Archive for April, 2016

Hohensee: Vinton Port an Economic Engine within Community

Hohensee said that a lot of businesses need a public entity like the port that can immediately provide them with utilities. “It is a great demonstration of public/private partnerships,” he said.

VINTON — Vinton Port Director Lynn Hohensee told the Daily News in a recent interview that, like each port in the Ports Association of Louisiana, the Vinton Port is an economic engine within the community. “Our purpose is to take the resources we have, attract private industry tenants that will bring in tax revenue increases, create jobs and will provide infrastructure improvement,” he said.

Hohensee said that a lot of businesses need a public entity like the port that can immediately provide them with utilities. “It is a great demonstration of public/private partnerships,” he said.
There are 34 ports throughout Louisiana, which is key in a state with navigable waterways that extend to all corners. Those ports can be divided into three categories: deep draft, which account for 54 percent of the economic activity associated with ports; coastal ports, which account for about 38.5 percent; and inland ports, which account for about 7.5 percent.
Last month, Dr. James Richardson, Alumni Professor or Economics and Public Administration at Louisiana State University, prepared an update of the 2012 study of the economic impact of Louisiana ports.

Findings indicate that direct spending by ports and providers of services account for 77,000 jobs – or four percent – in the state. Industries which rely on ports for transportation, like oil and gas, petroleum and refineries, petrochemicals, agricultural, food manufacturing, wood and paper and metals, account for one out of every five jobs in the state. Annually, ports account for a combined personal income of $4.1 billion and a total of $534 million in local and state taxes.

“The common thread is that each of these ports provides services that expand the opportunities available to basic industries in a region, which are fundamental to the Louisiana economy,” said Richardson.

Progress at the Port of Vinton Continues Despite Defeat at the Polls

Board President Jerry Merchant told the Daily News recently that the loss at the polls won’t stop progress at the port. “It’s going to slow us down, but it’s not stopping us,” he said.

By Heather Regan-White

Southwest Daily News – Sulphur, LA

Posted Apr 24, 2016 at 8:57 AM

VINTON — Although Ward 7 voters opposed the Vinton Port’s first funding request since 1970 in the April 9 election, port officials are optimistic about the future of the 880-acre shallow water port located off Johnny Breaux Road.

Board President Jerry Merchant told the Daily News recently that the loss at the polls won’t stop progress at the port. “It’s going to slow us down, but it’s not stopping us,” he said.

The 10-year, 7-mill tax on the recent ballot, along with the 2.32 mills currently being collected, would have brought in $364,000 annually. That funding would have been used to cover the $3.9 million needed to dredge the length of the Vinton Drain Ditch, the primary waterway from the port to the mouth of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway or canal.

Merchant said that had the tax passed the port hoped to combine the dredging of the drain ditch with another project that would involve dredging the canal past the public boat launch to clear it to a 12-foot depth.

Why is dredging such a focus for the port? Port Director Lynn Hohensee said that the Vinton channel “humps up at the mouth of the Intracoastal, which is about seven miles south of the port.”

“It’s a barrier to good movement of shallow-water barge traffic off the Intracoastal up into the channel to our port and back out” said Hohensee. “Once we get that dredged, it will give us great opportunities for growth for the port.”

The port’s current tenants — Dunham Price, located on tracts 3, 4 and 5, and Performance Blasting and Coating, on tract 1 — join those in support of dredging. “That opens them up to Texas and all across Louisiana,” said Merchant. “They could bring barges in from anywhere.”

He said that though the port can use the ditch as it is, it is limited as to the draft on barges.

However, the port will move forward. Merchant said that within six months to a year, the port will begin dredging 2,000 feet of the ditch. The project awaits permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers’ Galveston office. The dredging will be funded by projects currently planned for the port. Those projects are currently in negotiation and include a worker village and a dirt excavation outfit.

If all goes according to plan, the worker village will be located on 50 to 60 acres northwest of Dunham Price, in the Camp Louise Road area. It will, at maximum capacity, house 2,380 workers. Merchant said the village, estimated to cost nearly $60 million to construct, will bring revenue to the port in the form of leasing and daily per person fees. And, when the work is through, they will leave millions of dollars in infrastructure including two water wells and a sewer treatment facility with almost the same capacity as Vinton’s system.

Merchant said the company also plans to hire 125 local residents to run the village. He said workers are expected to be on site for five to seven years but that may change as there are also industrial projects in the Texas Golden Triangle area that could make use of them.

Merchant said there was some misinformation passed around before the April 9 millage vote that indicated the tax would have been used to construct the village. Given the multi-million price tag for the village and the fact that the tax would have brought in a total of $3.6 million, the rumor was unfounded.

Another project on the horizon is a massive barrow pit, of which the entire perimeter will be bulkheaded to shore up the property. Merchant said the mutually beneficial project would provide needed dirt to the client, for a price, and allow for the port to use the hole in the ground, which would be large enough that, when filled with water, could function as a turning basin and storage for barges — something the port badly needs.

It would also provide more clients access to the water. It will also enhance recreation in the area by keeping barges out of the canal so fishermen don’t have to navigate around them. The parish operates a boat launch from tract 2.

“It’s an incredibly ingenious program,” said Hohensee. Currently, no large barges can travel north of Dunham Price property because there is nowhere to turn around.

The port has about three times more land to offer potential tenants than most small shallow-water ports. There are currently six tracts of land, with a total of nearly 700 unleased acres of land. Four of those tracts, 9-12, were purchased three years ago with bond money secured by the board.

The port keeps tracts 10 and 11 maintained through an agreement with a local farmer which allows him to run his cattle through the property, keeping the grass trimmed. Tract 12, previously used as a rice field and then a crawfish pond, will have road frontage on two sides after the parish builds an extension. The port is currently working on drainage on the 105 acres on tract 6. Merchant said he would like to see some sort of dry manufacturing outfit there. “I’d love to see them come in, hire 100-plus people, move in their families and help the tax base,” he said.

And while each tract has much to offer as is, expanded accessibility to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway would be a serious boon. Hohensee said the port is a great opportunity for potential clients who might not need a port but could serve industry that does. The abundance of available land allows for a dual function – that of a port and/or an industrial park. “There’s flexibility in how we promote this port to tenants,” he said. “It’s been a sleeping gold mine for a long time.”

Vinton’s port is located between Beaumont, Texas and Lake Charles. Though those may seem distant by land, the distance by water is negligible. Hohensee said that because the Port of Lake Charles is the flagship port in the region, they are able to draw large companies who start billion-dollar projects. He said each of those projects has secondary and tertiary businesses that support the project build or the ongoing operations, and those businesses need places to lease.

Potential tenants will soon find access to the port by land much easier. The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury is set to embark on a project to extend Johnny Breaux Road north to Highway 108. “That will be a tremendous asset to us,” said Merchant. “People can get on 108 from Exit 8 and come straight south to the port.”

Hohensee said it will definitely make things easier for Dunham Price truckers transporting 40-ft. concrete pilings. They will no longer have to navigate the twists and turns of the current route between the port and 108. “It’s going to be a strong incentive to other businesses who want to look at the port,” said Hohensee. “They’ve got a straight one-mile shot into our port.”

The project will include a utility corridor alongside the extension that could provide water and sewer service in the future. Currently, there are no fire hydrants nor is there a water district in the area of the port or north of 108. With the parish road project, hydrants will be installed at intervals along the road. All wooden utility polls will be replaced with steel and landscaping will be installed. Not only will the project attract new residents, it will provide revenue for the Town of Vinton.

Water rates will be three times higher than what in-town residents pay. The parish is in the process of acquiring rights of way. A subdivision located to the east of the new road will benefit from accessibility to the new road. Hohensee said that Entergy officials have expressed their interest in helping spur development in the area and that their substation located within the subdivision can be expanded to bring additional power to that area.

“For the last three years, since the purchase of [tracts 9-12], there are more places in Louisiana that know about our port than ever before,” said Hohensee. “Vinton can look at itself and say it is a port city.”

He continued, stating, “The port has the potential to become a tremendous asset to the community and put Vinton on the map.”