Monday, June 17, 2024

Pulling the curtain back on economic development

by BIZ Magazine

“Many people assume that if you have enough land then you can build anything. That is not necessarily true.”

Rich Lamb is explaining the amount of effort it takes to land a major economic project. 

“Any large-scale manufacturer (requires) a lot of infrastructure such as plentiful water, gas, power, transportation infrastructure…The site near Plain Dealing had all of these things.”

Teal Jones Group, a privately held Canadian forestry products company, broke ground on a 235-acre sawmill facility near Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish in July this year. The project, expected to open one-year from now, is estimated to generate 500 new jobs for the area.

Lamb, an attorney who specializes in tax law and business transactions, was crucial in landing the private investment, which helped secure the major economic win of 2022.

The $125M project is hailed as a community investment.

“A lot of families from our region, including my own, invested a lot of capital into this project. Over $68M of equity has been raised, with nearly half from Shreveport-Bossier and the other half coming from partners outside of the area,” Lamb said.

However, he didn’t work in a vacuum. His knowledge of mergers and acquisitions, real estate, securities, and entity formation combined with the initiative of Rocky Rockett, executive director and president of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, to secure the spot in Bossier Parish.

“Having these critical strategic incentives and the active participation of our local and State partners enabled GBEDF to help get the project approved and funded expeditiously for Teal Jones Group,” said Rockett. “It’s exciting to see our collaborative process working for the good of the region and bringing new economic prosperity to this community.”

The Port of Caddo-Bossier worked to utilize the Port’s conduit financing mechanism, which allowed bonds to be issued to lenders and eased placing the debt. Further, a number of banks in and outside Louisiana stepped up to make that loan happen. 

Rich Lamb

“My good friend Art Carmody, market president of B1Bank in Shreveport, lead the charge to get this done. Without Art and Chad Carter, this project never would have happened, so Art, Chad, and the folks at B1Bank are in many ways the ‘founders of the feast’ with respect to positives coming from this project,” Lamb said.

Lamb says he is not an investment banker or your typical “promoter”, so working this aspect of a deal was a new experience. 

“Like so many people in our region, my family has owned timberlands in this area for many generations and I knew we needed a sawmill in this area, so I began pursuing it and doors kept opening to keep it alive,” said Lamb. “I found the Teal Jones Group and was immediately convinced that this family-owned business was the ideal partner. We want this to be a long-term business, not a quick build and flip, and that is how Teal Jones Group thinks and operates. 

Lamb raised equity capital, secured loans, and helped select the site. 

“It was a rollercoaster, but with the help of a lot of people in Shreveport, Bossier, and Plain Dealing, we were able to get it done. This is an excellent example of what can happen with both sides of the Red River work together,” he added.

Additionally, Lamb says the area will benefit by being involved in a “tremendous industry” at the right time. 

By harvesting the area’s timberlands, more severance tax revenue will be collected by local governments and the public will see benefits as well.

“The possibilities emanating from the project seem endless as we learn more about the use of wood products in the future. Further, it will utilize timberlands in our region which will benefit a lot more people than just the equity investors and the lenders,” he said.     

This project is just the start as the group is working with other partners to bring similar job opportunities to the site. 

“Our site is 241 acres and will have rail access, so it is an attractive location for similarly situated businesses that need the infrastructure we are building right now near Plain Dealing,” Lamb said.

— Stacey Tinsley, BIZ. Magazine

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