Baton Rouge plant managers optimistic about production, concerned about ITEP and tariff uncertainty

    Slightly less than 40% of Baton Rouge area plant managers expect production to increase at their facilities over the next six months, according to the latest quarterly survey from the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance.

    GBRIA polls its 60 members—which include petrochemical, energy, paper, pharmaceutical, pipeline, storage terminal and other industrial site managers across eight parishes—every quarter on their expectations for hiring, spending and production.

    And as with the survey for the fourth quarter of 2017, about half of GBRIA’s members weighed in on the recent survey, a forward-looking index similar to the CEO’s of The Business Roundtable report.

    GBRIA’s current index result is 79, a three-point decrease from the previous quarter. The index is centered on 50 and ranges from negative 50 to positive 150. Values over 50 predict an expanding economy.

    “The most common issues plant managers cite this quarter include rising oil prices, uncertain local approval processes to grant industrial tax exemptions and the legislative session,” GBRIA says. “Members are concerned that continued uncertainty in the ITEP program may drive capital improvement, maintenance and expansion plans away.”

    Other issues cited include aluminum, methanol and steel price fluctuations as well as federal tax incentives for biodiesel in addition to other tax and tariff measures that are expected.

    While 37% of those who participated in the latest quarterly survey expect production to increase over the next six months, 63% expect no change. Meanwhile, 37% say they expect capital expenditures to rise, 57% believe they’ll hold steady and 7% expect to spend less.

    As for hiring, 30% of respondents say they expect company employment to increase, 67% believe there will be no change and 3% say they expect employment figures to decrease.

    Fewer managers anticipate an increase in contract employment—23% compared to 33% last quarter.

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