A series of announced large-scale private and public construction projects should kickstart what’s been a three-year lull in industrial projects in the Baton Rouge metro area, with 5,700 new jobs projected for 2020 (up 1.4%) and another 6,000 anticipated for 2021.
That’s according to economist Loren Scott, who is delivering his annual Louisiana Economic Outlook as the keynote speaker of Business Report’s Top 100 Luncheon this afternoon, which honors the Top 100 Private Companies in the Capital Region.
“The lull in industrial projects in the Baton Rouge MSA should be in the rearview mirror going forward,” says Scott in his outlook, adding a temporary slowdown in projects in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles drove statewide construction employment down 6,000 jobs this year. “We believe that toward the end of this year, construction activity will have reached an inflection point and that projects moving from the ‘FEED’ stage to construction will begin to pull up the employment numbers.”
Scott’s employment projections put Baton Rouge in fifth (out of nine metros) in terms of percentage growth, trailing Lake Charles, New Orleans, Houma and Lafayette—a reflection, says Scott, of “unusually strong recoveries” in New Orleans and Lake Charles, which have “more and bigger construction projects ahead,” as well as a “nice recovery from the previously deep-recession oil patch metro areas.” In absolute growth, however, Baton Rouge ranks second, behind only New Orleans.
The economist remains optimistic, noting several “unusually large public construction projects” should spark the local economy. These include:
• The $1.4 billion awarded to the area for the completion of the Comite River Diversion Canal ($450 million) and clearing, dredging and widening the parish waterways ($255 million);
• Other flood resiliency protection projects worth $1.2 billion;
• Some $360 million set aside in GARVEE bonds to widen Interstate 10 from the Mississippi River Bridge to the I-10/I-12 split;
• The $1.1 billion worth of projects tied to the MovEBR program.
Of the $16.8 billion worth of industrial projects announced in the Capital Region since 2012, some $11.5 billion—roughly 69%—are completed or underway, as the region eyes another $5.2 billion worth of potential investments in the coming years.
Statewide, Scott forecasts Louisiana will add 24,700 jobs (+1.2%) in 2020—which, if accurate, would mark the first time in history that state employment surpasses 2 million jobs on an annual basis—as well as 28,800 jobs (+1.4%) in 2021.
The Top 100 Luncheon marks the end of the Louisiana Business Symposium, which began this morning at the Crowne Plaza with the Best Places to Work Breakfast, an annual event honoring the 50 Capital Region honorees. There were 37 small and medium-sized company winners and 13 large companies selected.