Donaldsonville plant gets $2.1 billion expansion

CF Industries Inc. will expand the nation’s largest nitrogen plant, investing $2.1 billion into its Ascension Parish complex, company officials announced Thursday.

Tony Will, the company’s senior vice president of manufacturing and distribution, announced CF Industries will build new ammonia and urea/urea-ammonium nitrate production units at its complex on La. 3089 near Donaldsonville. The two plants are expected to go into production by 2016.

CF Industries officials also announced a similar, $1.7 billion expansion at its plant in Port Neal, Iowa, on Thursday. The Deerfield, Ill., company operates seven nitrogen facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

The Donaldsonville site, which covers 1,400 acres between La. 3089 and La. 18, produces anhydrous ammonia, urea, and urea-ammonium nitrate — the three nitrogen-based products most heavily used by agricultural, industrial and other markets.

“We are pleased to announce definitive, large-scale nitrogen capacity expansion plans at our North American operations focused on substantially increasing our ability to serve our customers,” Stephen R. Wilson, CF Industries’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

The plant’s location near five major natural gas pipelines and multiple modes of transportation, as well as the availability of cheap natural and shale gas, enticed company officials into the expansion, Will said.

Will called Thursday “a very exciting day” as CF Industries announced an expansion of a plant that has been a major cog in Ascension Parish’s economy for more than half a century.

“We are confident in the economic value this announcement will provide to the region,” Will said.

Local officials, too, were pleased with CF Industries’ investment decision, which CF Industries officials said is expected to create 93 new plant jobs and 250 construction jobs.

Teri Casso, an Ascension Parish councilwoman, called the announcement a “tremendous expansion,” while Mike Eades, president of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., labeled the project “substantial.”

Casso said members of the Parish Council and administration, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and AEDC worked with state economic development officials to aid CF Industries’ decision to expand in Ascension Parish.

“We are keenly aware that CF had several other options for this substantial investment,” Casso said.

The parish offered CF Industries a rebate of 0.45 percent on its sales and use tax for construction materials and initial equipping of the plant, Eades said, while Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said the Sheriff’s Office will rebate 0.25 percent. Together, that will save more than $6 million, officials said.

The state, meanwhile, offered an incentive package consisting of a $3 million tax credit, a $2 million loan that is forgivable if the company meets payroll targets, and access to the state’s workforce development training program, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Will said the state and parish officials offered CF Industries “a very fair incentive package.”

Wiley said he supported giving up half of his agency’s sales tax on the project because the Sheriff’s Office clearly would receive “much more revenue than we got last year from CF.” He said the company has been “very sensitive” to local issues and has been a key contributor in the parish for many years.

“We welcome the addition,” Wiley said.

Although Jindal has focused on bringing new companies to the state, he said it’s also important to aid existing companies in their efforts to expand operations.

“The majority of new jobs in our economy are going to come from companies that are already here,” Jindal said.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan Jr., a former CF Industries employee, said the company always has been a good neighbor to the city and he was “deeply excited” by Thursday’s announcement.

“The key thing is it’s jobs,” Sullivan said. “It’s economic development. More people will be coming into our community. ... I think this is just the beginning of a lot that is going to happen in our community.”