Monday, 29 August 2011 14:30
Louisiana Gov. Jindal Announces St. John Enterprise Investment In Madison Parish
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JindalToday, Gov. Bobby Jindal was joined by St. John Enterprises Inc. CEO Ron Lewis to announce the company's plans to create more than 450 jobs in the next five years at the Madison Parish Port. St. John plans to invest $32 million in cranes, machinery and other upgrades at a 100,000-square-foot facility on 56 acres at the Tallulah port.

Jindal has been on a series of economic development campaign stops over the past weeks making announcements: 

 Founded in 1976, St. John Enterprises initially operated in St. Rose before moving to other locations and ultimately establishing a full-service barge fleeting, repair, cleaning and maritime construction business in Garyville. The company's expansion to the Madison Parish Port in Tallulah will introduce a major new barge building and reconditioning operation for logistics customers.

Gov. Jindal said, "This announcement today is another sign that we are competing with states across the country for business investment -- and winning. Our focus on job creation and business development has made our state one of the best places in the world for businesses to grow and succeed. Thanks to the Tallulah Port's great infrastructure, our nationally recognized workforce-training program, and strategic incentives -- today's announcement means hundreds of new jobs for this area, which lost 100 jobs not long ago. That is why we say that in Louisiana, even when we are down, we are never out. We will work to come back better than ever before."

St. John Enterprises succeeds a former Northrop Grumman operation that closed in December and meant the loss of about 100 jobs. St. John plans to hire 104 people in its first year, with production starting by late October, and to increase employment to 454 by 2016. Average annual pay at the new barge-building operation will exceed $40,000, plus benefits. At the same time, St. John will continue its barge fleeting, repair and cleaning services at the company's original location in Garyville, north of New Orleans. Another 50 jobs will be retained at that location.

St. John Enterprises selected Louisiana for its new barge-building operation in competition with sites in three other Southern states. The 454 jobs the company plans to create in Tallulah will result in the generation of another 571 new indirect jobs in Northeast Louisiana, for a total of 1,025 new jobs.

St. John Enterprises CEO Ron Lewis said the company's vision for Madison Parish is a long-term one. "So many folks focus on jobs," he said. "Our mission is to create careers -- long-term careers for families. We're creating careers, we're putting the American workforce back to work in our heartland, and the recovery for America starts here today. We have a state government that is working very hard to improve the livelihoods of the people of the state of Louisiana."

Lewis said recruitment of the previous Northrop Grumman workforce in Tallulah and elsewhere will be a high priority. That talent pool and the location of the Madison Parish Port on the Mississippi River, with rail service and access to Interstates 20 and 55, also played key roles in the site selection, he said.

To secure the project, the state offered an incentive package that includes customized recruitment and training solutions at no cost through Louisiana FastStart -- LED's workforce development program that's rated No. 1 in the nation. Based on St. John meeting annual job and payroll targets, the company will receive a $1.4 million performance-based grant to be paid in annual installments over the next decade. And the company is expected to utilize Louisiana's Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs incentive programs.

"This is another positive step in creating new employment opportunities for Northrop Grumman workers who have lost or who are facing the loss of their jobs," said LED Secretary Stephen Moret. "Additionally, the St. John project is expected to significantly increase employment in Northeast Louisiana beyond the level previously associated with this facility."

St. John expects to produce its first six barges by the end of the year. Construction to upgrade the Madison Parish Port facility will begin Sept. 15, when the company also expects to begin hiring employees. St. John expects production to begin in the next few months, and the company will use an innovative fabrication process that will make its barges cost-competitive with overseas builders while delivered on a shorter timetable.

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