Super Insulation of Lewco Specialty Products

Super Insulation, a subsidiary of Lewco Specialty Products, a Baton Rouge-based manufacturer is seeking tax incentives for an expansion of its insulation business. 

Just like the Metro Council a week ago, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday easily approved a request from Super Insulation for a 10-year industrial tax break for a proposed $8.4 million expansion at its Baton Rouge facility.

It’s the first request approved by the School Board since it adopted guidelines in January for how it handles requests under the more than 80-year-old Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

Critics of the program, including the faith-based group Together Baton Rouge, did not object to the request and had no one speak Thursday.

That was a stark contrast with January when the group packed a board meeting to persuade the board to narrowly reject two tax break requests from ExxonMobil.

Board President Mike Gaudet, who supported ExxonMobil’s application then, said he’s happy to support Super Insulation’s request, but said he finds it little different from what ExxonMobil wanted months ago.

“The fundamentals of it to me are identical,” Gaudet said.

Board member Dawn Collins, however, disagreed. Collins was outspoken in opposing ExxonMobil’s requests.

“There are some things that are significantly different that were taken into consideration,” Collins said.

Super Insulation estimates its project, at 7011 Renoir Ave., will add six new jobs to the 34 positions that already make up the company's $2.2 million payroll. Metro Council’s vote on June 12 was unanimous. The School Board voted 8-0 Thursday, with only board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson abstaining. The final step for the company is to gain the approval of Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, which is expected.

After Thursday's meeting, Ware-Jackson said she recused herself out of “abundance of caution” because she owns property near where the project is taking place. 

ITEP has been a hot-button issue, with passionate debate on both sides, since Gov. John Bel Edwards through an executive order gave local tax authorities the power to decide which companies can get the tax break.

According to its application, Super Insulation's $8 million project consists of installing new machinery and equipment to support its manufacturing of a hydrophobic mat used in industrial piping.

The expansion will add 6 permanent jobs, adding about $210,000 to company's payroll, and calls for 50 contract jobs during construction with a payroll of $1.5 million.

Super Insulation is now set to receive a $152,441 tax break in the first year of its exemption, with an estimated total exemption of $1.2 million over the 10-year period. About $216,000 of that will be school taxes.

Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.