Bridging the Divide

Newly rezoned land in St. Tammany Parish to become a major hub for logistics and manufacturing industries
Bridge

When we talk about economic development in Greater New Orleans, conversations often center around Orleans and Jefferson parishes–but that doesn’t mean the eight other parishes encompassed in the region aren’t ripe for growth and opportunity. For evidence, look no further than St. Tammany Parish, where a recent rezoning effort has positioned more than 800 acres of land to become a leading logistics corridor not just for the local economy, but for the state and nation.

In early June, the St. Tammany Parish Council voted to rezone the expansive stretch of land located at the intersection of I-12 and LA-Highway 1088 in the hopes of creating a manufacturing and logistics hub that will attract new businesses and bring long-term prosperity to current residents and families, as well as to relocating professionals and businesses. That site includes the approximately 180-acre Wadsworth Property, considered the centerpiece of the development efforts.

Kate Moore, Director of Economic Development for St. Tammany Corporation, the parish’s leading economic development organization, says the Wadsworth property is an ideal location for industry expansion due to its proximity to the interstate and the parish’s existing highly trained workforce.

“St. Tammany Corporation’s goal is to create a distribution, logistics and advanced manufacturing corridor that will service one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation” Moore says. “The successful creation of this corridor will provide an expanded tax base and well-paying jobs for St. Tammany Parish residents. The Wadsworth property owners, along with adjacent landowners who are supportive of this initiative, are working with St. Tammany Corporation and parish administration to strategically create a master planned development using the Wadsworth property as an anchor.”

Moore explains that, in addition to its geographical assets, St. Tammany Parish offers competitive advantages such as the “highest education attainment rates in the state” and a labor force of over 112,000 professionals. Proximity to economic powerhouses like the Port of South Louisiana and Port of New Orleans will also make for easy multi-modal transport of commodities to and from the entire nation, she says.

The decision to use the land for logistics development was spurred by St. Tammany’s existing distribution and logistics sector, which Moore says already accounts for 7,000 jobs with average annual wages of approximately $50,000.

“That data, combined with our existing cluster of major employers such as Rooms To Go, Associated Wholesale Grocers, American Factory Direct, and J.M. Smucker, demonstrates that St. Tammany has and will continue to be the destination of choice for this sector,” Moore says. “In fact, this sector represents a $1.3 billion industry in St. Tammany, a significant part of our total $12 billion local economy. The sector is projected to grow by 23% in the next five years alone in St. Tammany Parish, and it is important to consider that the industry’s average annual pay exceeds the parish’s current average. This means viable career opportunities locally providing quality jobs that support the livelihood of our friends and families.”

Now that the rezoning is approved, Moore says St. Tammany Corporation and Crosby Development are developing a master plan that will proactively consider infrastructural needs to set up development for long-term success. “The initial focus is to certify the anchor 180-acre Wadsworth site, develop the marketing and branding plan for the overall corridor, and start recruitment efforts targeting new businesses to the area and connecting with existing businesses poised for expansion opportunities,” she says.

This project is just one facet of an expansive strategic plan designed to fully harness the economic potential of the Northshore, including St. Tammany and surrounding parishes. The plan, called THRIVE2023, also focuses on growing the healthcare, science, technology, professional and business sectors. St. Tammany Corporation launched two key strategic initiatives under the THRIVE2023 banner in 2022. In May, St. Tammany Corporation launched Northshore Healthscape: A Collaborative Enhancing the Pulse of our Regional Healthcare Economy, a three-year healthcare sector strategy pilot program with stakeholders from St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

The STartUP Northshore initiative, launched in August 2022, prioritizes entrepreneurship, innovation and business formation on the Northshore through strategic partnerships with leading organizations in the startup community to deliver first-class programming, networking opportunities, access to capital and mentorship from esteemed industry leaders, investors and founders to the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

Susan Bonnett, CEO of the Northshore Community Foundation and incoming Chairperson for GNO, Inc., says initiatives such as the development of a logistics hub will be beneficial to the entire Northshore by increasing the overall quality of life, effectively transforming Northshore cities and neighborhoods into places where people want to live and work.

“We know that quality of life and economic opportunity are in many respects one in the same,” Bonnett says. “It’s about creating an ecosystem rather than a singular project, and that’s how you increase the quality of life: with an ecosystem that shows you have a community that provides opportunities, quality businesses and support for businesses that choose to locate there.”

Bonnett says that, due to nationwide trends in remote work, more and more professionals are choosing where they want to live first, followed by where they want to work. Because of this, she says it’s more important than ever to bring a wide range of professional opportunities to the Northshore while continuing to enhance areas such as recreation and education.

“People are far more interested in a work-life balance, and the way economies happen and job markets happen is that, at the end of the day, your product is quality of life,” Bonnett says. “If you have a place people want to live, visit and start a business, then you have everything you need. That, to me, is the element around maintaining the quality of life. It’s paramount to a long-term economic strategy.

“As a community, if you’re not growing, you’re declining,” she says. “There is no status quo. Growth scares a lot of people, but I would pick growth over decline any day.”