CROWLEY, LA — In Acadia Parish rice is king.
“Rice is a huge economic contributor to this community. We’re the major industry here,” admitted rice farmer Alan Lawson, and a multimillion-dollar expansion hopes to turn a historic Acadiana rice mill into a state of the art facility.
Supreme Rice Mill in Crowley will reach its 85th anniversary in 2021. That’s also the time they hope to complete a massive renovation.
Louisiana’s Economic Development incentivized Supreme Rice to start the project with a $500,000 award program. A $300,000 modernization tax credit will also aid the expansion of one of Acadia Parish’s largest employers.
But the over 80-year history of Supreme Rice Mill comes with a cost. Many of the newer mills are better equipped to meet the quality standards of modern markets.
“Our old milling assets in the state of Louisiana are some of the oldest in the industry,” said Supreme Rice Vice-President John Morgan. “We’re just overdue in modernizing and bringing us up to spec.”
This week Supreme Rice announced a $20M expansion in Crowley. Their 50,000 sq ft facility with 105 local jobs will grow to 75,000 sq ft. State of the art machinery and better railroad access will make the Crowley mill more efficient and further its place as one of the state rice milling leaders.
Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce President Amy Thibodeaux worked with Supreme for years to get to this point. She said, “Not only does Supreme have an impact here locally here at their mill here in Crowley, but they have an indirect impact of almost 500 jobs.”
Jobs like that of rice farmer Alan Lawson who uses the nearby mill every harvest.
“Supreme’s expansion is good news for the rice industry,” explained Lawson. “It’s an investment in our industry and our community that’s going to create jobs and keep that milling infrastructure and milling business in this parish.”
The Supreme Mill expansion has multiple phases. The rough rice expansion is already complete, and right now construction is underway for the by-products section. Expanding the shipping area will follow, and the last phase of the project will be rebuilding the mill.
Morgan expects the completion within a couple of years, “Either you’re standing still or shrinking in this industry, and if you are, you’re dying, so we’re looking to grow and get the expansion and modernize with an eye toward the future of this mill operating for generations to come.”
Another goal of the expansion is to move more rice through Crowley, increasing their production and shipping capabilities.
Supreme Rice said the decision came down to renovating an Arkansas or Crowley facility first. Their analysis showed if they would have expanded in Arkansas, America’s top rice-producing state, it could have reduced their operations in Louisiana.