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Monday, Oct. 7, 2019

Local Economy To Hold Steady

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A (very) modest recovery for Shreveport-Bossier MSA

The good news is that after about eight years of losses, we see the Shreveport-Bossier MSA on an expansion path over the next two years. The not-so-great news is we see this trend being modest at best. We are projecting the Shreveport-Bossier MSA will add about 300 jobs a year over 2020-21, a growth rate of about 0.2%.

On the negative side, given recent trends we expect to see further job leakages from the area originating in the gaming industry and at Barksdale. While some diminishment in troop/civilian strength at the airbase will be an issue, there are some sizeable capital projects at Barksdale that will give the area a boost. For example, work has begun on a $100+ million I-220 interchange into the base and a new gate at that spot. A $20 million 2nd Communications Squadron complex will be started later this year, and a long-planned $170-$225 million weapons storage facility will probably see construction start in 2021.

Biggest Action at the Port

Some of the more positive news for the region is coming from the Port of Caddo- Bossier. Benteler Steel opened the doors of its new $665 million tube mill in late 2015 and was at 395 jobs at the beginning of 2017. By the end of this year, employment will have swelled to 530, and expectations are to add 21 new slots by 2021, and Benteler announced a $35 million capital project spread over 2020-21.

Going forward, all eyes will be on the very successful steel fabricator Ternium. This company has a workforce of 170 and is near completion of a $14.7 million, 24,000-square-foot warehouse for finished goods. Coming next year is another $10.4 million capital investment.

One of the larger employers at the Port is Sports South with 245 employees, a number that should not change, and Pratt is a recycled paper mill whose employment is at 115 and probably will change little over 2020-21. About $2.5 million will be spent at Pratt on maintenance and efficiency efforts.

Ronpak, which started at the Port in 2012 with 50 employees, now has tripled that number and is enjoying 10-15% growth year over year, and Calumet Packaging now employs 97 people at the Port and is holding at that level. The firm plans $1.2 million in spending for tank upgrades.

The National Cyber Research Park Keeps Chugging

One of the great success stories for the northwest corner of the state has been what is now called the National Cyber Research Park. Focusing on cybersecurity, the NCRP now has three centers: (1) a customer engagement center on Benton Road, (2) the Cyber Innovation Center, and (3) the General Dynamics IT Center.

The latter two are located on the Cyber Campus across I-20 from Barksdale. There is now a large Louisiana Tech building on the campus to specifically train people to work on cybersecurity. Already at 1,100 employees, the NCRP is on track to add even more high-wage jobs over our forecast period.

Fibrebond, Health Care, Call Centers, Manufacturers, Western & Roads

Fibrebond is a manufacturer of modular electrical buildings made of galvanized steel. Fibrebond has 752 people working at its plant in Minden. Among its customers are the LNG export facilities being built on the Gulf Coast.

In the health-care sector, there are three significant projects in the pipeline. Christus Health Systems is beginning a $43 million, two-year renovation of its medical center. Ochsner will spend $40 million on a former Christus Hospital that has been closed for five years. A $14.2 million expansion of the Center for Molecular Imaging & Therapy will be underway until opening in 2020-IV.

YoungWilliams is spending $1.5 million on a LAHelpU call center for child support and public assistance programs. The firm will pay about $27,000 a year annually to each of its 80 new employees. Catamaran Solutions purchased the old Reynolds Industrial Contractors site and will hire 120 people to work in the area of advanced industrial manufacturing.

Western Global Airlines is now firmly entrenched in the old Express Jet facility at the airport. Western spent $3 million renovating Hangar 40 and hired 125 people to do aircraft maintenance work. The company plans to add another 45 employees over 2020-21. Another manufacturing firm – Super ATV – is spending $4.35 million on a manufacturing and distribution facility for a variety of all-terrain vehicles and plans to hire 75 people.

Hopeful about Haynesville

A key variable for folks in this area to watch is the Haynesville Shale rig count. After peaking at 142 rigs in April 2010, the count plummeted to only 15 rigs in June 2016. Since then the rig count has doubled to the 35 range. As the LNG and chemical projects in the southern part of the state – and in southeast Texas – come on line, they have a strong appetite for the nearby gas in the Haynesville. This gas is hundreds of miles closer than gas from the Permian Basin. Driftwood LNG is proposing to build the Haynesville Global Access Pipeline down to its site in the Lake Charles area. In addition, Enterprise Pipeline is exploring the construction of the Lumberjack Pipeline to get Haynesville gas to Texas LNG plants. This is very good news for the Haynesville Play and this MSA.

Dr. Loren C.Scott is professor emeritus in economics at LSU and president of Loren C. Scott & Associates Inc.


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