ALEXANDRIA, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards and SolScapes owner Iviana Stewart announced today that the company will make a $2 million capital investment and create 40 new direct jobs to expand its utility rights-of-way maintenance operation in Rapides Parish. The company, based in Lecompte, Louisiana, performs a range of contracted services for utility and pipeline companies.
With the expansion, SolScapes will add 40 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $28,000, plus benefits, while retaining 35 existing jobs. Louisiana Economic Development estimates that the project also will result in 14 new indirect jobs, for a total of nearly 50 new jobs in Rapides Parish and Central Louisiana.
“The expansion of this homegrown business is good news for this community, and it reflects the value that we place on small businesses in Louisiana,” Edwards said. “Small businesses employ more than half of Louisiana’s private-sector workforce – approximately 900,000 people in the state. We want them to grow and succeed, because their contributions to our economy and to their individual communities help keep Louisiana strong.”
Stewart owned and operated a nursery business in Florida, supplying plants to major retailers, before relocating to Central Louisiana with her husband, a Bunkie native, in 2008. She started her rights-of-way maintenance business from scratch, and she credits the small business services provided by LED and the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance with helping to guide her business to success.
“SolScapes has created a meaningful strategy for top-notch performance in the right-of-way vegetation management services,” Stewart said. “We are committed to effectively and efficiently providing a reliable and safe operation to assist the progress of utility companies in right-of-way tree and vegetation management services. We value our partnerships with the utility companies and we aim to exceed our commitments in an effort to improve and maintain utility service reliability.”
The company plans to utilize Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone incentive, which includes a tax credit of up to $3,500 for each net new job created as part of the expansion project.
“We are very pleased to see this business growth in our parish,” Rapides Parish Police Jury President Craig Smith said. “We believe that Rapides is well-positioned for continued growth. The expansion being announced today is evidence of our positive business climate.”
SolScapes has participated in two sessions of LED’s Economic Gardening Initiative, which provides Louisiana-based small businesses with strategic market research, accelerated technical assistance and other tools they need to grow and succeed. The company also has been a client of CLEDA’s Business Acceleration System coaching program for five years.
“The support that Iviana Stewart has received from CLEDA and LED, combined with her talent, intelligence and relentless hard work, has put SolScapes into a position to experience significant growth,” CLEDA President and CEO Jim Clinton said. “At CLEDA, we know that most of our growth in Central Louisiana comes from our existing companies. We work closely with small companies on their way to becoming large companies. SolScapes is the perfect example of the kind of company that we want to help create, nurture and grow.”
SolScapes maintains a wide range of qualifications in heavy construction in order to facilitate the rebuilding of substation, distribution and transmission power lines. Owner Iviana Stewart has been involved in the agriculture/horticulture, vegetation management and landscape construction industry for over 20 years. SolScapes is continually expanding upon its capabilities and services to assist those who want to move forward in the economy. For more information, visit www.solscapes.com