When Rick Ranson says the almost 100-acre site in Bunkie is probably THE prime industrial site in the state, he isn’t just singing a pretty tune to please public officials.
Ranson is Cleco’s economic development manager and has been involved in developing Bunkie’s industrial park site for the past several years. Cleco is purchasing the 96.99 acres from the city for approximately $1 million.
“We are in the electricity business, not the real estate business,” Ranson said. “We are interested in attracting an industry to that site that will create jobs and, frankly, use electricity.”
When the City of Bunkie owned the property, it was limited in what kind of incentives it could offer to attract a tenant to the industrial park.
COULD GIVE PROPERTY AWAY
“A government entity has to sell or lease the property for what it is worth,” Ranson said. “We don’t. For the right business, providing the right number of jobs, economic development and energy usage, we could actually give them the property because it is ours to give.”
Ranson was quick to point out that Cleco would not be making such a generous offer to all potential tenants, but said owning the property does give Cleco flexibility in dealing with potential businesses.
Ranson went to Salt Lake City earlier this week (March 25-27) for the annual Site Selectors Guild conference to pitch the Bunkie Industrial Park to companies looking to relocate or expand their operations.
The Bunkie Park is one of the most project ready sites in Cleco’s service area and, quite possibly, in the entire state, Ranson said.
Not only does it have access to more than enough electricity to meet most industrial needs, it also has water, natural gas, sewer and fiber optic cable to meet the businesses’ needs.
There are also two access roads into the industrial park.
Before Cleco bought the property from the city, the site was still attractive due to its utility infrastructure. However, “we would still have had to tell them we have this property that will cost this much because the government has to sell it for what it is worth,” he said. “Now, we can negotiate that cost.”
Ranson said Cleco obviously wants to secure a good customer to purchase its electricity, but “mostly we are interested in creating jobs in this area -- and in creating the right kind of jobs.”
‘WOULD BE A WASTE’
He said allowing the highly developed prime industrial site to end up being used for a store and parking lot or strip mall operation “would be a waste.”
That’s why Cleco focused on buying the property so it could work on securing a good tenant for the site.
“This site is ideally suited for light manufacturing, such as assembly and distribution,” Ranson said. “It is 4.5 miles away from the interstate.”
Although Cleco owns the property, it is still giving Mayor Bruce Coulon a “veto” over any business he deems is not in the town’s best interest.
“We won’t be putting any smokestacks out there,” Ranson said.