DENHAM SPRINGS – The Livingston Economic Development Council (LEDC) is looking to make several announcements in 2019 about industry coming in, including “some big game-changers,” according to its leader.

“We should have some high-quality projects to announce,” CEO/President David Bennett told the LEDC’s annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 7, including “one significant win for Livingston.”

The annual meeting also saw the Bob Easterly Award go to banking veteran Cindy Wale Franz for her contributions to economic development in the parish.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this most prestigious award,” Franz said after a standing ovation.

“I do live in Denham Springs. A lot of people think I moved to New Orleans,” Franz said. 

“Ken’s office is there,” she continued, referring to her husband. “When he retires, we will be here full-time.”

Incoming board Chairman Buddy Wells described Franz, a lifelong resident of the parish, as someone “who loves Livingston Parish.” A founding member of the LEDC, Franz has also been active in public service, he said.

Franz was the first woman elected to the Livingston Parish Council in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011, he said. She also served on the LEDC board of directors for 18 years, to go with 12 years on the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, where she represented Livingston Parish.

“This lady has a true love for this parish,” Wells said. “She has also done everything she could to help this parish and has never jeopardized her integrity.”

While Bennett did not identify potential businesses that could relocate to Livingston Parish, he said, “Right now, we’re working on 14 projects and we feel pretty good about a number of those.”

He called 2018, “a successful year, a lot of interest was generated throughout the year.”

The CEO/president did talk about two success stories.

In early 2018, Advanced Welding School moved into a 17,000-square-foot facility on Florida Boulevard in Walker, he said.

“It’s a unique project. We don’t usually work on those projects,” Bennett said, “but they had a great opportunity and see the need for certified welders for many industries in our area down to St. James Parish.”

Advanced Welding is investing $300,000 in its facility and will add 74 direct jobs at an average salary of $79,000, according to the LEDC’s program.

The Pala Group also moved into a 65,000-square foot facility near Albany and committed $2 million to retrofit the facility for its needs, Bennett said. Pala makes large tanks and heavy gauge tanks for storage of materials, such as oil.

“It plans to bring in 20 highly-skilled staff first, then there are plans for a large facility,” Bennett said, at salaries of $40,000. Another 41 indirect jobs should be created.

Looking at 2019, Bennett said Northshore Technical Community College is expected to open in the fall.

“As some of you know, LEDC will move its office to the campus,” he said.

Bennett called it an opportunity for education, economic development and industry to work together to prepare graduates for the parish workforce. Livingston Tomorrow investors also have pledged $1 million to help infrastructure in the Denham Springs and Walker area, he said.

There are now two state-certified industrial sites in Livingston Parish ready for businesses looking to relocate, he said.

LEDC is working on 400-acre site near the Town of Livingston, which may be completed in 2019, he said.

This will mean “500-odd acres for industrial development will be ready,” Bennett said. “It gives us a good foundation to build on.

“One thing you may notice, and our mayors noticed the activity in the parish, is permitting,” he said. “Permits were significantly higher -- commercial permits -- in 2018.” These permits almost doubled in 2018, he said.

A lot of retail and small businesses have opened, a sign of the health of business and industry coming into Livingston Parish, he said. The LEDC will be working to recruit companies in 2019 but also will be working with existing business in the parish.

“It is most important to be working with existing businesses, so they have the tools and resources to grow their operations here in Livingston, and not move,” he said.

LEDC made what Bennett called 41 “retention visits” in 2018 to businesses and will continue in 2019.

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