MER ROUGE, La. (AP) — A $10 million rice mill will be built in Morehouse Parish, creating 22 jobs, Louisiana economic development officials said Tuesday.
The Kennedy Rice Mill, a subsidiary of Kennedy Rice Dryers, will be the only rice mill from the Arkansas border to Interstate 10. Only a handful of rice mills have been built in the region over the past 25 years, officials said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said the deal was reached during the state's search to replace jobs lost by the 2008 closure of an International Paper mill that had been the parish's largest employer with 550 jobs. Jindal said plans call for the mill to run on two shifts, with the possibility of a third shift that would boost employment to 30.
The plant will employ some of the most advanced rice milling technology, said Elton Kennedy, the head of Kennedy Rice Dryers based in Mer Rouge.
On Dec. 9, Hazelhurst, Miss.-based DG Foods Ltd. said it would spend $9.7 million to build a chicken processing plant in Bastrop, creating 317 jobs. In Farmerville, the state arranged the purchase of another chicken plant closed by Pilgrim's Pride Corp. in 2009 by putting up half of the $72.2 million purchase price. The plant now employs about 1,100 people.
Officials said the new mill will give rice farmers in northeastern Louisiana another milling option with reduced transport costs. The mill could process 30 to 40 percent of the northeastern Louisiana rice crop. The company said about 95 percent of the mill's sales will be to out-of-state destinations.
State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said rice is Louisiana's fifth-largest commodity. The state has about 464,000 acres in production, Strain said.
The Louisiana economic development agency said the mill is getting an incentive package that includes work force training, a 5 percent to 6 percent rebate on new payroll expenses and a rebate on some sales taxes. The plant also is slated to receive a property tax abatement from the state's industrial tax exemption program.
The mill also is eligible for up to $300,000 for infrastructure improvements, officials said.