Vinai Thummalapally is the Executive Director of the SelectUSA Program.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Charles, Louisiana to congratulate South African energy giant Sasol Limited on the firm’s final investment decision to build an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex. Sasol has also confirmed an additional $800 million investment in infrastructure, utility improvements, and land acquisition.
When making the announcement, Sasol President and CEO David Constable anticipated that the new complex will triple the company’s chemical production capacity in the United States and create 500 permanent jobs in the state of Louisiana, in addition to thousands of indirect jobs. Construction of the complex will employ an additional 5,000 people between now and 2018.
This decision represents an historic investment for the company, for the State of Louisiana, and possibly for the United States. This project was initially announced in 2012, along with a gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility. If the GTL project also moves forward, the entire complex would be one of the largest foreign direct investments (FDI) in manufacturing the United States.
I was also thrilled to congratulate the state and people of Louisiana for their efforts to attract and support this investment. Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) Economic Development Alliance and the Port of Lake Charles began to work with Sasol to identify sites back in 2011. Their hard work has continued throughout this venture.
Our team at the U.S. Department of Commerce has worked with Sasol and LED since 2012 to encourage Sasol to create these jobs in the United States. SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide investment-promotion program housed in the International Trade Administration, coordinated within Commerce and with other federal agencies to identify resources and address questions or issues related to federal regulations. President Obama established SelectUSA in 2011 to serve precisely this purpose: to act as a single point of contact for investors, as well as for state and local governments, to facilitate job-creating investment.
For example, SelectUSA brought the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency to the table to assist with workforce development information and resources. Every day we hear from companies about the importance of workforce development, and we have been impressed by the innovation we’ve seen in the Lake Charles community.
Sasol, the State of Louisiana, and several local partners cooperated to develop tools to support both Sasol’s investment success as well as the long-term economic vitality of the region. In December 2013, the Southwest Louisiana Workforce Resource Guide and a corresponding mentoring program were launched as part of a collaborative community effort. This fall, Sasol and the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana unveiled the next step: a pilot scholarship fund for job training. The SWLA Economic Development Alliance leads the Resource Guide Steering Committee, which will continue to collaborate with the Foundation to extend the program to support other key industries in the region.
Sasol has demonstrated its strong commitment to the U.S. market, to this project, and to the people of Louisiana. Their investment is also a testament to our strong economic climate, and shows the opportunities for companies from around the world to operate, grow, and succeed in the United States.
For more information on how SelectUSA can assist investors or economic development organizations, please visit www.selectusa.gov and follow @SelectUSA on Twitter! Make sure to mark your calendar for the SelectUSA Investment Summit on March 23-24, 2015 and sign up on our website for updates.