Boosted by employment growth and higher-end wages, St. Charles Parish’s economic outlook is expected to be robust and expanding with new multi-million-dollar projects.
“We have a very healthy and vibrant local economy that is continually diversifying itself as evident with some of the new projects,” said Corey Faucheux, director of the Economic Development and Tourism Office. “The local economy is healthy and growing.”
Faucheux singled out five projects that will generate jobs and/or investment that is helping to boost the area economy:
• Construction has started on the $15 million Kongsberg Maritime Office & Training Facility, a three-story office in St. Rose expected to generate 200 jobs. Average salary is anticipated at $100,000.
• Efforts to secure permits necessary to build the AM Agrigen Urea plant are underway for the estimated $1.2 billion project. The fertilizer plant is planned in Killona near the St. John Parish line. Ground could be broken for this project late this year with construction to take about two years. The plant is expected to generate 150 jobs.
• Permitting also is underway for Entergy’s Little Gypsy expansion in Montz, also a $1 billion project, that could provide 15 to 20 jobs. Based on the current schedule, construction is expected to begin in 2017.
• Monsanto’s recently announced plans for a $1 billion expansion of its Luling facility is awaiting board approval later this year. The company recently hired Jacobs Engineering to help do the design work as part of the permitting process. Faucheux called this a sign that this is a “real project” and that Monsanto is willing to spend millions of dollars to determine the expansion’s feasibility. If completed, the project would create 95 jobs.
• Despite a major plant shutdown and delay, Blue Bell creamery is at the punch list phase of completing its distribution center in Luling. The center opening would bring 10 to 15 jobs.
The growth is showing in the parish’s largest employing sectors.
Faucheux’s figures show 34 percent (356 new jobs at $92,846 average yearly earnings per worker) in the industrial building construction sector from 2012 to 2015; 15 percent growth (101 jobs at $129,215 average yearly earnings per worker) in chemical manufacturing and 7 percent growth (47 jobs with average $154,583 yearly earnings per worker) in nuclear electric power generation.
Another strong element of the parish’s economic strength is the lion’s share of sectors employing the most people are paying higher-end wages, he said.
However, there were sector job losses in this same period, including 43 percent decline (347 fewer jobs) in temporary help services; 13 percent down (97 jobs) in the oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction sector, and 12 percent drop (73 jobs) in limited-service restaurants.
The parish’s unemployment rate is 6 percent to date this year, which is higher than last year’s 5.3 percent. But Faucheux said he expects that figure to fall in coming months with construction jobs with new projects or the facilities coming on line.
In GRP (gross regional product or the local version of GDP), Faucheux said the parish is outperforming the nation. Area GRP growth was 11 percent in 2012-13 (latest available figures) compared to less than 5 percent national growth, he said.