Port, Rayville secure nearly $3 million in federal grants
By Greg Hilburn
The Greater Ouachita Port and the town of Rayville today landed federal grants totaling almost $3 million for economic development projects. Both must secure matching funds to spend the money.
Louisiana and federal officials announced the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration grants at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge.
"The match could come from local or state funds," said port commission chairman Rick Guillot, who attended the press conference. "Having a commitment for the federal grant should help us raise the match. We're really thankful for the federal support."
The port received $1.25 million toward a $2.5 million project that would expand its rail capacity, while Rayville received $1.5 million toward a $2 million project that would build a service road adjacent to Interstate 20.
"This would extend our rail spur to connect with Kansas City Southern's lead line into Graphic Packaging," said Terry Baugh of Ouachita Terminals, the private company that operates the port for the public commission.
"It would allow KCS to make switches directly instead of us having to rely on Graphic Packaging to make the switches," he said. "And we need the additional rail capacity to meet demand."
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, who helped shepherd the grants through the Economic Development Administration, said that the port has become a key piece of infrastructure for the region.
"Anything we can do to give businesses another connection to the rest of the world makes our region more attractive to companies," said Alexander, who attended the press conference.
State Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who also attended the press conference, said he believes the state delegation and Gov. Bobby Jindal will support the projects with matching state funding.
"I'm confident we'll find the money," Thompson said. "This federal money is too hard to get for the state not to contribute."
The Rayville service road on the north side of I-20 will connect with the town's industrial park and open at least 200 acres for possible retail development.
"This gives our companies in the industrial park a direct connection to I-20," said the Rev. James Smith, Rayville's economic development officer. "Now they have access from (U.S. 80) and the interstate, which they believe is important for growth."
Alexander said that Rayville's project has added importance because its proximity to the state's Franklin Farms Industrial Megasite in Holly Ridge, which Louisiana's economic development department is marketing to manufacturing companies.
"The potential for the Megasite is unbelievable," Alexander said. "We need to do everything we can to kick start the area around it."