Jennings enters growth spurt with Starbacks, hotel, restaurant moving in

Published 4:04 am Sunday, March 19, 2023

A Starbucks, a national hotel chain and a popular restaurant chain are among several new businesses looking to locate in Jennings.

After delays caused by COVID, Mayor Henry Guinn said the city is now poised for business growth and economic expansions which will bring more jobs, revenue and visitors to the area.

“Any time you can attract a new business that will enhance jobs, increase the sales tax base and generate more revenue for the city,” Guinn said. “Its growth and its progress for the city.”

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There are a lot of opportunities for the city and people are looking at land and wanting to bring new businesses in, Guinn said.

A restaurant chain, a national chain hotel and several retail stores are looking to the city as potential sites, Guinn said.

Guinn could not discuss specifics of the proposals pending ongoing negotiations.

Property near Walmart has been sold for a Starbucks and T-Mobile store.

A large truck stop, a Kenworth truck dealership and Abell and Son farm equipment supplier are among those businesses looking to locate along the interstate in Jennings.

A Volvo commercial truck dealership and a John Deere Tractor dealership are also petitioning to come into the city limits.

The Shop Rite Travel Plaza is also planning a major expansion and Hebert’s Boudin and Crackling has announced plans to locate just off the interstate.

“I think once we announce the annexation north of I-10 that is going to be a whole new dynamic of growth,” he said. “The key is land sales and land transactions. The more land that you can open up, the more realistic the prices get and the key objective, is to open up access to land to development that is affordable.”

But economic development will not happen overnight, Guinn said. Most of the projects, including road improvements, will take 2-3 years to complete.

The City Council agreed this week to hire a traffic engineer to conduct a traffic impact analysis to address traffic congestion and ease traffic flow in the area of La. 26 and the Service Road at I-10 Exit 64.

The city is also looking to extend Fred and Ruth Zigler Memorial Drive west within the next 2-3 years to open up development near the city’s airport.

As many as 10 lots could be opened for future development near the airport, including two lots being eyed by a large chain restaurant. The property is owned by the Airport Commission.

“We always knew that retail sales and development were going to be along the I-10 corridor and have work to allocate the money to install the road, water and sewer to accommodate these businesses because they have to have access to the land.”

The city is also working with the Airport Commission to improve parking and public access to aviation events. The project will also include a hard surface access road and additional tie-downs to park planes.

“I think it is an untapped resource to be able to bring in these fly-ins,” former mayor Greg Marcantel said. “I think we could do a dozen fly-ins a year. I don’t think that would be unreasonable. There are 200 different airplane groups and everyone of them has fly-ins.”

The city has hosted the Stearman End of the Season Fly-in more than 40 years and has hosted the kickoff of the national STOL (short takeoff and landing) series the last three years.

“Jennings has one of the finest grass strips with hotels and restaurants within walking distance,” Swamp STOL organizer and pilot Matthew Peterson said. “This means pilots don’t have to rent a car and that’s a big expense.”

The food, music and culture of Southwest Louisiana are the drawing card for the hundreds of pilots and their families who attend the events each year, he said.

“People come because it’s worth seeing,” Peterson said.