NEW INFO: Why Council Members May Have Voted 'No' on Gardner Denver Project

Monroe City Councilman Ray Armstrong says he will reintroduce the agenda item that calls for renovations at Gardner Denver.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY P.M. -- A Monroe economic development officer says Councilwoman Betty Blakes may have shunned the project because Gardner Denver Thomas laid off one of her relatives.

City of Monroe Economic Development Officer Dwight Vines says Ada Blakes Moore worked for Gardner Denver Thomas for a short time before being let go in 2012. Ada is the sister of Blakes, who is one of the council members who voted down a renovation project at the plant.

"I don't feel that Gardner Denver should have their tax money and others doing renovations for them," said Blakes Tuesday. 

The plan was to have the 650-thousand dollar renovation paid for up front by the I-20 Economic Development District and Gardner Denver Thomas. Then over time, the company would repay the I-20 district tax dollars through increased rent.

Gardner Denver Thomas leases the building through the City of Monroe, so essentially the company would pay for an upgrade to a city building.

"It's costing the city zero dollars. That is unheard of," sais Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo Tuesday. 

Councilman Ray Armstrong says he felt uninformed prior to the vote. Now, he says he wants to ask his colleagues to reconsider at the next city council meeting. 

"I've had a huge response from the public all in support of Gardner Denver Thomas in different ways and, once again, I totally support Gardner Denver Thomas. I support jobs in this community and economic development in this community," says Armstrong. 

It's a move Monroe Chamber of Commerce officials urge the council to make for the good of the entire business community.

"Louisiana has had some tremendous wins in virtually every area, with the fewest activity in Northeast Louisiana. And you can't help but wonder if there's a correlation between that and the antics of the city council," says Chamber President Sue Nicholson. 

Otherwise, Gardner Denver Thomas, which employs nearly 300 local workers with a 15-million dollar plus payroll, may consider relocating since their deal with the city would be broken.

"Oh well... I won't be ok with that, but we'll have to do it, people close out all the time," said Blakes Tuesday. 

Council Chairman Eddie Clark also voted down the resolution. We could not reach him for comment. Also Blakes would not return our calls Wednesday to respond to the allegations that her sister's loss of employment swayed her decision. Still Armstrong feels confident the council will make this project work. 

"This council, and specifically me, will make sure that Gardner Denver Thomas has the money to do this," says Armstrong. 

The next city council meeting is March 11th. The vote Tuesday was 3-2, so that means if it is put back on the agenda and just one of the council members decides to now support the project, it will be back on track. 
UPDATE WEDNESDAY A.M.:  Monroe City Councilman Ray Armstrong says he will reintroduce the agenda item that calls for renovations at Gardner Denver. Armstrong says he's spoken with Gardner Denver officials and was able to get some additional questions answered. 

Armstrong, Councilwoman Betty Blakes and Council Chairman Eddie Clark voted against the proposal during Tuesday's council meeting. 

FULL STORY: MONROE -- The Monroe City Council kills a project that could affect a major employer. The mayor and the I-20 Economic Development Board of Directors initiated a 650-thousand dollar renovation for the Gardner Denver Thomas building in Monroe. It's a building owned by the city. As part of the deal the company would pay back every cent for the renovation, Yet three city council members vote no, putting an end to the project.

"This type of vote blows me away and it'll blow Gardner Denver Thomas and the city away," says Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo as he sits in disbelief. 

Three city council members kill a project to renovate the city-owned building where Garnder Denver Thomas operates.

"I don't feel that Gardner Denver Thomas should have the tax money of other people doing renovations for them," says Councilwoman Betty Blakes. 

The building sits in Blakes' district. Parts of it are more than 40 years old. Garnder Denver Thomas employes 240 full-time employees there, at a pay roll exceeding 15-million dollars. The company was hoping to renovate the front portion of the building to be more appealing to visiting customers. The I-20 Economic Development Board put up 400-thousand dollars for the renovation. All of which would be paid back through rent.

"The I-20 board obviously felt comfortable, because the I-20 board knew that this would enhance the district," says Mayor Mayo. 

Blakes says "They voted to put their money in, but I have to vote for the constituents and I felt that the money was not being used properly."

Councilmen Eddie Clark and Ray Armstrong also voted against it. Armstrong says he's uncomfortable with the amount of rent the company pays.

"That was part of the agreement. That was part of the incentive package to get them to say in Monroe," says Mayor Mayo. 

And this is what we heard when we asked Councilwoman Blakes how she would feel if Gardner Denver Thomas left Monroe because of this decision. 

"Oh well... I won't be ok with that, but we'll have to do it, people close out all the time," says Blakes. 

Gardner Denver Thomas officials say they will be asking the city council members to reconsider.


The Monroe City Council has voted against renovations at Gardner Denver Thomas.

The council voted 3-2. Council members Betty Blakes, Eddie Clark and Ray Armstrong voted against it.

Blake also removed her ordinance on giving the council employees a raise.

KARD/KTVE will have a full update on the results of the council meeting tonight on FOX 14 News at 9 and KTVE 10 News at 10.


MONROE -- One major employer is looking to expand it's operations in Monroe, but it needs final approval from the council first.

The City of Monroe is initiating a $650,000 project to renovate a portion of the Gardner Denver Thomas building near the airport. The company wants to expand it by 80,000 square feet.

"We haven't done anything in many years to renovate that building and some of it is quite old," said Dr. Dwight Vines, Economic Development Officer for Monroe, during a press briefing on Monday. "We're going to help them upgrade those facilities so it will be more attractive space for them to entertain clients."

Mayor Jamie Mayo says the company brings potential domestic and international customers. The I-20 Economic District invested $4 million total to get the company here and Mayo said the community wrote letters of support of the company's move to Monroe.

City officials say this company brings money and hundreds of jobs to Monroe, and they can't afford to lose it's partnership.

"They're a very profitable operation, so we hope to see them expand," Vines said.

$400,000 will be invested by the I-20 Economic Development District for the renovations -- Gardner Denver will cover the rest, if needed.

City officials say the money will be paid back by increased rent since the city owns the building.

"So the city's going to get $400,000 to $650,000 renovation to their building that will be paid for by Gardner Denver. That's a pretty good deal," said Vines.

Mayor Mayo addressed the fact that other council members have not agreed with the investment.

"First of all, had we not been able to get the I-20 Economic District to invest $4 million, we would not have the Gardner Denver Thomas here. it would probably be an empty building," Mayo said. "It impacts the entire region. We have people coming from throughout this region that's working there, so it's been a tremendous investment."

Mayo emphasized that Gardner could have moved to another part of the state or settle for another part of the country, but they company picked Monroe.

"We have to step up to the plate to invest funds. not only to get new individuals, corporations, companies, businesses coming in to Monroe, but also to retain folks," said he said. "We're in the 21st century, and we're competing against other states."

Monroe was competing with Sheboygan, Wisconsin for the company.

"Officials there came under fire because they were not able to maintain Gardner," said Mayo.

We'll have an update after the council meeting tonight on FOX 14 News at 9 and KTVE 10 News at 10.
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