We’re always intrigued by the prospect of new industry for south Louisiana, so we’re naturally interested in reports that sites in St. James and Ascension parishes are being eyed for an as-yet-undisclosed prospective industrial project that could be a big player in the regional economy.
Some officials have described the prospective project as being bigger than the $3.4 billion Nucor Corp. steel mill being built in Romeville. Reportedly, a county in Texas is also being considered for the project.
But no community should be expected to accept the prospect of new jobs at any cost. The public should have a clear idea of what kind of industry is being considered for an area, and its potential impact on the community. So far, officials have been secretive about the project.
“For competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information, we can’t comment on current or potential prospects,” Lousiana Department of Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told The Advocate in an e-mail.
We’ve heard this rationale for secrecy before. We’re also familiar with the promise that at the appropriate time, the public will have a chance to view details of any potential project before state and local officials approve a deal.
We’re concerned though, that not involving the public early in the process might encourage fast-tracking of a project without thoughtful consideration of what a community stands to gain or lose in the bargain.
We’re not convinced that industries with a serious interest in locating in our area will be scared away by early public scrutiny. If a prospective industry is that skittish about transparency, we must wonder about its willingness to be a constructive part of the community.