Global Growth Surge in Southwest Louisiana

The five-parish area in SWLA is in the midst of a surge of more than $44 billion in mega-projects under construction.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2017 Issue

Earlier this year, top Louisiana governmental officials and the executives with Lotte Chemical USA announced a project that is proof the five-parish area of Southwest Louisiana not only is growing in population and economic vitality, but garnering the interest of domestic and international firms that want to do more than build production facilities in the area.

While standing next to each other during a press conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Lotte CEO Soon Hyo “Steve” Chung told a group of onlookers that the company would establish its headquarters in Lake Charles (relocating from Houston). This decision bolsters the company’s footprint in Southwest Louisiana, after it announced the construction of a $1.1 billion monoethylene glycol—or MEG—plant at the junction of United States Interstate 10 and 210.

Southwest Louisiana
The Magnolia LNG facility in Lake Charles, LA can handle up to eight million metric tons per year of liquefaction of natural gas for exports. (Photo: SWLA)

The newly announced project will generate 130 new direct jobs with annual salaries of $80,000 or more. Louisiana Economic Development officials estimate the project will create 1,200 permanent new indirect jobs along with 3,000 construction jobs.

Lotte had already closed an investment deal with Westlake Chemical for the construction of a $1.9 billion ethane cracker complex on the same 250 acres the MEG and headquarters office will be located.

When it is all totaled, Lotte is involved in more than $3 billion in projects in Southwest Louisiana.

“Southwest Louisiana is undergoing an industrial renaissance with record amounts of domestic and foreign-direct investment in new chemical and energy projects,” Gov. Edwards said. “We are proud to be increasing our profile as one of the world’s great energy providers. By capitalizing on these new major investments in manufacturing, we also are recruiting some of the best jobs that connect Louisiana’s energy corridor to the corporate boardroom. Lotte Chemical’s decision to move 50 high-paying corporate jobs to Lake Charles demonstrates how we are diversifying and strengthening our economy for the next generation.”

Since 2005, when Hurricane Rita barreled into the area causing millions in damages, leaders in Southwest Louisiana have been focusing on ways to improve infrastructure and expand an economic base that includes: maritime trade, petro-chemical production, chemical production, aviation, forestry, farming, and a $400 million hospitality industry to boot.

Lotte’s CEO said the company took notice.

“We at Lotte Chemical are very proud of this project, as it represents a significant investment for us. We selected Louisiana as the site for the state-of-the-art, steam-cracking facility and adjacent ethylene glycol plant due to the advantages of existing infrastructure, including access to competitive feedstock resources, as well as the distribution infrastructure and a skilled and well-trained workforce,” Chung said.

Infrastructure and a workforce that specializes in industrial sector employment are two areas where many competing locals around the nation fall short when compared to Southwest Louisiana. Currently, the region has over $120 billion in announced projects. Production and packaging of liquid natural gas is the catalyst for the historic growth.

Growth is encouraging local and state leaders to find ways to entice workers—an estimated 50,000 thousand (25,000 permanent and temporary each) to the region which is approximately two hours from Houston and three-and-a-half hours from New Orleans along Interstate 10—to the area which in investing in quality of life projects, recruiting retail operators, and servicing the construction of an estimated 11,000 homes.

Essentially, the region is in the midst of a ‘boom.” George Swift, President and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, has overseen a constant effort to identify key assets in the five-parish region (Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis parishes), and marketing them to the world.

“The southwest side of Louisiana is in a strategic location with access to ports, airports, rail, the Intercoastal Canal, and America’s premier pipeline that helps to deliver industrial products across the country,” he said. “Working with our partners in the Louisiana governor’s office and Louisiana Economic Development, we’ve been able to get the attention of some of the world’s best companies. They not only liked what they saw, they decided to build their company footprints in southwest Louisiana.

R.B. Smith, the Alliance’s Vice President of Workforce and Business Development, said companies are keeping contact with the agency in an attempt to find ways to enter the market.

“With the announcement of Lotte locating their corporate headquarters for their USA operations in SWLA, we are seeing a new level of businesses locating in our region. Headquarters facilities located near production facilities are logical choices. This model allows employees in all functions to see and interact with the entire team. It also changes the business leadership of the region from mid-level to executive level decision makers living and working in the community. We encourage all of our industries to consider SWLA as a potential home base for their headquarters facilities.”

Currently, the five-parish region has six Louisiana certified sites (for more info, visit In order to qualify, each site has to be rigorously evaluated and proven to be ready for development.

Every kind of business development is a possibility in Southwest Louisiana. Access to interstate, rail, air and water make it the land of growth and prosperity. For more information, contact the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance at (337) 433-3632 or visit

[This section was written by Eric Cormier.]


Businesses come first in St. Mary Parish. The Parish is an economic powerhouse, driven by the area’s world class metal fabrication and shipbuilding, oil and gas services, process chemicals industries and a leader in emerging high-tech fields including robotics, machining, metal fabrication and a vast agricultural economy.

The Port of West St. Mary Tenants intermodal connection to the world (dock side shown above), located on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, just 14 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is highly suitable for oil and gas-related industries. (Photo:

A multitude of factors drive St. Mary’s leading position including incredible ease getting materials and finished good into and out of the area via a multi-modal transportation network including, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a Class 1 rail system and Highway 90 (future I-49), an interstate quality 4-lane highway. Core inputs of industry are also abundant including low cost, high availability natural gas and fuels, a workforce built by and for industry and infrastructure that offers well situated sites. The technical college system produces skilled and work-ready professionals and the high schools are geared for business specializations matching the areas labor needs. With two university systems bracketing the parish to the east and west, an educated workforce is just part of the package.

There is a Parish-wide Department of Economic Development that assists companies looking to locate here from finding the best site to putting together a competitive financial package including job creation, property tax and workforce development incentives to insure your business will be competitive. The Director of Economic Development, Frank Fink will serve as the Parish guide to finding the right site, work through Zoning and Permitting issues and provide a complete set of regional demographic data and interpretation. Contacts will be provided for you to meet with the technical college deans to outline training needs and establish appropriate courses. You will be introduced to parish business executives and elected officials.

The Economic Development department in conjunction with Parish Government will work with you to facilitate a smooth transition in establishing your company’s new operation in the parish.

The parish, located on the Gulf of Mexico, offers a complete multi-modal transportation system found very attractive by many businesses. There are 2-Class I railroads, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and the Union Pacific (UP) that serve the parish and a short line that accesses the major industrial areas. There is a four-lane interstate quality highway US 90 (future I-49) that parallels the railroads. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), a barge canal from Brownsville, TX to Tampa Bay, FL passes through the parish providing easy access to receiving raw materials and shipping finished products out by water, rail and land transportation. The GIWW intersects with the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City. These waterways provide access to the Mississippi River at three locations; New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the Old River Locks north of Baton Rouge. With these options available your products can reach over 34 states and Latin American countries in the most cost effective way. The parish has a Municipal Airport with a 5,000 foot instrument landing runway capable of handling a 737 aircraft.

Throughout the parish there are many shovel ready sites, in both public and private ownership. The sites are located along the multi-modal transportation network giving your business many cost effective options. The public sites include: The two (2) ports and the municipal airport. Generally these sites are leased. The public will build to suit and issue bonds for buildings and lease them back to the business. There is no property tax on the land or buildings. Both the Port of Morgan City (PMC) and the Port of West St. Mary (PWSM) are shallow draft ports. The PMC is primarily an import/export facility offering stevedoring operations, an FDA approved warehouse and rail access. It is located only one (1) mile from the 4-lane highway. The PWSM is an industrial park port with more than 1,000 acres of developable heavy industrial zoned property and it is located on the GIWW and has direct rail access via the Louisiana Delta Short Line to the Class I railroads. The port is located about 12 miles south of the 4-lane. The municipal airport offers 100 acres of light industrial zoned land and is just off the 4-lane highway in Patterson.

There are many other privately owned sites ranging in size from 10 acres to 1,000 acres with a variety of transportation options. The owners generally are open to the sale or lease of their property and some will consider build to suit options. The properties are suitable for many uses from commercial to industrial applications.

These properties typically have electricity, water (potable/process), other basic infrastructure and most have access to natural gas. Where there is a need the public and private entities will work together to accommodate your business.

St. Mary Parish draws upon a regional workforce of over 400,000 workers. There is a workforce of more than 150,000 workers within a 30 minute drive of any industrial areas. It is the partnership between the States’ Fast Start Program and the local community and technical college in Morgan City that will work with industry to provide a skilled workforce. The main technical college campus offers many of the basics: metal working (welding, pipefitting, machining), construction management, process technology, electronics, robotics and air conditioning and refrigeration. The campus has an impressive track record of issuing one (1) year skilled work certifications. The college has been first nationwide in this category issuing more than 3,500 certificates each year.

There is also a new Marine Campus in Morgan City. The Marine College offers a state-of-the-art commercial diving program, recognized worldwide. They have more than 30 Coast Guard Certifications for marine safety and a $750,000 simulator. This simulator trains Captions and Mates in navigating the rivers and seas on the world under all weather and traffic conditions on a variety of vessels.

So we don’t have something that meets your company’s requirements! What’s the problem? The State’s Fast Start Program in conjunction with the Technical College will work together to insure a viable, cost effective workforce to facilitate a smooth start-up and operation on your project.

The key to success has been their customer focused attitude toward the business community.

St. Mary Parish is home to breathtakingly beautiful ecological treasures. It has a culture and history that reaches into centuries by and offers a vast agricultural economy, a growing ecotourism segment and access to some of the most productive seafood waters (fresh and saltwater) in the world. Yet this blend of industry and ecology has created a predominantly rural parish with family oriented services.

There are five municipalities: Morgan City, Franklin, Patterson, Berwick and Baldwin and a Native American country within the parish of 53,000 residents. The municipalities have consistently been ranked among the top 10 safest cities in Louisiana. There is definitely a safe environment to raise a family.

The St. Mary Parish School System is rated with the highest overall B average at 99.2% just .8% from attaining an A average. The Berwick and Patterson High Schools are rated “A” among the best academically. Student achievement has improved every year and school superintendent Leonard Armato anticipates the system will receive its “A” rating in 2017. There are also two (2) catholic schools in Morgan City and Franklin.

St. Mary offers one of the lowest property taxes in the State. The cost of living is approximately 80% of the National Average, below the major cities in Louisiana. There is an ample supply of affordable single family homes for first home buyers and those who wish to upgrade as their family grows.

You may ask; “What is there to do for me and my family”? The school children of all ages have numerous activities to participate in the sport of their choice: soccer, baseball/softball, basketball and football. The parish has provided pavilions for family outings at these sporting events and added a public spray park for the little ones, skate parks for elementary-high school students and a miniature golf course for the family.

The parish owns a PGA rated golf course, The Atchafalaya at Idlewilde. The clubhouse offers five star dining in the evenings with a beautiful view of the course. There are also two executive courses for the less challenged and newcomers to the sport. There is recreational boating, fishing and hunting for the sportsman. There is even an alligator hunting season. No we don’t have these creatures as pet yard dogs! They are a great delicacy.

There are many fine restaurants for dining with Cajun and International cuisine.

There are two full service gaming establishments; The Amelia Bell Riverboat Casino and the Cypress Bayou Resort and Casino. The latter offers well known entertainment venues; country, rock n roll and rhythm and blues artists.

If that’s not enough there are local festivals and family oriented Mardi Gras festivities during the year. There is the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival and the Eagle Expo to name a few. These are in addition to more than 10 family oriented Mardi Gras parades and “krewes” that you can become a member in!

The Businessman’s Paradise provides high paying industrial employment with focus on working hard and enjoying your family.


Port of South Louisiana’s performance demonstrates the strength and stability of its resident industry. The Port continues on its mission to promote maritime commerce, trade, and development and establish industrial facilities thereby creating jobs and a stronger tax base. Located within a 54-mile stretch of the lower Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the Port of South Louisiana offers shippers a strategic location at the intersection of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico and an intermodal transportation network of waterways, roadways, rail, and air, featuring access to four interstate highways, four Class I railroads, the Louis Armstrong International Airport and the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport. As the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere (in 2016, private industries within St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James Parishes handled over 294 million short tons of cargo brought to its terminals via over 4,500 ocean-going vessels and 59,700 barges), the Port of South Louisiana is not only the highest grain exporter in the United States (50 percent of the nation’s grain is exported via the Port of South Louisiana), it is also the highest ranked exporter in North America. With over 56 million short tons of crude oil imports per year, four major oil refineries, and 11 petrochemical manufacturing facilities, the Port of South Louisiana has been ranked as one of the top energy transfer ports in the nation. The Port also operates one of the most active Foreign Trade Zones (#124) in the country. With 16 zones, it received over $82 billion in merchandise and facilitated the employment of over 10,500 in 2015.

ADM Reserve, Cargill and Marathon Petroleum Corp facilities. (Photo: Port of South Louisiana)

In the heart of the Port of South Louisiana lies the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal, a 335-acre maritime industrial park that provides handling and storage for bulk, break-bulk, and containerized cargos. Globalplex is designed to meet the specific needs of small- and mid-sized industrial, distribution, and manufacturing operations. To support and encourage tonnage growth, the Port of South Louisiana continues to make capital investments into its infrastructure that, at the same time, maintains and creates jobs in the River Region. The Port has secured $56.8 million for improvements of Port infrastructure and enhancements that are crucial in remaining competitive in the global market. Some improvements will commence in the near future, like the strengthening of Globalplex’s general cargo dock, an $8.4 million project. Other projects, like the $9.6 million expansion of an industrial warehouse funded by the Port Priority Program, is now complete. BARTON International, a resident tenant of Globalplex since 2006, is using the warehouse for their garnet abrasive operation.

In order to serve the needs of those who do business in the River Region, the Port of South Louisiana continues to revitalize the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport. Since its acquisition in 2009, the Executive Regional Airport’s runway length was extended to 5,150 ft. with a parallel taxiway, a state-of-the-art AWOS system was installed, new tanks for Jet-A and AvGas fuels were acquired, and the FBO terminal was refurbished. Currently, construction of a self-funded 10,000 square-foot transient hangar is complete. Also, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is funding two generators for the airport: one for the terminal building, the other for the airport taxiway lights. LA DOTD will also provide monies for reflectors that will extend the length of the taxiway. Lastly, a runway resurfacing project is slated for the latter part of 2018.

The Port of South Louisiana has one of North America’s largest concentration of heavy manufacturers, a reflection of the strategic location, comparative market access, and a highly-skilled labor pool that it enjoys. Industry leaders in the energy and chemical sectors continue to invest billions of dollars as they expand operations to capture market opportunities.

Currently, the Port handles approximately $60 billion in trade annually that supports over 30 thousand direct jobs (6 out of 10 jobs) in the River Region, which translates to over 83 thousand jobs (1 out of 25) in the state of Louisiana. Regionally, it contributes $1.8 billion in income, $14.4 billion in revenue, and $72.5 million in state and local taxes. Industries from all over the globe have taken notice of the Port of South Louisiana’s competitive advantages. As a matter of fact, the region has attracted billions of dollars of investment—$23.462 billion to be exact—by companies in the petrochemical, fertilizer, and logistics industries. Projects like these are vital to sustaining and promoting further economic prosperity for the Port of South Louisiana, the River Region, and its labor force.