Refinery group considering Avoyelles Port site
It may be a few years from now before the first paycheck would be cashed, but there are “serious discussions” underway that would locate a new oil refinery at the Port of Avoyelles in Simmesport. Port Commission President Barry Laiche said the talks with Canadaville Corp. -- a group of private investors -- are still in the preliminary stage.
He said the people involved in the venture have the money to be taken seriously, and are adding more investors. For that reason, he is optimistic about the proposed project’s future.
The group favors the Simmesport site because of its access to river and rail transportation and its proximity to oil-producing shale and chalk formations.
“If this happens, it would be the biggest single job-creator in the parish in recent years,” Laiche said. The numbers mentioned during discussions indicates between 1,000 and 1,200 permanent jobs would be needed to staff the refinery.
In addition to the permanent jobs once its built, constructing the refinery would be a major shot in the parish’s economic arm.
Laiche said Avoyelles needs a major new industry to lift it out of the doldrums.
“We have agriculture and the casino,” he said. “After that, the major employers are the school district and the sheriff.
“We’ve lost the cannery in Belledeau, Garan in Marksville and other similar plants over the years,” he continued. “Those industrial and manufacturing jobs just aren’t coming to Avoyelles Parish.”
Laiche noted that this type of economic development would be a game-changer for the parish.
He said the investor group has hired a “big name” consultant to navigate the process of obtaining all necessary state and federal permits.
“I’m told the permit process alone can take two years,” Laiche said.
If that hurdle is cleared, and the investors aren’t lured away to another site, it would take another year or two to construct the plant and get it operational.
Laiche said the important thing for port officials and others working on economic development for the parish is to be alert to opportunities and work with those considering locating or relocating businesses and industries to the parish.
Laiche said the Port Commission is “considering getting out of the livestock business” by declaring a few donkeys at the port to be surplus and selling them at auction.
The commission will also be considering a proposal to contract with the Natchitoches Port Commission to provide the Avoyelles Port with assistance in its business development efforts.
If that is approved, it would give the port a full-time person to answer questions about the Avoyelles Port and work to attract new businesses to the site.
Laiche said the port has ample space on which to locate businesses. The new elevated water tower also provides a sufficient and secure water source for businesses and industries at the site.