ADVOCATES FOR THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY

A collection of different leaders united for a singular focus, the Louisiana Chemical Manufacturing Initiative represents every aspect of a vital economic engine for the state.

Whether landing from the west at Louis Armstrong International Airport or driving along Highway 61 through the River Parishes, the presence and importance of the Louisiana Chemical Corridor is clearly visible as plants and factories light up the night sky.

In the summer of 2015, the U.S. Department of Commerce identified this area as one of 24 high-growth industrial communities across the country, designating it as a key cog in its Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.

The federal acknowledgement gives these regions a leg up when it comes to federal funding, which in turn lead to the creation of the Louisiana Chemical Manufacturing Initiative  — a specialized community comprised of officials from various arenas from a 200-mile stretch from Lake Charles to New Orleans and housed within LSU’s College of Engineering in the Bert S. Turner Dept. of Construction Managment. LCMI members include members from local and state government, heads of higher education, non-profit leaders and the chemical industry itself.

“We represent a plethora of organizations that are all invested in the chemical manufacturing industry,” says Rebecca Harris, LCMI’s program manager. “We’re making sure that it’s sustained and remains an economic leader in our area…It’s been said that in Louisiana it’s been very difficult to get people from different institutions together at the table working for a particular cause. So that’s what we’re working to do – to get a collaborative partnership together discussing points that are affecting everyone across the region.

“Everyone is advocating for (the entire chemical industry) eco-system, if you will.”

Considering the variety and complexities of the industry for which LCMI waves the flag, the community divvies up its attention equally across a handful of categories, or “pillars of focus.” These include: workforce, supply network, operational improvement and innovation, infrastructure and finally international trade.

Because of the lack of skilled workers in Louisiana to fill service jobs within the chemical facilities, LCMI plans to address the workforce gap by aligning new investments in higher education with the needs of potential employers, along with teaming with the Louisiana Department of Education to foster high school programs relevant to need areas in chemical manufacturing.

LCMI also recognizes the need to stay current when it comes to technology, ensuring the state’s chemical industry stays competitive in the global market. The community plans to address that through an innovative federal E3 initiative that integrates business leadership, environmental management and community development goals into a one-stop-shop technical assistance program. LCMI is also encouraging more collaboration between the chemical industry and research departments at LSU, ULL, Southern and UNO.

So that the chemical industry can take full advantage of Louisiana’s unique and strategic geographic advantages, LCMI is not only fighting to improve, but also care for the state’s infrastructure. For instance, the proposed Urban Water Plan – which addresses flooding, subsidence caused by the pumping of storm water, and wasted water assets in St. Bernard, Orleans and Jefferson Parishes – will create more attractive manufacturing sites and encourage expansion, resulting in an estimated $3 billion worth of economic development.

“I think everyone in our consortium agrees that the chemical manufacturing industry is very important to our state,” Harris says, “and so no matter what someone’s individual agenda might be, we’re all there for the greater good – to continue to develop this industry, and making sure that we’re providing it with the resources it needs to prosper.

“The industry, I wasn’t full immersed in it until I began this position and it’s incredible the amount of people who are touched in some way by it – providing jobs whether directly or indirectly,” Harris continues. “When folks look at the chemical manufacturing industry, it’s not just the big companies pumping out products. It’s people – their job, their livelihood, the thing they’ve been doing in their family for years.” 

By William Kalec

 

 

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