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Billion-dollar project being promised to Opelousas

Posted at 10:05 PM, Oct 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 23:45:08-04

An Opelousas native is promising a three-and-a-half-billion-dollar investment in her hometown.

The announcement comes from Ahart Solutions International. According to their website, the company is a mix of more than fifty individual companies, specializing in healthcare, energy, construction, and security.

Leading the company as president is Haley Ahart Keiffer. The airport in Opelousas is named after her father. On the 36th anniversary of his death, she says now is now is the perfect time to make a big move. Keiffer has been in talks with the city since 2015.

Among the business owner’s plans for the city are expanding the airport, upgrading the technology in the city, and making it a smart city and smart jail. Keiffer says it would be the first in Louisiana. Keiffer also wants to relocate some of her company’s headquarters to Opelousas, making jobs available to residents in the city. What she wants in return are contracts from the city to do whatever work is needed in her plans.

“If we do not create a sustainable community within Opelousas and St. Landry Parish, then there is never going to be any hope that my father’s legacy with the airport can live. If you can’t create an economy that can sustain, the airport is going to shut down, and we are just not prepared to let his legacy die,” Keiffer explained.

What’s unclear is what needs to be done with individual government entities to secure permission to do the projects.

The mayor coordinated the event, but three of the six council members say they weren’t invited. The economic development director for the parish or anyone from the governor’s office were also not given the heads up.

When KATC reached out to the governor’s office, we were told they were aware of a potential project in Opelousas three years ago but haven’t heard anything since then. KATC tried to ask the mayor’s office why, but our calls were not returned.

As for the projects, the first and biggest will be the airport. Since it’s a parish property, Parish President Bill Fontenot would have to play a part in the planning. Fontenot says he hasn’t seen the specific proposals yet, but he is hopeful the much-needed improvements will become a reality.

“I can see where yesterday’s tour created a lot of excitement that may or may not happen. It’s good that we temper that with these follow-up interviews and notifications to the public that nothing is written in stone yet– only that this company was so proud of what they were bringing or that they have made us understand that they could bring or would bring,” Fontenot said.

The business owner says she has letters of intent from government entities across the state and will be signing contracts within the next two weeks. She says the city should start seeing real progress being made by the first quarter of 2019.