Belgian company plans plastics site on Scenic Highway
BY TED GRIGGS
and MICHELLE MILLHOLLON
Advocate staff writers
March 12, 2013
“We’re not through yet. You will hear other announcements throughout the year. The sky is not the limit.” Mayor-president kip holden
A Belgian company plans to spend $150 million to build a plastics storage, packaging and distribution center just north of Baton Rouge, a project that will create 210 direct jobs, the company announced Wednesday in a news conference with state officials.
The Louisiana economic development department estimated the project also will generate 516 indirect jobs and 150 construction jobs.
Katoen Natie will build the facility on 127 acres on Scenic Highway, north of Baton Rouge. CRA Engineering Group of Baton Rouge will design the 2 million-square-foot complex, which will have a large rail yard.
Frank Vingerhoets, Katoen Natie’s president of petrochemicals, said the company started small with an operation in Port Allen and worked on developing the land on Scenic Highway.
The property was attractive, he said, because it has two railroad crossings and is close to the Mississippi River, providing access to New Orleans.
“We are excited about the project,” Vingerhoets said.
Key factors in the decision to put the facility in Louisiana included easy access to railroads and an experienced chemical industry workforce, according to the company. The logistics complex will support local petrochemical and specialty chemical producers in the area, distributing products to both domestic and international customers.
The first phase of the project is expected to begin in early 2013 and will include the first 600,000 square feet of warehouse space, all of the rail lines servicing the facility, half of the available rail yard and all rail tie-ins. The company expects to complete the first phase by the end of 2013, with hiring for the new facility beginning in the summer. Katoen Natie expects to complete the facility by 2018.
The state is providing several incentives, including the Quality Jobs program, industrial tax exemptions and help with worker training.
Surrounded by local political figures and company officials, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the project during a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.
“We’re going to continue working until every one of our children can pursue their dreams,” the governor said.
Mayor-President Kip Holden thanked Vingerhoets in English and French.
Holden said his office, the Governor’s Office, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the state Department of Economic Development put a lot of time into the project.
He said the expansion is an example of Baton Rouge diversifying its economy at a tremendous rate.
“We’re not through yet. You will hear other announcements throughout the year,” Holden said. “The sky is not the limit.”
Katoen Natie NV’s headquarters are in Antwerp, Belgium.
Since 2002, the company has been at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, where it has 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, nearly five times the amount it did in 2010. The Port Allen location employs 20 people.
Port Executive Director Jay Hardman said that as far as he knows, the new Katoen Natie operation won’t affect the port facility.
Hardman is meeting with Katoen Natie officials Thursday to discuss ongoing upgrade and rehabilitation of rail service at the Inland River Marine Terminal, which serves the company’s port facility.
At the port, Katoen Natie takes in polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene pellets from local petrochemical plants by rail, packages them in 55-pound bags and loads them onto containers bound for New Orleans by truck. From New Orleans, they are shipped to various export markets.
Katoen Natie’s U.S. operations are headquartered in Houston. The company also has locations in Carson, Calif.; Edison, N.J.; Gary, Ind.; and Orange, Texas.