MB Industries' opening still on hold

By Jeff Ferrell - bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - An idle plant in Shreveport-Bossier was already supposed to be 'up and running' by now.  So, we went to find out what's causing the delay in opening MB Industries inside the old Beaird Company building.

Dark and silent, it's a haunting image inside the once-thriving factory the Ark-La-Tex knew for years as Beaird Industries in south Shreveport.  Back in January, recently-laid off Beaird employees applied to work for the company moving in:  MB Industries, based in Rayne, Louisiana.

"I said, 'wow, really good, good, 'cause I worked here a lot of years and stuff under the Beaird names and stuff and so coming here back again under MBI will be pretty nice," said Roy Green back in January. 

Eight months later, everyone is still waiting for it to open and begin building its explosion-resistant modular buildings.  "I know, I know.  We are just as eager as everyone else is, to get started out there," said Rick Fayard, MB Industries Chief Administrative Officer.

Part of the hold-up appears to involve the approval of an environmental permit by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.  That process had reportedly been stalled by new federal regulations.  "Our state had trouble understanding and being able to define the enforcement regulations, so there was some time delay," said Fayard.

But, Gov. Bobby Jindal's press office countered that MBI chose to wait for the 'entire' process to play itself out, rather than get a temporary permit to start up.  Governor Jindal added, "actually, you look at ConAgra, you look at Orion, they've all publicly praised the DEQ approval process."

Fayard described BeairdCo's filing for bankruptcy this spring as the other major hurdle stopping this giant factory from re-opening.  "We're awaiting approval, we've got motions filed to allow us to proceed with manufacturing."

The bankruptcy judge in Baton Rouge is not expected to give that approval until mid-October.  And, even when the permit and bankruptcy issues have been sorted out, there's another looming issue:  All the equipment that's sat idle for the last year and a half.

Fayard said checking all that equipment and preparing the site for operation could then take another several months.  Fayard said don't expect to see MB Industries hire those 300-workers and open its doors until early 2010..

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