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St. John wins 200-jobs decision

EDGARD — Two hundred new jobs with average salaries close to $60,000.

That’s what company and region leaders say comes with news this week that Russian-based EuroChem Group AG will build an ammonia and urea production complex and distribution center in St. John the Baptist Parish.

The development site is located near Edgard on approximately 950 acres, which EuroChem is acquiring from the owners of the old Goldmine Plantation and others near Edgard.

EuroChem chose the West Bank location over a second Louisiana location finalist in Iberville Parish.

“We’re very pleased they chose the St. John the Baptist Parish site Goldmine because they had already purchased a site in Iberville,” Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Paul Aucoin said. “It speaks highly of the coordinated effort that we put forth here with the three parishes.”

EuroChem CEO Dmitry Strezhnev said company officials greatly appreciate the support EuroChem received from the state of Louisiana, St. John the Baptist Parish and Iberville Parish, saying each demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to the development of their proposed facility.

“We look forward to working with our new neighbors in the local community,” Strezhnev said.

EuroChem Louisiana spokesman Jim Harris told L’OBSERVATEUR the company is reluctant to release construction timelines publicly because so much has to be accomplished before construction begins.

“We’ve got begin to get our permit proposals together and get them into the Department of Environmental Quality,” Harris said. “Many, many other things have to happen, including the hiring of some engineering firms to get the next phase of our predisposition of the site ready to go forward with.”

Harris said the EuroChem facility would not dominate the acreage the company is acquiring.

“(We will) locate the facility as far away from any resident or other structure as we can to provide plenty of buffer around the facility in terms of any noise or anything else, even in terms of the construction period,” Harris said.

EuroChem plans to meet for one-on-one discussions with near-by residents and hold a public meeting to go over everything when construction plans have been finalized.

Once constructed, the plant will manufacture and distribute fertilizer products in the United States and other markets.

Aucoin said EuroChem’s most challenging part in locating in St. John Parish was securing a rail spur to link to Union Pacific Railroad, which included securing extra land beyond the Goldmine acreage.

“The Port stands ready to assist in anyway we can,” Aucoin said.

“We can assist them with financing in certain portions of the project, like the dock. We can issue bonds to assist them, which may give them a little lower rate of interest. Some land-side things can also be financed through bonds issued by the Port.”

Aucoin said once the factory is built, the Port provides routines services including security for levee patrols and use of the Port’s fire and rescue boats, which are on call at all times.

“Jobs is what this is all about,” Aucoin said. “(EuroChem is) going to spend $1.5 billion constructing the fertilizer plant and employing approximately 200 direct jobs.

“That doesn’t take into account the indirect jobs that are always associated with a company moving in. That is what we, at the Port, try to accomplish when we do economic development.

“Right now, today, we have $12 billion of announced projects in the three-parish area and some more on the way to be announced.”