Multiple liquefied-natural-gas megaprojects are fueling an unprecedented industrial boom in southwest Louisiana’s Cameron Parish, but even highly qualified local businesses can struggle to find pathways to participate in the construction of these multibillion-dollar projects.
In an effort to alleviate obstacles and maximize the economic impact of these transformative facilities, the Cameron Parish Port has emerged as a major advocate for connecting Louisiana subcontractors to the international construction companies building the LNG projects. Port officials, along with LED, are assisting local companies in navigating Louisiana Business Connection, a free website helping small businesses connect to large projects in Louisiana.
“Louisiana Business Connection is so important to us because if local contractors who are qualified do not get the opportunity to bid on the construction, operation and maintenance on these very large facilities, then this opportunity is really passing us by,” says Cameron Parish Port Director Clair Hebert Marceaux.
Driven by the increasing global demand for LNG, Cameron Parish and southwest Louisiana have earned the reputation as the international LNG capital. Two projects are currently under construction or operating: the Cheniere Energy-Sabine Pass Project in Johnson Bayou and the Cameron LNG facility in Hackberry. Those two projects alone represent $35 billion in investments and nearly half of the total capital expenditures in Louisiana for 2018. Another five megaprojects are proposed for the district and are in various stages of development, awaiting regulatory approval and final investment decisions.
Amid all of this growth, Cameron Parish officials have taken steps to modernize its operations. The newly formed Cameron Parish Port, Harbor and Terminal District officially began operations on Jan. 1, 2017, after merging the East and West Cameron Parish Port Commissions into one governing body. The consolidation allowed the port to obtain Foreign Trade Subzone status for areas within the parish and also to better prepare to meet the demands of increased ship traffic associated with the industrial projects in the parish. “That was a big step,” Marceaux says.
In addition to its key role in the LNG industry, the port serves as a direct link to the oil and gas exploration and service industry, while also operating as a home to several fleets of shrimp, crab and other seafood-harvesting operations. Other cargos that pass through port facilities include coal, sweet and sour crude, bulk grain, rice and other support products for the petrochemical and oil and gas industry.
Throughout the parish’s industrial boom, the port has remained focused on its primary mission of actively promoting Cameron Parish residents and businesses and enhancing opportunities for them through industry in the parish.
Though many large firms make a concerted effort to hire local vendors, suppliers and contractors for industrial projects, there is no law requiring them to do so. Marceaux says most often, small local companies successfully navigate the corporate structures and connect with prime contractors either out of sheer luck or “extreme persistence and determination.” Marceaux says that, as the LNG industry expanded, it was clear many local businesses needed an additional resource to help facilitate connections with large contractors.
The solution came when LED joined forces with local partners in Southwest Louisiana and resources from the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the Louisiana Business Connection pilot program. The site, which launched statewide in 2017, allows local vendors and suppliers to interact with multinational construction firms, showcasing their capabilities, insurance levels and other qualifications.
Large and small businesses operating in Louisiana may register on the site for no cost to potentially connect with new contract opportunities. The platform also enhances opportunities for business enterprises owned by minorities, women and veterans to secure work with prime contractors and large industrial operations in the state.
Some 1,200 Louisiana-based contractors are currently in the database, and more than 100 large contractors are exchanging information in the system, with more growth likely. Cameron Parish held a registration event with Louisiana Business Connection staff to help locals register for the system and other events have since been held around the state.
Marceaux says the database has helped small businesses gain confidence in interacting with large companies by pulling back the curtain on the complicated process for securing contracts. “I’m really proud of that because what we’re talking about are really life-changing opportunities,” Marceaux says.
Marceaux urges contractors throughout the state not to overlook the potential business opportunities these large-scale industrial projects can offer companies of all sizes.
“In order to increase your chances at participating in a meaningful way in these megaprojects, you as a company should be registered in Louisiana Business Connection,” she says. “It is a standardized way for any kind of service provider to showcase what you can offer. It’s a shining example of local, state and federal agencies creating something that did not exist before in order to benefit our Louisiana contractors.”