SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- After more than a year of wrangling with the City Council, a company that makes blast-resistant modular buildings has begun production in Shreveport.
"We're here, we're producing, and we're complying with our lease," said Fred Gossen Jr., president and CEO of MB Industries LLC of Rayne. "We're here to stay."
MBI pays $1,000 a month for the city-owned plant in return for job quotas.
Welders were at work Thursday on two modular buildings, each about the size of a double-wide trailer. They're designed for war zones or heavy industry such as chemical plants or refineries.
Company staff say 49 employees have been hired and MBI plans to have about 200 when the 750,000-foot-square-foot factory is fully staffed.
MBI sued the city in 2008 to enforce a contract giving it the first rights on the building after the former tenant, BeairdCo, left. BeardCo's peak employment was 400.
The city threatened MBI with eviction in June because production had not started.
Though expected to attend Thursday's announcement, no one from either the City Council or the city administration showed up.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, did.
"I hear one refrain over and over again: 'We want jobs,'" he said. "And here we have a facility that's ready to provide 200 jobs and that's just to begin with."
Many of the current workers used to work at BeairdCo, officials said.
Since 1999, MBI has produced more than 1,000 units for use in five continents and every major body of water in the world.
Tony Culverhouse, a welder from Doyline, ate lunch after the ceremony with Sonya Gibson, a welder from Oklahoma. Both were hired recently.
"They're hiring people left and right," Culverhouse said.