OPELOUSAS — A seafood processing plant is less than a year away from opening in Opelousas after a vote of the city council in Monday night. 

The council OK'd a 99-year lease of two plots at the city's industrial park for AgraTech to build a facility that process chitosan, a collagen found in shellfish and used in a products such as cosmetics and wastewater treatment when processed. 

The council voted 4-1 in favor of the lease agreement. Councilman Tyrone Glover voted against it, citing the length of the lease, which has 20 intervals for review, and worries over the safety of the facility. Councilman Blair Briggs was absent.

Joseph Bristow, the chief technology officer at AgraTech, and Opelousas Mayor Reggie Tatum assured Glover and concerned citizens that the facility is no more dangerous than being around a crawfish boil.

AgraTech is awaiting approval of a $3.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture before starting construction on the new facility. Getting the site secured at the industrial park was a requirement for the loan.

"It's been a long process, but it's been a pretty simple one, and this is kind of the culmination of it," Bristow said. "The industrial park has the utilities we need, and it's zoned properly. Opelousas is just the perfect site for us."

Bristow said the company hopes to get approved for the loan by the end of the year and to break ground in January anc construction completed by late July or August.

Another part of the lease was that AgraTech hire and keep on at least 10 high-paying chemical technician positions for at least five years once the plant opens. Bristow said AgraTech will initially hire 12 who are expected to earn $50,000 annually and several less technical positions that will pay as much as $35,000 a year.

Bristow said they also plan to expand over the years so there will be more jobs at various tiers in the future.

"This is a great day for the city," said Tatum. "This is going to create revenue for the city and much-needed jobs. It's a win-win. We're getting more industries. We have a lot of people who are qualified for technical jobs, but they have to drive to Baton Rouge for work. This will hopefully allow some of them to stay and work here in Opelousas."

Acadiana business today: NextGen says it will ditch efforts to take over Lafayette utilities if council opposes; Opelousas OK's lease for AgraTech

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