Louisiana's job growth overlooked
by Sam Hanna, Jr. - posted Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 @ 8:49 pm
You might get the impression the state is going to hell in a handbasket in a big hurry if you've paid close attention lately to the general tone of the press reports about the comings and goings in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.
That's why it would behoove you to take a look at a report Louisiana Economic Development Corp. (LED) released last month that outlined the state's progress in retaining and creating jobs for Louisiana's people.
It's impressive, and it confirmed what many of us knew about Louisiana's economic activity compared to the rest of the country. That is, the state is making progress on the economic front, and the business community is making it happen with a little assistance from the governor and the folks at LED. No doubt Louisiana's pro-business environment is playing a heavy hand in it, too, much to the consternation to those on the Left who feel the state spends too much money attracting new businesses to Louisiana and helping existing businesses expand.
According to LED, the U.S. economy has shed three percent of its jobs since 2008, but in Louisiana during that same period, employment has increased by 1.6 percent. In fact, Louisiana is one of only six states in the nation that has experienced job growth since 2008.
The latter would help explain why Louisiana's unemployment rate consistently ranked better than the national average during the Great Recession, including our neighbors in the South. And in November 2012, Louisiana's unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent. The national unemployment rate was 7.7 percent.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Louisiana has enjoyed an in-migration of residents over the past five years. Over the past four years, the number of people who moved into Louisiana outpaced those who left the state by more than 20,000. That's in stark contrast to the outmigration of people Louisiana experienced from the mid 1980s when the oil and gas industry collapsed until the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.
Those of us in the news business have been inundated with press releases and the like touting Louisiana's stellar rankings in the eyes of so-called economic development experts from around the country. This writer doesn't pay much attention to them. Positive results in creating jobs get my attention, and we saw plenty of that in Louisiana in 2012.
In Westlake, Sasol Ltd., a global energy and chemicals company, announced plans to invest $16.1 billion to $21 billion in an integrated gas-to-liquids and ethane cracker complex. More than 1,200 new direct jobs will be created while the project will create more than 5,800 new indirect jobs. Some 550 existing jobs will be retained thanks to Sasol's investment.
In Shreveport, Benteler Steel/Tube will construct a $900-million facility that will include a seamless steel tube mill. Some 675 new direct jobs will be created at the site, and the project is expected to create 1,500 new indirect jobs.
In Bastrop, Drax Biomass International Inc. will invest $120 million in a facility to generate wood pellets that will be used to gin up electricity in the United Kingdom. The project will create 47 new direct jobs in Bastrop and another 63 new direct jobs at a companion shipping facility at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge.
In Alexandria, Sutherland Global Services will create 600 new jobs at an outsourcing operations center. Sutherland will invest $2.9 million to remodel an existing facility.
In Minden, Tiburon Associates Inc. will create 350 new direct jobs and other 577 new indirect jobs to recondition U.S. Army vehicles.
LED assisted existing Louisiana businesses with some eight major expansion projects in 2012, but for space consideration, let's just take a look at a couple of them.
In West Monroe, Graphic Packaging completed an $8.6-million expansion of its consumer carton facility, creating 47 new direct jobs while retaining some 456 jobs. It's estimated the expansion project created 117 indirect jobs.
In Hackberry, Sempra Energy announced the development of a $6-billion natural gas liquefaction export facility at the company's existing terminal. The project will create 3,000 construction jobs at peak activity. Once completed, the project will create 130 new direct jobs and an estimated 610 new indirect jobs.
In all, LED played a significant role in 65 economic development projects in 2012, including 38 expansions and 27 new projects. Those projects retained some 14,600 jobs and eventually will create more than 7,200 new direct jobs as well as 16,800 new indirect jobs. More than $22 billion was or will be invested in Louisiana in the not-too-distant future.
Yet, it's entirely understandable that your average Louisianian may not be up to speed on all of that economic activity. It's understandable because the media didn't spend much time reporting it.
But that's understandable, too, because the headlines of late have been dominated by the state's teachers unions dickering about over school vouchers and defending the status quo at Louisiana's failing public schools. And when we haven't been reading about vouchers, we've been getting a belly full of reports about government bureaucrats whining about Jindal's efforts to reform a public hospital system the state can't afford.
Sam Hanna, Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. Hanna can be reached by calling (318) 805-8158 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.