At last week’s meeting of the Louisiana Commerce and Industry Board, several speakers presented a progress report on the Sasol Megaproject in Westlake. While there has been much discussion about the benefits of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, known as ITEP, when the facts are reviewed, there is no doubt this incentive has been beneficial to our region, to the state and local taxing districts and to the employees who now enjoy quality jobs and a better standard of living.
As State Representative Stephen Dwight told the board, this is a case study of ITEP gone right.
Mike Thomas, Sasol’s Senior Vice President of North American Operations, stated that the Calcasieu facility has 700 new employees, in addition to 400 at their existing facility and, on average, an additional 1,000 Louisiana contract workers.
The facility has a capital investment of over $12 billion. The project includes seven brand new chemical manufacturing facilities, which is a game-changer for Sasol, and one of the largest foreign direct investments in the U.S.
Sasol has over-delivered on the number of new full-time employees. They have hired 700 new direct jobs; 80 percent of those are Louisiana residents. Thomas announced Sasol will hire an additional 100 new employees. That’s 800 full-time quality Louisiana manufacturing jobs with an annual salary of $80,000 per year.
They have delivered more than 6,500 construction jobs and spent more than $4.3 billion with Louisiana businesses. They have delivered more than $100 million in local sales tax payments and more than $80 million in state sales tax payments during the construction period alone. They paid for more than $40 million of infrastructure improvements including new roads, traffic signals and more.
Elaine Acord, unit manager for Sasol’s West Plant, talked about opportunities at Sasol that led her return home to raise her family here. She also introduced several team members, many who graduated from McNeese and Sowela. Their jobs are making a difference in their lives.
There will be more than a 2 to1 return to the state on incentives.
The Alliance and the Port of Lake Charles were among the first to partner with Sasol in siting its ethane cracker and derivatives project in Calcasieu.
Shortly after announcing the project, Sasol partnered with local authorities and funded the regional impact study—a seven-figure price tag, comprehensive socioeconomic modelling and analysis of the growth impact on community systems. Today, the report is still a blueprint for smart growth practices in our area.
They listened to the community and partnered with local experts to make a difference.
The $5 million Sasol has invested in community programs aimed to directly address needs and concerns expressed by local residents. Through meetings with local organizations, engagement with near neighbors and annual community surveys, Sasol developed its focus areas around education and workforce, the environment and small business development. Programs like the Southwest Louisiana Workforce Resource Guide and Scholarship Program, 1,000 Trees in 1,000 Days, the Longleaf Restoration Project and the Small Business Workshops were all in response to community needs. Those programs to this day help people get jobs and grow businesses, and improve the local environment. They truly are making a difference. A major factor in their decision to construct these facilities was ITEP.
Sasol is a big part of the Southwest Louisiana economic success story, and we’re proud to have them in our region.