The Lake Charles Metro Area is a heavy industrial corridor, home to some of the country’s largest petrochemical refineries and LNG export facilities, plus a number of smaller downstream manufacturers of refined products, such as plastics and chemicals.
Oil & Gas
Oil exploration and production are historical mainstays of the Southwest Louisiana economy. The upstream industry, including natural gas production, maintains a strong presence here due to oilfield service companies and a skilled workforce even as market fluctuations shrink or expand the global demand.
A spiderweb of petrochemical pipelines, along with access to deepwater shipping routes, made Southwest a natural destination for the establishment of the U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) export industry. Southwest Louisiana was home to the first overseas shipment of domestically produced natural gas in 2016. Cheniere LNG and Cameron LNG were the first two LNG export facilities operating here, with a third, Venture Global LNG, currently under construction. Several more LNG facilities have been announced for construction, although final investment decisions are still pending.
Southwest Louisiana is served by a number of healthcare providers, with most sizable towns and cities offering local hospital care. Larger hospitals, such as Lake Charles Memorial and CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital, are located in Lake Charles and offer more advanced medical treatments, or connections to larger health systems from Houston to New Orleans.
Southwest Louisiana is home to McNeese State University, a 4-year accredited university, and Sowela Technical Community College, a public technical college that offers associate degrees, technical diplomas and certificates. McNeese offers degrees and courses in Business, Engineering, Education, Liberal Arts, Nursing, and Science. SOWELA’s program offers a wide range of courses, including Accounting, Aviation Maintenance, Business Administration, Culinary Arts, Industrial Technology, and Instrumentation, among many others. SOWELA has satellite campuses in Jennings and Oakdale.
Southwest Louisiana is home to numerous gaming resorts, live music venues, festivals, parks, and recreational facilities. The Lake Charles area offers more than 6,000 hotel rooms for hosting local conventions, tournaments, and gatherings of all kinds.
The Port of Lake Charles is the premiere intermodal facility serving the Lake Charles area. The Port is a deepwater port located inland approximately 36 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. This port offers convenient, easy access compared to other overcrowded waterways and inland ports. Several other ports constituting the Southwest Louisiana Port Network offer maritime transportation services across the region for both inland and Gulf-bound traffic. Lake Charles is served by three Class I railroad companies, with several secondary carriers across the area, particularly the Rail Logix facility at Lacassine Industrial Park, which serves as a hub for rail-to-vehicle transloading. Lake Charles Regional Airport offers the only commuter airline service in Southwest Louisiana, while Chennault International Airport is an industrial airpark serving charter flights.
Interstate 10 is the region’s major highway corridor, running east to west from Jacksonville, FL, to Los Angeles, CA. Lake Charles is also served by the Interstate 210 bypass route. Federal highways serving the Lake Area are U.S. 90, 165, 171, and 190. This transportation infrastructure, plus the area’s proximity to Houston, Dallas and New Orleans, make Southwest Louisiana a hidden gem in the logistics industry.
Tourists who want to see the Great Outdoors and what Louisiana has to offer can do so in a variety of ways. One of the most popular attractions is the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Scenic Byway meandering 180 miles through marshes, prairies and along the Gulf of Mexico. This route provides easy access to several wildlife sanctuaries, such as the Sabine National and Cameron Prairie national wildlife refuges, and the state’s Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. These habitat reserves are ideal for bird watching or catching glimpses of unique wildlife, such as alligators, nutria, and many other exotic animal and plant species. Public fishing and crabbing are popular at these locations, as are swamp tours and air boat rides. The Nature Trail also provides access to scenic Gulf beaches, such as Rutherford and Holly beaches, for sea shell gathering, sunbathing, fishing, camping, and swimming.
Allen Parish is known as a canoe and kayaking destination thanks to the beautiful Calcasieu River. This upper arm of the river meanders through pine country with a winding stream that takes paddlers by countless white sand bars used for camping, sunbathing, swimming, or just relaxing. Canoe rental operations are found near the town of Oberlin, where the popular Whiskey Chitto portion of the river is found. The cool, swift-moving waters of the chitto offer great relief from the stifling heat of the Louisiana summertime.
Boating, including sail boating, is a common pastime on the many Louisiana waterways, such as Calcasieu Lake, Lake Arthur, Bundick Lake, Prien Lake, or the Sabine Lake. Sam Houston Jones State Park is also located on the Calcasieu River before it reaches Lake Charles. The tree-filled park features hiking and biking trails, boat launches, and RV and camping options.
Jeff Davis Parish is home to the Flyway Byway, a local scenic route popular for birdwatching, particularly migratory birds and other exotic species unique to the region, and for small-town shopping outlets and eateries who pride themselves on good local cuisine. The Gator Chateau, an alligator rescue and rehab center, is located in Jennings, LA, and allows visitors to see and touch live alligators before they are returned to the wild. Visitors here can also enjoy the recreational and leisure activities at the I-10 Visitor’s Center and the surrounding Oil and Gas Park.
To enjoy beautiful scenery, unique habitat and wildlife, or to simply rough it in the wild outdoors, Southwest Louisiana is a great destination for ecotourists.
Since Southwest Louisiana was first colonized, it has embraced agribusiness as a cultural and economic driver. A locally-grown product like rice is not only a major export commodity, but it is also an integral component of the local culture and diet. The same holds true for similar crops like crawfish, sugar cane, and soybeans, in addition to cotton, timber, and livestock. Southwest Louisiana provides vast resources for emerging and expanding opportunities in the agribusiness and food processing industries. With vast forests, farmlands, and fisheries, along with a warm climate and logistical access, Louisiana’s abundance is appreciated locally and around the world.