- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

GONZALES, La. (AP) - The Ascension Economic Development Corp. will spend nearly $59,000 for a study to help the parish target businesses to help diversify the local economy.

The AEDC approved a contract Thursday with Sanford Holshouser Economic Development Consulting, of Raleigh, North Carolina. The study is expected to take about four months to conduct.

Mike Eades, chief executive officer and president of the AEDC, says 18 potential projects are looking at setting up in Ascension Parish, representing a total investment of $16.9 billion and 2,015 new jobs.

One of the potential prospects is Project Blue Water, a natural gas conversion project that would be a capital investment of $1.3 billion that would create 300 new jobs. The company is looking at the 987-acre on La. 18 in Donaldsonville.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1xh1si4 ) the study calls for Sanford Holshouser to look back at Ascension’s recent economic history and see what the major industries are and the threats they face.

“We know we are dependent on the petrochemical industry, but we don’t know how dependent we are,” Eades said. “And the threats are pretty obvious: regulatory changes, energy price volatility. But we want to know if we are missing opportunities for upstream or downstream companies.”

The report will also determine what industries Ascension should target in an effort to diversify the economic mix. Eades and AEDC officials will find out which companies in those industries are experiencing growth, who the leaders of those companies are and what strategy should be used to approach those businesses, such as attending trade shows, purchasing advertising or making in-person visits.

Bob Goforth, a partner at Sanford Holshouser who will serve as project manager for the Ascension contract, said he plans to approach the parish as to what potential investors and job creators see.

“Our main business is helping companies find the best place to put their facilities, so we evaluate from that standpoint,” Goforth said.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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