While Louisiana and in particular, our five-parish region, await a federal disaster appropriation, rebuilding continues at less than a desired pace. The industrial outlook continues to provide hope for our region’s recovery.
Now, over ten months after Hurricane Laura devastated our area, the usual federal funding response has not taken place. Census figures are to be released in September, but an accurate picture of how many residents have left the area may not be known.
With over 8500 persons unemployed and over 11,500 jobs in our five parishes, there are jobs for everyone. Wages have gone up as well as prices on goods and services. The state will discontinue the $300 weekly unemployment enhancement at the end of this month which should encourage folks to get back in the workforce. Training programs are available, some with scholarships at SOWELA , McNeese, and ABC School. The new M.J. Foster Promise Program passed by the legislature will, starting next year, provide scholarships for adults over 21 wishing to retrain at our technical community colleges.
Many folks are hindered by the lack of affordable housing. Long term recovery plans from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury will be revealed soon and implementation of that plan is absolutely necessary for our region to make a full recovery. The Chamber SWLA continues to push our Louisiana Congressional Delegation to find a way to pass the $3 billion Disaster Relief Appropriation as requested by Governor Edwards and supported by our local officials. These funds are essential for housing and strengthening our infrastructure for our future.
Recently, some major projects are taking shape which give credibility to the belief, that despite massive hurricane damage, our region is on the rebound.
In Beauregard Parish, one of the first major industrial announcements in over forty years was made. Canfor Corporation will build a $160 million state of the art lumber mill at the Louisiana Economic Development Certified Site at the Beauregard Regional Airport in DeRidder. This facility will create 130 jobs and 385 indirect jobs. This is the first project for the airport which should lead to more industrial expansion on the 1,100 acre mega-site.
Another Canadian company, Interfor, has announced plans to re-open the shuttered Georgia Pacific Lumber Mill in Dequincy which will bring jobs to that area.
Chennault Industrial Airpark had the groundbreaking for a new air cargo facility which Chennault officials believe will open the door to diversification.
Tellurian exercised its long-term lease option with the Port of Lake Charles. The company is taking the necessary steps to prepare for the Driftwood LNG construction which will result in over 6,500 construction jobs and about 400 operational jobs. Other LNG projects are moving toward final investment decision.
Governor John Bel Edwards recently was in Westlake for the groundbreaking for a new $170 million plant for BioLab, which had burned after Hurricane Laura. BioLab is a manufacturer of chlorine tablets and was such a major player in the industry that its destruction has contributed to a shortage of chlorine tables for pools nationwide. BioLab will retain 30 jobs, add over 70 new jobs and create over 230 indirect jobs when the plant is complete in spring of 2022.
Governor Edwards also attended the groundbreaking of Port Wonder, a collaborative public-private effort shepherded by Mayor Nic Hunter. This $20 million showplace will house the Children’s Museum and a science and nature center to be operated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. This project should be a catalyst for further lakefront development, according to Mayor Hunter, who began his second term July 1st . Adjacent to Port Wonder will be a restaurant overlooking the lake operated by Crying Eagle Brewing Company. With over 90,000 vehicles passing daily in front on I-10, this development should entice folks to stop and increase our area’s tourism.
The Isle of Capri construction is underway with the new land-based casino scheduled to be opened by this time next year.
The Lake Area Industry Alliance expects over 3,000 additional construction jobs will begin in October as existing industries conduct heavy maintenance, which was delayed by covid.
While recovery and rebuilding continue as residents and businesses deal with insurance companies, lack of contractors, and back-orders on household goods and building supplies, our region is exhibiting our resilience. At the Alliance we are currently working with several industrial prospects and potential commercial and residential developers so the interest in our area is high.
Opportunity is here despite the hardships we are enduring. Southwest Louisiana is our home and we want our children and grandchildren to stay here. This region is valuable to our nation with agriculture, timber, chemical products and energy production. We cannot afford to let the partisan bickering in our nation’s capital keep us from recovering. We not only want to recover, we want to build stronger and better than before. Whether future generations stay here, depend on it.