A Strong port

National publications and regional organizations recognize the Port as an economic juggernaut and a vital source for quality employment in the River Parishes region and beyond

For the Port of South Louisiana, the accolades and honors keep rolling in.

This time, the Port topped the list at No. 1 when Global Trade magazine recently ranked the Top 50 U.S. “Power Ports” — a list that considers a Port’s total activity, total cargo tonnage, willingness to embrace and implement new technology and dedication to accommodate future growth.

Of the Port of South Louisiana, Global Trade wrote: The Port handles nearly 60 percent of the exports leaving Louisiana, and about 15 percent of all total U.S. exports. The Port spans an impressive 54 miles and holds 40 liquid and dry bulk terminals. It’s also home to one of the most active Foreign Trade Zones in America- FTZ 124.

Other local Ports that made the list include the Port of New Orleans (No. 4), the Port of Baton Rouge (No. 8) and Plaquemines Port (No. 11).

“We consider it an honor,” said Paul Aucoin, the Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Director. “It’s more than a feel-good thing. It’s promotion. Every time you get mentioned in a ranking like that, it calls attention to the Port and shows why so many companies are located here and so many more have an interest in coming here. It gets them to think, ‘Well, maybe that’s where we should go.’

“And that’s what we want, because when companies decided to locate on the (Mississippi River), that’s economic development.”

To that point, honors like the one bestowed by Global Trade bring back into focus the Port’s prominent role in the economic development of the River Parishes. Yes, it’s known as the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere, but that distinction directly translates into an immense local financial impact.

According to Greater New Orleans Inc. — a regional economic development alliance that promotes job growth and wealth creation in a 10-parish area of Southeast Louisiana — the Port of South Louisiana is responsible for 30,000 jobs, meaning more than half of the workforce in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles Parishes takes home a paycheck from a Port-related business. Companies within the Port District compile $14 billion in annual sales and pay 4 percent of all business taxes collected by the state of Louisiana. Workers in the Port of South Louisiana collect $2 billion in personal earnings each year, which is 40 percent of all income for the residents of the River Parishes.  

“Clearly, the River is the biggest asset since it’s the most important navigable waterway in North America,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO Inc. “But then around that, you have the infrastructure of the Port that can handle all the bulk and break-bulk activity that comes down the River — be it agriculture, oil and gas, or other. And then the Port exists within a culture that understands and supports the maritime industry. So with all that, you have a River Region that ties much of its economic existence to the Port of South Louisiana.”

Despite its already-impressive role in the local economy, the Port’s impact should only intensify in the coming years and decades, as it currently has $23 billion worth of announced projects. Those include the $9.4 billion Formosa chemical manufacturing complex in St. James and its 1,200 jobs with an average salary of $84,500, along with billion-dollar-plus facilities being built for South Louisiana Methanol, Eurochem and Yuhuang Chemical.

“When you look at it, the economic development, it’s all long-term economic development, and that’s important,” Aucoin said. “The jobs are long-term jobs with good pay. So with those jobs, those people are buying houses, and they’re buying cars from local dealers, and buying groceries from the local store. So the whole region gets a boost from the economic impact we’re fortunate enough to create.”