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Local economist thinks area could become economic powerhouse

Last Modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 1:51 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

A local economist is of the opinion that Southwest Louisiana is going to become an economic powerhouse in the near future.

Michael Kurth, director of the H.C. Drew Center for Business and Economic Analysis at McNeese State University, released the region’s 2012 economic report Oct. 1.

“The most important finding is what most people in industry know already. It looks like a huge economic boom is heading our way,” he told the American Press on Saturday.

In the report, Kurth identifies Calcasieu Parish as the key beneficiary for whatever economic growth occurs.

He noted that state economists Jim Richardson and Loren Scott believe Lake Charles could add 5,200 new jobs within the next two years.

Cheap natural gas and hydraulic fracturing are the reasons the city will benefit, Kurth surmises.

“Very low natural gas prices make this area of the Gulf region from Houston to New Orleans the cheapest place in the world to make plastics and petrochemicals,” he said.

Kurth said large continental oil finds — like the Bakken shale formation in Montana, North Dakota and west Canada — mean more refinery production. Companies drilling those fields need a pipeline to move oil to national refineries and propose constructing that type of infrastructure.

“If they are built, these pipelines will provide a major boost to the refining and petrochemical industry stretching from Houston to Baton Rouge,” the report reads.

Beauregard and Allen parishes — areas with strong ties to the timber industry and where unemployment is 8.5 percent and 10.4 percent — may not reap the benefits of the economic growth “until the housing market revives,” the report says.

“That is because of the housing bust a few years ago. The timber market is very weak. Until homes are built in large numbers, plywood isn’t needed right now,” Kurth said.

Jefferson Davis Parish, where agriculture is dominant, is expected to benefit from rising food prices around the world, while Cameron Parish should continue seeing low population figures. “The only bright spot there (Cameron Parish) is Cheniere Energy’s $6 billion project to enable its Sabine Pass terminal to liquefy natural gas for export,” the report reads.

Kurth thinks the Lake Charles casino industry is at an important juncture with the construction of Ameristar Lake Charles taking place.

He thinks joint marketing between Ameristar and Pinnacle Entertainment’s L’Auberge property could double the market.

“It will all depend on how much they work together. Is Ameristar just going to come in and take half the business away from Pinnacle and split the market. If that happens, there will be no major impact on the market. I think both companies understand that,” Kurth said.

Texas is still considered the primary market for gambling operators in Lake Charles.

Kurth estimates the market could grow to twice its size within a five-year period if the two companies market jointly.

Posted By: Andrew S. On: 10/15/2012

Title: Economic Boom

I keep hearing this story from Kurth and others as well in the community. I'd like to see it actually happen.

Posted By: clauce On: 10/14/2012

Title: Economic boom

I hope this shows up soon. We have been hearing this same story for several years without much fruittion. My paycheck is based on commission and has been smaller than it was 5 years ago.

Posted By: Steve A On: 10/14/2012

Title: Economic Boom

Well, I sure hope that it reflects in our paychecks...........so far, what I get as compensation has not kept up with what the cost of inflation has risen too................I and I know that there are those here that make a lot less than I do.

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