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Project Blue could mean millions
from The Concordia Sentinel
March 9, 2017 -

(Concordia Sentinel) — A manufacturing company with an annual payroll of $9.2 million and a minimum of 300 employees should be in operation by the first quarter of 2018, officials told the Vidalia Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.

The yet to be identified company will pay Vidalia a $1.3 million annual lease and has an option to purchase the Fruit of the Loom manufacturing plant — where it will locate — for $12 million.

Economic development officials said the company’s minimum investment will be $40-60 million and that it will likely purchase the manufacturing facility.

Aldermen approved a resolution Tuesday allowing Mayor Buz Craft to sign a cooperative endeavor agreement and supporting lease documents for what has been labeled, “Project Blue.”

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ and Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said due to a confidentiality agreement the name of the company would not be revealed until April at the earliest.

Russ said Project Blue would provide the town $24.9 million in tax revenue over a 20-year period, not including the possible purchase of the building, the utility revenue that the city will receive nor the regional impact economically for the parish and region.

The project area involves 62 acres of land anchored by the Fruit of the Loom facility, a 14-acre wastewater facility site and a utility easement.

Aldermen asked Russ and Malone whether local residents would be at the top of the list in job opportunities and asked what type of jobs were involved.

Russ said Fruit of the Loom, which is leaving Vidalia, hired mostly Louisiana residents although 64 of the 167 recently employed at the plant were from Mississippi.

“We anticipate a significant mix of hiring for regional impact,” Russ said.

“Everybody locally will have an opportunity,” Malone said.

Jobs available will be a mix of hourly and highly skilled positions. The hourly employees will average $37,000 annually. Benefits will be offered as well.

“We will have some migration,” Russ said, but noted that the bulk of employees will be local and regional.

Russ also said all utility needs are in place to support the operation.

“We anticipate turning the facility over to Project Blue in April,” he said, adding that it would take eight to 10 months to install machines and equipment.

He said the company should be in full production by the first quarter of 2018.

Hiring should begin by the end of this year, he said.

The Ferriday campus of the Central Louisiana Technical Community College will help provide employee training.

“Training dollars will flow to the community college,” he said.

Craft said the official opening of the plant will be “big news” statewide. “The governor will be here.”

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