River Region Economic Development Initiative (RREDI)
Louisiana’s River Region [ ST. CHARLES, ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, and ST. JAMES parishes (counties) ] is located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, along the Mississippi River. The River Region has one of North America’s largest concentration of heavy manufacturing, a reflection of the strategic location, competitive market access, and highly-skilled labor pool that it harbors.
Energy and chemical industry magnates continue to invest billions of dollars as they expand operations to capture market opportunities. Over and above, these comparative advantages have attracted millions of dollars of investment by companies in the logistics, business services, and metals industries.
The growth of the River Region is a result of sound planning and support from a diversified cross-section of public and private stakeholders. The region’s overall strategy is to focus on diversifying its economic base by targeting industries that are conducive to growth in the River Region. It is why the River Region governing bodies have an established plan for economic growth that focuses on diversification and increased employment.
The River Region marketing coalition was formed in 2004 to develop strategies to further the economic growth and diversification of the region. The four entities (St. Charles Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, St. James Parish, and Port of South Louisiana) committed to working in tandem under the River Region Economic Development Initiative (RREDI) for the economic benefit of the region.
Over 2.2 million people live within 50 miles from the River Region. Local Employers have identified the local labor force as a considerable strength of the River Region, offering an abundant supply of high-skilled, productive, and committed workers. Over half the River Region’s population (118,100) is of workforce age, providing support for the expansive employment growth. Average hourly wages in the River Region are competitive to those in Gulfport-Biloxi, Houston, Lake Charles, and Mobile. Louisiana is one of 22 Right-to-Work states in the country with minimal union activity.
The impact of six industry sectors (Petrochemical & Related Manufacturing, Marine & Related Transportation, Metals Manufacturing, Food Processing & Related, Construction, and Utilities) accounts for 80% of all employment and more than 90% of all earnings in the region. At annual productivity rates of $357 per production man-hour and $774,270 per production worker, the River Region exceeds the average manufacturing worker productivity rates for all metro areas by more than three times
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The River Region sits at the intersection of the world’s most important ocean and river transportation system. With its Gulf Coast location and the Port of South Louisiana, the largest port in the Western Hemisphere, it has an advantageous location for the distribution of products throughout North and South America and the world. Whether freight is moved via container, barge, ocean barge, bulk, or breakbulk vessel, the River Region has the infrastructure to handle it. Access to global markets is a decided strength of the region that distinguishes it from most communities in the U.S.
The River Region is well within the one- to two-day, or 500 mile, delivery time and distance required by most manufacturers to support today’s supply chain needs and just-in-time operations. The level of intermodal service in the River Region matches service levels in trade gateways like Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, and Atlanta.
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The River Region has access to more colleges and universities than any other area in Louisiana and the majority of its competitor markets. Community college campuses offer courses that support local industry and the St. Charles Parish School System is one of the top-ranked in Louisiana.
Thirteen institutions of higher learning provide post-secondary education for more than 120,000 individuals in southeast Louisiana. There are nine four-year colleges and universities with an aggregate enrollment of approximately 92,000 students, and four two-year community colleges in the region with some 34,000 students enrolled.
The River Region provides both public and private elementary and secondary schools for residents. There are 43 elementary schools in the region with an enrollment exceeding 22,000 students. This includes 34 public schools with approximately 19,000 students and eight private schools with approximately 3,000 students.
Enrollment in the region’s eight secondary schools is some 6,500 students. The six public high schools accommodate about 5,700 students, while the three private schools have a combined enrollment of slightly less than 800 students.
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Quality of Life
The River Region enjoys a complete seasonal cycle with beautiful spring and fall seasons. Winter months are usually mild with short cold spells, with average temperatures of 62/41 degrees Fahrenheit. The summer months are balmy, with average temperatures in July of 91/73 degrees Fahrenheit. Annual precipitation averages 59 inches.
Eleven health centers, with over 2,700 beds, provide skilled medical care for residents of the River Region. These include St. Charles Parish Hospital, LaPlace Rehabilitation Hospital, St. James Parish Hospital, and various Ochsner Medical Centers throughout the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
Laced by swamps, bayous and lakes, and bisected by the Mississippi River – is a natural setting for water sports of all kinds, from fishing and swimming to water skiing, sailing, and boating. In addition, numerous parks and playgrounds located throughout the parish feature baseball, softball, and football programs.
The River Region is speckled with 11 library branches. The facilities offer reading and reference materials including periodicals, films, and audio materials, as well as computer access.
There is an abundance of recreational activities available to local residents and visitors alike. Resources include ball fields, country clubs, golf courses, private swimming pools, and tennis courts. Attractions include swamp and historical site tours.
Several festivals are held within the River Region throughout the year. These include the St. Charles Parish Catfish Festival held in June, the St. John the Baptist Parish Andouille Festival held in October, and the St. James Parish Festival of the Bonfires held on Christmas Eve. For the Christmas Eve celebration, bonfires line the Mississippi River levees on both sides of the river and are burned to light the way for Papa Noel.