LEDC - David Bennett (social)

LEDC President David Bennett discusses the group's pipeline of companies and that there is interest in Livingston Parish.

There are two issues that hamper the development of large-scale industry in Livingston Parish - wetlands and infrastructure.

Not much can be done about wetlands and their mitigation which, according to LEDC President David Bennett, is costly and usually falls on the shoulders of the developer. The mitigation process also requires patience and persistence to move the paperwork through.

LEDC - David Bennett

LEDC President David Bennett discusses the group's pipeline of companies and that there is interest in Livingston Parish.

"We have projects that are ready to build, that will stall or disappear because of a wetlands designation," Bennett explained, "it just takes time (to work that process)."

But, infrastructure is a fixable issue he said, however not one that has moved quickly. Therefore, projects are lost due to lack of road access or missing utilities. Road access is a major issue, Bennett said, which drives the interest toward Interstate 12 (I-12), within one-two miles of the on-ramps.

Those locations line up with the proposed 'Economic Corridor,' which stemmed from the master plan which was adopted, but not enforced, by the Parish Council in 2013.

That situation puts Bennett on the same path as the recently reformed Master Plan Committee whose chairman, Gerald Burns, was a member of the original master plan committee when the idea of an 'economic corridor' was proposed.

During their first meeting, Burns expressed the need of the committee to focus on the economic corridor, which spans roughly two miles north and south of I-12. Burns main concern for those areas? Making sure that economic development friendly infrastructure exists.

"The original intention of the economic corridor in the master plan was to bring infrastructure to those areas as quickly as possible," Burns said, "roads particularly.

"The Cook Road Extension is already funded and should happen soon," Burns added, "Next is to look at the Juban Road North (extension to Lockhart Road). I know there have been at least two studies (of the project) in the past six years, but something has to give - these are the two most important projects in Livingston Parish right now (for future growth) in my opinion."

Therefore, Burns intends to invite David Bennett to attend the next Master Plan meeting.

Bennett said that companies are now looking east of Satsuma, because readily available land is in short supply near the population centers of Denham and Walker - land that also cannot provide ease-of-access to the interstate and rail. Adding Cook Road and expanding Juban would help with those issues.

LEDC's main focus is to assist companies with site selection and selling them on Livingston Parish. The biggest selling point for Livingston Parish right now, he said, was the relatively cheap cost of land compared to East Baton Rouge and Ascension.

Still, Bennett said, having an easier means of travel west would help.

"We lose a lot of projects to West Baton Rouge Parish because 80% or more of their business is going west into Texas and it's just so much easier to travel that way (from there)," Bennett explained, "anything that improves Baton Rouge's traffic problems helps us."

Still, industry considers Livingston Parish for its benefits and LEDC hopes to make some major announcements in the third and fourth quarters.

"(LEDC has) a few projects in the pipeline right now," Bennett said, "With a few we expect to push across the finish line by the end of the year.

"Mostly distribution centers," Bennett added.

These larger projects bring sales tax revenue during construction, and offer - on average - 20 or more jobs.

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