he added.
Mayo said a company like V-Vehicle bringing in 1,400 direct jobs and roughly 1,800 indirect jobs could kick-start a community.
"There's no telling what's going to happen just from the renewed spirit in the community and the region from those who want to step up and be involved because of the excitement," Mayo said.
Norris said the excitement was not solely related to landing 1,400 new jobs, but being part of something historic.
"This will be a new model for the automobile industry," he said. "I think people will look back and say this is where the manufacturing of American automobiles changed and turned around. Isn't it exciting having people of this caliber involved in our community? I couldn't be more excited."