Nov. 14, 2014 11:30 AM

Lake Charles lets Acadiana companies in on the action as our neighbor to the west prepares for unprecedented growth.

 

Lafayette-based Southern Lifestyle Development‘s The Lakes at Morganfield (above) is a conventional residential development that will eventually connect to its planned TND, the Village at Morganfield.

Two years ago, Acadiana and Southwest Louisiana signed a formal contract establishing the Greater Southwest Louisiana Super Region. The mission: foster cooperation for mutual economic benefit. That concept was put to the test on Oct. 1 when Acadiana Economic Development, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and SWLA Economic Development Alliance teamed up to educate local businesses about the more than $68 billion in industrial projects coming to the Lake Charles region.

Lafayette‘s neighbor to the west, Calcasieu Parish is expecting a boom to rival the oil one Acadiana experienced in the 1970s. Lake Charles is currently leading the nation in new capital investment, with South African chemical company Sasol Ltd.‘s liquefied natural gas plant the largest project announced to date, followed by others from Cheniere Energy, Trunkline LNG, Sempra and Magnolia.

"We want to make sure these opportunities are spread across Southwest Louisiana and into Acadiana," says AED Director Rebecca Shirley. Giving the presentation was David Conner, the alliance‘s vice president of economic development and international services, who introduced about 40 representatives from area businesses to projects under way in Calcasieu Parish and their projected construction schedules.

"We really wanted our businesses here in Acadiana to have an opportunity to learn about these projects, understand timelines and see how they can potentially connect either as a vendor, supplemental contractor or subcontractor," Shirley says.

According to Conner, industries needed in his region will be across the board: "Anything you can determine that a refinery or petrochemical company needs now, all the way from direct support to what we call induced jobs, which is dry cleaners and medical and those kinds of things."

 "In Lake Charles, we are trying to capture as much of the coming growth as we can."
- Prescott Bailey, development associate for Southern Lifestyle Development, parent company of River Ranch Development

Economist Loren Scott has projected the Lake Charles area will see an additional 3,300 jobs in 2014 and another 4,500 in 2015. Larger projections have the city preparing for some 25,000 temporary workers in the short term and then another 20,000 permanent workers after facilities are constructed.

Lake Charles has been ahead of the game for a while now and is already building two worker villages and numerous housing developments. Conner and his team commissioned a comprehensive housing study that‘s expected to be released in January, but it doesn‘t include Acadiana as a market that will be affected. What it does take into account is our local developers heading down the interstate.

"We [included] housing developers from the Acadiana region who have been around here looking for opportunities to build, and we‘ve seen a lot coming from your region," Conner says.

Lafayette‘s Southern Lifestyle Development, parent company of River Ranch Development Co., is one example. "In Lake Charles, we are trying to capture as much of the coming growth as we can," says development associate Prescott Bailey. He and his team are working on four developments in and around the city, including The Lakes at Morganfield, a conventional residential neighborhood, and The Village at Morganfield, a traditional neighborhood development (think residential, shopping, dining, fitness and office) much like River Ranch. The TND is located south of town on East McNeese Street and will eventually connect to The Lakes at Morganfield. The Lakes at Morganfield‘s first phase is 112 lots and should be completed in December. The Village at Morganfield is set to break ground before the end of the year.

"In addition to our projects at Morganfield, we also have Belle Savanne in Sulphur, which is a 190-acre planned community that will encompass single family homes, multi-family apartments, retail and commercial. We are also working on two conventional neighborhoods, Oak Grove and Highland Hills, on a 114-acre piece of property on Hwy. 14 between Manchester Road and Hwy. 397 (southeast of Lake Charles)," Bailey tells ABiz.

Also looking ahead is Realtor Peggy Grace of Lafayette-based PAR Realty, who launched PAR Southwest in Lake Charles last November. "We wanted to be ahead of the rush," Grace told Baton Rouge Business Report‘s 10/12 Industry Report. "In the real estate business, it takes a while to develop a relationship with lenders and clients. We didn‘t want to wait until the heat was on."

Shirley does predict that Lake Charles won‘t be able to hold all if its new residents, making Acadiana a possible alternative for those who don‘t mind a commute. In turn, Lafayette residents can look forward to increased cultural opportunities in Lake Charles, starting with development along the riverfront.

Lake Charles Downtown Director Lori Marinovich says the district is starting to see more of the creative class moving in, with multiple-tenant buildings, food trucks and street performers following suit. Downtown Lake Charles‘ biggest asset is its waterfront access though. A white sand beach, boardwalk and waterfront parks are already in place, but opportunities for boat and watercraft rental, along with riverfront dining and the planned National Hurricane Museum & Science Center - expected to come on board in 2018 - will complete the package.

"We are trying to entice developers to come in and develop for commercial, retail and entertainment, with possibly a residential component," Marinovich says.

Lafayette developers, retail shops and restaurants need to keep an eye to the west and consider the opportunities. For companies interested, the Safety Council of Southwest Louisiana has set up a website (check it out here) to register vendors online so that industries can match up their needs with services available. The site‘s terms of service state that the database is expected to be used for bidding purposes and future vendor or supplier opportunities.

While there‘s certain to be some competition among companies providing a similar service, Conner says his team is sticking to the super region agreement when it comes to spreading the wealth.

"We realize we‘re going to have to accept companies outside of our region, and the first step is having Acadiana companies take advantage of this," Conner says. "Before having out of state and out of the country guys come, let‘s see what we can do for our immediate neighbors."

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