Last Modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 11:14 AM
Being open to industrial expansion and making sure training is available for a skilled workforce is paying off for Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.
Those two cities rank among the top 25 cities in the U.S. for the most construction jobs added in the past year, according to a new report from the Associated General Contractors of America.
From January 2013 to January 2014, Lake Charles has gone from 9,800 construction jobs to 11,800, according to the AGC report. That 20 percent growth was the eighth-biggest gain in the nation.
A key ingredient to our local success has been having the good fortune to have two excellent educational institutions to provide the training needed for such expansion — Sowela Technical College Community College and McNeese State University.
Our local public and private schools also deserve credit for helping many young people prepare for a future in technical careers. Without those educational opportunities to produce the skilled construction and petrochemical workers needed, such major expansions would not be possible.
Baton Rouge added 4,500 construction jobs in the same period, going from 41,500 in January 2013 to 46,000, an 11 percent gain. That tied Baton Rouge for 22nd place with 15 other cities, including San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, Tenn., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
The AGC noted that Baton Rouge previously hit its January peak for construction employment in 2013. So the Capital Region was the leading city in terms of the number of new jobs added since hitting the peak.
Both Baton Rouge and Lake Charles have been boosted by major industrial construction projects tied to expansions in the petrochemical industry. But the biggest expansion is yet to come for Southwest Louisiana, where more than $60 billion worth of petrochemical projects are planned for construction over the next four to five years.
Other Louisiana cities saw modest gains in the report. The number of construction workers in Lafayette increased by 300 over the year, or 4 percent, to hit 7,000. New Orleans and Houma-Thibodaux saw no change in the number of construction workers, holding still at 5,400 and 30,400. And Shreveport-Bossier City dropped by 100 construction workers to 7,800. AGC bases its report on an analysis of federal employment data.
But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.
Keeping up with the needs of an expanding economy also means making sure our educational opportunities, housing and infrastructure continue to evolve to meet the demand.