Rail project to boost economy, jobs in Felicianas _lowres

Advocate staff photo by STACY GILL -- East Feliciana Parish leaders and members of the Feliciana Regional Business and Industry Council welcomed Florida Fuel Connection representatives July 30, to Slaughter. The group, which met to discuss details of a newly announced economic development project, included front row, from left, Tom Moriarty, president, FRBIC; State Rep. Kenny Havard, District 62; Charmaine Efferson, FRBIC; Slaughter Mayor Robbie Jackson; and John Lawrence, Florida Fuel; and back row, John Armburst, CEO, Florida Fuel; Joe Howell, president, East Feliciana Chamber of Commerce; and Jon Craft, FRBIC.

After months of working with parish and state officials, Florida Fuel Connections, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has announced it will build a petroleum terminal and rail shipment facility in East Feliciana Parish, near the Mississippi River.

State Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, District 62, along with Slaughter Mayor Robbie Jackson and members of the Feliciana Regional Business and Industry Council welcomed Florida Fuel to Slaughter on July 30 to finalize project details with engineers and landowners.

The $75 million capital investment will equate to at least 50 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000 a year plus benefits and 137 new indirect jobs and will generate 200 additional construction jobs, according to Louisiana Economic Development estimates.

The new terminal will provide a starting point for the shipment of gasoline, aviation fuel and diesel via rail to Florida, which lacks pipeline connections to regional oil refineries and primarily imports its fuel stocks by marine vessels, Havard said.

“We’ll have the ability to take petroleum product off the Colonial Pipeline in Baton Rouge,” Florida Fuel CEO John Armbrurst said. “And for the first time, Florida and southeast Georgia consumers will benefit from a land bridge that transports petroleum from major refining centers in the U.S. Gulf Coast that will reduce market volatility and the likelihood of supply shortages.

“Importantly, maintaining a dependable supply of petroleum products is especially critical for first responders and government agencies responding to major weather events or other natural disasters.”

The land bridge will augment the company’s current marine delivery system for a portion of the estimated 10 billion gallons of petroleum products consumed annually in Florida, Armbrurst said.

FFC anticipates being fully operational by the first quarter of 2017 and, at its peak, will transport 240,000 barrels per day into Florida and southeast Georgia.

The East Feliciana Parish terminal is a portion of a $300 million capital investment the FFC partners expect to make from end to end, according to Louisiana Economic Development.

LED said the state offered an incentive package to FFC that includes the Enterprise Zone program — benefits that include a tax credit of $2,500 per qualifying new, permanent full-time job created and either a tax credit on qualified capital expenditures or a rebate of state sales taxes on construction materials used on site during construction.

The project will utilize the rail system along the U.S. 61 corridor between Port Hudson (near Zachary) and Thompson Creek to the Mississippi River, Havard has said.

“No fuel will be transported through Baker, Zachary or Slaughter,” Jackson said. “The railroad work presently happening in Slaughter and Zachary is due to a KPAQ project. Though the upgrades to the rail system are being done now, nothing will be happening on those tracks for some time. Even then, it’ll be paper and pulp products that will be transported.”

KPAQ reported in August 2014 its efforts to acquire a short-line rail route from the Illinois Central Railroad, through Geaux Geaux Railroad, a logistics company affiliated with the mill in St. Francisville. Reopening the rail line that runs from near St. Francisville through Slaughter, Zachary and on to Illinois Central’s Baton Rouge yard will provide opportunities for KPAQ and other businesses along the route, the company said.