Today, St. Martin Parish Assessor Lawrence Patin is pronouncing the commercial complex that has sprouted up there the “crown jewel” in the parish’s buffer against recession.
A bold plan to capitalize on the industrial growth down the U.S. Highway 90 corridor – which will one day become the Interstate 49 corridor – has paid off in spades, Patin said.
The 148-acre SMEDA Business/Industrial Park is the anchor for commercial development along the north-south highway, which only nips the edge of St. Martin Parish and yet along with the surrounding area provided nearly 84 percent of the nearly 29 million dollars of growth in taxable value from 2009 to 2010, Patin said.
Reporting to the Parish Council last week, Patin cautioned that the impact of a continued moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has yet to be seen, and the U.S. 90 corridor growth, much of it in inventories, is likely to level off anyway.
“But we’re doing a lot better than the rest of the state,” he said. “The hard work of SMEDA, Parish Government, and all parties involved in this development has definitely contributed to improving the property tax base in St. Martin Parish.”
The St. Martin Economic Development Authority and its president, state Rep. Fred Mills Jr., created the U.S. 90 park by brokering the sale of private lands to companies with immediate plans of setting up shop in the park, generating property and sales taxes and creating jobs.
“We could have sold the whole thing in a matter of days,” said SMEDA executive director Beth Guidry. “But we didn’t want to sell to speculators who would have just held onto the land and left it vacant. We held out for companies who wanted to build right away.”
Today there are 27 occupants of the park, mostly businesses related to the oil and gas industry. There are only a few vacant lots remaining.
The U.S. 90 park was a joint project of the utility co-op SLEMCO, a consortium of local banks, SMEDA and its funding bodies, St. Martin Parish Government, the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office, City of St. Martinville, City of Breaux Bridge, Village of Parks, and the St. Martin Parish School Board.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration put up $1 million for the infrastructure improvements. Another $400,000 came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Utilities Program via SLEMCO, and $250,000 came out of the state’s capital outlay budget.