Op-Ed: Expanding the plastics finished goods industry in New Orleans
October 16, 2017
As we approach New Orleans’ tricentennial and focus on economic development and creating real opportunities that will have a dynamic impact, the case for expanding the plastics finished goods / products industry is very strong.
New Orleans-based manufacturers could produce packaging, automotive components, household items, electronic components, etc. Several existing factors make this an optimal choice for expanding our local economy.
The most obvious is the dramatically low cost of production of plastic finished goods in Louisiana. Two key factors contribute to this: the low cost of plastic resin and the low cost of power. Many of the major petrochemical companies have expanded and are increasing plastic resin production. As a result, resin – which is 95 percent of the materials’ cost – is readily available at a minimal cost. In addition, we have an abundant supply of natural gas for power generation, resulting in one of the lowest costs per kilowatt hour in the country.
The other major factor is an established infrastructure for transporting resin to a production facility in our area. The Port of New Orleans is the most efficient port for receiving and transporting resin. Facilities built around our port and rail facilities would benefit from reduced transportation costs and an ample supply of resin for production. In addition, New Orleans is home to companies with deep expertise in packaging and transporting resin, such as TCI Packaging.
And, if the state of Louisiana wants to be supportive of the industry, it can offer a 5 to 10 percent discount off the world market price of resin to those companies that make value-added plastics products from Louisiana Natural Gas Plastic Resin in plants located in Louisiana and using our state’s labor pool.
The expansion of plastics finished goods manufacturing in New Orleans will also foster technological innovation – AI, automation, data analytics, IoT, and new methods – and expand opportunities for emerging companies that provide new technologies and services. An example is New Orleans-based Fluence Analytics, which provides industrial monitoring solutions for the polymer and biopharmaceutical manufacturers. Needless to say, this will also help to rapidly expand our industrial innovation eco-system so that New Orleans can attract and foster the creation of more companies focused on developing new technologies and services for industrials, which is over 60 percent of Louisiana’s gross domestic product.
The social benefits to our city and state are clear. Expanding the finished goods market for plastics in New Orleans will help to reduce unemployment, create productive jobs and bolster our skilled workforce recruitment efforts. The key is demonstrating that manufacturing is an expanding sector that can provide economic longevity and stability for our labor pool. Lastly, this can also aid in addressing income equality issues.
It is my hope that we focus on expanding this key, vital segment in the plastics value chain and create a major hub for the finished goods industry here in New Orleans. We have all the essential components of a thriving industry in place already.
Hank Torbert is president of Alta Max LLC and founder of The Frontier Conference.