Since January, Lynn Hohensee has served as director for the Port of Vinton, a shallow-water port that sits on 806 acres of land.
Created in 1956, the port currently houses two tenants, Dunham Price and Performance Blasting and Coating. That leaves 600 acres of property available for lease.
Hohensee said the overall goal is for the port to partner with private businesses as tenants in an effort to create employees in the community, grow the tax base and grow infrastructure and investment. While Vinton residents and some tenants are aware of the port, he said work is being done to make the port more known outside the city.
“How do we bring that knowledge of our port and our availability and what we have to offer to prospects that want to lease land,” he said.
Because the Vinton port board “recognized that there’s growth coming to Southwest Louisiana,” Hohensee said that discussions soon began between him and Charles Broussard, port board member and former board president. Before Hohensee became port director, Broussard said the port president also acted as its director.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘I can’t handle this job,’ ” Broussard said. “Finally, I told the board, we need to hire a port director part-time.”
Hohensee has also been director of the West Calcasieu Port for the past nine years. He said both the Vinton and West Calcasieu ports are smaller ports “that don’t have the revenue stream” that the Port of Lake Charles does.
“So there’s a need to be conscious of how you approach staffing,” Hohensee said. “The funding isn’t there to put together a full staff, and so contracting is the first step to go in that direction. As the port grows, it can expand its abilities to handle administration.”
The port has a contract for Hohensee, a port attorney and an engineer. He said the Vinton city clerk assists the port with accounting activities.
Hohensee said work was done to make sure there were no conflicts of interest between the Vinton and West Calcasieu ports. He said the ports in Southwest Louisiana have a “tremendously good working relationship and a synergy between them.”
“Each port relatively has its own niche,” Hohensee said.
Hohensee said the Port of Vinton is “an economic development engine” that has value in its “considerable amount of land.” While the West Calcasieu Port is located close to the Intracoastal Waterway, it has a “tremendous limitation on land” available, with only 190 acres available, and about 40 percent of it being wetlands, he said.
Hohensee describes the port as being “intermodal” because of its potential for transportation on water and land.
“Our region is not just a oneport region,” he said.
Some tracts of land have access to water via the Vinton Navigation Channel, which feeds into the Intracoastal Waterway.
“It is navigable; it’s not just like a drainage ditch,” he said. “Barges can move up and down it. One of our tenants, Dunham Price, has their own barge-loading facilities located here.”
The port is also an industrial park, with a number of tracts available to tenants who don’t need waterfront access, Hohensee said.
Hohensee said the “secret jewel” that the port has is that its location allows it to “equally service distance-wise” Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The port is also located about two miles off Interstate 10.
Hohensee said part of his role as port director is to represent the port at the local, regional and state activities within the marine and transportation industries and with government entities like the city of Vinton, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Hohensee said he recently received word that a one-mile extension road will be built from the port to where La. 108 joins with Interstate 10. He said the Police Jury has funding support to build the road, but that the parish is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on wetland delineation. Construction on the access road could start as early as this fall or the winter of this year.
“That is a tremendous enhancement for who are considering this port as a place to locate,” Hohensee said.
Hohensee said the Vinton Navigation Channel has needs for dredging so the waterway is deep enough for safe navigation. He said he is working with the Army Corps of Engineering to dredge the mouth of the channel. He said he is working with a neighboring property owned by Gray Estate to use the dredged spoils that would be beneficial to the environment.
Jerry Merchant, port board president, said there has been more activity at the port over the last two decades.
“People are learning about us,” he said. “We have something that some areas don’t have; we actually have dry land.”