Lake Charles Regional Airport landed Southwest Louisiana’s most recent Certified Site from Louisiana Economic Development (LED) in September. This new Certified Site is the 156-acre tract of property located north of Airport Boulevard and west of the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office location on Gulf Highway (La. Hwy. 385). A Certified Site designation indicates that the airport property for lease is primed and ready for development.
The SWLA Economic Development Alliance manages LED’s Certified Sites program locally to help facilitate economic investment and job growth in Southwest Louisiana. The Certified Sites program was funded by the state starting in 2012 to keep Louisiana competitive with other states utilizing site readiness programs that helped them land major projects looking for a place to locate.
A Certified Site is deemed “shovel-ready” based on in-depth information gathering and site inspection. Called “due diligence,” this process examines zoning restrictions, title work, environmental issues, soil analysis, and produces many other reports and documents that are collected as part of an overall record on the site. Having such background work in place ahead of time provides potential investors with assurances that the site is suitable for immediate development. That can be an attractive lure to get a new business or industry to locate here over other locations.
One critical component of the Certified Sites program is that LED matches up to 75 percent of the cost to complete the due diligence needed to pursue certification. A landowner only has to pay 25 percent of the costs to get a site certified. This is an investment by the state into future jobs and tax revenue because these sites are only marketed towards commercial, industrial, or other non-residential developments.
Most certified sites are geared towards industrial development. The program looks for sites that are at least 25 acres or more, zoned industrial, and are in close proximity to good transportation infrastructure (airports, waterways, highways, railways, pipelines, etc.) and adequate public utilities. The LCH site is not exactly suitable for heavy industrial development due to its close proximity to the airport’s runways and nearby residential areas. But, it is a great location to imagine some kind of warehouse, light manufacturing, distribution center, or some other kind of development that can provide more jobs for our area.
The LCH site is now Southwest Louisiana’s ninth certified site. Previously certified sites in Southwest Louisiana include a site in western Calcasieu Parish, four sites in the Chennault International Airport vicinity, the Beauregard Airport Industrial Site, and two properties in Jeff Davis Parish. The Alliance is currently working with several landowners and property managers to increase the number of certified sites across Southwest Louisiana with the hopes of finding a fitting site for a good project that brings more jobs to our area.
A larger inventory of certified sites improves the prospects for Southwest Louisiana remaining at the forefront of economic development in the state. Executive Director Heath Allen and the airport Administration should be congratulated for recognizing and investing in LCH’s potential to create more economic opportunity for our region.
Gus Fontenot is economic development project coordinator for the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 or .