By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2021 Issue
Prior to the pandemic and other natural disasters, Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) was America’s number one small market for gross domestic product growth and industrial investment. Since 2005, a healthy list of multi-billion and multi-million-dollar investments have been developed in the area. The result has been the creation of a highly skilled workforce, low unemployment, diversified business sectors and more spice to what is already a cultural gumbo.
Recent projects show that SWLA is once again a magnet for economic development. Can the five-parish (Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis) area regain its trajectory toward sustainable growth?
Canfor Corp. announced plans for a $160-million mill at a Louisiana Economic Development (LED) Certified Site at the Beauregard Regional Airport in DeRidder, LA. Canfor is one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable lumber, pulp and paper. The mill is expected to start operations late in the third quarter of 2022.
Canfor and Louisiana officials announced the facility will lead to 130 new jobs with an annual salary around $60,000. LED economic development professionals calculated that as a result of this project, 385 new indirect jobs will be created along with 175 construction jobs.
The British Columbia, Canada based company, initially decided to locate the facility in Georgia. Company leaders minds were changed because of SWLA’s abundance of natural resources, qualified and experienced workforce and the nation’s top overall incentive package.
“Agribusiness remains one of our key industries for growing Louisiana’s economy, and our state offers unique advantages that attracted Canfor here,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “This major new manufacturing project can resonate across the region’s economy in a variety of ways. We look forward to the good jobs this project is expected to create in Beauregard parish for the region’s skilled workforce.”
“Canfor selected Louisiana for its first greenfield project in the United States because of the sustainable and high quality fiber supply, skilled work force and the long history of wood products manufacturing,” Canfor Southern Pine President Tony Sheffield said.
“This will be the first industrial project at the Beauregard Regional Airport Certified Site. The future is strong for this property,” said George Swift, President and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
Chennault International Airport recently broke ground on a $4 million, 10,000-square-foot air cargo facility. Increased opportunities in air cargo—as companies like Amazon provide more online business opportunities—prompted airport officials to make the investment.
Airport officials started planning for the facility in 2012. “We’ve had our eyes on this prize for many years. It is so gratifying to see all that work and collaboration come together into shovels in the dirt,” Chennault Board of Commissioners President Denise Rau said during a ground breaking event.
Chennault has contracted with Ohio-based DVW Aviation Advisor to seek out corporate tenants for the development. The airport, home to a two-mile-long runway with 17-inch thick concrete, is capable of handling the largest aircraft in the world. Chennault’s industrial park hosts a number of companies with a combined 1,500 employees and an annual payroll of $80 million with room to grow.
Companies located at the airpark include Northrop Grumman, which builds Joint STARS military surveillance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force; Citadel Completions, which provides full-scale, custom VIP luxury interior modifications for all varieties of large commercial aircraft; Million Air, Chennault’s fixed base operator (FBO) for charter operations and business and general aviation services; Landlocked Aviation Services, which specializes in painting a variety of commercial, private and military aircraft; and Louisiana Millwork, a building materials manufacturer and supplier.
Major investments are being made by companies like Tellurian, Bio-Lab and Venture Global.
In June, Tellurian announced it finalized a liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales and purchase agreement with Vitol Inc. The product will be delivered from Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG facility south of Lake Charles, LA for a 10-year period. Tellurian is developing a portfolio of natural gas production, LNG marketing and trading and infrastructure that includes an LNG export facility and associated pipeline. Vitol is a commodity trader and the world’s largest independent energy trader with $140 billion in revenues in 2020.
Venture Global LNG announced plans to capture and sequester carbon at its Calcasieu Pass facility in SWLA. This project has garnered national and international attention for SWLA.
Venture Global is a long-term, low-cost provider of U.S. LNG to be supplied from North American natural gas basins. “Our location in Louisiana uniquely positions us to pioneer the deployment of this technology due to geology that can support industrial scale injection and storage of CO2,” said Venture Global CEO Mike Sabel.
BIOLAB INVESTING $170M TO REBUILD LOUISIANA CHLORINE PLANT
KIK Consumer Products’ BioLab division will invest $170 million to build a new chlorine products facility in Westlake, LA, on the site of its previous facility that was damaged as a result of Hurricane Laura in 2020. The project will create 82 direct jobs, with an average annual salary of $76,000 plus benefits, and the company will retain 19 existing jobs in Westlake. LED estimates the project will result in 231 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 310 new jobs in Southwest Louisiana.
Lawrenceville, GA-based BioLab is a leading company in the recreational water treatment industry, and a top supplier of pool and spa treatment products in North America and international markets. The company’s first manufacturing facility was built in 1979, but a major component of the manufacturing facility was destroyed as a result of Hurricane Laura’s impact on the region. The new facility will replace the old manufacturing plant and restore the jobs that were lost resulting from its destruction. It is expected to be completed in 2022.
“Last year, our state faced many unprecedented challenges from which we are still recovering, but today’s announcement is a testament to the fortitude, determination and resilience of our people and our business climate,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “Hurricane Laura pushed Southwest Louisiana to its heels, but the people of this region have shown strength throughout its long and storied history. We welcome BioLab’s reinvestment in Westlake; we are grateful for their support in helping this region come back stronger.”
The new facility will produce trichloroisocyanuric acid (TCCA), which is a chlorine-based sanitizer that kills microorganisms, including bacteria; prevents algae growth; keeps water clean; and protects pool equipment. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, the new facility will have an improved output compared to the previous
facility, with a significant increase in production capacity.
“We are proud to bring a new state-of-the-art facility to Westlake, to bring back great opportunities for our people and deliver the pool cleaning products that are in high demand,” said KIK Consumer Products COO Jeff Schmitt. “For anyone in any manufacturing industry, Hurricane Laura was the level of disaster you plan for and pray never happens. But if it does, you want your team to respond exactly the way ours did. They worked to secure the site and then get it ready to bring us back better than we were before.”
The company is expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
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