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Sasol Decision, Years in the Making, Will Benefit All of Southwest Louisiana

Sasol’s major announcement Monday to spend up to $21 billion in Southwest Louisiana would never have made national headlines without an abundance of regional efforts.

George Swift, president and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, said Sasol’s announcement Monday “put Southwest Louisiana on the map.”

“This will increase interest in our area by investors and workers,” he said Tuesday. “To get this type of exposure in The New York Times and other economic development publications will create more awareness for Southwest Louisiana.”

Swift said businesses not just in Westlake but in all of Southwest Louisiana will have potential for more customers.

“Now would be a good time for businesses to do an analysis on what they can do for the future and take advantage of it,” he said.

Swift also said the fact that Sasol is making this investment is a tribute to the management and workers at the company’s current facility in Westlake.

Westlake Mayor Dan Cupit said he takes a lot of pride in being part of Sasol’s growth.

“We are excited because we want to be the first neighbor and the best neighbor they have,” he said Tuesday. “Most of all we’re glad to see we have a workforce that will be developed.”

Cupit said the exposure, of course, is good for the city, the parish and the state.

And the Port of Lake Charles was one of the major players in helping Sasol find the 650-acre site within the vicinity of Sasol’s existing site. Port officials also assisted Sasol with options to buy the property needed to make the expansion a reality.

Michael Dees, general counsel at the port, said Sasol officials met with port officials nearly two years ago and said they were considering an expansion.

“They were concerned about their ability to voluntarily acquire land for the expansion,” Dees said. “It worked more efficiently or quickly for the port to help acquire the land.”

Dees said that without the ship channel Sasol would have never considered locating in Southwest Louisiana.

Port Executive Director Bill Rase said the port was involved from the start to finish, including working with the state Department of Economic Development.

“We wanted to help Sasol and the LED to make sure the project came to Louisiana,” Rase said. “At this point, the port hasn’t benefited other than the fact that Sasol is coming to Louisiana.”

Rase said that down the road the port will be more involved in the movement of product through the ship channel.

“The channel will get more use and be more of a viable situation for the port,” he said.

“The fact that they’re here is a benefit to the whole community. We may have to work out an operating agreement down the road. We didn’t just buy the property and get out of the way. Our intent is to be involved throughout the project.”

Article by Lance Traweek, American Press, 12/5/12

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