Formosa Plant

Formosa Petrochemical Corp. has selected St. James Parish for a $9.4 billion chemical manufacturing complex. Gov. John Bel Edwards and local leaders have praised the jobs and economic benefits it could create, but environmentalists say it could add unhealthy pollution to the area. 

The company that operates a camp to house workers building a massive LNG terminal in Cameron Parish has met with St. James Parish officials to discuss opening a similar facility there to support a string of industrial construction projects.

Chad Brossett, managing partner of First Flight Holdings, a Baton Rouge-based company, said the meeting involved preliminary discussion on how to handle the large influx of workers who will be building the $9.4 billion Formosa chemical complex, the $1.85 billion Yuhuang Chemical methanol complex and the $1.3 billion South Louisiana Methanol facility. No site for the housing or timetable for opening was discussed, he said. What was discussed were issues such as zoning and avoiding traffic disruptions.

New $9.4 billion chemical complex in St. James Parish set to 'fundamentally alter' the region

“This was very, very preliminary,” he said. The main issue dealt with how housing thousands of construction workers for several years can be handled, without disrupting the apartment market or leaving behind vacant rental units that would depress the market.

Change is coming: Chinese company Yuhuang to begin construction of $1.85 billion methanol plant in rural St. James Parish

First Flight has operated Moss Lake Village in Calcasieu Parish since January 2016. The facility has 1,900 beds for workers building Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG natural gas liquefaction plant.

Along with providing a place for construction workers to stay, Moss Lake Village arranges to transport the workers to the job site, feeds them three meals a day and offers amenities such as laundry facilities, a commissary, fitness center and game room. The workers stay in units equipped with HDTV sets, Wi-Fi, private showers and in some cases, kitchens. 

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“We have a successful track record in Cameron,” Brossett said. “We bring in a model that adds value to the area.”

First Flight would need about 100 to 200 acres to house workers. Generally, it’s up to the owners of the facility or the construction company to handle the housing for workers and not local governments, Brossett said.

Paul Aucoin, executive director of the Port of South Louisiana, said he met with an official with First Flight to talk about providing temporary housing for workers. Aucoin said the firm was looking at land in the St. James area, near the proposed locations for Yuhuang Chemical and South Louisiana Methanol.

“It looks like it would work well for the parish and the construction workers,” Aucoin said. “They would have a nice place to live without having to commute. They could enjoy what the local community has to offer and maybe spend a little money here.”

The facility that First Flight would set up would cost several million dollars and be a far cry from the stereotypical “man camp," made up of tents or trailers, Aucoin said. “This doesn’t look temporary at all,” he said. “Once the work is finished, they just disassemble the complex and move on.”

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said he met with a company a month or two ago, which talked about setting up worker housing facilities like those in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes. Roussel said he didn’t remember the name of the business but that they used a Calcasieu project they were involved in as an example of the kind of operation they wanted to bring to the parish.

“What they presented to us was in the very early stages,” Roussel said. “They wanted to know what would be covered by the land use plan.”

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.