Content tagged “Manufacturing and engineering”

'Business Report': Industrial space is the new hot property

It's a market situation that gets real estate professionals excited: As supply and demand begin to converge, deals happen quickly and prices start to rise. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, the market for industrial space is approaching that point in parts of greater Baton Rouge as big plant expansions generate the first ripples of new business activity. "Demand is extremely high," says Mike Eades, president of Ascension Economic Development Corp., which scouts available space in Ascension Parish for prospective tenants. "There's not a lot of vacant space here, and what there is goes quickly." Sales and leasing agents say activity is brisk throughout Ascension Parish and in some neighboring areas, with no sign of a slowdown. But while they welcome the rising interest in industrial properties, some strike a cautionary note about the possibility that prices could reach a tipping point. There's no denying the market is tight. Of some 25 million...

Rosie the Riveter redux

Samantha Carney is training for a new career.

'Worse than it has ever been'

A glance at an occupational map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a surprisingly clear snapshot of the role that welders play in U.S. industry. Dark splotches depicting heavy concentrations of welding jobs splash across the width and breadth of the map, with a swath of the most intense employment covering the nation's midsection.
Demand for welders has outstripped supply in the United States for decades. But a surge of industrial activity and construction that took hold in recent years as the country emerged from economic recession has severely strained the labor pool in some areas.

Edward "Sandy" Comeaux

If you want to know what welders want in a cap, just ask them.

The new workforce: Carlos Evans

Carlos Evans grew up in Scotlandville, not far from ExxonMobil's massive complex off Scenic Highway. As a youth he was "kind of scared" of "things blowing up" there.

Defining the boom

Shell's decision not to go forward with a massive gas-to-liquids plant in Ascension Parish was a bracing reality check amid the industrial expansion hype. But Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret cautions against reading too much into one company's call; he says Shell is pulling back globally, and the Louisiana project was collateral damage.

We're not ready.

Last fall, Shell announced that it was thinking about building a $12.5 billion gas-to-liquids plant in Ascension Parish. The potential "win" was celebrated by state and local officials and trumpeted on the cover of this magazine.

Dow executive: Watch out for speed bumps on the way to the manufacturing boom

A senior executive for the Dow Chemical Co. advised the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge luncheon crowd today to watch out for two speed bumps on the way to the boom in construction and manufacturing that is about to get underway in south Louisiana. Jim Fitterling, a Dow executive vice president based in Midland, Michigan, said the manufacturing sector is already feeling the effects of an impending shortage of knowledge workers, primarily in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "And it's only going to get worse. Engineers are already in short supply," Fitterling said. Louisiana also needs to be concerned about the number of skilled laborers it has, especially welders and pipefitters. The second potential obstacle, Fitterling said, is the possibility of unfettered export of North American energy to other parts of the globe, particularly in the form of liquefied natural gas. "Right now, we are enjoying a resurgence in domestic manufacturing because we have a low-cost feedstock...

Editor: There's more to the CB&I job moves than meets the eye

When CB&I announced its $3.04 billion acquisition of The Shaw Group in 2012, experts predicted the day would come when the Netherlands-based company would relocate its administrative employees from Essen Lane in Baton Rouge to the company's U.S. headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas. "That day is now here," says Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "In late April, CB&I confirmed that an unspecified number of employees with corporate-level and so-called back-office jobs—accounting, marketing, IT and HR—will be moving this fall to the company's administrative campus in The Woodlands, where a 150,000-square-foot building is under construction and expected to be completed later this year." Not surprisingly, Riegel says, CB&I put a positive spin on the story, explaining that while the company is moving administrative jobs out of Baton Rouge, it will continue to "grow operations here beyond the current numbers." Local CB&I spokeswoman Gentry...

'Business Report': American Midstream's situation in La. could be the tip of a national iceberg

Slaughter Mayor Robert Jackson tells Business Report in a feature from the current issue that last summer he first began getting letters from American Midstream Partners—owner of the Midla natural gas pipeline system that supplies energy to his small East Feliciana Parish town. "I perceived [the letters] as threats," Jackson says. As David Jacobs writes in the feature, Jackson says American Midstream was essentially issuing an ultimatum: Help us build a new, $200 million pipeline, or we'll cut off your gas. Jackson doesn't want his constituents' natural gas bills to quadruple or worse—especially since for decades they've been paying extra for their gas, supposedly to maintain the pipeline. "We don't know what happened to the money," he says, "but somebody needs to be accountable for it." American Midstream says the money has been going right back into Midla as promised. But the 88-year-old, 370-mile pipeline, which stretches from Monroe to the Capital Region and...

'Business Report': Industrial expansion boosts engineering into one of the Capital Region's hottest occupations

As a giant wave of industrial expansion begins surging through the Baton Rouge area, its effects are already rippling through the LSU College of Engineering. As Business Report contributing writer Kathy Finn details in a feature from the current issue, with manufacturing plants throughout south Louisiana putting billions of dollars into new construction and plant upgrades, demand for engineers is soaring, and the state's top source of engineering talent is scrambling to keep up. "We've hired two recruiters to continue to keep the students coming so that four years from now they're ready for the jobs," says Richard Koubek, LSU's Bert S. Turner Dean of the College of Engineering. Interest in engineering programs is high among both students and employers, he says. Enrollment in the college has jumped 40% during the past three years, and applications for admission in the fall term are up 21% from last year. "We've also seen a large jump in the number of employers coming to our...

BASF considering Gulf Coast for potential $1.4 billion plant

BASF has announced that it may undertake the single biggest plant investment in its history, spending more than $1.4 billion to target cheaper U.S. shale gas with a facility to convert methane to propylene that is used in coatings. Plans for the new facility are being evaluated, the Ludwigshafen, Germany-based company says in a statement released this morning. Until now, Bloomberg reports, the largest single-factory investment is BASF's $1.3 billion plant in Ludwigshafen for toluene diisocyanate, or TDI, a component used in seating cushions and mattresses. "This investment would allow BASF to take advantage of very competitive gas prices in the U.S. due to shale gas production, considerably improve our cost position and improve our backward integration in the United States," BASF CEO Kurt Bock says in a statement. BASF competitors have ramped up...

Some CB&I employees being transferred to Texas this fall

CB&I is relocating some local employees to the company's administrative headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas. Affected employees were notified last week that their positions will be relocated in September when the company's newest office building on its growing campus in Texas is complete. It's unclear how many local employees will be affected at this point, and a spokeswoman for CB&I will not discuss specific numbers. Many anticipated this move when CB&I acquired The Shaw Group in late 2012. But company spokeswoman Gentry Brann says the change will ultimately be positive for Baton Rouge. "CB&I is expanding our administrative campus in The Woodlands and planning to relocate certain administrative functions once that expansion is complete later this year," says Brann. "This includes corporate employees in multiple locations around the country and has been the plan for quite some time. However, we are continuing to grow our operations in Baton Rouge beyond our current employee...

The pipeline predicament

Last summer, Slaughter Mayor Robert Jackson began getting letters from American Midstream Partners, owner of the Midla natural gas pipeline system that supplies energy to his small East Feliciana Parish town.

Local industry alliance: Pipefitters, welders among those in highest demand

In its latest semi-annual contract labor forecast, released today, the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance says the expected rise in capital project work in the area is beginning to take hold. The survey of GBRIA's 57 members in the petrochemical, energy, paper, pharmaceutical and storage terminal industries shows that the top industrial crafts in demand right now are pipefitters, welders, instrument and electrical technicians, millwrights and scaffold builders. "Engineers, process technicians and laborers are also in high demand, as are non-destructive testing technicians," adds GBRIA Executive Director Connie Fabré in a prepared statement. While the overall outlook remains positive for the industrial sector in the Capital Region, GBRIA notes that its latest forecast is somewhat lower than the one it released last summer, when it estimated the region would need an additional...

Going to bat

From Little League to Major Leagues, when a baseball player swings for the fences, theres a good chance he's swinging a bat made in Baton Rouge.

Westlake marks completion of $425 million Geismar plant

The completion of Westlake Chemical's $425 million chlor-alkali plant in Geismar means the company is now providing internally produced chlorine for its adjacent vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Westlake CEO Albert Chao in Geismar today to highlight the completion of the chlor-alkali plant, which includes the capacity for 350,000 tons of chlorine per year and 385,000 tons of caustic soda per year. On top of creating 70 new direct jobs and retaining 75 existing employees, LED estimates the project will result in an additional 384 indirect jobs. Development of the new chlor-alkali plant began in 2010 and created 2,000 construction jobs at peak activity. For its downstream building products companies, Westlake provides PVC pipe for water and sewer applications, PVC siding, windows, fencing and other building products. "The new facility is adjacent to the existing facilities and the construction of this new plant is consistent with...

Construction boom veterans: The time to act is now

Several hundred industrial contractors, suppliers, educators, lawyers and financiers gathered Thursday evening to hear directly from those who have been in the trenches what the coming industrial boom will mean for their businesses. Veterans from industrial construction, plant operations and human resources had cautionary tales for the crowd of listeners eager to hear how their companies can hitch their wagons to the construction boom star. The event, hosted by Regions Bank and co-sponsored by the Kean Miller law firm and Business Report, provided historical perspective on why Louisiana is a magnet for industry, especially petrochemicals, and what we can learn from previous booms. The first thing to understand, according to Dan Borné, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, is that the impending boom did not occur out of nowhere. "We shouldn't lose sight of the gifts that have provided the platform," he said. "God gave us dead dinosaurs to create a Jurassic Park of...

B.R. firm tapped for studies to help southwest La. prepare for industrial boom

Two major studies have been launched to assess how southwest Louisiana can prepare for the multibillion dollar industry expansions planned for the next decade. The American Press reports more than 70 business and community leaders met in Lake Charles on Wednesday to learn about the SWLA Regional Impact Study and the SWLA Regional Housing Strategic Plan. Conducted by CSRS, an engineering, architectural and program management firm based in Baton Rouge, in partnership with the Go Group and the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the studies will seek information from business leaders, elected officials and the community to help southwest Louisiana prepare for the challenges associated with unprecedented industrial expansion. "The challenges and the opportunities that southwest Louisiana has right now are unparalleled," says Travis Woodard, a principal at CSRS. The Regional Impact Study will focus on the five-parish region around Lake Charles. The study is being...

CB&I lands contract to provide Dow with pipes for new plants in La., Texas

CB&I, which last year acquired Baton Rouge-based The Shaw Group in a deal worth roughly $3 billion, this morning announced it has been awarded a contract to make pipes for Dow Chemical Co. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Specifically, CB&I will be fabricating pipes for Dow's U.S. Gulf Coast Investment Program, which includes at least five new plants in Louisiana and Texas. "CB&I's strategically-located fabrication facilities, production management systems and manufacturing technology give us the unique capability to provide complete piping solutions for major energy infrastructure projects," says Luke Scorsone, president of CB&I's fabrication services operating group, in a prepared statement. "This distinct expertise offers our customers greater quality, efficiency and schedule reliability, and in turn, we help our customers get their products to market faster." Dow's Gulf Coast...

Chemical gold

Businesses across south Louisiana are well-acquainted with the economic tsunami generated by cheap natural gas that is spurring billions of dollars in industrial investment in Louisiana.

'Business Report': What businesses need to know about reaping rewards of manufacturing renaissance in La.

The manufacturing boom looming large in south Louisiana has brought with it not only a boom in construction but a boom in financing as well. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, billions in construction projects are planned, primarily along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and around Lake Charles, over the next three to four years. Workers and small business owners stand to benefit from an unrivaled period of growth. "Even if only a quarter of the announcements ultimately get built, we're going to see growth like we've never seen," says Danny Montelaro, executive vice president at Regions Bank. But the dramatic increase in work won't be limited solely to contractors and suppliers serving the petrochemical industry. Indeed, according to Bennett Blackledge, sales and operations manager at Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, the boom will benefit "almost every industry, from the mortgage industry to the restaurant industry." That prospect is...

LABI outlines plan to address La. skilled worker shortage

In advance of its annual meeting on Wednesday, LABI has released a paper outlining its approach to addressing one of the greatest challenges facing the state: the need for an estimated 86,000 new craft workers in the state by 2016. More than $60 billion in new and expanded projects have been announced for Louisiana in recent years, and LABI notes economists expect the state to surpass the 2 million jobs mark for the first time in its history sometime next year. "The coming industrial expansion will build upon decades of anecdotal complaints confirmed by studies that Louisiana has an inadequate and under-prepared workforce," reads the paper. "In a recent survey, more than one-third of 3,000 employers in Louisiana cited an inability to find qualified, skilled or experienced applicants as the greatest difficulty in filling open positions. This deficit of knowledge, skills and talent slows and inhibits growth, putting billions of projects nationally at risk." To address the problem, LABI...

Financing the boom

The manufacturing boom looming large in south Louisiana has brought with it not only a boom in construction but a boom in financing as well.