SWLA’s Economic Driver
Lake Charles, La.—A study released by the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District dramatically underscores the far-reaching economic impact of a single physical feature—the Calcasieu Ship Channel—on the Lake Charles region, the state of Louisiana and the nation.
The study, titled “Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Calcasieu Ship Channel,” concludes that the health of almost half of the Lake Charles metro economy depends on the health of the channel. For instance, nearly one third of jobs in the Lake Charles metro area are tied to the channel and the port authority, and maritime commerce accounts for 46 percent of the Lake Charles economy’s total $14.8 billion of business activity.
“The document demonstrates to stakeholders just how vital this waterway is to Southwest Louisiana. The fact that we are a ‘port city’ has brought tremendous economic benefits to our area,” said Bill Rase, executive director of the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District. “And the study gives us a preview of how our economy will benefit from the $80+ billion in capital investments announced for the area—80 percent of which is being made because of the Calcasieu Ship Channel.”
The Calcasieu Ship Channel was engineered in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s to straighten, widen and deepen the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico, making Lake Charles a deepwater port, although it is 34 miles inland. The ship channel became a highway for the delivery of goods, both inbound and outbound, and dozens of companies built facilities on the channel to produce, process, send or receive those goods. The Lake Charles Harbor & Terminal District has grown to become the 11th-busiest port in the United States by tonnage, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers figures for 2013, the latest year available.
All that channel activity, the report concludes, is a major driving factor in the economy of the region, the state and the nation.
Some key findings of the study (figures are for 2014):