On Monday, it was morning in Louisiana again.
“I am extremely bullish on the future of Louisiana,” crowed Gov. John Bel Edwards, citing the billions in new industrial investments in the state. More than 2 million people have jobs in the state, a record.
By Thursday, capitalism reared its ugly head.
The layoff of nearly 700 workers — well-paid union jobs — just north of the Governor’s Mansion at Port Hudson at a 40-year-old paper mill showed the ugly realities of the marketplace that even governors of Louisiana cannot control.
Georgia-Pacific is shutting down a major division of its Baton Rouge-area paper mill, a move that will leave nearly 700 people without a job a…
The proximate cause of the layoffs by Georgia-Pacific was economic, the company said, but rooted in technological change. Email has done for the office-paper business what it previously did to the United States Postal Service. “People aren’t using as much paper,” G-P spokesman Kelly Ferguson told The Advocate’s Timothy Boone.
Three G-P facilities will close, a blow to the regional economy in the capital city.
If it is a blot on the governor’s economic development shtick, the fact is that there is not much he can do about it.
While the usual deployment of state and local aid workers shows concern for the discarded, and a robust Baton Rouge area economy promises some employment opportunities for those laid off, there is precious little that state government can do. The bureaucracy is already doing all it can on the demand-side of the office paper market.
The sharp contrast of the governor’s speech at the Press Club of Baton Rouge, at the beginning of an election year, and such sudden bad news points to the dangers as well as the virtues of incumbency.
The Zachary Community School Board unanimously approved a tax break for Georgia-Pacific, relieving the company from paying $2 million in prope…
It is absolutely correct that the petrochemical industry in Louisiana is on a roll, as the governor said on Monday. He noted the $30.7 billion in new projects are a great economic boon, and they are.
They are also a political boon. If you are an incumbent governor, you get to take your share, or even a little more, of the credit for new jobs that are really generated by historically low natural gas prices.
Yet layoffs like those in Port Hudson are the downside of the ribbon-cutting strategy.
To add to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the governor is not apt to get much credit from the capitalist class for today’s boom.
Not only are those folks mostly Republican and the governor is a Democrat, but many of them are also indignant about several Edwards stands seen as anti-business. Those include backing lawsuits against oil and gas companies, seeking to wring money from deep-pocketed majors because of decades-old damages to the marsh.
And Edwards also cut 20 percent of the business benefit of a longtime industrial development tax exemption, diverting that percentage of the money to local governments, from whom it has been routinely taken for decades by state action.
The governor was particularly unrepentant about the last issue. A company’s industrial facility “creates demands on local government in the first year,” for police, fire and infrastructure cost, Edwards said Monday. The old system made cities and parishes wait a full decade for any property tax benefit.
Still, businesses probably won’t rally to the Edwards standard, whether workers are laid off or hired by the thousands. But those workers vote, too, and those feeling good about the Edwards economy are surely good for the governor’s political prospects.
Email Lanny Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.