Working In Tandem

How three Louisiana parishes collaborate with the Port of South Louisiana to foster economic growth for the whole region.

Elements of Louisiana’s business incentive package, River Region Economic Development Initiative, better known as RREDI (pronounced “Ready”) is a collaboration of the Port of South Louisiana and the tri-parish region of St. James Parish, St. Charles Parish and St. John the Baptist (collectively referred to as The River Region), all of which have experienced tremendous economic growth over the past several years and continue to do so along Interstate-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“The initiative was formed in 2007, in an effort to maximize the marketing and recruiting efforts for the River Region,” said Linda Prudhomme, the Director of Business Development at Port of South Louisiana.

The four entities — three parishes and the Port — are committed to working in tandem for the economic benefit of the region, and industry leaders in energy and chemical sectors are continuing to invest billions of dollars to capture market opportunities.

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“We began sharing in the cost for developing marketing tools such as brochures, software sharing, trade show activity and familiarization site selector tours of the region. We expanded our support to various organizations like the local Chamber of Commerce,” said Prudhomme, who has worked for the Port for more than 16 years.

“My role has been to recruit new industrial investment to the region and working with the local economic development community as well as the state economic development department.”

Some of her goals include continuing to support all the new industrial facilities that have announced new plants for the Port district.

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She noted, “We continue to see more industrial activity for 2017/2018 that will create more high paying jobs and industrial growth.”

The growth of the River Region is a result of teamwork among business leaders and government officials, as well as its diversified cross-section of public and private stakeholders. The region is also committed to diversifying its economic base by targeting industries that are conducive to its growth.

Serving as the largest tonnage port in the western hemisphere speaks for itself, but the Port also provides the tri-parish region with the ability to attract industries that add value to the region’s economy. Logistical opportunities offered by an intermodal transportation network, competitive business costs, low natural gas prices, educational institutions and prime land for development are among some of the many advantages to developing businesses in the region.

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The Port of South Louisiana’s strategic location along the Mississippi River, combined with the abundance of raw materials and feedstocks and a local workforce of dedicated employees, provides a powerful competitive advantage for companies who seek to set up facilities in the area.

The success of the parishes can be partially attributed to the partnerships forged with various organizations including the one with the Port of South Louisiana and the River Region’s Chamber of Commerce. The Port also provides direct support to new industries with management of the Foreign Trade Zone, ownership and operation of the Globalplex Terminal.

Corey Faucheux, Director of Economic Development and Tourism in St. Charles Parish for the past 23 years, said the parishes work closely to foster economic growth and bolster one another. St. Charles Parish, which experienced a residential growth spurt in the 1980s and 1990s, has close to 30 heavy industrial facilities. He said that RREDI is beneficial because the parishes have many of the same goals and challenges.

“The Port’s involvement is critical to the development of the entire region,” he said. “We look at them as one of our most important assets.”

“It was all a matter of trying to leverage our resources as much as possible,” he said.

“This is truly one region — we have separate parishes and three different entities as well as the port, but we have worked well together and helped one another, and I look for that continued growth. As individual parishes, we are not that large but we have such common goals and families that live in all three parishes, and what usually benefits one parish benefits the entire region.”

Recently, electrical provider Entergy broke ground on a plant in Montz, which is slated for completion in the first quarter of 2019.

Another major development in the works is a new facility for the Monsanto Company a multinational agrichemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, which is being constructed in Luling. The combination of these projects will result in about $2 billion of capital of investment in St. Charles Parish, he estimates.

“This will result in direct jobs, as well as the overall construction jobs, temporary jobs and procurement opportunities for the region’s small businesses,” said Faucheux.
“Our challenge is always to diversify our local economy as much as possible. And we have done that to a certain extent. We also have a number of transportation-related companies that we’ve been able to attract.”

Jerry W. Jones Jr., Director of Economic Development in St. John the Baptist Parish has also seen an increase in economic development and business.

“I have had the pleasure of serving in various leadership roles across Central and South Louisiana,” he said.

“The partnerships I have had the opportunity to witness here in the tri-parish area are something that should serve as the model for regionalism. RREDI, not only allows us to come together to market and inform potential business about the strengths and opportunities of our region, but also to keep the connection open to share effective and efficient economic development ideas.

For example, Pin Oak Terminals, LLC has “added quality jobs and growth opportunities,” he said of the Mt. Airy-based refinery. He also cited industry expansions with Marathon and Denka.

“Companies like Cargill, Nalco, and Pinnacle Polymer just to name a few, have all grown in St. John, which I believe is due to the resources and infrastructure within our parish,” said Jones.

“The Port is definitely a resource to the businesses and industries within not only this parish, but the entire region. We have natural resources that cannot be replicated in other communities which makes ours highly competitive amongst others.”

St. John the Baptist Parish continues to see an increase in various industry sectors. “Our strongest industry sector is manufacturing. The manufacturing industry sector continues to develop and grow due to the abundant resources (to which most of them are natural) that we have readily available within the boundary of our parish,” said Jones.

RREDI not only unifies the parishes, but it also helps them market and inform potential business about the strengths and opportunities of the region.

“It also keeps the connection open to share effective and efficient economic development ideas,” said Jones.

“When we have questions or want to know how to address something we all call on each other to assist one another. This region’s success is because of not only the land and transportation modes but more importantly our people.”

Steve Nosacka, an economic development consultant in St. James Parish, agrees that the River Parishes have grown to embrace a regional approach to economic development. St. James Parish’s strongest industries include petroleum refining and storage, agricultural fertilizer manufacturing, metals (steel and aluminum) and chemicals. Growth in new industrial facilities has been under development for the past several years, he notes, with several companies finalizing engineering, permitting and financing activities for methanol and other petrochemicals production facilities.

“Each new business or industry and each new job benefits the entire region, as workers frequently live in one parish and work in another,” he said.

Through its marketing efforts, the Port brings new industrial and commercial prospects to the region. “Each Parish brings their understanding of its unique features, benefits, advantages and limitations of each potential real estate site,” noted Nosacka.“Together we more effectively serve commercial and industrial companies along with their engineers and site selection consultants.”

-Sarah Ravits

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