Thursday, July 18, 2024

Louisiana No. 2 for infrastructure investment that supports economic growth

by BIZ Magazine

BATON ROUGE — For the second consecutive year, Louisiana ranks No. 2 among U.S. states for infrastructure investment that supports economic growth, according to Site Selection.

In the magazine’s Global Groundwork Index, first published in 2018, states are evaluated for significant investment in corporate facilities concurrent with investment in roads, bridges, airports, pipelines, railroads and more. Louisiana ranked behind only Texas among U.S. states.

Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure has seen significant enhancements through recent initiatives. In May 2019, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, LED Secretary Don Pierson and other state and local leaders to break ground on a $71.8 million project to enhance access at Barksdale Air Force Base along I-20 and I-220. In August, Gov. Edwards announced the commitment of $85 million in 2020 capital outlay funds for beginning the replacement of the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles. This week, a groundbreaking ceremony will take place for the $125.6 million Loyola Avenue project that will create enhanced I-10 access to the new $1 billion terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

“Fiscal certainty and budget stability are allowing our state to make key investments in infrastructure designed to move our economy forward,” Gov. Edwards said. “I am proud to see that our efforts are being recognized on a national and international stage, and I’m proud that this administration is supporting infrastructure solutions for industries, small businesses and citizens across all regions of our state. This smart, strategic approach to infrastructure ensures that we will be a welcoming state to employers and their workforce as they seek a business-friendly and a family-friendly home.”

The Global Groundwork Index also features an infrastructure measure not directly tied to economic development projects. In that ranking, New York and California took the top spots, with Louisiana ranking No. 3. Louisiana continues to pursue strategic infrastructure investments, including the $50 billion Coastal Master Plan to protect and restore the state’s coast.

Projects within the plan are strengthening many miles of wetlands, swamp, and estuaries; buffering communities and industries against storm surge; supporting tremendous recreational and commercial hunting and fishing opportunities; and protecting the gateway to economic engines with national impact, such as energy, and maritime transportation and trade. Since 2016, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has completed over 28 projects representing a greater than $5 billion investment. Major projects underway or moving to construction include an $80 million barge gate across Bayou Chene; the $760 million West Shore Lake Pontchartrain levee project for St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James Parishes (with cost-sharing support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers); and a $160 million barrier island project in the Terrebonne Basin.

By investing in the Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana has taken proactive steps to protect its people and economies from the hazards of a changing coast while building an emerging industry of its own. Spending by CPRA on coastal protection and restoration projects supports 7,800 to 10,500 jobs each year, with higher than average wages for the state in a growing water management sector. 

Among other infrastructure projects, state officials in May 2019 announced capital outlay funds for a $20 million rail project that will expedite shipment of grain and forest product goods at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. In September 2019, state and regional officials supported a successful $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. That Economic Development Administration grant will help the West Calcasieu Port strengthen its infrastructure to move industrial components for LNG and other petrochemical projects. Earlier this month, Gov. Edwards announced a series of road and bridge solutions that will retain Fibrebond and help other major employers grow in Northwest Louisiana.

Additional major transportation projects include the recent completion of the $142 million I-49/I-220 interchange in Caddo Parish, and the $63.7 million widening of Albertsons Parkway in Lafayette Parish. A $25.5 million I-20 interchange at Tarbutton Road in Lincoln Parish is underway, as is a $33 million widening of Arkansas Road in Ouachita Parish. From January 2018 to the present, nearly $230 million has been spent on I-10 infrastructure projects.

To create the Global Groundwork Index, Site Selection partnered with CG/LA Infrastructure Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in global infrastructure investment for economic development. The magazine accessed CG/LA’s database to track more than 2,000 infrastructure projects worldwide. Then, it devised an index that incorporated cost and location data from CG/LA along with Site Selection’s corporate facility location and capital investment data from the past three years. The results highlight areas where crucial infrastructure is making an impact upon doing business and upon quality of life.

CG/LA Infrastructure ranks several Louisiana projects among the 2019 Top 100 Strategic Projects in North America. They include the dredging of the Calcasieu Ship Channel (No. 15); the estimated $15.2 billion Driftwood LNG project planned by Tellurian Inc., south of Lake Charles (No. 17); Louisiana’s ongoing $50 billion Coastal Master Plan led by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (No. 19); the $9.4 billion FG LA ethylene complex proposed by Formosa Petrochemical in St. James Parish (No. 27); and the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge project in Lake Charles (No. 94).   

Louisiana’s ranking in Site Selection’s Global Groundwork Index is the latest recognition of Louisiana’s economic development success:

  • In September 2019, Area Development magazine named Louisiana a Top 10 Business State for the ninth consecutive year.
  • In July 2019, Business Facilities magazine ranked LED FastStart® the No. 1 state workforce development program for a record 10th consecutive year.
  • Business Facilities also ranked Louisiana as a Top 10 state in the nation for best electric rates, Foreign Trade Zones (exports), cybersecurity growth potential, and overall economic growth potential.
  • Also in July 2019, Southern Business & Development magazine ranked Louisiana No. 2 in the South for the strongest economic development results during 2018, based upon the state’s share of leading capital investment and job creation projects.

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