North Shore 'megasite' looks to attract big business, jobs to Louisiana

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - In St. Tammany Parish, state economic leaders are positioning themselves to attract and land the next big job creator for Louisiana.

"You bring a company in that's an industrial advanced manufacturing facility, for every job they bring that's 10 more for the community. That's a really big deal," said Brad Cook with Stirling Properties.

Cook is at the forefront of what is called a megasite, a large tract of land that is set aside for the sole purpose of attracting businesses from across the globe.

The Bilten Park Megasite is the largest in the state. It's more than 9 square miles that economic leaders believe is ripe for growth for a possible computer or automobile parts manufacturing company.

"This is the kind of thing where St. Tammany begins to impact New Orleans, not the other way around, from a positive standpoint and job growth standpoint," Cook said.

"As we engage in recruitment efforts, development-ready sites are a critical component of success," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said in a press release. "Today, investors make decisions quickly, and communities must have construction-ready sites. The Bilten Park site is strategically located to provide ready access to logistical infrastructure assets."

The megasite is between Lacombe and Slidell along the I-12 corridor, and economic leaders believe the location of the site is key to attracting big business.

"Certainly, the interstate system that we have with our three-four interstates if you go further west that kind of interconnect. Also, there's access to rail from there. There's the port that is close by so we have all of the things that we need to attract a company like that," St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said.

At this time, no corporations have expressed interest in the site. But Brister said without it, the state has already missed out on economic opportunities that in turn went to other states.

"(Businesses) are very specific with what they need. They tell us. If we have it, we enter the fight to get them here, but we've not been able to do that a lot on the larger sites because we just didn't have one," Brister said.

Economic leaders believe within two years residents will see industry move into the area and even the possibility of an additional interstate exit to accommodate growth.

However, with growth comes concerns about drainage - something Brister said parish engineers will watch closely.

"You have to show, not just guarantee, in your drawings that you will have 25 percent more runoff than you have right now so that water moves in the right direction," Brister said.

Infrastructure improvements are needed on the site. Brister said funding for that would come from a combination of local, state and federal government.

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