JULY 13, 2015
The federal government has given a special nod to the Louisiana Chemical Corridor—a 200-mile stretch of refineries and manufacturing facilities located between Lake Charles and New Orleans—by designating it one of 12 new manufacturing communities under the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership,” or IMCP, initiative.
The designation, which was announced July 8, does not immediately provide these communities support through federal dollars, but according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, “it helps those communities when they go to apply for federal funding.” At stake is a share of $1 billion in funding opportunities.
“An IMCP designation is an important signal to potential investors that these communities are a good place to spend their money, and this is smart government at work,” Pritzker said in a news release. “By breaking down silos and encouraging communities to take a more thoughtful, comprehensive approach to their strategic plans, we are ensuring that precious federal dollars are used on the most high impact projects and in a way that maximizes return on investment.”
The designation is a step in the right direction, said Jonathan Shi, the LSU College of Engineering’s Art E. Favre Endowed Chair in Industrial Construction who shepherded the IMCP application process in partnership with the Value Louisiana Initiative, an effort led by LifeCity, LLC to grow businesses through a collective impact approach, integrating technical assistance in business excellence, sustainability, safety, workforce development and more.
“It’s a fact that Louisiana is known for its chemical manufacturing nationally and internationally,” Shi said. “The designation will provide the broad partnership of 83 organizations with new opportunities to build on its strength and to make the entire community even stronger for many years to come.”
But there’s a long road ahead. LSU and the Value Louisiana Initiative must now lead a group of public and private sector partners through the next step of the process, which includes writing and submitting applications for funding to the Department of Commerce and 10 other federal agencies. A federal point of contact will be assigned to the IMCP community to help guide this effort.
The ultimate goal is to earn funding and move forward with the development of “a vibrant, nationally and internationally-known chemical manufacturing communitythat increases positive social and environmental impacts, including job growth, waste reduction and product innovation.”
“The Value Louisiana Initiative is proud to partner with LSU in supporting a sustainable development strategy for the corridor,” said Liz Shephard, CEO of LifeCity, LLC. “In a world shifting towards improved social and environmental impact, we can leverage new innovations and new types of collaboration to support Louisiana industries.”
Furthermore, the advancement of the corridor will help shift negative perceptions once associated with that stretch of refineries and manufacturing hubs.
“Through workforce development, environmental management and a focus on equity, this designation can transform a region once known as ‘cancer alley’ to become a symbol of innovation and resilience,” said Flozell Daniels, Jr., president and CEO of Foundation for Louisiana, a partner of the Value Louisiana Initiative.
In addition to these influences, the advancement of the corridor will also positively affect industry relationships and workforce and economic development.
The IMCP designation gives Louisiana the opportunity to scale and innovate within the manufacturing sector, and by doing so, creates a more resilient community.
“It recognizes what a powerful force Louisiana is in this manufacturing renaissance,” Dan S. Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, a partner in the project, told The Advocate. “America’s manufacturing prowess is being released to an extent that hasn’t been seen since World War II.”
Lee Jenkins, vice president of Performance Contractors, LLC, another partner, agreed. When his company was approached about being involved in the proposal, he said, “It was the no-brainer of the century.”
“We’ll be offering our full support as a company,” Jenkins said. “We look forward to doing whatever we can do to facilitate better communication and output through the grant … and to the opportunities that this brings to LSU, the community, and the partnership between Louisiana and industry.”