Louisiana sent out a signal Friday intended to help recruit foreign companies.
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an Open Investment Policy statement Friday that economic development officials said sends an important message to the international community that the state is open to foreign investments.
"Promoting foreign direct investment within our state and supporting Louisiana exports abroad is a cornerstone of our economic development policy," Edwards said.
Louisiana is the seventh state to issue an Open Investment Policy statement, according to the Organization for International Investment. The governors of Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania are the others.
Edwards made the announcement at Shell Chemical's Geismar facility, highlighting the impact of foreign investment in the state.
Shell has completed about two-thirds of a $717 million project that will make the facility the largest alpha olefins manufacturing site in the world. Shell has paid more than $201 million in state and local taxes in 2016 and supports thousands of jobs at its Louisiana locations, both on and offshore. Alpha olefins are chemicals used in making a variety of products, including plastics, synthetic lubricants, drilling fluids and dishwashing detergents.
"A lot of the products made in this facility can be found in just about every room in your house," said Jonathan Samford, vice president of the Organization for International Investment. "Global investment, FDI, is parked in your driveway. It helps get your kids to school. There's a good chance it provides your first cup of coffee in the morning, and your favorite drink after work."
Edwards said Shell and other foreign companies are vital to the Louisiana economy. Benteler Steel, a German firm, is investing $975 million in a mill in the Shreveport area. Atlanta-based Graphic Packaging International and DHL, which is also based in Germany, are investing $274 million in Monroe. South African firm Sasol is close to completing its $11 billion chemical complex in the Lake Charles area.
Altogether more than 500 companies from about 50 countries have invested in facilities in Louisiana, he said. Shell is one of the largest, and its brand is so familiar that most people don't associate it with a foreign country.
Edwards said his uncle owned the filling station in Amite, and it was a Shell station. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether the investment comes from a foreign company. The jobs are quality jobs, and they help people, the community and the state, he said.
And the impact doesn't stop there, Edwards said. Every time a major corporation makes a big investment in Louisiana, there are small businesses that find a way to take advantage of that.
Edwards said small businesses are important and so is having a climate that encourages them.