by Angie Kay Dilmore
Industries abound in Southwest Louisiana because our region offers amenities that enable industries to thrive, such as wide-open spaces, access to the Gulf of Mexico for importing and exporting, an ample and reliable workforce, and incentives that make conducting business in SWLA a lucrative option. As Jim Rock, executive director of Lake Area Industry Alliance (LAIA) knows, the benefits work both ways. “Local industries in turn benefit our community in a variety of ways,” Rock says. “These businesses provide a high rate of employment, economic stability, and educational enhancements.”
During the many challenges over the past year and a half, Rock has sought opportunities to collaborate with several non-industrial entities, such as healthcare and local government agencies, to further benefit the SWLA community.
Janie Frugé, CEO at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital (WCCH), says the past 18 months have been an incredible challenge for everyone, but from a hospital standpoint, she’s realized the similarities between healthcare and the petro-chemical industries. “For example, we are open 24/7; we need to find housing for employees after hurricanes; during COVID-19, we had to strive to keep our employees well and at work; and safety is a top priority.”
With all these similarities, it makes sense that these two industries would help each other achieve goals. In March 2020, when personal protective equipment (PPE) was scarce and healthcare facilities desperately needed PPE to protect their employees and patients, Frugé – knowing industries use the same or similar equipment – called Rock. “Immediately, Jim sent out a communication. We received an overwhelming response from most every industry in our region. They sent N-95 masks, respirators, and other PPE we needed.”
Frugé, a 30-year healthcare veteran whose background is in nursing, says she is proud that WCCH remained open throughout Hurricanes Laura and Delta and the other storms that have affected our region this past year. “Investments in infrastructure allowed us to continue serving our community. We have back-up generators that can supply power to the entire facility. Local industries provided fuel and water that helped the hospital remain viable. Local industries also donated financial resources over $320,000. They also provided a temporary building for WCCH’s rural clinic in Hackberry when the permanent facility sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Laura. Altogether, the dollar amount from local industries that benefitted WCCH was $600,000 – $700,000 over the past 18 months. We’re very appreciative to our local industries and hope to continue to collaborate.”
Bryan Beam, parish administrator with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury (CPPJ), applauds Rock’s savvy at interacting with other community organizations such as CPPJ. “Jim is open to listening, lets us know what industries need, gives us suggestions and constructive criticism . . . and that helps us. You can’t over-communicate.”
Rock says pre-COVID, industry employees volunteered around 20,000 manhours to local non-profits, Partners in Education with Calcasieu Parish School District, and other annual events such as Trash Bash and Chem Expo. “Industries have been around since the 1940s. And we’re happy to be here.”