JR Ball: The Goliath that is ExxonMobil has had enough of Baton Rouge’s David 

    ExxonMobil is throwing down the gauntlet, double-dog-dare-you style, effectively asking Baton Rouge to decide if we want the corporate behemoth, which has been around these parts since 1909, to maintain a big boy presence in the Capital City?

    Nowhere, of course, was such a to-the-point question found anywhere in last month’s announcement that ExxonMobil might be willing to spend north of $240 million on upgrading and modernizing its north Baton Rouge refinery—if its request for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program is approved without conditions. 

    Yet, the do-you-still-love-me question was the constant, not-so-subtle subtext, writes Business Report Executive Editor JR Ball in his latest opinion piece.  

    Rather than get to the heart of the matter, the governor’s office and company officials chose to focus on the possibilities. The creation of 600 annual construction jobs over a three-year period and the retention of 1,300 good-paying jobs and a promise to hire 18 to 24 graduates of the North Baton Rouge Training Initiative.  

    Mighty ExxonMobil is done with having sand kicked in its face by 98-pound weaklings like Together Baton Rouge, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and anyone else who refuses to embrace the absolute, no-questions-asked necessity of its ITEP requests, Ball writes. 

    It’s one thing for the company to deal with Louisiana’s crazy tax code, ever-changing regulations, environmental activists, political shenanigans, no direct pipeline access to Texas, a long and winding Mississippi River and way-too-expensive river pilots, but uncertainty about the ITEP is ExxonMobil’s Alamo.  

    The most salient hint that this is it for ExxonMobil is that the $240 million project on the table isn’t about expanding operations or getting into some new line of business. It’s simply a proposal to update the facility with today’s technology. In other words, it’s a kitchen remodel, changing out the old appliances for newer ones. And it ain’t happening, officials say, if there’s no ITEP.

    If a company worth $350 billion isn’t willing to blindly sign-off—no strings attached—on a relatively inexpensive project that’s necessary to keep a facility efficiently up and running, then it’s safe to assume ExxonMobil has questions about the long-term viability of its Baton Rouge operations. Read Ball’s full column. Send comments to editor@businessreport.com.