By T. Scott Boatright
The road toward bringing a Buc-ee’s travel center to Ruston came one step closer Monday night as the Ruston City Council agreed to a tax incentive plan that will help make that happen during its January meeting at City Hall.
The company is investing more than $50 million of capital expenditures into the project.
Plans are for the travel center to encompass 53,000 square feet, with 120 gas pumps. It is also expected to create a minimum of 200 full-time jobs with starting pay beginning at $16 per hour with full benefits including health insurance, three weeks of time paid off and company-matching 401-K retirement benefits.
The next steps in the process are similar discussions and voting to be held during monthly meetings held by the Lincoln Parish School Board and Lincoln Parish Police Jury.
Ruston’s Board of Aldermen were also sworn in for their new terms by Judge Bruce Hampton with Councilwoman Angela Mayfield being unanimously voted in as Mayor pro tempore after being the only person nominated for the role.
Alderman Melanie Lewis was the lone Council member not in attendance for Monday’s meeting.
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said the Buc-ee’s project had been in planning and negotiating stages for three years and called it tremendous for the city and surrounding area.
“We are so grateful that Buc-ee’s has decided to locate its first travel center in the state here in Ruston,” Walker said in a press release handed out during the meeting. “The capital investment is huge and the 200-plus jobs being created are extraordinary for the citizens of Ruston. We are excited to welcome Buc-ee’s to our community and look forward to their success.
“This project has been in the works for several years and would not be possible without our wonderful City Council members.. I would also like to say thank you to the Lincoln Parish School Board, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and the Lincoln Parish Sheriff for their partnership in the project.”
The tax incentive plan approved by the City Council is part of a draft cooperative endeavor agreement with CSMS Management of Pearland, Texas,
CSMS Management’s owner is Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, founder and CEO of the chain of travel centers with locations in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee and with additional locations currently under development in Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and sooner-than-later Louisiana.
Stan Beard, director of real estate development for Buc-ee’s, spoke during Monday’s Council meeting.
“We are delighted and humbled to say this is the first huge step toward bringing Buc-ee’s to the city of Ruston,” Beard said. “The Mayor and (Ruston Economic Development Director Jade West) went above and beyond what most communities do in order to get us to talk to them. It was a sales pitch that was hard to say no to.”
Beard added that Louisiana played a role in the creation of the Buc-ee’s chain.
“My boss, ‘Beaver’ — his grandparents had a general store in Harrisonburg, Louisiana, and he used to go there in the summers and work there. That is literally where he got the dream to own a general store himself,” Beard said. “And he’s done pretty well with it.”
The travel center is to be located on the eastbound Tarbutton Road exit of Interstate 20 directly across from Ruston Junior High School.
“This is a huge win for Ruston and all of north Louisiana,” West said in the press release. “We are thrilled that Buc-ee’s saw the potential in our city and are so glad they are locating the first Buc-ee’s in Louisiana here in Ruston.
“The economic impact of this development is substantial and something the community will continue to benefit from for years and years to come. I am excited to see the additional development and indirect economic impact that will spur from this project. Our community is well positioned for future growth and success.”
Construction on the project is expected to start later this year with an anticipated opening date of 2025.
In other business, Ruston’s aldermen approved a motion to have Police Chief Steve Rogers, City Clerk and Treasurer Julie Spehr, City Attorney Bill Carter, Public Works Director John Freeman and Fire Chief Chris Womack continue their ongoing positions.
Ruston’s aldermen also approved motions for the city in enter into cooperative endeavor agreements with the Boys and Girls Club of North Central Louisiana (to use the current building on Memorial Drive as well as receipt of $50,000 in annual funding), the Dixie Center for the Arts ($70,000 for program funding), North Louisiana Farm Fresh Corporation (for use of the old water utilities facility which now houses Ruston’s Farmers Market), LTP Medical Mobile, Inc. (for use of the Health Hut Building on Mississippi Street) and the North Louisiana Military Museum (for use of the current building on Memorial Drive and what Carter termed as nominal funding).