The LSU Medical School is often referred to as the biggest economic engine in Shreveport; but can the Port of Caddo-Bossier be far behind?
A couple of recent events focused attention on the Port.
It has been an exciting time for the Port of Caddo-Bossier recently. A couple of events—not really related, but happening in close proximity—pointing towards a rosy future for the Port; navigation on the Red River; and increased commerce.
It began with this announcement by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards—outlining a $15 million expansion at the Port—by Ternium Steel.
In a statement, the Governor said:
“The decision to upgrade this facility sends a message—that Louisiana is well positioned for foreign direct investment projects to thrive. Ternium’s reinvestment also secures the retention of 150 jobs and affirms the company’s confidence in Louisiana’s northwest region as a place to grow.”
“We take an existing industry that made a significant investment—a nine figure investment—employs over 100 people, and they’re going to expand their operation so they can increase employment; help us further diversify our economy; and maintain those quality jobs for our economy.” Said Eric England, the Executive Director of the Port of Caddo-Bossier.
Ternium will overhaul its galvanizing line—yielding an additional 42,000 metric tons per year of coated steel—to be sold within Louisiana.
Twenty-two direct and indirect jobs will be created—with annual salaries of $65,000.
“At the Port,” said England, “what we’re always focused on, is our existing industry and retention of those jobs and the expansion of existing industry.”
Within days of the Ternium announcement—Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson of Bossier City—invited Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman to tour the Port of Caddo-Bossier.
There were multiple reasons why.
“Congressman Westerman and I both serve on the House Natural Resources Committee,” said Johnson, “and we’re also deeply involved and concerned with increasing our infrastructure—and making good use of our rivers and navigable waterways.”
“Our representative, Congressman Johnson—extended an invitation so we could explain the Port story,” said England, “and explain the J. Bennett Johnson Waterway and the advantages of what we have in Northwest Louisiana; and how extending that navigation into southwest Arkansas would be an advantage for his constituents.”
“It was very impressive,” said Westerman, “all the industry that was there at the Port; and the affect that’s had on the economy there.”
“Any time we can get congressional support for our missions and our project,” said England, “it’s beneficial for us all.”
Westerman says he’d like to see the Red River navigable into his southern Arkansas district. We asked if there were discussions ongoing.
“There sure are,” Westerman said, “especially in the Texarkana area. That would be huge to that part of the state.”
But as both congressmen—Westerman and Johnson—discovered on their recent tour of the Port of Caddo-Bossier, it could take quite a while to get that Arkansas expansion completed.
“Projects like this are measured in decades and generations.” England explained.
“If we expand and dredge and have the capability to go further into Arkansas,” said Johnson, “that obviously expands capabilities for our Port as well. We could be a throughway—and it would increase traffic.”
The up close look at the Port and its functions was humbling in one sense—witnessing the power of Mother Nature and how it can be harnessed.
For companies already doing business there—and those considering it—England defines the Port of Caddo-Bossier like this:
“The Port is an economic engine that is driving this local economy by diversifying the types of industry in this area; creating quality jobs for our families and community—all the while offering multi-modal transportation facilities and industrial real estate so companies can locate here and thrive.”
Congressman Johnson says he will keep fighting to get the necessary funding to continue to dredge the Red River for optimal navigation; calling it a key artery for the economic development of the entire region.
And pardoning the pun, he adds: “All boats can rise when we get that done.”