Thursday, June 20, 2024

Top Stories: Business and Industry

by BIZ Magazine

Former GM Plant in Shreveport to be converted to digital infrastructure manufacturing facility

SLB announced Friday, July 14, it is establishing a manufacturing facility in the former General Motors assembly plant in Caddo Parish. This new facility will leverage the global technology company’s capabilities in contract manufacturing, system integration and industrialization of digital infrastructure equipment that support its core mission of energy innovation for a balanced planet.

The company’s $18.5 million investment is expected to create 596 new direct jobs with an annual payroll of more than $50 million over the next three years. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 749 new indirect jobs, for a total of 1,345 new jobs in the Northwest Region.

“It’s hard to express just how much the former GM plant means to the people of northwest Louisiana,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Bringing it back into commerce with new manufacturing jobs in a new sector is a historic milestone for economic growth, diversification and job creation in our state. SLB’s investment will breathe new life into this once-thriving business park and provide hundreds of new, high-paying jobs for our state’s skilled manufacturing workers. Louisiana finished 2022 with our highest levels of manufacturing employment in seven years, and with today’s announcement we see clear evidence of that positive momentum continuing in 2023 and beyond.”

Earlier this month, SLB signed a seven-year lease agreement with Shreveport Business Park to renovate and occupy 1 million square-feet of the former GM plant that has been vacant since 2012.

“LED and its nationally recognized workforce development program FastStart will be an important partner in helping us to find and train the skilled workforce that will make this project a success,” said Bruce Miller, SLB’s Vice President of Industry Affairs for North America. “We would also like to thank NLEP for their team’s responsiveness and dedication throughout this process. We look forward to creating hundreds of quality jobs locally, and to becoming a valued part of the Shreveport community.”

Recruitment for the nearly 600 new positions will begin in the coming weeks. SLB expects renovations of the Antoine Boulevard facility to be complete early next year. Production is estimated to reach full capacity by the end of 2026.

“The Caddo Commission welcomes this exciting news of additional economic development activity,” Caddo Commission President Roy Burrell said. “We stand fast to support this job development initiative to further reduce our unemployment rate by providing quality, well-paying jobs to support our middle-class growth.”

“The location of this new manufacturing facility in Caddo Parish is exciting news,” Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux said. “We look forward to almost 600 new jobs with excellent pay and benefits for our community. The city will do everything it can to help SLB succeed in our area. It’s a great day for northwest Louisiana and Shreveport.”

GE to expand Caddo Parish facility and generate 153 new jobs

Prolec GE USA, a joint venture between Xignux and General Electric, will invest up to $28.5 million to expand its Caddo Parish facility to manufacture electrical transformers used in wind farms, solar parks and other industrial and renewable energy applications. An estimated $19.7 million of the total investment will go toward the acquisition of new equipment and the installation of a third production line, with the remainder going toward upgrades to the existing site and infrastructure.

The company expects to create 153 new direct jobs including machine operators, maintenance personnel, supervisors and engineers, while retaining 282 current positions. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 162 new indirect jobs, for a total of 315 new jobs in the Northwest Region.

“I applaud Prolec GE for recognizing the business growth opportunity presented by the shift to cleaner fuel sources, and thank them for choosing Louisiana to serve those new and growing energy producers,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “This expansion will grow the northwest Louisiana economy and create more than 300 new job opportunities for our state’s highly skilled and capable manufacturing workforce. Our state is positioned to lead the way as America and the world transition to cleaner energy.”

Prolec GE designs, manufactures and sells products and solutions for electricity generation, transmission and distribution. As North America’s largest transformer producer, the company services a variety of industries including construction, engineering, and conventional and renewable energy.

The additional production capacity in Shreveport will help ease transformer supply chain concerns in the U.S. as Prolec GE looks to position itself for future growth.

“The hardworking and dedicated people of Louisiana were the main driver behind our decision to invest in our Shreveport operations,” Prolec GE Business Unit Director Sergio Eduardo Fernandez said. “We look forward to the continued success of the business and the betterment of our community.”

Improvements to the company’s 500,000 square foot facility began earlier this year with cleaning and demolition work. Prolec GE expects construction on the new line to get underway in June with a target completion date of March 2024 and full production capacity by June 2024.

“Shreveport has a long and exemplary history of industrial and manufacturing dedicated employees,” Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux said. “We are extremely excited about Prolec GE’s $28.5 million capital investment and the jobs it will bring to Shreveport and Caddo Parish. This is another opportunity when existing companies are willing to reinvest in the local community and help grow our workforce. We are fortunate to have Prolec GE expand its physical, capital and employment footprint in Shreveport.”

Supply chain services company to move into old Shreveport GM facility

Industrial Realty Group, LLC (IRG), one of the largest industrial real estate developers in the nation, announced that thyssenkrupp Supply Chain Services, Inc, a leader in renewable energy logistics, will join IRG’s 3.5 million square foot campus in Shreveport.

“We are thrilled to congratulate sustainability innovator, thyssenkrupp Supply Chain Services on their expansion to a new market,” said Stuart Lichter, president of IRG. “IRG is committed to continuing site improvements, pursuing aggressive leasing, and creating a rejuvenated economic center in Shreveport.”

thyssenkrupp Supply Chain Services’ lease marks their first operation in Louisiana and includes a multi-year term for nearly 600,000 square feet of space. The company will join the U.S. Post Office and Hyundai Glovis, who also operate on site. thyssenkrupp Supply Chain Services is an asset-based logistics company operating over 10mm sq/ft of value-add distribution services within the US alone, and is part of thyssenkrupp Materials Services, the largest mill-independent materials distributor and service provider in the western world.

“There were many reasons we chose to expand our footprint in Shreveport,” said Bob Denehy, Chief Commercial Officer of thyssenkrupp Supply Chain Services, Inc. “The support from the community by way of IRG, the Port of Caddo-Bossier, Caddo Parish, and NLEP was critical. The property’s location, future expansion opportunities, and the ability to smoothly establish a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) for our clients made the decision an easy one.”

Fibrebond announces $40M expansion of Minden campus

Fibrebond President and CEO Graham Walker announced Sept. 12 a $40 million dollar expansion of the company’s Minden, Louisiana campus. To meet rapidly growing demand, the company is doubling its capacity for data center and industrial projects. The announcement includes investments in automation, employee spaces, and renewable energy.

“The next phase of our growth is here,” said Fibrebond President and CEO Graham Walker. “We quietly began executing this plan 17 months ago. During that time unprecedented demand, especially in our data center market, has made this investment an urgent necessity. We are investing in technology that will double our manufacturing capacity. Our view remains that scaling production on one campus has significant advantages as we do the hard work of honoring our client commitments.”

With two manufacturing complexes already at capacity, a third manufacturing complex is being developed on the company’s 253 acre site. A 180,000 square foot high performance concrete pad will be used for the company’s electrical integration operations and will be completed in September 2023. Fibrebond will power and store completed projects on six acres of hard surface powered storage immediately adjacent to the new integration slab.

Adjacent to one of the company’s manufacturing buildings, a 90,000 square foot high-performance concrete pad has been built for the electrical integration of multi-module industrial projects. The pad is powered and is already being used for a multiyear LNG export project.

The company is expanding its equipment warehouse by 80,000 square feet. This space will be climate-controlled and have a 20-ton overhead crane to handle electrical equipment.

After this expansion, Fibrebond’s manufacturing campus will have over 650,000 square feet under roof and 410,000 square feet of powered integration pads.

Fibrebond is building new training and breakroom spaces for its 510 employees and 200 onsite contractors. Additionally, the company is retrofitting a rooftop solar array to self-generate electricity to its campus.

Cyber Innovation Center, Air Force Global Strike Command partnership exceeds $248M impact

A continued partnership between the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC) in Bossier City, Louisiana, and the AFGSC Office of the Chief Scientist at Barksdale Air Force Base generated several new innovative projects over the past year.

The CIC and STRIKEWERX innovation hub, through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with AFGSC, connects business, industry, higher education, and military stakeholders to bridge the command’s most critical technology gaps.

“From data analytics, decision tools and software automation to advanced learning technologies and augmented reality advances, the CIC continues to provide AFGSC with solutions that otherwise would not exist,” said PIA Director Jeff Beene.

Senior Airman Tristan Davis tests the prototype A-Circuit mixed reality trainer early December 2022 at STRIKEWERX in the CIC. (Courtesy photo)

Technology transfer and transition projects totaling $12.3M in investments contributed to the goal of providing solutions with 14 projects added and 26 projects in work at year’s end.

“Entering our sixth year of PIA operations, the CIC has matured to a level that most Department of Defense entities would only begin to hope is possible,” said Craig Spohn, executive director and president of CIC. “AFGSC has realized a five-fold return on its investment with impacts of $248M to date. This growth and maturity, while still increasing, is now very apparent through the results being achieved. Working together with our partners in the chief scientist’s office to accomplish these results is worthy of pause and reflection.”

STRIKEWERX completed a major project with the delivery of the A-Circuit mixed reality trainer for the largest security forces community in the U.S. Air Force. This prototype demonstrated the ability to improve unique training for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security forces, which can save equipment and man-hours. Two companies for the B-52 Air Refueling Trainer project delivered prototypes in August 2022. This unique simulator is estimated to save $4M per year in costs and reduce training time. STRIKEWERX launched its third challenge event in 2022, Advanced Training Concepts, which aims to further develop and incorporate advanced training technologies. The STRIKEWERX innovation hub conducted two Design Sprints in 2022. These included the redesign of a new survival kit in the B-52 ejection seat and a heated B-52 engine inlet cover.

NLEP will now serve 11 parishes of northern Louisiana

North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP), an Accredited Economic Development Organization, announced in July that their service territory will now cover the eleven most northwestern sitting parishes of North Louisiana. Since 2010, NLEP has served fourteen parishes across the top of Louisiana, which included two Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), Shreveport and Monroe, with three Micropolitan areas consisting of Ruston, Minden, and Natchitoches. NLEP will continue to service Shreveport MSA and the three Micropolitan communities. This decision comes as the City of Monroe and Ouachita Parish leadership move forward with restructuring their economic development strategy for the Monroe MSA.

“We applaud the City of Monroe and the leaders of Ouachita Parish for making this decision,” said NLEP President & CEO Justyn Dixon. “We wish them nothing but the best, as when any region in the state succeeds, it overtly shines a positive light for all of Louisiana.”

The state of Louisiana consists of eight regions, each serviced by a Regional Economic Development Organization (REDO), as divided by the Governor’s economic development arm, Louisiana Economic Development. Each REDO is home to one MSA, while NLEP’s territory has been home to two MSAs for the past thirteen years. This movement for NLEP will allow a more substantial distribution of resources to better the communities they serve. NLEP’s eleven-parish territory will consist of Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Jackson, Lincoln, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, and Webster parishes.

The focus on bringing quality jobs and capital investment to the region will continue to be the priority for the team at NLEP. With a mission to improve the standard of living and the business climate for all, the organization’s economic development program, workforce initiatives, and advocacy goals will continue to foster a regional economy that delivers sustainable, inclusive prosperity. 

Students role in growing entrepreneurial ecosystem fuels economic development in Louisiana

Nearly six years after BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) held its first student business pitch competition in Northwest Louisiana, college students now have an even better chance to become a success in their home state.

“EAP and our higher education partners created the region’s first student business pitch competitions in 2017 with the knowledge that small businesses make up the majority of Louisiana’s employers and have the potential to accelerate economic growth in the future,” said Dave Smith, Executive Director of EAP. “We now have grown a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem of forward-thinking angel investors, leadership and faculty in higher education, and business executives who are helping ensure student innovators have every opportunity to launch a business here.”

According to Smith, Louisiana’s higher education institutions are putting more emphasis than ever on curricula that better prepare students for entrepreneurship — and creating and fulfilling their own dreams.

“The conversation has evolved. Students studying business in our state’s colleges and universities aren’t just hearing about how to pursue their future career success by landing a corporate job,” said Smith. “Instead, they’re learning they can realize their dreams in a different way — by launching their own companies.”

EAP has co-presented over 30 student business pitch competitions at the undergraduate and graduate levels in North Louisiana and Lafayette since 2017. This spring, for the first time, regional competition winners competed for over $60,000 in cash prizes at the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup hosted by The University of Louisiana Monroe.

The winning team from this statewide competition, called Rise & Rotate of Northwestern State University (NSU), has been building a new business around a unique medical device that was created to solve a real-world problem to help patients at risk of falling. It is now patented, FDA-approved and ready for commercialization.

Modernization, workforce development major themes of Nuclear Triad Symposium

The 24th Annual Nuclear Triad Symposium was held on the LSU Shreveport campus June 20. Presented by the Hudson Institute, BRF and LSU Shreveport, this yearly gathering aims to address the United States’ challenges in pursuing the currently adopted modernization roadmap and related arms control and proliferation issues. The conference has a significant focus on the present and future strategic capabilities of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) located at nearby Barksdale Air Force Base.

Attendees of the 2023 Nuclear Triad Symposium listen to a presentation by Dr. Mark Schneider of the National Institute for Public Policy.

According to (Ret.) Lt. Gen. “Bob” Elder and Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Peter Huessy, the reason for the Nuclear Triad Symposium is to get military officials and industry partners in the same room and on the same page. The two explained that when this gathering happens, plans and initiatives are created that rise to the current and future challenges of nuclear preparation.

Speakers included high-ranking Air Force officials, as well as private and education industry partners. The unclassified briefings highlighted the need to modernize the United States’ nuclear warhead capabilities. Military experts spoke on the known capabilities of Russian and Chinese forces, the US’s two largest threats in the nuclear space. Public policy experts echoed the sentiments, highlighting international unrest and strategic changes the two countries have already implemented in obvious efforts to outpace the United States.

Morning speakers highlighted the US’s need for faster military modernization, citing verified exponential growth by both China and Russia in aircraft and weaponry production.

After lunch, workforce development discussions continued. A panel of defense contractors highlighted the need for a qualified workforce to meet the country’s modernization directives. 

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