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Millions for nearly empty Caddo Parish industrial parks - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Millions for nearly empty Caddo Parish industrial parks

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

Caddo Parish has nine industrial parks. Only three of those are completely private. The rest are owned by organizations that rely on public funding. Their parks are also publicly funded from local and state sources. However, the parks aren't booming, aside from the Port of Caddo-Bossier. One sat unused for around 20 years, even with millions of taxpayer dollars invested.

Allen's Electric Motor Services sits in the Ward Two Industrial Park, which is between the towns of Vivian and Oil City. A little more than 900 acres make up the industrial park. It's the second largest in the state. Peggy Allen says that space is why she decided to build there a few years ago. She needed room to grow, and the park's location was a plus, as well. It offers the road access her business needs.

"We have I-49, that will be opening soon, which will hit I-30," Allen said. "Then, we have I-20 just south of here. So, this is a great location, as far as traveling."

Vivian's mayor Steve Taylor says the park sits just 4 miles away from I-49, down Highway 170. He hopes other businesses follow Allen's lead and notices the park's value. It's been empty, with no occupants, for around 20 years.

"Ward Two was created by the legislature about 25 years ago," Taylor said.

Ward Two isn't the only publicly funded industrial park in Caddo Parish with acreage sitting unused for years. Taxpayer dollars have been used to build roads, water and sewer infrastructure, electrical needs or gas lines at these parks. Taylor estimates a little more than $2 million have been spent on Ward Two since it opened. Around $120,000 a year are allocated to it from riverboat taxes.

"That depends of course on the size of the gas lines and power that's needed," Taylor said. "Some very large users will have to have some additional stuff. All that is in place, and we're looking at improving the accessibility to all portions of the park."

The organization largely responsible for head-hunting businesses to occupy local industrial parks is the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, which is also hunting for several other parishes. Taylor says Ward Two has had some interests.

"We have had some fairly large prospects look at the park," Taylor said. "We've made the short list on a couple of them."

Robert Glass says it's the same for the Caddo, North Shreveport and the other industrial parks Caddo Parish is invested in.

"It's been very active the last couple of years, but it's sort of dropped off lately," Glass said. "It really just depends on if some is interested. Sometimes they'll just call you up. Sometimes you'll have three or four or five people talking to you, and other times, you'll go for several months without people calling at all."

Glass says interest was high because the area didn't suffer from the recession too badly. Richard Bremer with the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce says his organization's park Shrevepark Industrial Campus. It sits on around 500 acres and has 250 available. He says lack of interest shouldn't discourage.

"If we work together, we can achieve successes on this," Bremer said. "We can't get frustrated. If you look over time, maybe the growth isn't as quick as we would like, but we have to be out there."

Glass says one of the area's biggest draws is the land's cheap price. Both he and Bremer say companies look for more and that other areas in the community, like education, need to be top notch to gain their business.

"K-12 education, as well as higher education," Bremer said. "That's where we can continue to work with our partners to make sure we have all of the components in place, not just available land."

Taylor says there are plans to resurface and widen Highway 170's travel lanes the entire length between Vivian and I-49. Ward Two's main entrance will also eventually move to 170, all to make the park more attractive. Allen seems happy anyway. She's recently purchased ten more acres at the park.

"Hopefully, we will be expanding into a new building there," Bremer said. "It's going to be about a 18,000 square foot building that we hope to be putting up real soon."

The Highway 170 improvements will be around $2 million and has been budgeted by the state from the Quality Surface Program. DOTD officials hope to start bidding on the project at the beginning of 2014.

 

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