The 200-mile stretch along I-10 from New Orleans to Lake Charles is home to approximately 100 chemical and refining facilities, and more than 500 contractors and service companies. This business ecosystem, worth billions of dollars, thrives on people chemistry that’s strong in this pro-business community.
In the ‘40s, the Louisiana chemical industry contributed to the Allied victory in World War II by supplying octane boosters, synthetic rubber, aluminum ore and processed military fuels. After the war, the local chemical industry responded to a growing demand for consumer goods and started booming. In the ‘60s, with new legislation, Louisiana became known as the “Right to Profit State,” attracting many global companies. The recent shale gas boom has driven an industrial renaissance with substantial new investments supporting the industry’s future growth.
Today, the industrial base concentrated in Southern Louisiana is competitive globally, and includes:
The Mississippi River corridor and international ports make it easy to move products to global markets. Hundreds of millions of tons of commodities flow in and out of Louisiana annually.
Over my 30-year career in the chemical industry, I’ve visited and conducted business in many communities where this industry thrives around the world. I lived overseas and frequently traveled in Asia, Europe and South America for business. In the U.S., I’ve lived and worked in several manufacturing communities, and when I moved to Louisiana five years ago, I was welcomed into the special Southern Louisiana culture.
While unique is an overused word, I’m going to use it thoughtfully and say that Southern Louisiana has a unique relationship-based business culture. The professional relationships among the men and women driving the success of our industry extend beyond the workplace. They make up the fabric of our close-knit community, where people who know each other through their work often see each other over the weekends, at the grocery store, soccer practice, football games and church. Among my neighbors, friends and acquaintances, many are working in the chemical industry or in some way connected to it.
The cohesiveness of the chemical industry is also reflected in the many professional and business associations where relationships are built and creative ideas are exchanged. These networks foster a constant evolution of best practices helping our industry to be even more successful in the global marketplace. Within these people networks you always know someone who knows someone that will have an answer to any question you might have.
In Louisiana, we understand that companies choosing to locate here are the lifeblood of the community, bringing with them economic growth and jobs, as well as workforce development and education. They also provide funding and volunteers for United Way organizations and other nonprofits that improve the quality of life. The industrial community is committed to sustaining that quality of life by protecting our environment and ensuring safe workplaces. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because this is where we live.
Many partnerships surrounding the chemical industry support its growth, especially through workforce development. Businesses and governmental agencies collaborate with Louisiana State University, Southern University, The Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and the Louisiana Department of Education to educate and train people in the skills needed for local industry.
For example, Entergy launched a $5 million, five-year workforce readiness initiative in 2016, and in South Louisiana, one of the grant recipients was LED FastStart, a proven program that helps companies recruit and train workers.
My role at Entergy puts me right where I enjoy being – in the middle of Louisiana’s network of business relationships. As manager of industrial accounts, my team stays in touch with the needs and requirements of industry, so we can offer the energy products and services these businesses and their people need to succeed.
In a region known for the vibrant spirit of Mardi Gras, Zydeco and Creole cuisine, people embrace business, because to them, business is all about people. And that chemistry is undeniable.