St. Mary Parish Economic Director Franklin Fink said it was about a year ago that he and New York-based developer Katherine Reynolds presented an idea for an “ecopreneur center” and housing development on the land directly across from Parc sur la Teche. The city committed to providing utilities infrastructure to the project.
Fink said BP is “very interested in the exibetry in the ecopreneur center” though they were not willing to engage in actual construction of the center through part of the company’s input of funding to parishes affected by the oil spill in 2010.
Fink has since made contact with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, an organization which “invests in and manages pivotal projects that can change the community” according to its web site. Reynolds is constructing a detailed presentation to the foundation, Fink said, for possible support.
“We’ve also spoken with a company out of Baton Rouge that provides access to market tax credits…and with Washington,” Fink said.
He said he is working with state legislators for support as well.
“The ecopreneur center is really the stalwart for the City of Franklin’s development,” Fink said. “We’re talking education, technologies, an R&D center. We all hear about what’s happening in green energy and different programs. This is like an R&D center for developing these technologies. We’re going to have professionals coming into town, educators come into Franklin to see what’s going on there. It will be a real asset and a benefit to the city.”
Fink said the housing development “will happen, but the ecopreneur center is first, that’s the highest priority on our list from an economic development perspective.”
Councilman Eugene Foulcard said he was grateful for Fink’s report, and that the city continues to support the concept while “at the same time we are realists, and if it’s not going to happen we may need to de-obligate those funds and look at doing something else. But we definitely want to stay the course.”
Fink says he’s spoken with business people in the state and parish and uncertainty in the economy has been a central topic. “I suspect as housing starts pick up, things start to improve, we’re going to see more interest in making these types of investments,” he said.