$1.25 Billion Chemical Complex Planned On Mississippi River

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, alongside officials from Yantai, China-based Wanhua Chemical Group Company Ltd., announced November 16 the company will build a $1.25 billion chemical manufacturing complex in Convent, La., on the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish. The site covers 250 acres near the intersection of Louisiana Highways 3125 and 3214 and also offers access for deep-draft vessels and rail service.

At the new facility, Wanhua will produce methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), commonly used for polyurethane automotive parts, foams and elastomers, along with other consumer segments like appliances, electronics, spray foam insulation, furniture, textiles and footwear. According to Louisiana’s office of Economic Development (LED), the project will create 170 new direct jobs with an average salary in excess of $80,000, along with 1,060 new indirect jobs, for a total of 1,230 new jobs.

“Our LED team, joining other state agencies and regional and local partners, has worked diligently with Wanhua to attract this next-generation MDI project,” Edwards said. “Louisiana offers world-class manufacturing sites, the most productive manufacturing workforce in the U.S., and LED FastStart, the nation’s top state workforce training program. Our infrastructure assets enable us to compete for the leading economic development projects in the world. We welcome Wanhua to Louisiana and look forward to the company’s contribution to our workforce and economy.”

LED Secretary Don Pierson traveled to Wanhua’s Yantai headquarters in early 2017 to meet company executives and complete plans for Wanhua to build a facility somewhere in Louisiana. Wanhua Chairman and CEO Zengtai Liao and Edwards announced those plans in April 2017. Wanhua opted for the tract of land in St. James Parish after additional engineering and development work. Wanhua will start construction next year, with construction substantially complete by the end of 2021. At peak activity, the project will about 1,000 construction jobs.

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“Louisiana, and specifically St. James Parish, provides Wanhua with everything we were looking for,” said Weiqi Hua, CEO of Wanhua Chemical U.S. Operations LLC. “More than anything, successful operations are about people, and we know that Louisiana’s workforce is among the most productive in the world. Wanhua looks forward to being part of the Louisiana business community and the local community. Our desire to be a good industry neighbor will be evident in our focus on workforce development, local hiring, and our commitment to safe and environmentally responsible operations. Our employees will be fully engaged in the local community and we will communicate regularly and openly.”

Louisiana, with its extensive ports, pipelines, rail connectivity and highways, has a thriving chemical industry, which generates about $80 billion in annual sales and supports close to 270,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Louisiana has leveraged our strengths to capture billions in new investment,” Pierson said. “We continue to work hard every day to create a business climate and quality of life that are second to none.”

Besides offering the state’s workforce training program, Louisiana officials offered Wanhua a performance-based grant of $4.3 million to offset site infrastructure costs. The company will also benefit from Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

Wanhua will join a crowded chemical corridor within the Port of South Louisiana, which covers both sides of the river between the ports of New Orleans and Greater Baton Rouge.

“The Port of South Louisiana welcomes Wanhua into our port, and we look forward to assisting them in any way we can,” Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Paul Aucoin said. “We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship. I also want to thank St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel, Steve Nosacka with St. James Parish Economic Development, and Michael Hecht with GNO Inc. It was a team effort. The future of St. James Parish and the River Parishes is very bright.”

“This $1.25 billion investment will generate economic growth in our community in the form of high-paying job opportunities for local residents and procurement opportunities for local, small businesses,” said St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel. “I, along with the taxing authorities of St. James Parish, while following our land-use plan, want to see Wanhua become successful in St. James Parish, delivering new benefits to our residents. St. James Parish government works together with community, business, industry, and agriculture to provide resources and services to improve quality of life. We want our St. James Parish industries to continue to be a large part of our community, because St. James Parish is a great place to live, work, play and grow.”

“GNO Inc. is excited to have worked with our partners in St. James Parish, the Port of South Louisiana and LED to welcome Wanhua Chemical to our region,” said President and CEO Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. “Louisiana is No. 1 in the nation for foreign direct investment because of global companies like Wanhua, and we look forward to supporting their success and growth in greater New Orleans.”’

Wanhua is a publicly-traded corporation listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The company established a business development office in the Philadelphia area in 2006 and a U.S. headquarters in Houston in 2014. The company established its manufacturing entity, Wanhua Chemical U.S. Operations LLC, in Louisiana in 2017.