Chinese chemical giant Wanhua has selected Convent in St. James Parish for its $1.25 billion chemical manufacturing complex, a project the firm said will create 170 new direct jobs.
Wanhua Chemical said last year it would build a $1.12 billion facility somewhere in Louisiana, but did not specify a site. Earlier this year, the firm said it was "reevaluating" the project amid worries of increased costs from tariffs between China and the U.S.
But the company said Friday in a news release it will begin construction on the project in 2019 and will put the Convent plant into operation in 2021. The project is expected to support 1,000 construction jobs at peak activity.
The plant will produce methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, or MDI, used in making polyurethanes, a component in products like car seats, furniture, foam insulation and footwear.
Wanhua Chemical is a publicly-traded corporation listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The company established a U.S. office in the Philadelphia area in 2006.
The long-planned project's jobs will pay $80,000. Wanhua picked a 250-acre site at the northwest corner of La. 3125 and La. 3214 on the east bank of the Mississippi River in an area with heavy industrial activity. The site has river and rail access.
Weiqi Hua, CEO of Wanhua Chemical U.S. Operations LLC, and Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the site Friday.
“Our LED team, joining other state agencies and regional and local partners, has worked diligently with Wanhua to attract this next-generation MDI project,” Edwards said in a statement.
“Louisiana, and specifically St. James Parish, provides Wanhua with everything we were looking for,” Hua said. “More than anything, successful operations are about people, and we know that Louisiana’s workforce is among the most productive in the world.”
The state offered Wanhua several million dollars’ worth of incentives, including a $4.3 million grant to offset site infrastructure costs as well as access to the workforce development program LED FastStart. The company is also expected to use the state’s Quality Jobs program and Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
Last year, Louisiana Economic Development said Wanhua’s plant would be the second-largest investment in Louisiana by a China-based company.
Other foreign companies investing in huge petrochemical projects here include Yuhuang Chemical, which is developing a $1.85 billion methanol complex, and Taiwan’s Formosa, which is building a $9.4 billion chemical complex in St. James Parish.
Environmentalists have opposed the continued development of chemical plants in St. James Parish, urging officials to scrutinize the projects and their effects on the 21,400 residents of the parish. The St. James Parish Council Planning Commission recently cleared Formosa’s latest project of a key hurdle.
LED Secretary Don Pierson led a contingent to Wanhua Chemical’s global headquarters in China last year to land the project. Officials in Louisiana have worked with the firm since 2013.
“Our great integration with existing petrochemical producers and pipelines, and our outstanding universities all play a part in positioning Louisiana as a next-generation leader in the chemical industry,” Pierson said.