I wanna know: Is the big boom coming or is it here? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

I wanna know: Is the big boom coming or is it here?

Are we almost there?  A lot of people are asking when the "economic boom" we've been hearing about is coming. 

Southwest Louisiana is said to have $86 billion in projects.  So when is the boom coming, or is it here? 

Some people, like Don Loughney, with the Port of Lake Charles, say you can feel it:

"In this city now you actually feel. It's like when you go to Hong Kong or New York or Madrid there's a friction, there's a, there's something going on here. That's what we feel now. It's, it's, it's coming,"he said at a recent meeting with business people from Spain.

So when will the boom arrive?

"Well, it's here now and it's beginning to ramp up and each year over the next three or four years, it will increase," said George Swift, who heads the SWLA Economic Development Alliance.  

He says some of the $86 billion in projects is already finished.  The Golden Nugget for example:  A  $700 million development completed and opened in December.

And Swift says a lot is now under construction. 

"$31 billion is under construction as of today.  So, that's already more than anywhere in the State of Louisiana and anywhere in the nation that we've found."said Swift.

For example, at Cheniere LNG in Cameron Parish, upwards of 4,000 people are at work.  It's a huge project with numerous mega cranes that rise above the project.

You almost get a better feel for the size of the Cheniere project from the Texas side, where the bridge approach from the west reveals the massive construction project valued at $20 billion. 

Sherry Seat is the Cameron Parish Library Spokesperson who works just east of Cheniere.  She knows about the boom.

"It's already hit here in Johnson Bayou.  And I can actually say that for a fact."

She says people have come from all over.

"People keep coming in and coming in and these people are coming from Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama. We have received so many people coming into the library with reference questions and information about the area,"said Seat.

And she thinks it's great, though she admits they weren't prepared.

"These are families with children, going to school here in Johnson Bayou.  And their main complaint was when they came, there were no facilities for them.  There was no housing available.  Many of them have moved to Port Arthur," said Seat. 

And Swift says the construction will continue to ramp up over the next four years.

"If you go to the Cheniere project in Cameron Parish a good bit of that is nearing completion, in the first phase and so, I think there's a lot more going on here than most people realize and you only have to ride around and look and you can see all of the houses and apartments being built, new retail and restaurants that are coming all over the region."

"It will not be like one day everything happens at once. So, in 2015 you're going to see a number of workers coming in working on the Sasol Ethane Cracker unit.  They will ultimately have 5,000 construction workers to build that unit alone. Plus we have other projects so it will continue to ramp up.  Some of these projects will be pushed back or delayed because of permitting or world conditions, but we are still confident that we're going to have more projects than anywhere in the nation," said Swift.

A drive by Sempra/Cameron LNG and Sasol Ethane Cracker project reveal a whirlwind heavy equipment engaged in site preparation.

Swift urges people to take advantage of the opportunity. He says there's a continuing need to respond with more infrastructure, roads, water, sewerage; housing, temporary and permanent; as well as services and retail to accommodate all the workers. 

"I would focus on what we have now which is over $30 billion as a minimum, over $30 billion dollars and realize that that's more than anywhere in the state, anywhere in the nation that we've found.  And so we need to take advantage of it and that means  workers getting skills, so they can get these jobs, businesses expanding or retooling or whatever they need to do to take advantage of it and not worry about what we don't have because what we have is bigger than anywhere in the country," he said.


The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance is working on an updated list of projects-- to identify those complete, underway and still in the future.

Copyright 2015 KPLC All rights reserved

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