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Where The Jobs Are -- And Who Is Filling Them

Whether it’s refundable tax credits, a decade's worth of property tax forgiveness, or cash up front, Louisiana is making deals with industry. In fact, state Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson has a new video out about it.

New investments are critical to Louisiana’s economic strength, because they generate revenue, bring new jobs, provide more work for local businesses,” he says in the video.

But state Representative Sam Jones of Franklin wonders, “If indeed the purpose of these were to create jobs – and I don’t doubt that some of them did – where are those jobs?”

The latest state labor figures show those jobs are not in New Orleans or Shreveport, Monroe or Lafayette. All of those metro areas have seen net job losses over the past year.

The only big job gains are centered around Lake Charles.

Right now, we have $45-billion in projects under way, and we have at least 16,000 construction workers working on these projects,” Southwest Louisiana Chamber CEO George Swift says, adding, “We have another $72-million in projects in the pipeline.”

One of the current projects is the $14-billion Sasol expansion in Westlake, with construction presently 55% complete.

Sasol has generated more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state during the construction. The majority have been Louisiana residents,” DED Secretary Pierson says in his ad.

While the so-called “indirect jobs” have gone to locals – support services for the project, ranging from construction supplies to trash pickup – local news reports indicate the majority of the construction workers have been imported from other states, especially Texas.

We don’t have the housing for the independent workers that come to town,” states Port of Lake Charles director William Rase.

In fact, the housing shortage in the area is so massive, it has resulted in many mobile home parks evicting all the previous local residents in order to bring in trailers that can be rented to workers at much higher prices than former residents paid for their lots.

It has also prompted the building of several “workers’ villages”. These facilities are basically dormitory complexes, housing up to 4000 construction workers in one location. Known as “man camps”, the rooms in the facilities are designed for single occupancy, not for family housing.

In other words, this is temporary housing for temporary workers, rather than homes for Louisiana citizens and taxpayers becoming employed for the long term.