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Whatever Happened To...The Northeast Louisiana Industrial Megasite?

courtesy: Louisiaana Dept. of Economic Development

Today we’re launching a sometimes series we’re calling “Whatever Happened To…?”, looking at Louisiana people, places and issues that were once hot news topics, but have since faded from view.

We’ll start with the northeast Louisiana industrial megasite known as Franklin Farm. 

It’s 1440 acres next to I-20 in Richland Parish. The state bought it for $4.6 million in 2006, anticipating it would be perfect for an auto manufacturing plant.

But within months of the purchase, the Guide headlight manufacturing plant in Monroe closed its doors. And in 2012, General Motors closed its facility in Shreveport. Yet state and local economic development officials are still marketing Franklin Farm as a site for an auto maker.

“We’ve looked at some manufacturing plants: automobile, tractors and big equipment,” says state Senator Francis Thompson of Delhi. “We have several large trucking and shipping corporations that have shown interest in it.”

Thompson confesses regional officials are a bit discouraged that there have been no takers for the past eleven years, so they’ve finally lowered their expectations.

“At one time, we thought about if they didn’t have 5000 jobs to offer,” he says. “The consensus now is if we could find one that had a thousand that we could build from.”

It’s not necessarily the location. The I-20 corridor through other Southern states – most notably Mississippi and Alabama – has proven attractive to Toyota and Hyundai. Thompson believes the biggest drawback in finding a major industrial tenant for the Richland Parish site is the lack of state funding to invest in making the property as attractive as similar sites in other states.

“Most of those that we compete with have water, sewer, electrical. They’ve spent literally tens of millions to upgrade their megasites,” he says. “We’ve been trying to do it on the cheap. That has not worked.”

So since it’s farmland, what about using part of the property for the state’s upcoming medical marijuana production program?

“I don’t believe that is in the plan, at this juncture,” Thompson stated.

And if you’ve been wondering “whatever happened to…”  something or someone, e-mail me at