Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goal: 'Land the big one'

Louisiana's top economic developer believes the state's next mega project and thousands of jobs could land at Franklin Farms Industrial Megasite in Richland Parish.

"It's clearly one of the top automotive industrial sites in the South," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said. "I don't believe there will be a significant amount of auto projects announced in the next two years, but all we need is one."

Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance President Tana Trichel and the late George Franklin Jr. conceived the site 10 years ago, and the state eventually bought a 1,425-acre tract from the Franklin family, which has said it will offer another 4,500 contiguous acres if needed.

"My goal and the Franklin family's goal has been and always will be to land the big one," said Trichel, whose organization markets the site with the state.
And there are unbiased experts who believe that will ultimately happen.

Southern Business and Development magazine listed Franklin Farms among its "10 sites in the South that will eventually land 'The Big One.'"

The state appropriated $5 million to make infrastructure improvements at the site, and Trichel said once a new Interstate 20 interchange is permitted between Holly Ridge and Bee Bayou "it will be hard to say we're not the top site in the South."
"(Gov.) Bobby Jindal has made a clear commitment to land something at Franklin Farms," she said.

Trichel consistently brings site selectors to Franklin Farm in preparation for the next big auto project.

"We want to keep the site top of mind," she said. "Whenever I ask the site selectors what they like best, they always say, 'It's flat.'"

Moret said the state markets the site in the United States and abroad.

"We're reaching out primarily to oversees companies with the best prospects for growth," he said. "I'd be surprised if there was a new plant announced this year, but we may see one or two next year."

Trichel said she is confident that Franklin Farms will one day yield thousands of jobs.

"I expect us to land a project in the next three years," she said. "I'd really be shocked if that doesn't happen."

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