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SW La. still swinging for the fences

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Before international pandemic and natural disasters impacted the fiveparish area’s day-to-day life, Southwest Louisiana was leading the nation for markets our size in gross domestic product.

We also were the crème de la crème in industrial announcements.

Many have wondered if our region can regain its momentum in economic development.

The answer is a resounding YES!

Last week, Canfor Corporation announced plans for a $160 million stateof-the-art mill at the Louisiana Economic Development certified site at the Beauregard Regional Airport in DeRidder.

Company and Louisiana officials explained that the facility will create 130 new jobs with an average annual salary around $60,000 with benefits. Louisiana Economic Development officials calculated that as a result of this project, 385 new indirect jobs will be created to go along with 175 construction jobs. Getting this project to the five-parish area was not easy. Canfor changed its mind from moving forward with a development in Washington, Ga.

This is the first project at the certified Beauregard Airport property and we are confident there will be more to follow.

As exciting as this project is, we are also gearing up to support the efforts of Chennault International Airport which will be breaking ground on an air cargo facility on June 24.

New LNG Projects are getting close to construction with Driftwood LNG recently scoring two major contracts for their product. Driftwood should begin construction late this year or early next year. And there are three or four more LNG projects that should get underway in 2022.

Legislation that benefits business is making our region more attractive than ever, even as we rebuild. The Louisiana Legislature completed a very good session with bills passed to establish mandatory kindergarten, provide pay raises for teachers and support workers, and setting procedures for sports betting. To be sent to the voters in October will be constitutional amendments for centralized sales tax collection and tax reform. Also passed was an infrastructure bill to dedicate a portion of current sales tax from the sale of cars and trucks into a construction account. Among the projects listed in the bill is the I-10 Bridge at Lake Charles. This will possibly help with funding for the bridge and other major projects around the state. Exactly how long it will take to generate funds remain to be seen. Meanwhile the process continues for the P3 plan and as well as continuing to seek federal funding.

The U.S. Congress continues to grapple with a federal infrastructure plan. Senator Bill Cassidy is among a group of bipartisan senators trying to forge a compromise with the Biden administration on the size of the bill and how to pay for it. It’s not looking too good but we continue to urge both sides to find a compromise so our nation’s infrastructure can get rebuilt, especially our bridge.

This area is set for a second wave of economic growth.

These industrial developments are successful because of teamwork among local and state officials, the SWLA Alliance and economic professionals.

Our Alliance along with LED has developed a reputation known around the world for being versatile, helpful, and insightful.

All of this is taking place amidst repairing and rebuilding as a result of the hurricanes of last year. This demonstrates that the resilient people in our region can do more than one thing at a time. Our future is on the upswing.

George Swift is president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 or gswift@allianceswla.org.

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