After a seven-month delay, a company buying a troubled state-backed cane syrup mill in Lacassine now is current on payments to the state.
State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Friday that Louisiana Green Fuels recently made a $100,000 interest payment.
He said the company is seeking an extension on a nearly $1 million bank loan payment. Also looming is a $2.9 million mortgage payment that the state is supposed to receive at the end of the year.
The Jefferson Davis Parish mill is idle four years after the state built it with visions of turning it into an ethanol plant.
“They are struggling and they have been struggling. But we have been working with them. They are current with us,” Strain said.
He said the Colombian family behind Louisiana Green Fuels is trying to enter into a partnership with a Colombian energy company to jumpstart the project.
Louisiana Green Fuels is headed by Alejandro “Alex” Santacoloma, a 30-something-year-old Columbian businessman, and his brother, Luis. Both are officers in the Lacassine-headquartered company.
Alex Santacoloma did not return a call for comment to company headquarters in Lacassine.
Louisiana Green Fuels is buying the mill from the state through a 44-year mortgage. Partial interest payments of $100,000 a year for four years now are completed. Payments on the principal of $60 million begin in this year.
For several years, the company has been searching for an equity partner amid a souring economy. So far, no partner has come forward, although Strain said the Santacolomas now are in discussions with Omega Energy.
Omega is an oil and gas exploration company based in Bogota.
The Lacassine mill predates Strain’s tenure at the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry. His predecessor, Bob Odom, built the facility by using the agency’s $12 million annual cut from slot machine revenue to back the borrowing.
State officials approved the Lacassine mill but balked at backing a $135 million syrup plant in Bunkie amid concerns the facility would fail.
Strain said it is in the state’s best interest for the Lacassine project to succeed. Otherwise, the state will be on the hook for $60 million.
“Am I at all concerned? We’re going to monitor the situation very closely,” Strain said.