The Louisiana Economic Outlook by Dr. Loren Scott, economics professor emeritus, at LSU, was released last week with more good news for our region. Scott states that the Lake Charles MSA (Calcasieu and Cameron parishes) while the fifth largest in Louisiana, is not only the fastest growing MSA in the state, but it has often been one of the fastest growing in the entire country, adding 26,800 jobs and expanding by a remarkable 5.4 percent a year.
Scott said in 40 years of monitoring the Louisiana economy, he has never seen back-to-back job performances like that in any MSA in the state. In fact, he says, few if any other MSAs in the country matched this record.
Our region’s performance in the last five years has been nothing short of spectacular, he said. Scott has documented almost $117 billion in projects announced for this region since 2012 — an unheard of number. About half of these projects have yet to start construction, something we expect to change, especially in mid-to-late 2019 when three LNG projects are expected to go vertical. Lake Charles is expected to continue in its role as the fastest growing MSA in the state, adding 4,000 jobs (+3.3 percent) in 2019 and another 5,300 jobs (+4.3 percent) in 2020.
In addition to the petrochemical industry, our gaming and hospitality market is growing and leading the state in revenues thanks to our five casino resorts which has resulted in a 36-percent increase in employment over three years ago. Mainly, that was due to the opening of the Golden Nugget in December 2014.
Aviation is on the increase at Chennault International Airpark with Northrop Grumman, Landlocked Aviation, and the new Citadel Completions, which will furnish custom luxury interiors for high-end customers.
So what is ahead for our region? The report expects that by mid-2019 the “go-light” will be turned on for 3-4 major new projects. The wind down of existing projects and the delay until mid-2019 for new projects to make a final investment decision (FID) will tend to slow growth slightly in 2019. Even that slower growth will be the envy of most MSAs in the country.
After enduring a 28-month recession that cost Louisiana over 23,000 jobs, the state’s economy began to grow again in 2018. If Scott’s projections are on the mark, the state should surpass two million jobs on an annual basis for the first time in its history in 2019.
We are fortunate to live in a region with so much growth and potential. Assets such as: abundant natural resources, the Port of Lake Charles and other ports, the Calcasieu Ship Channel, a robust pipeline network, Chennault and other airports, air service at Lake Charles Regional Airport, Sowela, McNeese State University, a growing medical community and services, a caring population, positive elected officials and a supportive business community. By continuing to work together on a regional basis, we will maximize the potential for all residents in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes.