Covering Louisiana

Nov 7, 2013 11:33 AM by AP

Development booster draws ire in Terrebonne

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Terrebonne Parish officials say an announcement by the outgoing head of the parish economic development authority overstated the prospects for a liquid natural gas project.

The Courier reports that the Wednesday news release came on the last day of Steve Vassallo's tenure as the chief executive of the Terrebonne Parish Economic Development Authority. The release said two Chinese companies had pledged to invest millions in the project. But parish president Michel Claudet said the information in the release was just "conjecture." And a local port official said no release should have been sent.

"What TEDA sent out today is ridiculous and should not have been sent out," Greater Lafourche Port Commission Director Chett Chiasson said Wednesday evening. "There is nothing close to being firm."

The report followed the visit of two investors from Weihai, China, last week. The parish has an ongoing economic development partnership with the city.

"They are looking at some options, but that is all they are: options," said David Rabalais, director of the Terrebonne Port Commission who hadn't heard of any pledge when reached shortly after the release went out. "There are no commitments, no formal plan, nothing signed. We don't want to speculate. We want to wait until they actually commit to something until we publicize."

"We didn't say anything in there that the commitment has been made," Vassallo told The Courier. "I don't think they would have wasted our time in bringing a delegation of that magnitude if they were not serious. These people don't waste time going around kicking tires."

Vassallo is leaving the economic development authority amid Claudet's plans to defund the agency and run economic development through parish government.

The TEDA release said the Louisiana Economic Development agency was involved in the effort to land the project.

An email from LED Assistant Secretary Donald Pierson to local officials stated: "This is not a project announcement, this is TEDA revealing they have a potential investor interested in the region ... LED is disappointed that this confidential prospect information was publicly released."

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