(The Center Square) – Gov. John Bel Edwards is touting hundreds of millions of dollars in planned business investments as evidence Louisiana’s workforce and tax incentives are attracting growing industries to the Pelican State.
Edwards highlighted two recent investments this week that are expected to result in more than 1,000 jobs in coming years, both of which tie into the governor’s focus on climate change.
Origin Materials, “a carbon-negative materials company,” plans to invest at least $750 million to construct a 150-acre biomass manufacturing facility in Ascension Parish that will process wood residue into polyethylene terephthalate used in packaging, textiles, apparel and other applications. The planned plant in Geismar also is expected to produce hydrothermal carbon for fuel pellets.
The new facility will create 200 new direct jobs at an annual salary of more than $90,000, with benefits, as well as 857 indirect jobs in the Capital Region. The company expects to start construction by mid-2023 and to be up and running by mid-2025, according to an Edwards statement.
“Their unique process of developing PET products from renewable wood fibers is yet another example of how the global shift toward sustainability can be a catalyst for economic investment and job creation in our state,” Edwards said. “The company’s carbon-negative mission aligns with our Climate Action Plan’s approach to limiting the severity of climate change while maintaining economic competitiveness in a low-carbon future.”
Origin Materials Co-CEO John Bissell said the new facility will help meet high demand for the company’s products, expanding from two existing sites in California and Ontario, Canada. He pointed to support from state and local business development officials and the state’s workforce and resources for the company’s decision to locate in Louisiana.
“The demand for ‘net zero’-enabling materials is extremely strong, and we believe this plant will be instrumental in addressing demand for our products in the United States and internationally,” Bissell said. “We are grateful for the partnership of Louisiana Economic Development, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Ascension Parish for the support they have provided in the site selection process. The local talent is world-class across refining, forestry and agronomy, feedstock logistics and chemicals. The site sits along the Mississippi River with easy access to barge and rail and plentiful local wood residue feedstock. The proposed incentive package for building in the area is compelling and the local industrial cluster can provide access to hydrogen, ethylene, water treatment and more.”
The state’s incentive package included services from the workforce development program LED FastStart, a $6 million performance-based award distributed over six years, and tax savings through Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
Edwards also highlighted a $176 million plan by Syrah Technologies to expand an existing graphite processing facility in Vidalia to feed the electric vehicle industry. The expansion is expected to create 36 jobs with annual salaries averaging $69,000, plus benefits, in addition to the 19 employees currently working at the facility. Louisiana Economic Development estimated the project would result in 52 indirect jobs, as well.
The plans will add 180,000 square feet of processing space to the existing 50,000 square foot facility, where Syrah Technologies will turn natural graphite into active anode material (AAM) for lithium-ion batteries.
Construction on the expansion is expected to begin this spring and wrap up in the middle of next year. Syrah Technologies is a subsidiary of Australia-based Syrah Resources, which owns one of the world’s largest graphite mines in Mozambique. The expansion in Vidalia, which will allow annual production of 11,250 tonnes of AAM, comes about a year after the company announced a supply agreement with Tesla Inc. The company is utilizing the same state incentives as Origin Materials.
“Today’s announcement by Syrah Technologies is another example of how Louisiana’s commitment to a cleaner energy future can strengthen our economy,” Edwards said. “This is just the beginning of Louisiana’s efforts to help vehicle manufacturers leverage our state’s unique logistical advantages to meet increasing electric car and truck demand.”
Syrah Resources CEO Shaun Verner cited the state’s focus on sustainable development as a big factor in the planned expansion.
“This is a confirmation of our vision to develop the first AAM facility in the U.S. and in Louisiana,” Verner said. “Louisiana has all the right elements for the development of new technology in the manufacturing sector, including a vision for sustainable development that aligns well with Syrah’s values. Vidalia is a great community that has access to technology centers and benefits from excellent supply chain logistics optionality for this and potentially future expansions.”