Wind farm planned in St. Mary Parish
The winds of change are blowing into St. Mary Parish as Southern States Renewable Energy is on its way to becoming the first wind farm in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast, Frank Fink, the parish economic development director, said.
The state has established alternative clean energy goals and is offering incentives to reach that goal, Fink said. The project is a small step in meeting those goals as it has the capacity to produce 10 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the City of Franklin, Fink said.
The project is “almost a sure thing,” he said.
Electricity from the $40 million wind farm will be produced by harnessing the power of the wind as it blows over 270-foot wide blades on a 400-foot high tower, Fink said.
The project will be located on La. 83, across the street from Orion near the Port of West St. Mary, Fink said. The project will employ six permanent workers and 40 construction workers for eight to nine months.
The group working on the project, headed by John Treen, former Gov. David Treen’s brother, and Bill Gallardo, engineer, has recently cleared a bureaucratic hurdle and received the recommendation of the Parish Planning and Zoning Board for a special use permit.
Southern States Renewable Energy is negotiating a purchase-power agreement with Cleco, and once that is completed the agreement will be presented to the Louisiana Public Service Commission for approval, Fink said. That agreement should be reached by the beginning of next month, he said.
Growth in the energy sector of employment for St. Mary Parish is under way in another petroleum-based project. This is the construction of an oil distribution terminal at La. 317 and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
The Unit Train Fuel Transfer Terminal should receive the Corps of Engineers permit this month, Fink said. At full capacity, six million barrels of oil will arrive in the parish annually as the company ships 108-car crude oil trains from North Dakota to St. Mary Parish for shipment to refineries and industrial clients.
Construction is scheduled to begin once the final permit is in place with operation anticipated during the first or second quarter of 2014, Fink said. The terminal will employ 50 workers and the company has applied for the Quality Jobs program. Total project investment is $30 million, he said.
Fink said that the Cajun Way Plaza is anticipating a completion this month and has already lined up tenants for its 12-unit 12,000-square-foot shopping center which has been under construction in Amelia. Tenants include a Subway, Atchafalaya Café and a convenience store. The properties are ideal for other services such as labor finders, safety equipment, and medical and drug screening services, Fink said.
Construction is expected to begin the last half of this year for an assisted living center at the old Franklin Foundation Hospital, Fink said in the economic development quarterly newsletter released last week. The old 90,000 square foot hospital was sold to MRP St. Mary LLC for $100,000.
The old hospital building used by Franklin Foundation Hospital was sold two months ago to MRP-St. Mary. The building and campus, which includes about 4.2 acres, had been vacant since 2007.
The newsletter pointed to construction beginning on a new Walgreens at Southwest Boulevard and La. 182 in Franklin as another positive development for the parish and its economic health.
The newsletter praised the work done in the state legislature this past session by Sen. Brett Allain and Representatives Sam Jones and Joe Harrison in securing $3.4 million for Young Memorial to construct a Marine Campus in Morgan City in 2015.
In other economic news found in the newsletter:
—The Port of West St. Mary, Hwy. 90 Industrial Park, will receive $2.2 million in capital outlay for construction of a slip, bulkheading and road work. This investment will create a “shovel ready” park for leasing to clients desiring highway (future I-49) and water access to the Gulf of Mexico, the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers.
—Employment trends remain favorable for St. Mary Parish reflected in the latest employment numbers from LaWorks. The number of parish residents employed in May, the most recently available month, stood at 21,647 an increase of 77 over one year ago.
—May’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, 0.1 point below one year ago. The state unemployment rate in May was 7.0 percent, the nation’s was 7.3 percent.
—The number of rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico was up 10 from a year ago at 57 on July 3. Parish sales and use tax collections for the first six months of the year were $21.3 million, up 2.4 percent from last year, according to the newsletter.