Moret says future looking better, better for Southwest Louisiana

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

The state’s chief economic development officer said the outlook for Southwest Louisiana is “amazingly positive,” with the

region competing for yet another round of major manufacturing projects within the next year.

“As things go forward, the future keeps looking better and better for this area,” state Economic Development Secretary Stephen

Moret told the American Press editorial board on Wednesday.

Some of the top energy and chemical companies based outside of the United States are facing significant structural changes

in their economics because of what’s happened with shale gas in the United States, he said. Overseas companies are looking

to shift more of their capacity to the U.S., particularly Southwest Louisiana, he said.

More than $47 billion in projects has already been announced in Southwest Louisiana, adding 5,000 permanent jobs and thousands

more indirect jobs over the next five years, Moret said.

He said gross domestic product growth in Louisiana over the last five years has been 50 percent better than U.S. GDP growth.

And over that five-year period, he said, Southwest Louisiana has been the second-fastest-growing part of the state.

Moret dubbed right now as the “calm before a good storm.”

He said the region needs to stay

focused on site development — particularly in the rural areas of

parishes surrounding Calcasieu.

He also noted that within the next few

months, the state will implement an updated import/export tax credit

that will directly

benefit the Port of Lake Charles. Moving forward, state officials

will focus on workforce development ahead of business development.

He said he wants to “aggressively work to diversify the economy.”

He commended efforts by the Southwest Louisiana Task Force for Growth and Opportunity, or Go Group, to prepare for the looming

population increase.