The South Webster Industrial Park has been filled, with COVI Energy being the newest and final addition to the park. According to Economic Development Director Phillip Smart, COVI Energy was interested in the location due to the pre-existing infrastructure it had to facilitate the transport of sand.
“It originally was a sand facility. The silos there were made for sand, the railway spur connected to the property was made to transport sand as well, so they were looking to utilize it for the same purpose,” said Smart.
While being able to fill the industrial park comes as good news, it now poses a problem for Smart and the other members of the South Webster Industrial District.
“Now, when we get a lead about someone looking for a site, we don’t have an industrial site for them,” said Smart. “With that purchase, it was the last available building that was for sale out there, and the rest are filled.”
Now SWID’s main goal is to find a suitable location to develop a new industrial park, and they already have a few locations in mind.
“We’ve utilized and exhausted all ends we have to try and find a feasible location for industrial or manufacturing companies that want to locate in the parish, like being near the interstate or railway, without causing any problems for residential properties,” said Smart.
“We’re really interested in the Davenport area, because there’s already infrastructure out three and other industrial companies,” said Smart. “We would love to extend that road to where it automatically connects into the sibley road, that way you’ll have more than one way in and one way out.”
Smart noted that SWID does own more property across the railroad tracks and the current Industrial Park, but that development would be a costly process.
“To develop across the tracks is pretty expensive. A lot of it is wetlands, so it would take some development, and we would still need to get infrastructure out there, sewer, water, and electricity as well, said Smart.
He went on to say that right now, it’s a more attractive option to sell or lease the property, seeing as another issue that complicates this process is the lack of revenue that SWID has access to.
When the industrial park was initially created, a vote for the citizens of South Webster to reinstate a tax that would fund SWID and its efforts to bring more industry to the parish, however citizens voted against reinstating the tax at that time.
Development of a new industrial park is a costly process, with Smart stating that without passing a tax to fund them, their ability to create a new industrial park is currently limited.
“Right now we’re limited on funds. We have a certain amount in reserve to try to use to establish another industrial park,” said Smart.
“Other than that reserve there is no money being brought in. So we’re definitely going to have to revisit bringing back that tax, vote on it again, and this time make citizens more aware that this will bring us more companies and jobs to the area.”