Aviation Industry Is Taking Off

The economy of the Southwest Louisiana Region is very diverse. Petrochemical and LNG industries are getting the most talk because of the billions in projects underway. The backbone of our region remains agriculture and forestry. Healthcare is growing and, in fact, currently employs more people than any other sector. Hospitality and gaming bring millions of people to our area each year and employ thousands.

The aviation sector is very important to our region and state, not only because of the number of people employed, but also, because of the diversification and potential it brings to our area. Chennault is a major asset. It’s over 10,000-foot runway can accommodate any aircraft, including Air Force One. Chennault is home to Northrop Grumman, a major component of aviation in Southwest Louisiana with its work on military aircraft.

Citadel Completions is the newest company at Chennault. Citadel performs custom interior work on aircraft for heads of state, CEO’s, and major aviation companies. Landlocked Aviation is an aircraft painting contractor. They have grown dynamically in workforce and customer base.

Chennault is also used as a training site for military aircraft with hundreds of military landings and take-offs each month. Chennault is home to two certified industrial sites on existing property.

Chennault has even more potential ahead with the relocation of Mallard Cove Golf Course to MorganField. This will open up several hundred acres of potential industrial sites.

A new aggressive marketing effort is underway for Chennault Park led by new Executive Director Kevin Melton in partnership with international real estate firm Cushman-Wakefield. Locally the effort is supported by Joel Davidson of NAI/Latter Blum. To see this effort visit chennaultpark.org.

At Lake Charles Regional Airport, opportunity exists for industrial expansion, too. LCH is home to a certified industrial site as well as our region’s passenger airport. With three daily flights to Houston on United and three flights daily to DFW on American Eagle, business and leisure travelers enjoy the convenience of on-site free parking close to the terminal. All of this within our local area.

Heath Allen, airport director, is always working to bring additional air service to our airport, especially flights that head east. When we fly LCH we are helping the numbers go up and help make the case for continued and increased air service.

LCH is also home to ERA Helicopters, an area legacy company which primarily serves the offshore oil industry. Other area airports in the region offer potential.

The Allen Parish Airport, Southland Field, DeQuincy Airport, Jennings Airport, and Beauregard Airport all have different niches. TheBeauregard Airport is also home to a 1,100-acre certified industrial mega-site. Most of the other airports have available industrial sites either on the airport property or adjacent land.

To bolster our aviation industry, Sowela Technical Community College has offered aviation training leading to FAA certification in air frame and power plant since 1969.

When Boeing first came here in 1986, Sowwela trained over 4,500 local residents to work on the KC-135 military project. Nearly 2,000 more workers were trained for the Grumman (now Northrop Grumman) J-Stars program.

With available sites for development, a pipeline to train workers, and a reputation for high-quality production, the aviation industry in Southwest Louisiana is poised to grow and really soar.

George Swift is president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 orgswift@allianceswla.org.

Alliance of SWLA