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Story Archives: Lawmakers applaud Saints, Pilgrim's Pride deals
|Lawmakers applaud Saints, Pilgrim's Pride deals|
A new contract will keep the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans through 2025 while in northeast Louisiana, the future of the Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing facility seems a little more secure.
Under terms of an agreement with Saints owner Tom Benson, the state will inject some $85 million in state funds into renovations at the Louisiana Superdome. At the same time, lawmakers also approved changes to state law that will free up $50 million to keep the Union Parish Pilgrim's Pride plant running.
State Sen. Francis Thompson said having lawmakers consider both measures at one time helped ensure both would pass.
"It was a good strategy on the governor's part to set the Saints deal at the time of the Pilgrim's Pride deal," said Thompson, D-Delhi. "It put us in the position of being boxed into both deals, so to speak."
Thompson said it is always difficult for legislators from the northeastern Louisiana delegation to support subsidizing the Saints because there is little direct impact.
However, Thompson suggested that by having lawmakers take up both the Saints and Pilgrim's Pride deal at the same time, it made it easier for everyone "to get together on the deal."
State Rep. Noble Ellington said he had reservations about committing the $85 million in state funds to keep the Saints, but added that contractual obligations should be met.
"I have mixed emotions about the Saints deal," said Ellington, D-Winnsboro. "I do think the deal we have is better than the deal we had."
Under terms of the deal announced last week, the state will renovate the Superdome facility using taxpayer funds. At the same time, Benson committed to purchasing Dominion Tower, a vacant office building next door to the Superdome.
Dominion Tower has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Both Thompson and Ellington said the new contract gave the state more favorable terms than previous agreements and Ellington said he was pleased that the new contract would free the state from large, annual subsidy payments.
"When you start subsidizing someone who probably has more money than the state, I'm just not sure that's something we need to do," Ellington said.
Meanwhile, in Union Parish, poultry producers are breathing their first sigh of relief after the state Senate overwhelmingly approved changing state law to allow Gov. Bobby Jindal to spend some $50 million on purchasing the Pilgrim's Pride facility for California-based poultry producer Foster Farms.
Thompson said the deal will protect as many as 7,000 jobs, "when you take into account the domino effect."
The Union Parish plant employed more than 1,500 workers and keeps as many as 3,000 other individuals employed in chicken farming. Thompson added that "any number of jobs" are an indirect result of the plant.
Ellington said changing the law to allow money to be spent saving jobs was a "much needed move."
"We shouldn't be focused just on new jobs," Ellington said. "We need to also focus on job retention in our economic development efforts."