Louisiana business briefs

Abita plans expansion of St. Tammany facility

COVINGTON — Abita Brewing Co. hopes to break ground this summer on a $12 million project to expand its brewery office space and double the capacity of its brew house.

Troy Ashley, the brewery’s chief financial officer, said plans call for a new 11,200-square-foot brew house and a 5,800-square-foot expansion to its visitor center and offices in St. Tammany Parish.

Ashley said Abita has reached capacity within its existing 100-barrel facility. The expansion will add an additional 200 barrels of capacity, along with new cellar space with room for a dozen 800-barrel tanks.

“It will give us more capacity to continue to grow our brand and do more special projects,” Ashley said. “We have been a big growth company over several years.”

Ashley said the new project complements the expansion of Abita Brewing’s packaging, bottling and canning lines that was completed last year.

Much of the work would be done in-house, with a long list of subcontractors chipping in on more specific elements, Ashley Krones, a German company that develops machinery for beverage production, is designing the new facility. The company also designed the brewery’s existing brew house.

Ashley said Abita hopes to have the new brew house online by the end of the year. The new office space and visitor center should be complete in early 2014.

Plastics firm plans $500M expansion

BATON ROUGE — A Japanese plastics maker will spend $500 million to expand its plants in Plaquemine and Addis, part of an ongoing investment boom by refiners and chemical producers in Louisiana.

Shintech will expand its production capacity by more than 10 percent, Japanese parent company Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd. said in a news release last week. Shin-Etsu said its Plaquemine plant is running at capacity and expansion is needed to meet growing worldwide demand for PVC.

Plant manager David Wise said the work will eliminate production bottlenecks, creating 10 new permanent jobs and as many as 500 construction jobs. The plants have 360 direct employees and a similar number of contract workers.

Shin-Etsu will pay for the project using its own money, planning completion in 2015.

Shintech opened its Addis plant in 2000 and its Plaquemine plant in 2008. Last year, the company announced that its sister firm of SE Tylose would spend $120 million to build a hydroxyethyl cellulose plant near Plaquemine. HEC is used in the production of latex paint.

That plant is set to open in 2014.

Once the new expansion is finished, Shintech will increase its polyvinyl chloride capacity by 300,000 tons a year, its vinyl chloride monomer capacity by 300,000 tons a year and its caustic soda capacity by 200,000 tons a year.

Shintech is the largest producer of polyvinyl chloride in the United States. PVC is the third-most widely produced plastic in the world and frequently used in construction. It is also used in upholstery and electrical cable insulation. Vinyl chloride monomer is used mainly to produce PVC. Caustic soda is a fundamental chemical material found in products such as paper, synthetic textiles and soap.

More than $30 billion in Louisiana chemical plant investments have been announced since 2011, driven partly by a boom in American natural gas production that has driven down prices for the fuel.

Youngsville to put hotel tax to a vote

YOUNGSVILLE — Youngsville voters will decide Oct. 19 whether to levy a 4 percent tax on hotel stays, even though there are no hotels in the city.

Mayor Wilson Viator called the tax approved by the city council last week wishful thinking,

But Viator said he doesn’t expect the quickly growing city of some 9,000 residents to go without a hotel for much longer, considering that construction is under way on a $16.3 million recreation complex with the hope of luring large regional sports tournaments.

He said consultants estimate that within just a few years, the park will likely attract one million visitors annually.

Construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year, and the facility should open in January or February.

Judge dismisses lawsuit to stop brewery demolition

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Dixie Brewing Co. in an effort to stop any demolition of the building which is now part of the new VA hospital under construction in New Orleans.

The VA plans to demolish some parts of the German Romenesque building, which opened in 1907 but was crumbling even before Hurricane Katrina damaged it.

Dixie filed a request for a preliminary and permanent injunction on March 12 to try to prevent the demolition and new construction.

La. Entrepreneurship Fest was a success

HOUMA — The Terrebonne Parish Economic Development Authority and the Louisiana Economic Development Department say the first Louisiana Entrepreneurship Fest went so well that it will be an annual event.

Nearly 450 people showed up for the festival Thursday and Friday in Houma, which will host next year’s as well.

Steve Vassallo, chief executive officer of the Terrebonne authority, says in a news release that he expects attendance to double next year.

The Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center hosted the festival, which was held to explain the basics of establishing and growing a business.

Those who attended include Whitney Loupe of Houma, a student at Fletcher Technical Community College, and Johnny B. Patterson, director of career services at Grambling State University in north Louisiana. Patterson attended on a College of Business entrepreneurship grant to improve his program with new information and material. He says he plans to return next year with students.

Loupe wants to open a seasonal walking-tour business specializing in the haunted history of Houma and eventually to open a haunted bed-and-breakfast. She said she has already collected seven stories within a five-block radius.

NASA officials debut a new machine in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — NASA officials in New Orleans publicly unveiled a new, three-story-tall cylindrical structure Friday that is a key component in constructing heavy-lift rockets for the nation’s space program.

It’s called the “vertical weld center.” The heavy metal framework holds state-of-the-art automated welding equipment, around which the Boeing Co. will build a major component of rockets for NASA’s new Space Launch System: the “core stage” of the SLS rockets.

Each core stage will be more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.5 feet. Each will be assembled in sections around the vertical weld center. Each stage will have nine sections made of eight individual curved aluminum panels welded together by the machinery that glides up and down within the cylinder — “a quarter mile’s worth of welding,” in the words of Boeing executive Rich Navarro, who spoke at Friday’s ribbon cutting.

NASA and Boeing officials, joined by local government officials, held the ribbon-cutting in a building that holds the new machinery at the Michoud (mih-shoo) Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans.

The Michoud facility was chosen by NASA in 2011 to manufacture SLS components — a much-needed boost to the area’s economy after the end of the space shuttle program. Michoud employed thousands in the 1980s constructing the huge external fuel tanks for the shuttles.

Currently about 250 people are working on the SLS program at Michoud. That is expected to grow to between 400 and 500 as the project progresses, said Kim Henry a public affairs officer for the Space Launch System. She said the current contract calls for two core stages to be built at Michoud.

NASA unveiled plans for the Space Launch System in 2011, describing a rocket that could take people or cargo into deep space on long-duration missions. Diagrams show a rocket resembling those NASA relied on before the space shuttle program. But it is to be more powerful, — “the most powerful rocket in history,” according to NASA.

From The Associated Press.

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