Louisiana reached its highest ranking yet in a nationwide assessment of the best states for business. Chief Executive magazine recently placed the state at No. 9 in its annual ranking.

Meanwhile, a survey in quarterly corporate site selection magazine Area Development cited the state for an impressive record of business growth. The magazine ranked Louisiana second in the country for incentive programs, third for overall business environment and fourth for “cooperative state government.”  Here’s a look at some of the projects and announcements that recently have helped buoy the state’s stature in national and international economic development circles.

Chiquita is Back in Town
NEW ORLEANS – The Port of New Orleans experienced something of a dream come true in May when a long-lost client confirmed it would return “home.” Chiquita Brands International Inc. announced the company will relocate its shipping operations from Gulfport, Mississippi, to New Orleans, where it will sharply increase the volume of container cargo handled by the port. Chiquita is returning to New Orleans after a nearly 40-year absence, having moved to Gulfport in the 1970s.

Before that, the company’s banana boats had docked at local wharves for more than seven decades. Up to 350 new jobs are expected at the port as Chiquita ships some 70,000 containers to and from New Orleans, representing about a 15 percent increase in container volume through the port. The new business also is expected to strengthen Louisiana’s trade ties with Central America.

The port also landed an expansion project in the form of TCI Plastics’s new $36 million logistics facility soon to take shape at the France Road Wharf. About 160 new jobs are expected to result as the company enlarges on its local plastics packaging and export business.

Working on the railroads
SPRINGHILL – A Texas-based maker of composite railroad products will bring 300 new jobs as it relocates its corporate headquarters to Webster Parish. IntegriCo Composites Inc. has enjoyed fast growth as a manufacturer that recycles plastics to create long-lasting railroad ties, rail crossings and industrial mats. The company will renovate the former Trane Commercial Systems building and an adjacent structure at the North Webster Industrial Park. Springhill Mayor Carroll Breaux called the project “a game-changer” for the community.

Financial services pump up north Louisiana
RUSTON – Two years into its northern Louisiana experience, a mortgage services company has decided to expand its footprint and add  jobs. Mortgage Contracting Services currently employs 90 people at the 10,000-square-foot service center it opened in Ruston in July 2012. Now, having doubled the center’s size, the company will hire an additional 90 workers, whose duties will include property inspections and maintenance services for mortgage servicing firms. Company CEO Caroline Reaves, a graduate of Ruston-based Louisiana Tech University, said both Louisiana Tech and Grambling State University have provided high-quality graduates to fill the local jobs.

Keeping data safe
BATON ROUGE – Data center and cloud-based services firm Venyu recently opened a new $14 million, 23,000-square-foot center aimed at boosting the data storage capacity and security the company offer its Baton Rouge-area clients. CEO Scott Thompson said the center features a 24-hour surveillance system to heighten security, and redundant heating, cooling and fire-protection systems designed to ensure exceptional data preservation services. The expansion strengthens a growing core of technology-centered businesses choosing to set up shop in the capital city.

Building a tech-savvy work force
LAFAYETTE – Information technology company CGI Group Inc. will become the anchor tenant for a 140-acre research park at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the company announced recently. The center is expected to offer 400 jobs in the development of business process and IT solutions for a range of clients.
Montreal-based CGI operates throughout the world and counts major government agencies and corporations among its clients. The collaboration in Lafayette will enable the university to build on its computer science educational assets and increase its ability to meet the needs of technology companies throughout the region, a university official said.