Exxon’s tax exemption request lands support from Louisiana board

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) – ExxonMobil’s proposed $500 million-plus expansion of its Baton Rouge plant is gaining fuel, with state officials endorsing the company’s request for a property tax break.

The Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry unanimously approved Exxon’s Industrial Tax Exemption application Wednesday, as the oil giant considers growing its polyolefins plant on Scenic Highway. Company officials estimate the project would double polypropylene production at the complex, bringing 600 temporary construction jobs and 65 new permanent workers by 2021.

“As a Louisiana native, I’m very excited about that possibility to bring something that large to ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge,” said plant manager Angela Zeringue. “We’re very encouraged by the support we’ve received from the board.”

Should its proposed expansion on Scenic Highway become reality, the oil giant would receive a $5.7 million tax break within a year of exemption. Exxon would pay 80 percent less in property taxes for 10 years. In that time, the company would file $6.9 million in property taxes, paired with $32 million in sales taxes.

The Industrial Tax Exemption Program, meant to relieve manufacturers embarking on capital projects, remains Louisiana’s largest tax incentive. Exxon’s proposed plant expansion is among the first to win state support since a revision of the tax break took effect earlier this month. Recipients would previously get 100 percent abatements on property taxes.

Commerce leaders on Wednesday said a tax exemption would strengthen Exxon’s century-long presence in Baton Rouge, attracting new business as well.

“We have wanted to make sure that the Baton Rouge area remains competitive for manufacturing,” said Adam Knapp, who leads the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “To do that, we have to make sure we stand with companies who are great corporate citizens.”

Exxon’s bid also has backing from Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Gov. John Bel Edwards. In April, Edwards penned a letter of support to company manufacturing manager Charles Dabadie.

“This project would both retain high-paying jobs and expand current operations to serve existing customers and attract new customers,” Edwards wrote. “The long-term benefit that Louisiana, Baton Rouge and ExxonMobil have provided each other is a matter of great pride.”

Exxon’s ITEP request now goes to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Metro Council and Sheriff. The local bodies have a 30-to-60-day window to vote on the application.

Approval would prompt one final step — Exxon itself. Company executives plan to decide later this year whether to move forward on the proposed expansion. Zeringue hopes to secure support when visiting the company’s north Texas headquarters later this year.

“We really have an economic advantage that we need to take advantage of,” she said Wednesday. “It’s a very exciting time to be in manufacturing in the Gulf Coast.”

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