MINDEN, La. (KSLA) — Thursday was a day of smiles, cheers and applause as Louisiana’s governor made a special trip to Webster Parish for a big announcement and signing ceremony.
It all had to do with the state making a deal with a Minden-based business to repair roads and bridges to prevent the company from moving away.
Fibrebond Corp.’s 750 employees applauded Gov. John Bel Edwards as he signed a memorandum of understanding during his visit to the company’s headquarters.
“I’m happy to know, and I know you’re happy to know that Fibrebond will be staying right here in Minden, in Webster Parish, Louisiana,” he told the crowd shortly before the signing.
That signing promises Louisiana will carry out bridge and road projects along U.S. Highway 80 in Webster Parish.
Those changes are expected to allow Fibrebond to deliver its increasingly huge mission-critical structures from its production facility in Minden.
“We’ve been fighting to stay in Louisiana, not fighting to leave. And that’s on behalf of 700 people here this morning,” Fibrebond Chief Executive Officer Graham Walker told the large gathering in the plant.
If no deal had been made with the state, he explained, it likely would have forced Fibrebond to relocate to East Texas.
That would have left employees, like father of five Johnny Manning, with a tough choice: Make a much longer commute or find a new job.
Fortunately, Manning did not have to make that decision.
"It's a big feel of joy, yeah. We can actually stay here. We enjoy being here."
Walker and the governor credit state Sen. Ryan Gatti for his persistence in getting the agreement.
Gatti gives much of the credit to Fibrebond workers.
“You’ve been the motivating force for making this deal come together. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s worth it,” Gatti told them.
The memorandum of understanding also addresses a critical need for more workforce training.
The governor’s office announced that Louisiana is committing $250,000 to help Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College upgrade its high-demand training programs.
“We’re gonna continue to grow with you, we’re going to change with you, we’re going to adapt and we’re going to find out what you need to be the best in your business. That’s what it’s about,” Chancellor Earl W. Meador told the crowd.
Edwards said people should see some of the first signs of this effort very soon.
Louisiana will create a heavy-haul route from Minden to Texas for over-height and overweight loads, providing more than 50 miles of highway capable of handling special loads, the governor’s office said.
Creating the heavy haul route will require the lowering of the U.S. Highway 80 underpass at Interstate 20 between Dixie Inn and Goodwill Road, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
That work will achieve a minimum vertical clearance of 17.5 feet.
LaDOTD also announced that the westbound U.S. 80 bridge over Boone Creek near Dixie Inn is being removed and will be rebuilt, beginning what’s described as a comprehensive replacement program for eight other bridges throughout the region.