Ace Armature Works

The site of the former Ace Armature Works was renovated to become the newest Etheredge Industrial Services shop in North Baton Rouge but the location has since closed.

A Shreveport-based industrial electrical equipment repair business had high hopes for a north Baton Rouge location last year but has closed that shop despite economic incentives.

Etheredge Electric Co., doing business as Etheredge Industrial Services, has asked the state to cancel its economic incentive contract, about 19 months after buying the former Ace Armature Works, a residential and commercial motor repair business on Plank Road. 

Etheredge, with locations in Shreveport and Lake Charles, had aspired to open in the Baton Rouge market for years and was bullish about the shop's opportunity. However, the cost of the renovation and retrofitting required to modernize and run the Baton Rouge location ultimately was too high. The business builds and rebuilds motors for industrial clients such as petrochemical plants. 

"We wanted to use that facility as a stepping stone in the larger market, but we found that to be tougher than we thought and then the pandemic happened," said Dennis Etheredge, president of Etheredge Electric. "A lot of the equipment that we purchased was really old, so it was going to cost us more money to stay in business." 

In March 2019, the site was purchased for $282,000 while another $91,100 was invested in machinery and equipment. The company expected to and was able hire three employees, one of which relocated to Lake Charles with the closure. The company had more than 60 employees across its three locations.

Etheredge sought $12,244 in property tax exemption over a 10-year period and would have been eligible for enterprise zone incentives for every job, either a one-time $3,500 tax credit or $1,000 tax credit for each new job in addition to  either a state sales use tax rebate on capital expenses for equipment purchased or 1.5% investment tax credit.

In January, the company's Industrial Tax Exemption Program request was approved by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, overriding board guidelines against approvals when construction has already started, and it was subsequently approved by the Metro Council.

"Because the initial Baton Rouge operations were not sustained, no incentives will be provided for that project," Don Pierson, secretary of the Louisiana economic development department, said in a statement. "Spending, hiring and continuity of operations are confirmed prior to incentives being provided."

The economic incentives the business applied for are reimbursement programs which require companies to provide receipts for payroll and other capital expenditures related to the contract.

With the Baton Rouge closure, work is being completed at the company's Lake Charles shop, which is newer and recently rebounded from heavy damages and electrical outages caused Hurricane Laura. Its main office in Shreveport also has a newer construction and more modern machinery.

The company hopes someday reopen in the Baton Rouge metro area since repair work for industrial customers remains steady, but is leaning toward Geismar in Ascension Parish to be closer to more industrial plants.

"We jumped on an opportunity that was presented to us and it's unfortunate that we had to pull out of the market we wanted, but it just didn't fit the plans to do the upgrade it needed to service larger industrial accounts," Etheredge said. "We do plan to be back."

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