GOV. EDWARDS, CLECO FORMALIZE $7 MILLION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND FOR UTILITY’S LOUISIANA SERVICE AREA
Fund will provide infrastructure improvements, other incentives to attract economic development projects in Cleco’s 23-parish territory
PINEVILLE, La. — Today, Cleco executives Peggy Scott and Bill Fontenot presented Gov. John Bel Edwards with $7 million for a fund that will be administered by Louisiana Economic Development to attract significant job-creating projects across the electric utility’s 23-parish service area in Louisiana.
Scott, who serves as chair of the Cleco Corporate Holdings LLC board of directors, and Fontenot, the CEO of Cleco Power LLC, presented a ceremonial check for the $7 million fund, which represents one of the key commitments made by a group of investors who purchased Cleco last year. The investor group – led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and John Hancock Financial – completed the purchase in April 2016 following the March 2016 approval of the Cleco sale by the Louisiana Public Service Commission.
The primary use of the $7 million economic development fund will be to provide infrastructure improvements and other investments that specifically attract new capital investment and job-creating projects by employers who are expanding in the region or by prospects who are making new investments in the service territory.
“Over the course of many months, our Louisiana Public Service Commission performed the necessary due diligence to approve a sale of Cleco that secured the future of the company’s customer base, its workforce and its role as a leader in our state’s economic growth and stability,” Gov. Edwards said. “I’m proud that our office played a role in these negotiations, and that we were able to create this key fund that has the potential to bring needed new jobs and investment to the Cleco service area.”
Cleco’s 23-parish region stretches from St. Mary Parish in the coastal Bayou Region of Louisiana through Acadiana, Southwest Louisiana, Central Louisiana and into DeSoto Parish in Northwest Louisiana. The service area also includes a major portion of St. Tammany Parish and parts of Tangipahoa and Washington parishes in Southeast Louisiana. In all, Cleco provides electrical power to 288,000 commercial and residential customers.
“We embrace our mission to serve as a safe, reliable electricity provider, but Cleco is much more than that,” said Scott, the company’s board chairwoman. “We’re an economic development partner in communities across our state. Louisiana is poised for growth, and with Cleco’s $7 million contribution to LED, we will be a catalyst for that growth.”
Through a contractual agreement, LED will manage the fund to secure the maximum return on investment for stakeholders in the Cleco service region and for the State of Louisiana.
“We possess extraordinary economic development assets across the Cleco service territory, from Fort Polk and England Airpark to major ports, interstates and Class I railroads,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “What excites me most is that our No. 1 asset is our workforce, and I’m confident this fund will help us land tremendous projects that will significantly improve career opportunities and the quality of life for residents in this vital part of our state.”
In addition to the fund, the state’s Public Service Commission obtained a commitment from the new Cleco owners that provided a onetime electricity bill credit averaging $500 per customer and totaling $136 million across the state. Commissioners also secured the investor group’s pledge to maintain Cleco’s statewide employment base of 1,200 people for the next decade.
“The Public Service Commission devoted an enormous amount of time and resources in our evaluation of the proposed sale,” Commission Chairman Scott Angelle said. “Only after we assured that ratepayers were fully protected – and would continue to receive safe, reliable service at the lowest reasonable cost – did we view the sale favorably. In addition, the Commission also ensured that there would be no rate increases through 2020. The $7 million investment in economic development, the $500 in customer credits, and the ongoing charitable contributions required by the Louisiana Public Service Commission further guaranteed that this was, indeed, an excellent outcome for Cleco customers, its service territory, its employees and the citizens of Louisiana as a whole.”