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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Editorial: Tip of the hat to the Port for industrial housing complex

Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 4:05 PM

The Port of Lake Charles and its board of commissioners deserve plaudits for taking steps to fill a looming housing need in Southwest Louisiana.

The port announced last week its intention to build an industrial housing complex that could accommodate as many as 4,000 workers. The $70 million facility will be built on 200 acres of port land on Louisiana 397, southeast of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office and Calcasieu Correctional Center. Rent that will be charged workers will pay for the facility that can be deconstructed and moved once demand for housing in the area wanes.

The complex is being built in anticipation of a flood of construction workers who will be lured to the area by new petro-chemical facilities and modifications and expansions of existing ones in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes.

The unprecedented $47 billion construction boom proposed during this decade could require as many as 15,000 construction jobs. That’s easily more than the local labor force can fill, which means skilled workers will be traveling from near and far to become the supply for the demand.

Housing these nomadic workers has always been a major concern for the companies that plan to employ them and for local officials. The private sector can shoulder some of the load with existing properties and the construction of some mobile home parks. But large-scale construction on the level that the port has envisioned is unlikely because the construction boom will be relatively short-lived and investors would be resistant to building large developments or apartment complexes, given the fact that these construction jobs will begin to tail off dramatically by 2020, if not sooner.

The port’s housing complex will include different dining options, recreational facilities and other amenities for workers and their families in a self-contained community. Ian Foster of Greenfield Logistical Solutions of Louisiana, which will design the facility, said it will ‘‘provide a world-class village in support of local project activity.’’

The facility, located about a mile south of Interstate 10, will also lend itself to mass transit. The new Sasol gas-to-liquid facility in Westlake is expected to employ 7,000 construction workers at peak time. Getting a huge workforce of that size to the job site has been an issue that has caused local officials sleepless nights.

The port housing complex is not the total answer to the expected housing crunch, but it’s a welcome tonic.

Port officials and board members deserve a tip of the cap for their vision and resourcefulness in trying to fill this void.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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