Bold investment in its new mega-plastics district has TCI Packaging poised for continued growth
Louisiana is in the midst of an industrial rebirth, as U.S. energy production injects affordable feed stock to chemical manufacturers and refiners lining the Lower Mississippi River and the Calcasieu River in the southwest part of the state.
The result is a boon in PVC and polyethylene plastic resin production and the growing demand to handle its packaging and export. Recently, Louis Rodriguez turned on the switch of the industry’s fastest and most efficient high-speed resin bagging machines.
Rodriguez, President of TCI Packaging, a division of New Orleans-based Jensen Companies LLC, oversaw the construction and development of the company’s “Mega-Plastics District” on France Road within the Port of New Orleans. He calls it a “game changer” for plastic resins in Louisiana.
The first phase of the $36.5 million, 500,000-square-foot facility will grow TCI Packaging’s resin capacity by 180 percent by 2019.
“This facility really puts New Orleans on the map in terms of resin packaging and shipping,” Rodriguez said. “It opens the door for manufacturers and shippers right here in Louisiana. All value-added services are handled right here. We’re a one-stop shop.”
The first of two new bagging machines installed in the facility is handling up to 2,700 bags per hour. The resins are packaged directly from rail cars into 25-kilogram bags, 24 hours per day. The bags are then loaded into 40-foot containers, and drayed by TCI Trucking – the company’s transportation division – to the Port of New Orleans’ Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal for export.
The plastics are shipped primarily to Asia, Africa, Central America and South America for use in any type of plastic product manufacturing process.
Homegrown plastic resins could become products for daily consumer use such as shampoo bottles, or technical uses such as smart phones and plastic medical devices.
Rodriguez said company employees are incredibly excited about the new facility and the new system.
“We are ramping up throughout the fourth quarter of the year and expect to hit our volume targets by mid-November to December,” said Christian Jensen, President of the Jensen Companies.
It has been a meteoric rise for TCI in the plastics business – first entering the market in 2011.
Prior to the latest facility coming online, the company’s capacity was 35,000 metric tons per month. The new bagging machine increases that capacity to 65,000 metric tons per month and a second new machine scheduled for installation next year will bring TCI Packaging’s capacity to between 95,000 and 100,000 metric tons per month in 2019.
Those volumes also translate into big business for Port NOLA’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal. Growing from 2,600 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per month in 2016 to 7,200 TEUs per month by 2019.
“The Port of New Orleans is committed to helping our cargo partners grow and realize success,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port NOLA President and CEO. “TCI Packaging plays a vital role in capturing new chemical cargoes, which are manufactured right here in Louisiana.”
Rodriguez said the company’s growth will be executed with the needs of the customer at the forefront of their decision making.
“It’s been quite a fast and furious ride,” Rodriguez said. “However, as we grow, the focus will remain on customer service for shippers and manufacturers. We aim to grow in a wise manner, not simply grow to grow.”
The TCI story began in 1983 when founder and current CEO Jack Jensen started a trucking and warehousing company with a single truck. Today, the family-owned group of independently operated businesses operates three U.S. locations – dispatching more than 200 trucks per day.
In 2010, TCI began the development of its first 150,000-square-foot packaging facility on industrial property purchased from Port NOLA. As part of its expansion, TCI purchased 32 acres from the Port for $3.1 million in 2014 for the new 500,000-square-foot building, which represents a more than $36.5 million investment. When fully completed, TCI will have more than 900,000 square feet of warehouse space dedicated to plastics and the capacity to package nearly 2 billion pounds annually.
Louisiana Economic Development officials estimate TCI’s expansion to create 160 new direct jobs and an additional 183 new indirect jobs.
TCI will continue to make investments in Port NOLA to further expand its operations as part of the Port’s ongoing acquisition of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which manages 26 miles of track connecting six Class I railroads. The agreement between the City of New Orleans, which owns the Public Belt, and the Port includes an asset exchange of the Gov. Nicholls and Esplanade wharves for the assets of the railroad. TCI leased the wharves, which serve as a plastics packaging facility, as well.
In August, the Port purchased industrial property at 4325 France Road, the site of a former shipyard, for $10.5 million. TCI will relocate those operations to the new site under a new 20-year lease. Port officials are also providing TCI with $4.5 million to improve the new site, and TCI has the option of purchasing the property for $15 million under the terms of the lease.
Port officials said the relocation is a win-win for all entities involved and allows TCI a larger footprint to grow its plastics packing operation.
And industry leaders are bullish for the future. Petrochemical companies along the Lower Mississippi River have announced more than $81 billion in infrastructure investments in new and expansion projects with industry experts predicting an estimated growth of 400,000 TEUs of plastic resin exports from the Gulf region between 2017 and 2020.
“The vast majority of this cargo is manufactured in the Gulf region and we are very well prepared to handle it,” Rodriguez said. “We want to be pound for pound the best.”
“This facility really puts New Orleans on the map in terms of resin packaging and shipping. It opens the door for manufacturers and shippers right here in Louisiana.”
– Louis Rodriguez, President of TCI Packaging
Louis Rodriguez, President of TCI Packaging, explains how pallets of 25-kilogram bags of resin are able to be stacked 12 high, giving the company a competitive advantage. TCI Packaging’s location at the Port of New Orleans allows for heavy loads in the heavy-weight corridor.
Resins are vacuumed directly from rail cars into the silo that feeds the packing machine through a specially built system. Production Operators Derek Bernard (left), and Joshua Waldrop, help ensure the process runs smoothly. A second vacuum system and silo will be built to accommodate the second packing machine.