Ascension Economic Development Corp. recaps year

Staff reports

The Ascension Economic Development Corporation announced last week what it termed encouraging results for 2009 despite challenging economic conditions.

Working closely with its state, regional and local partners, AEDC announced 237 new jobs in the parish through the orporation’s business attraction, expansion and retention programs.

These projects resulted in the commitment by the effected enterprises to invest some $86 million in new capital in the Parish, AEDC said in a release.

President and CEO Mike Eades said that Ascension has continued to out-perform the Baton Rouge MSA and the State of Louisiana as a whole during the last several years. From November 2005 through November 2009, the parish resident employment base grew at the rate of 19.6 percent compared to 3.8 percent growth in the Baton Rouge MSA and 5.7 percent for the state.

Two major expansions and one new project were announced in Ascension in 2009.

BASF Corporation committed about $80 million to the expansion of its production of methylamines and will create approximately 12 new jobs.

Bronco Manufacturing, a division of Excel Construction, has developed a new fabricating facility in Prairieville that will create an estimated 100 new jobs.

Smith Tank & Steel, Inc. moved into the abandoned former 84 Lumber facility and will create an estimated 25 new jobs.

In addition, AEDC played a key role in convincing Blue Runner Foods to remain in Gonzales after their facility was heavily damaged by Hurricane Gustav. The ultimate results were Blue Runner’s re-tooling of their facility, the construction of a new 15,000 square feet warehouse, the retention of two dozen existing jobs and the creation of another 5 or 6 as the facility comes back up to speed.

AEDC Chairman Johnny Berthelot said AEDC has been placing heavy emphasis and allocating resources toward courting existing firms in the parish.

“It’s been said that a community’s existing enterprises are your competitor’s best prospects,” he said. “We’re going to make certain that our existing employers know that they’re appreciated.”        

AEDC officials said that future economic development indicators are very positive for Ascension Parish in 2010.

“We have several companies looking at the parish as a potential location for new facilities plus a healthy amount of activity among existing firms who are considering expansion,” Eades reported.

“Taken together, these projects have the potential to generate between 900 and 1,000 new jobs and to invest in excess of $500 million.”

Eades added that there had been a wholesale uptick in economic development activity in the last quarter.

Berthelot said that AEDC and Ascension Parish were well positioned to close economic deals.

“All of these efforts could not be possible without the support and positive communication from the Ascension Parish and Gonzales city governments and their councils,” Berthelot explained. “In addition, we have an excellent board of directors who understands what it takes to be competitive in today’s crowded economic development marketplace. To be effective, AEDC has to think and act like a business, which includes the ability to quickly respond when opportunities arise.”