Access to global supply chains has never been more critical than now, and few places in America have better access than West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.
Home to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, this 27,000-resident parish may be tiny in population, but it’s giant in global trade. The port ranks fourth in total cargo volume from domestic trade with 47.2 million tons in 2018, and No. 8 in in total trade with 87.2 million tons.
With 85 miles along the Mississippi River and situated at the convergence of Big Muddy and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the port is an essential operation not just to Louisiana, but to all of the U.S. and a huge swath of the world.
This has never been more evident than in recent days, when a global pandemic shut down most commercial operations worldwide, but not at the port. “Our operations are still hovering in the high 90% range,” Port Executive Director Jay Hardman said in early April during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We handle a lot of bulk commodities. There has been very little slowdown in those operations.”
Just how critical is the Port of Greater Baton Rouge to the U.S. economy? Consider this: Major tenants like Drax Group PLC, Louis Dreyfus Commodities LLC and Genesis Energy LP expanded operations recently to expedite shipment of needed wood pellets, grains and energy supplies to market. Drax went from 10- to 12-hour shifts and grew its workforce to more than 100 to keep up with demand.
“Dreyfus has put a couple hundred million dollars into their grain elevator,” says Hardman. “Genesis Energy is a midstream operation that put close to $150 million into the port tank and terminal operation and ran pipelines to our docks. They bring in crude oil for the cracker refinery to handle.”
The Drax expansion just been a boon to Louisiana timber mills and the port. “About 2 million tons of wood pellets are going out per year,” Hardman says. “We normally have a wood pellet ship at the dock most of the time. They’ve brought new business of 40 to 45 ships a year.”
With 3,500 linear feet of deepwater dock, the port can handle some of the bigger cargo ships. “We’re concluding a $15 million rehab and enhancement project on the docks,” notes Hardman. “We’re also putting in a $22 million rail yard to handle unit trains for pellet mills.”
Parish President Riley Berthelot says the assets of West Baton Rouge make it an easy sell to business prospects. “We have the Kansas City Southern Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad,” he says. “We have Highway 190, Interstate 10 and two bridges crossing the Mississippi. In less than 10 minutes, I can be anywhere in the city of Baton Rouge and LSU. Employers can draw workers from a population of 780,000 in the region. We have great public schools and plenty of available sites.”
On top of that, the president adds, “This is a great place to live, work and raise a family. We love it here. We have the perfect balance between our industrial and commercial business. We have the best of both worlds.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact Jamie Hanks at 225-200-4984 or by email at Jamie@wbrchamber.org. On the web, go to www.wbrchamber.org.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.