As it was formally announced during the Thanksgiving holiday season, perhaps some missed the huge investment by a Chinese company that is great news for its new home in St. James Parish and for the economy in southeastern Louisiana generally.
It is part of a dramatic expansion of the already huge petrochemical corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, generating high-quality jobs in both industrial construction and long-term operations in the region.
The plant from Wanhua, a Chinese chemical firm, was announced as going forward with a $1.25 billion chemical complex in the east bank community of Convent.
Yuhuang Chemical, another Chinese chemical firm, is already constructing a $1.85 billion methanol facility in western St. James north of Vacherie.
Formosa Petrochemical Corp., the industrial giant based in the Republic of China on Taiwan, plans a $9.4 billion plant on 2,400 acres in the parish near the Sunshine Bridge. The company already has several facilities in Louisiana.
Yuhuang, Formosa, Wanhua and a fourth proposed plant, South Louisiana Methanol, would result in $13.8 billion in capital investment combined in St. James and more than 2,000 permanent jobs, according to a St. James Parish economic development presentation.
Typically, these are well above-average jobs. Formosa’s 1,200 permanent jobs will pay an average annual salary of $84,500, the company said. Some 8,000 construction jobs will be generated over the 12-year building schedule.
Of course, the new plant must get appropriate permits from government agencies, including pollution control and other requirements for operations. But the expansions, important for economic growth, are backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and parish authorities.
That does not mean there will be no controversy. A land-use plan for Formosa, approved by the parish planning commission, is being appealed by a local environmental group.
"We will be glad to go through the process and do whatever we need to do to make sure this important project moves forward for St. James Parish and the state of Louisiana,” a spokeswoman for the company said.
There is no question that such a wave of big industrial facilities can provoke concerns but that is what state and federal environmental regulations are for. Louisiana is of course providing a home for industrial companies who want access to the Mississippi River and our network of pipelines for natural gas feedstocks. They do receive generous economic development incentives, but those must be assessed against the long-term benefits in employment and tax proceeds.
We welcome this new growth and hope that the companies, as it is in their own interests, will also invest in the communities they will call home for decades to come.