Funding the Future of Louisiana’s Ports

Using grants from the state’s ‘Port Priority Program,’ officials at the Port of South Louisiana continue to identify projects that create quality careers and generate tax revenue in the River Parishes.

Operations at the six deep draft ports along the Mississippi River – the Port of South Louisiana being one of them – impact the global economy, remain pertinent to our national security, and have been the economic lifeblood for thousands (if not millions) of local families for generations.

Recognizing the multi-layered importance of maritime commerce in Louisiana, in 1989 the state legislature created the Port Priority Program to supply public funds for landside infrastructure development or renovation projects that would provide local jobs and create diverse and cost-effective methods to move cargo, thus making taxpayer-funded highways and roads less congested and safer.

Since the program’s inception the Port of South Louisiana has participated and benefited from this state-level initiative. In fact, these strategically targeted funds have been applied to a multitude of projects that have supported various industries and employers within the 54-mile-long Port District.

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“The importance of this program was reaffirmed when one of the first things Gov. Edwards did after he was elected was double the funding of the program from $20 million to $40 million, even at a time in 2016 when the state was facing budget challenges,” said Micah Cormier of the Port of South Louisiana. “For every dollar that the state invests in ports, eight dollars is returned through taxes or fees back to the state. So the value in investing imports and the economic impact of ports in Louisiana is undeniable.”

Truck Traffic @ Globalplex General Cargo Dock Access Road

In 2022, the Port of South Louisiana secured $10 million in funds from the state’s $40 million Port Priority Program that will be used to finance an expansion of the NATCO cold storage facility and renovations and repairs to the floor and conveyor system at Building 71 at Globalplex.

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Upgrading Building 71 to open up warehouse space at Globalplex has been a multi-year and multi-phase effort – the first phase simply being to repair and reinforce the structure’s walls and roof so that it could be of functional use. This latest chapter of construction will strengthen the current heavy load capacity floor to handle 1,000 pounds of material per square foot. 

The $5.5 million NATCO expansion will be funded almost entirely through the state’s Port Priority Program, with the Port matching 10 percent (roughly $600,000) to cover the remaining estimated construction cost. Currently, the cold storage facility expansion is in the engineering stage with construction set to begin in the fall of 2023. 

Once completed, the facility will grow to 98,470 sq. feet from 84,000 sq. feet, an expansion that will lead to more production, more earnings, and more employment opportunities at the southeast Louisiana meat, dairy and dry foods distributor. Pinpointing and highlighting that direct and obvious financial effect that state funds from the Port Priority Program would provide is perhaps the most vital factor determining whether a project gets approved or not by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. 

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Because of that, Port officials are pretty proactive when it comes to identifying the best projects to pitch for state funding.

“For us as a port, we try to determine projects and then apply for funding for projects that we think would grow the port and specifically create jobs,” Cormier said. “And sometimes we do work with our tenants to identify those projects that would do just that. For instance, NATCO, which leases from us on our Globalplex property, expressed a need to expand their cold storage facility  because it would retain and create local jobs, so that’s why we deemed that as a worthy project to seek state funding through the Port Priority Program. We’re looking for projects that will have an economic impact for the state of Louisiana.”

Considering the state’s Port Priority Program disperses $39 million annually, and considering many of these proposed construction projects come with 7- or 8-figure price tags, Port officials diligently pore over research and data to determine what to “pitch” the DOTD. Another reason why the Port of South Louisiana is so calculated when applying for Port Priority Program grants is that the submission process is, well, rather thorough and time consuming.

According to Cormier, going the extra mile to secure the finances necessary to keep businesses within the Port District viable and competitive is one of many reasons why the Port of South Louisiana has always been able to attract global industrial leaders to set up operations along this particular stretch of the Mississippi River.       

“Having the ability to access funds, whether through the federal government or the state government as is the case with the Port Priority Program, is one of the benefits of doing business with the Port of South Louisiana,” Cormier said. “So tenants that come and invest here, we work with them every day in order to identify areas where funding could be of the greatest use and produce the greatest return on investment for the people of Louisiana.”

“And for us, it’s a never-ending process that we embrace,” Cormier continued, “because we want to continue to grow. This was one of the first things our CEO (Paul Matthews) wanted when he took the position – for us to go out and talk to our industry partners here at the Port and figure out their needs so that we could help facilitate economic growth.”

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