Bayou Steel $2 million upgrade will help retain 386 employees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY – Managing Editor

LAPLACE – Bayou Steel’s docks will get a $2 million upgrade, financed and constructed by the Port of South Louisiana.

Final action on the purchase/lease-back agreement was unanimously approved by the port commissioners at their recent meeting.

Executive Director Joseph Accardo Jr. Explained the plan is to purchase the dock, make the extensive improvements while leasing the facility’s use back to Bayou Steel and allow the steel mill to buy it back after five years.

Financing for the renovation comes from a $1.053 million grant from the state’s Economic Development Administration grant program, matched by an additional million dollars from Bayou Steel.

Along with the renovation, the agreement is to maintain employment at Bayou Steel at a minimum of 386 employees for the coming five years, the port director said.

The purchase/buy-back agreement is needed, as the Port of South Louisiana is a state agency, and to spend public funds on a private facility makes the purchase necessary to make it legal.

The renovation work itself will begin with an inspection by divers to ensure the underwater structures are sound. Then, according to Accardo, engineering will commence, followed by upgrading and repairs to the 20-year-old dock, while keeping the dock itself open and usable.

Bayou Steel’s chief financial officer, Richard Gonzalez, commented, “It’s going to help get our equipment back in shape to be competitive again.”

Bayou Steel, which first came to LaPlace in 1982, ships 200,000 tons of steel annually through that dock, making use of the Mississippi River to stay competitive with Midwest by the efficient use of barges to transport steel, as opposed to overland costs, Accardo said.

Along with the dock renovation, part of the agreement is to maintain employment at Bayou Steel at a minimum of 386 employees for the coming five years, the port director said.

Also, the port’s economic development director, Linda Prudhomme, gave a report on recent activites. These included development of a database of key corporate offices in the U.S. For the aluminum, copper and automotive manufacturing corporations. They will each be called to discuss their future expansion plans.

Prudhomme also returned from the Corenet Conference in Chicago, meeting site selectors representating large corporations.

In other activity at Wednesday’s port commission, the panel:

€ Issued a letter of condolences to the family of late commissioner Antoine “Peanut” Folse, who served on the board for 16 years.

€ Presented a 20-year service plaque to fireboat captain Kerry Cunningham.

€ Approved a resolution for Gulf American Terminal Industrial Development’s cooperative endeavor agreement toward constructing a rail spur to their facility in the former Baker-Heritage building at Globalplex in Reserve.