New Alexandria Port Director Outlines Goals

ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — The new director of the Port of Alexandria says he plans to step up the port's marketing efforts.

         Blake Cooper, newly hired by the port's Board of Commissioners, tells The Town Talk of Alexandria’s Jeff Matthews that his priorities also include expanding the port's footprint in the Alexandria area.

         Cooper replaces John Marzullo, who retired in July after two decades.

         Several companies use the port on the Red River for storage and shipping operations. And the port recently landed its first manufacturing facility.

         Cooper said new marketing efforts can make sure the facility is reaching the right industries and attracting the right mix of tenants.

         "I see a real opportunity here," said Cooper, who has spent the past several years working for Alexandria-based Martin Companies and has served as the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce's governmental affairs chairman. "I feel positively we can build a first class port in the central part of the state. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't have taken the job."

         The port's newest tenant is Crest Operations, which is leasing space at the port for fabrication, assembly and shipping operations for its subsidiary, DIS-TRAN Packaged Substations. Also, Cool Planet Energy Systems is expected to begin construction this year on its first commercial plant, which will convert woody biomass into transportation fuel.

         "The port really has the opportunity to contribute to economic development wins, whether that's on our property or not," Cooper said.

         Perhaps Cooper's top priority is seeing the port move to a regional model.

         Legislation has been drafted in the past, but never made it to a vote in the Legislature, that would expand the port from a footprint within the Alexandria city limits to one within Rapides Parish. That would open up land adjacent to the port and across the Red River for development.

         "This benefits everyone. Maybe this legislative session we can come to some sort of agreement," Cooper said.

         Cooper's other priorities include continuing efforts to deepen the river from a 9-foot to a 12-foot channel, to increase shipping traffic.

         "We feel confident that Blake has the capacity to lead the port and, ultimately, make us a better port," said Byron Salazar, president of the port's Board of Commissioners. "With the ideal mix of vision and execution, Blake will be laser-focused on growth in our business model."

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