At the Jefferson Business Council (JBC), a coalition of more than 70 civic and business leaders in Jefferson Parish, we work to create a high quality of life and generate economic development in Jefferson Parish. For too long, one of Jefferson Parish’s and the state’s great assets — Avondale Shipyard — was neglected and vacant. Now that the site is back in commerce as Avondale Global Gateway, the JBC supports the proposed purchase by the Port of South Louisiana that will allow Avondale to achieve its maximum potential.
It was welcome news in 2018 when T. Parker Host, a world-class terminal operator with a 100-year history of success, bought the old Avondale Shipyard. The site lacked working docks, rail, functional warehouse space, and questions loomed over environmental issues.
Clearly, transforming this former shipyard into an asset for the 21st-century economy would be no easy feat. Despite these challenges T. Parker Host breathed new life into the site, and five years later Avondale Global Gateway has become a financial success and employs 300 Louisianians — more employees than T. Parker Host committed to Jefferson Parish when it acquired the site.
Through the Port of South Louisiana’s ownership job growth will increase exponentially as business continues to develop at the site. The port also plans to reinvest revenues from the site back into the facility and will have access to federal and state funding, which will help bring more private investment to our community.
During these short years, T. Parker Host has lived up to or exceeded its commitments. The site has working docks, a rail line connected to the Union Pacific railroad with daily service, a foreign trade zone, and is brimming with cargo. Avondale underwent an intensive environmental investigation and received an environmental clearance in the form of a No Further Action declaration from Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The proposed T. Parker Host partnership with the Port of South Louisiana will supercharge this growth and bring industries like renewable energy and sustainable food products. These are industries that will find a home outside of Louisiana unless we provide a compelling case for them to come here, like the logistical advantages available at Avondale.
The value of Avondale Global Gateway as a multimodal shipping terminal was validated by an independent appraiser. The Port of South Louisiana continues to do its due diligence to confirm Avondale Global Gateway’s projected revenues.
Additionally, Louisiana taxpayers are set to reap the rewards of Avondale without paying a dime. Under this partnership, existing income streams pay for the acquisition and the Port can reinvest the profits to benefit taxpayers. T. Parker Host, as the operator, will continue to pay millions in minimum guaranteed revenue back to the port.
Leadership at T. Parker Host saw Avondale’s promise for the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. State and parish leaders and JEDCO did as well. The Port of South Louisiana sees this now.
State law allows the Port of South Louisiana to operate outside its jurisdiction in Jefferson Parish, and the increase in commerce on the Mississippi will benefit all of Louisiana and our entire port system. There is much talk of a unified regional approachto our state’s ports. Coordination is important. But regionalism should not mean abandoning Jefferson Parish’s maritime assets in favor of other projects.
We are grateful the Port of South Louisiana is including in its focus the West Bank of Jefferson Parish and we are ready for a new era at Avondale. I hope leaders around the region will unify around this important project.
Philip W. Rebowe is a certified public accountant and chairman of the Jefferson Business Council.