Ochsner Health and an Alabama company announced two manufacturing facilities in the Broussard region will manufacture personal protective equipment employ 1,221 jobs.
Officials made the announcement Monday morning along with Gov. John Bel Edwards on the $150 million investment that will include construction of a 400,000-square-foot facility in the Spanish Trail industrial park in St. Martin Parish and retrofitting the 80,000-square-foot former Weatherford International facility in Broussard.
Ochsner has partnered with Alabama-based Trax Development for the project to create SafeSource Direct, which will manufacture, warehouse and directly distribute PPE for health care and other industries in Louisiana and nationwide.
“In many ways, COVID-19 exposed areas of our state that needed attention,” Edwards said. “Quite frankly, it shined a light on our country the need to start manufacturing again, especially when we were trying to source all these (PPE) equipment from all over the world but principally coming out of China. We need more innovation and more determination here in the United States and in Louisiana, and that’s what we’re seeing here today.”
The Broussard facility will house 245 jobs with an expected average salary of $45,300. It will include the company’s headquarters and will manufacture surgical tie masks, bouffant hair covers, shoe covers, isolation gowns, procedure masks and N95 masks.
The St. Martin Parish location will house 976 jobs and is expected to pay an average salary of $38,000. It will include multiple production lines of PPE manufacturing with nitrile rubber gloves as the main product.
The demand for PPE will continue but exploded at the start of the pandemic because supplies were behind or held up in China, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said. During the pandemic, Ochsner has seen a 1,200% increase in N95 masks, a 46% in increase in surgical masks and 440% increase in surgical gowns, said Warner Thomas, Ochsner Health president and CEO.
The supply never ran out, but that’s when leaders realized there was an opportunity to manufacture the items in the United States and not rely on supplies coming from other countries.
“What really spurred this was having enough PPE to take care of our people regardless of what we go through,” Thomas said. “It’s about leadership. It’s about the people getting this done and going the extra mile. It takes innovation to get something like this done. I think what we need to do is come together and take on big projects like this. It’s about Louisiana. It’s about making the state better, bring more jobs here and creating more jobs here in Acadiana.”
To secure the project in Acadiana, the State of Louisiana offered SafeSource Direct a incentive package for both sites. For the Broussard site, that includes the comprehensive workforce solutions with LED FastStar, considered the nation’s top state workforce training and talent attraction program, and a $2.5 million performance-based grant.
For the facility in St. Martin Parish, the company will receive LED FastStart services and an $8 million performance-based grant. The company also is expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
The site at the Spanish Trail industrial park was one that officials with One Acadiana and other agencies earned entry into LED’s certified sites program over a year ago.
“Ochsner’s growth and investment in Acadiana is a testament to our top-notch manufacturing sector, pro-business environment, and the community of innovation we have fostered in the region,” said One Acadiana President and CEO Troy Wayman. “This investment will create over 1,200 jobs at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted Acadiana’s economy. We are very proud to have worked with the development team, the state of Louisiana and our local partners, LEDA and the St. Martin Parish Economic Development Authority, to secure this investment in Acadiana.”
The SafeSource Direct facilities are the latest in a series of investments in Louisiana in the broader medical care and equipment fields. In December 2019, Medline Industries announced plans to build a major medical supply facility and distribution center in Louisiana’s Southeast Region.
Provider of durable medical equipment Viemed announced a 220-job expansion of its Lafayette-based headquarters in June 2019. Home health services provider LHC Group broke ground on a new 500-job home office expansion, also in Lafayette, in March 2019.
The announcement also comes just months after Amazon announced it would open a fulfillment center in Carencro that will employ more than 500.
“SafeSource Direct choosing Broussard and Lafayette Parish for its headquarters and manufacturing operations demonstrates how attractive our parish is to new businesses in search of an ideal location to successfully operate,” Mayor-President Josh Guillory said. “A company of this size will not only boost our economy, but it will also create hundreds of competitive job opportunities for our citizens.”