MINDEN, La. (KSLA) — One of the ArkLaTex’s largest employers is worried that its million-dollar products could become stuck at the plant.
At issue is maintenance of bridges near the manufacturing plant.
But now it appears that political and governmental leaders are stepping forward to help ensure Fibrebond does not move from Louisiana to East Texas.
In all, there are three spans along U.S. Highway 80 near the Fibrebond plant at Minden.
If any one of them is de-rated, President and CEO Graham Walker explained, it would block his company’s only remaining path available to move their products.
The plant makes million-dollar mission critical structures that keep getting larger and larger. They can range up to 76 feet long and 18 feet wide.
And, even more importantly, they can weigh 180,000 pounds. That’s 90 tons.
Fears of a bridge’s de-rating are not unfounded.
Walker has discovered that there have been 33 bridges closed in Louisiana so far this year.
Worse, he said, the three bridges in question soon could be re-rated.
He’s concerned that such heavyweight loads as those produced by his company soon could be banned from any one of those spans.
“Until there’s a very firm plan that we can get out of here with a guarantee to continue servicing our customers, we don’t have a choice. We have to look elsewhere.”
Several East Texas cities and towns already have come calling, pitching their communities as a better fit for Fibrebond.
The 750 employees at the Minden plant translate into an annual payroll of $35 million.
Longtime employee Saul Williams said this could prove to be a difficult situation for him and fellow workers at the company.
“These employees, just from working here and being paid here, that money is invested back into this community. So I think it would be bad.”
Fibrebond has almost doubled its workforce in recent years.
By some estimates, the manufacturer’s overall economic impact is $350 million.
Louisiana state Sen. Ryan Gatti said he and a team of local and state leaders met again Thursday about the situation at Fibrebond.
“We started roundtabling this about 90 and 120 days ago. And, you know, we have a problem with roads and bridges in our state. So what we’re trying to do is find at least two, maybe three, routes so that Fibrebond can get their product to Texas.”
One of those potential routes could take Fibrebond’s shipments through Camp Minden — saving more than 150 delivery miles.
Gatti said they hope to have a solution figured out in no more than a week or two.