It’s been more than a year since the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District announced Ready Shield Solutions, a house materials manufacturing facility, would open in north Baton Rouge.
And while there’s little evidence of visible progress and no announced timeline, those behind the project insist it’s still happening, eyeing a possible tax increment financing district to get the ball rolling. The governor recently approved a bill creating the TIF district, but it needs the approval of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and the Metro Council to take effect.
Much is at stake for north Baton Rouge: The facility—located in the old Cotton’s Holsum Bread factory on Choctaw Drive—is projected to create some 300 permanent jobs and generate $46 million in taxes over the next decade.
But the project has been seemingly star-crossed from the beginning. Four months ago, officials told Daily Report they learned the former bakery site was not in a federally designated opportunity zone as originally thought, complicating efforts to secure project financing. At the same time, Robert Day, who is developing the project, was recovering from cancer treatments. Then, in March, Day’s business partner, Tevester Scott, passed away, further slowing progress.
In an effort to kickstart the project, state Rep. Denise Marcelle, whose district includes the site, says she worked with state Sen. Yvonne Colomb this past legislative session to develop identical House and Senate bills creating a TIF district that would include the planned Ready Shield Solutions site, as well as the former Holmes building on Greenwell Springs Road. TIFs are financing mechanism where specific tax revenue within the district flows back to the developer to offset construction and infrastructure costs.
Colomb’s bill recently became Act 203, meaning local government must approve the proposed boundaries before it can take effect. It’s immediately unclear when the process would begin or how long it would take.
“I don’t know where [the legislation] is in the process, but I think that’s what will propel the project and spark growth in the Choctaw area,” Marcelle says. “I want to see businesses here that promote jobs and prosperity and something that takes away the blight these empty buildings have left behind.”
Meanwhile, Day confirms the assembly plant is moving forward but says there are “a number of issues” that need to be worked out, declining to elaborate.
“We’re doing some work, but we have a lot to go,” says Day, declining to comment further until his company releases an official statement.
As of press time, there is still no date for when construction on the facility might begin.
Officials from BRNEDD and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, both of which have celebrated the Ready Shield Solutions project, could not be reached for comment before this morning’s deadline.