BRAC, LED still hopeful Belgium company will follow through on planned $150M facility in north Baton Rouge

Business Report

The 127-acre site in north Baton Rouge that Katoen Natie USA purchased with plans for $150 million plastics storage, custom packaging and distribution facility announced in 2013 still sits idle. The company is in a holding pattern on whether to move forward with the project, but local and state officials are optimistic the facility—and the 850 jobs it was expected to create—will come to fruition.

Michaël Deroose, facility manager in Port Allen for the Belgium-based company, says Katoen Natie is evaluating the market conditions and will make a final decision on whether to move forward with the project in April. Deroose says the company is  closely watching oil prices, since the plastics industry follows the oil industry.

Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp says Katoen Natie has told him it wants to move forward with the project, but is waiting to see if the demand along the Gulf Coast is strong enough to justify the investment.

Knapp says there are some times when he can tell a project is dead even as the company stresses it will move forward, but he gets the sense that Katoen Natie wants to move forward.

“We would take it off if we thought it was dead,” Knapp says, referring to the list of companies that have announced projects in the Baton Rouge area. “They continue to show their intent to move forward.”

Louisiana Economic Development officials say they, too, believe the company will move forward with the project. Katoen Natie has already completed engineering and sales studies for the site.

In March 2013, Katoen Natie and Louisiana officials announced the $150 million project and touted 210 new direct jobs, 561 indirect jobs and 150 construction jobs slated to be created. The company had said it hoped to complete the first phase of construction by the end of 2013 and had expected to finish the entire facility by 2018.

LED says the incentives are still on the table because they would only be realized upon completion of the facility and hiring of workers. There were no performance-based cash incentives in advance of the project.

The company received a financial incentives package from the LED, which includes Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption incentives, as well as the LED FastStart workforce development program.

The facility, envisioned to measure about 2 million square feet, is to be built just off Scenic Highway in north Baton Rouge near the Republic Services’ facility at 12451 Leisure Road. Knapp says the company still owns the land.

Katoen Natie is a worldwide shipping and logistics company with facilities and offices in 28 countries on five continents. The company’s U.S. operations are based out of Houston. Katoen Natie specializes in chemical, industrial and automotive shipping.

The company has a 150,000-square-foot warehouse in Port Allen that packages plastic pellets for the petrochemical industry, along with facilities in California, New Jersey, Indiana and Virginia, as well as Canada, Mexico, Africa, South America and the Far East, according to the Katoen Natie’s website.

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