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Company pays Vidalia $12.45 million; similar project in Bunkie scrapped
from The Concordia Sentinel
July 26, 2018 -

Last Friday, July 20, a day after the name of a new industrial recruit for Vidalia was revealed following months of public speculation, the town was paid $12,450,000 -- $12 million for the old Fruit of the Loom property now owned by Vidalia Denim and $450,000 for a portion of the balance owed in back rent.

According to Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone, the remaining balance of $479,937.04 in unpaid rent will be repaid in five annual installments.

But while Vidalia has been paid, the Town of Bunkie is still dealing with a failed venture involving a utility company and the chief executive officer who heads up Vidalia Denim, which will spin yarn for denim blue jean manufacturers at Vidalia’s old Fruit of the Loom plant. In Bunkie, CEO Daniel Feibus’ attempt to open a similar operation – but with different circumstances -- failed for various reasons.

Feibus said Monday that several adverse factors derailed the proposed Bunkie operation but that he left town without owing a dime to vendors and subcontractors in Bunkie.

Feibus said he looks forward working “to building a great manufacturing company in Vidalia.”

Local officials say the Vidalia Denim project is much different than the one in Bunkie and that it has already paid for the vacant Fruit of the Loom building and surrounding property. Plus, the company plans to hire a work force of 300.

In Avoyelles Parish, according to the local newspaper, the Bunkie Record, the company Feibus headed up was named Gulf Coast Spinning, which announced plans to invest $130 million in a cotton yard spinning plant in Bunkie that would create 307 direct jobs and approximately 722 indirect jobs.

Court records indicate Cleco, a partner in the project, was cited as a reason for the Bunkie failure. In a ruling in 2015, 12th Judicial District Judge William J. Bennett ruled in favor of Feibus and Gulf Coast Spinning Co. LLC by overruling and dismissing a motion by Cleco for an Exception of No Cause of Action. Feibus said the Third Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the district judge’s ruling.

Because of a confidentially agreement in place during the past months of negotiations between the Town of Vidalia and Vidalia Denim, the name of the company and its owners were not made public until last week’s public hearing in Vidalia. For months the industrial project was known simply through the codename Project Blue.

Until then, only Mayor Buz Craft, attorneys and economic development leaders were aware of the details of the deal and the identities of the players.

Craft apologized for the secrecy at last week’s special meeting but said it was necessary in order to get the 300 jobs Vidalia Denim promises to deliver.

Donnie Wooley, founder and CEO of Ark-La-Tex Financial Consultants, L.L.C. (ALTFC), put the deal together. Wooley has a background in banking and was previously a loan specialist for USDA.

He echoed Craft’s statement that confidentiality was a requirement for success.

Concerning the Bunkie venture, Concordia Economic Development, Natchez Inc. and the Town of Vidalia issued the following joint statement on July 20:

“We were made aware of the Gulf Coast Spinning project. Vidalia Denim is a different project with a different group of investors. We are comfortable with the deal the Town has made with Vidalia Industrial Facilities/Vidalia Denim. The property has been paid for and we look forward to working closely with them to develop a denim mill here in Vidalia.

"We cannot comment on litigation, especially litigation that involves a different project in a different community."

Once the identity of the Vidalia Denim was made public last week, Garland Forman, general manager and editor of the Bunkie Record, told the Concordia Sentinel that he was stunned when he learned the identity of Vidalia’s newest industrial resident.

“People in Bunkie are shocked and surprised the same people that left Bunkie high and dry three years ago are now in Vidalia opening the same type of business,” Forman said Monday. “Bunkie built a $10 million certified industrial park and Gulf Coast Spinning was the first tenant. Now, the industrial park is still empty because a portion of the property in the industrial park is tied up in court and can’t be used because of liens on the property. It turned into a nightmare for city officials and an economic disaster for the Bunkie area.”

After groundbreaking ceremonies for Gulf Coast Spinning in July 2014, and after iron and construction materials were delivered to the site, “the project stalled,” according to The Bunkie Record, before shutting down permanently.

The Bunkie Record reported that CLECO put in an $11 million transmission line to the Gulf Coast Spinning plant site on 40 acres in Bunkie’s industrial plant. But since that time, the paper has reported, lawsuits have been filed while tens of thousands of dollars worth of steel is sitting in a vacant lot.


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