Paul Coreil, Chaney, John A., Freeman, Earnest L.
MARKSVILLE – An LSU AgCenter project to build new offices and educational facilities in Avoyelles Parish moved one step closer to reality late last month when Allen Canning Co. made a $50,000 donation.
"This donation reflects a strong commitment from a corporate leader," said LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor Paul Coreil. "And it will help the planning committee find additional support to build a state-of-the-art educational facility in Avoyelles Parish."
Allen Canning Co. Plant Manager Robert Hirchak said the donation reflects support for work the LSU AgCenter is doing in the community with farmers and 4-H Club members.
The LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station helps by developing new varieties and answers to production problems. And the 4-H youth development program helps with the young people, Hirchak said while naming a few of the ways the LSU AgCenter serves the community.
"This helps because, when farmers grow a good crop in the field, we can package a good product for the consumer," said Hirchak.
Allen Canning Co. is located in Belledeau in Avoyelles Parish and cans sweet potatoes, okra, beans and several mixed vegetable products. The company plans to start canning beets next month. They employee about 85 people year-round when not canning sweet potatoes, but during the sweet potato processing season the cannery employees approximately 300 people.
"We have a good working relationship with Allen Canning Co.," LSU AgCenter county agent and parish chairman Earnest Freeman of Avoyelles Parish said during the Feb. 27 reception at which the check was presented.
The proposed new LSU AgCenter facility in Avoyelles will be constructed in three stages. First will be an office for the AgCenter extension agents and staff. The second phase will involve a community center with computer lab and possibly a distance learning center, and the third will include a state 4-H museum, since the roots of the Louisiana youth development program are in Avoyelles Parish.
The Avoyelles Parish Police Jury is helping to secure state funds and road access for the project. The Avoyelles Parish School Board will cooperate in offering educational opportunities to members enrolled in the 4-H Club program.
Last year, the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury members asked for $1.2 million from the Louisiana Legislature’s state capital outlay budget. The funds were authorized but failed to be ranked high enough in the priority list to have funds allocated.
This year, officials hope Sen. Don Hines and other state legislators will be successful in getting the project funded.
Ruben Dauzat, chairman of the steering committee for the LSU AgCenter building project in Avoyelles, thanked Allen Canning Co. for its generous support and said perhaps this will encourage other businesses to support the project.
"I look forward to getting the golden shovels dirty next year," he said.