State agency approves corporate incentives

Almatis, a German company, was approved Friday by the board of the Louisiana Economic Development Corp. to receive incentives designated for a Burnside alumina refinery closed by Ormet Corp., then acquired by Almatis.

In other action, the board approved a $500,000 performance-based award for Mechanical Equipment Co. Inc.’s new water-purification-equipment plant in Mandeville.

Board members also extended the time for cotton-spinning plants in Lacassine and Bunkie to meet their hiring and payroll requirements for state financial incentives.

And they granted a $577,500 loan guarantee for the developer of a planned crab-processing plant in Buras.

Ormet invested $21 million in its Burnside alumina plant — producing a basic component of aluminum products — in 2012 and was promised incentives by the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. Those incentives included a performance-based loan of $1.5 million and a refundable tax credit worth $1 million.

In return, Ormet had to hire 250 employees and pay them annual salaries averaging $57,000.

But Ormet fell into bankruptcy proceedings, and Almatis purchased the Burnside plant in December.

Almatis now can inherit Ormet’s state incentives as long as it meets all employment and payroll requirements.

Better known as MECO Inc., Mechanical Equipment Co. was founded in New Orleans. It remained in New Orleans for more than 70 years, but its plant was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

MECO President George V. Gsell then built new plants in Covington and Sugar Land, Texas.

Two years ago, MECO started work on a third plant in Mandeville for production of its water-treatment equipment for customers in the pharmaceutical, defense, marine and oil and gas industries.

As long as MECO invests $11 million in its Mandeville plant, hires 127 employees and pays them annual salaries that average $47,000, the firm will not be required to repay its $500,000 state award.

Other incentives MECO can tap include the state’s industrial tax exemption.

A Buras firm, J&K World Trade Inc., was approved for a $577,500 loan guarantee by the LEDC board.

The plan by J&K Director James Kim is to establish a crab-processing plant intended to revive the dormant crab-fishing industry in the Buras area.

The loan guarantee is contingent on Kim’s placement of $200,000 of his own funds into the project and hiring of 18 employees.

LEDC’s loan guarantee expires after five years, board and staff members added.

In another matter, the LEDC board granted a one-year extension for Gulf Coast Spinning LLC of Bunkie and Zagis USA in Lacassine to meet their employment and payroll promises.

Dan Feibus is chief executive officer of both firms, which had agreed to employ 80 workers in Lacassine and 307 in Bunkie by the end of 2016. Both plants spin cotton yarn for shipment to overseas customers.

The firms share a $2.4 million forgivable state loan if they hire the required number of employees and pay them annual salaries averaging more than $30,100.