Industry alive and well in SW La.

An artist’s rendering of Magnolia LNG, a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal planned near Lake Charles. About 50 percent of the US LNG export capacity is in Southwest Louisiana. (Special to the American Press)

As the country puts technology to work in industry, fewer workers are needed to perform the same jobs. It’s happening in Louisiana, and in manufacturing facilities here at home. Nevertheless, manufacturing continues to be an integral force here, with Southwest Louisiana performing better than other areas. Manufacturing fuels the local economy. Not only that, it also impacts the community through volunteerism and donations.

Based on the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the United States has lost 30 percent of its manufacturing jobs in 30 years. Louisiana is at 25 percent.

“During this same time period, the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, has lost only 7.1 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the last 30 years,” said Jim Rock, Lake Area Industry Alliance executive director.

Dan Groft, at the McNeese State University Drew College of Business and Economic Analysis conducted a Contribution Analysis of the Manufacturing Industry in the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area, basing his findings on data from the BLS, BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and BEA Local Area Personal Income.

“This basically estimates the value of an industry in a region, including all the ripple effects,” explained Rock.

“The manufacturing industry supports over 20,000 jobs in other industries throughout the Lake Charles MSA: administration services, transportation, warehousing, retail trade, healthcare and other industries.

While manufacturing accounts for over $1.6 billion in labor income in the MSA, it supports an additional $1.1 billion in labor income through different industries in the MSA. In construction, health care, transportation and whole trade, over $100 million in labor income is supported by the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing paychecks here in Southwest Louisiana are cashed — or these days direct deposited — to make a home mortgage payment, pay rent, pay a truck note and enjoy a dinner at a favorite restaurant.

Industry jobs are generally some of the higher paying jobs,” according to Groft. Of the 93,500 nonfarm jobs in the LC MSA, only 11 percent are manufacturing jobs. Yet, that percentage accounts for slightly over 20 percent of the total wages.

In 22 of the last 30 years, Southwest Louisiana has had the highest percentage of manufacturing jobs of any area in the state. These are manufacturing jobs engaged in the mechanical, physical or chemical transportation of materials, substances or components into new products. These include manufacturing of both nondurable and durable goods.

Southwest Louisiana has become the gateway of energy to the world. About 50 percent of the US LNG export capacity is in Southwest Louisiana, and this is an industry that continues to grow.

“If Cameron Parish was a country, it would be the third largest exporter nation in the world,” said Clair Hebert Marceaux, Port Director at Cameron Port, Harbor & Terminal District.

Rock said other multi-billion dollar projects are close to being announced in the energy sector — good news for Southwest Louisiana — but jobs and wages are not the only good news.

“It’s important to note how these industries contribute in other ways,” Rock said. “In a ‘non-COVID’ year when there are no restrictions to activities, LAIA members average over 20,000 volunteer hours/year.“

Annual events include Trash Bash, Chem Expo and Partners in Education.

LAIA had almost 200 volunteers participating in the parish litter pick-up campaign earlier this year.”

As the pandemic began, LAIA answered the call from hospitals and other medical providers, donating gloves, masks and Tyvek suits.

Donations to schools have been in the millions, Rock said. Significant donations have also been made to the Southwest Louisiana Community Foundation and United Way.

According to the Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor’s office, local industries annually pay over $70 million in property sales tax, $60 million in property tax and state income tax on over $1 billion in wages and salaries. Those tax dollars help provide high water rescue for the sheriff’s department, improvements to school campuses and road and drainage improvements.

Written by Rita Lebleu

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