Instrumentation manufacturer VEGA Americas Inc. has nearly doubled the expected size of its new facility at the Ascension Commerce Center since announcing the project last year.
Now at 150,000 square feet, the $30 million Geismar manufacturing facility will be considerably larger—it was originally announced at 80,000 square feet—when completed in mid-2020.
Don Sanders, president of VEGA Louisiana, tells 10/12 Industry Weekly the decision to expand the facility was in direct response to an increasingly optimistic demand outlook for high-tech instrumentation. The facility will serve as VEGA’s first Gulf Coast manufacturing site and supply the entire Western Hemisphere, as well as other locations in Southeast Asia, China, the Pacific Rim and Middle East.
RHH Architects of Baton Rouge is designing the facility and MAPP of Baton Rouge is expected to begin construction at the 13.5-acre site by the third quarter of 2019.
Sanders credits Louisiana Economic Development and Ascension Parish officials in persuading VEGA to single out Geismar as the best location. “LED officials visited VEGA’s headquarters in Germany in March 2018 to help secure the project,” he says. “Two months later, Ascension Parish officials approved the company’s ability to receive Industrial Tax Exemption Program benefits at the parish and local levels.”
Kate MacArthur, president/CEO of the Ascension Economic Development Corporation, says the process moved incredibly fast. VEGA first approached state and local officials about the project in January 2018, and it was off to the races, so to speak.
“I think most projects take 12 to 18 months, and some up to two years, to go through the process,” MacArthur says. “VEGA needed to make a location decision within six months. It took a little longer, but it was still comparatively fast.” She says her parish’s business-friendly climate and an aggressive plan by LED helped persuade VEGA to select the site, as well as the obvious benefits of having the Mississippi River nearby.
An established workforce pipeline was also crucial to the decision. Sanders says many workers in Baton Rouge and Ascension are already equipped with some of the skills they’ll need to work for VEGA. For the more specialized training, VEGA will lean on LED’s FastStart program, as well as area technical schools, community colleges and universities.
He expects to begin hiring and training welders, machinists and other laborers in 2020 before startup. In the meantime, a handful of engineering, administrative and other employees are already working at a temporary facility under the direction of Product Manager Eric Moore. LED estimates a total of more than 160 new jobs in Ascension Parish and surrounding areas will ultimately be needed at the facility.
Based in Cincinnati, VEGA Americas is an industry leader in manufacturing measurement instrumentation used by a variety of industries, including petrochemical, oil and gas. The devices provide real-time feedback to plant control rooms regarding vessel volumes and pressures, among other functions.