Spanning an industrial expanse of canals and boat slips south of New Iberia, sprouting up from the Vermilion Bay, the Port of Iberia — ideally positioned between Houston and New Orleans — boasts its own commercial canal access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as major port access to the Mississippi River in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
So it’s little wonder that 2017 saw the port welcome several new, job-creating businesses. But it’s not just the gulf location and distribution access that has beckoned more than 100 companies to locate at the port.
“These companies need workers that have the skills they require, and the people of Acadiana are as great a resource as any other in attracting new business here,” said Craig Romero, executive director of the POI.
Indeed, the port draws from a labor pool of more than 600,000 people across Acadiana — a large and well-trained workforce of builders and welders, fabricators and forklift operators, drivers and more — raised with the steely resolve of the Acadian work ethic.
That is perhaps what attracted Crosby Energy Services, one of the port’s newest residents, to the site. The company signed a lease last October and moved in by year’s end. That deal, Romero said, will bring 50-plus jobs to the area in the first six month, and more after that.
“They said they’re going to buy local and hire local,” said Romero.
Crosby will fabricate ASME-coded pressure vessels onsite, then ship them to operations in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.
“They’ll need welders, skilled seam welders — and they’re around here,” Romero said. “There’s a similar plant in Broussard that’s running seven days a week and probably can’t keep up, so I know we’ve got the talent right here in Acadiana.”
The deal came amid a flurry of new investments at the port. At the same time, Caliche New Iberia, LLC — a Houston-based company — announced plans for more than $130 million in infrastructure building, extending rail spurs in the port and adding additional slips. That alone will create construction jobs in the near-term, plus about 20 long-term jobs at a planned intermodal loading and unloading facility, according to Caliche spokesperson David Branch.
“It’s a big deal for the port and for the community,” he said. “The area has great resources in terms of personnel and location. The labor pool is strong, and the Port of Iberia is a great conduit to the rest of the country.”
The port, which makes more than 90 percent of its revenue from leasing space, enters 2018 with just nine acres left to lease, positioning it and the region well for a year of growth.