Rollin’ On The River

Louisiana has a systems of ports and waterways like no other region in the world.


VITAL STATS

Strategically located astride the mouth of the Mississippi.

Population: 4.2 million

Land Area: 702 square miles

Waterborne Commerce: Louisiana’s five deep water ports handle more than 457 million tons of U.S. waterborne commerce a year, including half of all American grain exports.

Seafood Industry: Louisiana’s fishing industry is the second largest in America, accounting for 26 percent of all seafood landed in the country.

Louisiana is open for business,” says David Kane, director of logistics and transportation cluster development for Louisiana Economic Development.

A lot of food is imported and exported from the state, and Kane reports about one in eight workers in Louisiana is involved in transportation, logistics or supply chain management, representing about 250,000 people, or more than 12 percent of the state’s workforce. "So there's really a strong workforce with a concentration in logistics," he says.

"What we try to do is develop synergies between similar industries we feel have long--term growth potential," continues Kane, adding certain industries are clustered within a particular geographic area to work off each other’s operational synergies. For example, located in the Hammond area are distribution centers for Winn Dixie, Associated Grocers and Wal--Mart, which operates its own food and consumer goods DCs.

"Hammond is located right at the intersection of I--55 (for north/south movement) and Route 12 (for east/west movement)," Kane says. "So there’s excellent access to the City of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. We are also about one and a half hours from Jackson, MS, so it’s a good, centralized location for distribution throughout the Southeast."

Louisiana has a system of ports and waterways like no other state in the world. "We are at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The state has 26 ports, both inland ports and deep--water ports," says Kane. The state boasts an impressive 2,300 miles of navigable inland waterways connecting each of the state’s six deep--water ports. Ninety percent of Louisiana’s Inland Waterway System is available for container--on--barge shipping.

"We are the largest coffee port in the country importing coffee from around the world through the Port of New Orleans," says Kane. In fact, Folgers in New Orleans and Community Coffee in Baton Rouge each operate coffee processing plants. And the southern part of the state is the largest seafood producer in the country.

The mighty Mississippi flowing through the state is of particular interest to food logistics operations, Kane says. "The opportunity to use the inland river system is really gold waiting to be mined," he says. He notes that, with rail service experiencing congestion in some places, water transportation offers an economical option.

"Inventory visibility is what makes river transportation so viable," says Kane. "Where you can get consistent scheduled service, it’s really the same as having inventory in your warehouse and you always know where your inventory is while your container is on a barge moving up the Mississippi to Memphis or Pittsburgh. We will see more and more shipments using water. For instance, you can move a container from New York to Jacksonville faster on a ship than you can on I--95."

The state is a veritable transportation hub, offering just about every mode of interest to the food logistics industry. For example, New Orleans is one of only two cities in the nation (Chicago being the other) where all six of the country’s Class 1 railroads converge.

Louisiana has six interstate highways passing through it and it has seven commercial service airports and 71 general aviation airports. Potable water is plentiful and the communications infrastructure throughout the state is excellent as it’s wired with fiber optic cable and serves most metropolitan areas with DSL availability.

The entire state of Louisiana is a designated Enterprise Zone, meaning qualified employers creating jobs can realize state tax credits of up to $2,500 per employee.

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