State urged to remain vigilant to attract industry

Louisiana has been on a winning streak in the past year or so in terms of bringing new and expanded chemical plants to the state.

But there is increasing competition coming from other states and foreign countries, the president of the Louisiana Chemical Association said Thursday.

“We need to remain vigilant,” Dan Borné said during a monthly meeting of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce. “We need to fight to ensure that the chemical industry continues to spend money in Louisiana.”

Louisiana has an advantage because of the ample supply of cheap natural gas in the Haynesville Shale, located in the northwest corner of the state.

After all, natural gas is a major feedstock and fuel source for chemical plants.

But deposits of shale gas have been found across the U.S. Borné said one major chemical plant is looking at locating in Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia because of the Marcellus Shale in eastern Pennsylvania.

State leaders need to make sure that Louisiana’s tax code and business climate remain favorable to chemical companies to guarantee that the state has a chance of getting the next big investment, Borné said.

“A chemical company can spend $500 million on a project in your state, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll get the next dollar they invest,” he said.

The chemical industry is a major driver of the Louisiana economy.

According to a recent study done for the LCA by economist Loren Scott, chemical manufacturing accounts for 27,000 direct jobs and has a job multiplier of 6.2 jobs for each chemical job. The industry pays $1.2 billion a year in state and local taxes, with nearly all of that money coming from between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, or in Lake Charles.

Ascension has benefited from the increased activity, Borné said, with major new investments being announced in the past year by Methanex, CF Industries and BASF. Together, they represent 655 new direct jobs and a $3.6 billion investment in the parish.

“Ascension is on fire right now,” he said. “It’s very exciting.”