Can a parish of 130,000 people change the world?
If you’re talking about Ascension Parish, Louisiana, the answer is a resounding yes.
Located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Ascension Parish arguably has become the epicenter of the nation’s chemical and petrochemical industrial establishment — a defining quality that recently became even more important than it already was.
Since 2006, Ascension has landed more than $10.5 billion in new capital investment projects that have created over 3,200 jobs. The bulk of these expansions have come in chemical and petrochemical manufacturing.
Last December, Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. made a feasibility announcement of a $1.3 billion investment that creates 125 jobs in Ascension. The Japan-based firm purchased a greenfield site in Geismar.
The plant is expected to be one of the most advanced chemical manufacturing facilities in the world. The complex will produce methyl methacrylate, or MMA, a foundational chemical for making acrylic-based polymers. MMA is found in paints, adhesives, and clear acrylic barriers that are often used in indoor environments for virus protection.
Ascension is also seeing an uptick in activity in the green economy. Last October, Renewable Energy Group Inc. said it would expand its capacity at its Geismar biorefinery plant by 250 million gallons annually to 340 million gallons per year. The $825 million investment creates 60 jobs and is slated for completion by late 2023. REG conducted a comprehensive site search before choosing Geismar.
“REG Geismar has proven to be a tremendous asset for our company and is a natural site for increasing production of our lower carbon renewable diesel,” said Cynthia Warner, president and CEO of REG. “The state of Louisiana and Ascension Parish have been great partners who encouraged us every step along the way as we developed our expansion plan. They truly understand the broad economic and environmental benefits that renewable fuels provide.”
REG Geismar was the first renewable diesel plant built in the U.S. before it was purchased by REG in 2014.
“This is an exciting milestone for our business as we continue to advance our drive to produce low-carbon fuels at significant scale,” said Warner. “We are developing this project with our proprietary process technology and are proud to continue to deliver sustainable fuel solutions to our customers and accelerate the transition to cleaner energy.”
In a prepared statement, the company said that “the Geismar industrial area provides the needed infrastructure and process materials we require to produce renewable diesel and is an important asset for the parish. Marine logistics to ship our feedstocks in and finished product across the globe is key for our long-term success here. Finally, the workforce and skilled people locally are important as we look at our current facility and future growth.” The company added that “the local workforce is hardworking, knowledgeable, and take safety extremely seriously, which is a core value at REG.”
REG and Mitsubishi have company. They were joined in Ascension last year by Highway Transport, Westlake Chemical and CF Industries. Together, these three expansion projects added another $123 million in capital investment to the parish.
Kate MacArthur, president and CEO of Ascension Economic Development Corp., says there is a simple explanation for this new wave of energy spending. “This is the easiest and best location to operate a business,” she says. “This is the most business-friendly area you will find in Louisiana. Chemical and petrochemical companies have been doing business here for 60 years, and we have an experienced workforce.”
MacArthur adds that “we have 12 projects that will make a final investment decision within the year. Those potential projects represent approximately $4 billion in new investment and 500 new jobs. These project sectors include food and beverage manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, medical marijuana R&D and manufacturing, renewable energy manufacturing, green ammonia manufacturing and logistics.”
The ascent continues with location assets that include a 17,000-acre site with multiple pipelines and rail, access to Interstate 10, three class 1 railroads, and eight available certified sites ranging from 23 to 1,000 acres.
This investment profile was prepared under the auspices of the Ascension Economic Development Corp. For more information, contact Kate MacArthur at 225-644-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web, go to www.ascensionedc.com.
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.