Louisiana Economy

The main elements of the Louisiana economy are: the production of minerals, particularly oil and natural gas, but also sulphur, lime, salt and lignite; petroleum refining; chemical and petrochemical manufacturing; tourism; forestry; pulp, plywood and papermaking; agriculture and food processing; commercial fishing; shipping and international trade; shipbuilding, and general manufacturing.

Oil And Natural Gas And Minerals Production

Louisiana contains just under 10 percent of all known U.S. oil reserves and is the country's third largest producer of petroleum. Its reserves of natural gas are even larger and it produces just over one-quarter of all U.S. supplies. Louisiana also has immense quantities of salt contained in huge underground formations, some of which are a mile across and up to 50,000 feet deep and produce almost 100 percent pure rock salt. The first sulphur mined in America came from Louisiana and the state is still a principal producer of the mineral.

Petroleum Refining

Louisiana petroleum refineries produce enough gasoline annually (15 billion gallons) to fill up 800 million automobile gas tanks, making the state the third leading refiner. The state's 16 refineries include one of the four largest in the Western Hemisphere and among the companies with Louisiana production facilities are Exxon, Shell, Citgo. Mobil, Marathon, Conoco, BP and STAR. In addition to producing gasoline, Louisiana refineries also produce jet fuels, lubricants and some 600 other petroleum products.

Chemicals And Petrochemicals

Louisiana ranks second in the nation in the primary production of petrochemicals. More than 100 major chemical plants are located in the state producing a variety of "building block" chemicals, fertilizers and plastics, plus the feedstocks for a wide array of other products. Synthetic rubber was first developed and produced commercially in Louisiana as were a number of other petroleum-related products.


Tourism is a major Louisiana industry employing over 87,000 workers. Travelers spend an estimated $5.2 billion in the state each year. Major tourist attractions include the New Orleans French Quarter, the Cajun Country, antebellum plantation homes, Jazz, distinctive food, deep sea and freshwater fishing, hunting, the Mardi Gras and more than 100 other festivals, swampland tours, hiking and camping, canoeing and Mississippi River boat rides.


Louisiana shipyards build every kind of seagoing vessel from giant cryogenic ships used to transport liquified natural gas to some of the largest offshore oil and gas exploration rigs in the world. They also build merchant vessels, Coast Guard cutters, barges, tugs, supply boats, fishing vessels, pleasure craft and river patrol boats. The largest industrial employer in the state is Avondale Shipyards on the Mississippi River near New Orleans where vessels are sometimes built upside down and ships are launched sideways into the river rather than stern first as is the custom elsewhere.

Forestry and Forest Products

Louisiana has more than 13.9 million acres of forests, including pine, oak, gum and cypress. Approximately one billion board feet of timber and 3.6 million cords of pulpwood are cut annually to support a variety of forest-related industries including Kraft paper and fine-paper mills, plywood and particle board plants, furniture and flooring manufacturers, pulp mills, liner board and container board factories and paper bag plants.

Agriculture and Food Processing

Louisiana is among the top 10 states in the production of sugar cane (2nd), sweet potatoes (2nd), rice (3rd) and cotton (5th). It is also a major producer of beef cattle. Louisiana is the sole source of the Tabasco pepper prized as a condiment around the world and is also the sole source of perique tobacco which is widely used as flavoring with other tobaccos. The state's huge agricultural production supports more than a dozen rice mills, seven sugar refineries plus nearly two dozen other sugar-related facilities, and a number of canning plants, cotton gins and meat packaging plants.

Commercial Fishing

Louisiana's commercial fishing industry catches about 25 percent of all the seafood landed in America and holds the record for the largest catch ever landed in a single year, 1.9 billion pounds. The state is the largest producer of shrimp and oysters in the U.S. Louisiana waters also yield menhaden, crab, butterfish, drum, red snapper, tuna and tile fish as well as a variety of game fish, including tarpon. The state's freshwater fishery is considered the most diversified in the U.S., and, in addition to fish, its commercial ponds and the Atchafalaya River Basin swamp produce millions of pounds of crawfish annually.

Shipping and International Commerce

Louisiana was originally purchased from France in order to secure the Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans for the safe movement of the goods and produce of the fledgling United States. Today, it remains a major avenue for the import and export of goods. The state's five major ports handle roughly 400 million short tons of cargo a year, including more than 40 percent of all the grain exported from the U.S. More than 25 percent of the nation's waterborne exports pass through Louisiana, and its Superport is the only facility in the U.S. capable of handling ultra deep draft vessels drawing 100 feet of water. More than 5,000 ocean-going ships call at Louisiana ports each year along with a seemingly endless stream of barge tows, some of which carry more than 40,000 tons of cargo, more than many seagoing ships. And more than 185 years after its purchase from Napoleon, Louisiana remains a center for foreign investment with some 200 foreign companies having almost $16 billion invested in the state, the largest amount of foreign investment in any southeastern state and ninth largest among all states.

General Manufacturing

In addition to its resource-based industries, Louisiana also has a diverse general manufacturing base. Louisiana produces business telephone systems, assembles light trucks, manufactures electrical equipment, manufactures pharmaceuticals, glass products and automobile batteries, as well as specialized vehicles for traveling over marshes, maritime ranging equipment to let boats know where they are at sea, makes playground equipment, mobile homes, yachts, clothing and weapons, plus several hundred other products.


While Martin Marietta employs more than 2500 workers in New Orleans to construct the external fuel tanks for NASA's space shuttle program, it is not Louisiana's only link to the nation's space program. NASA also operates an aerospace computer services center in Slidell. The state also has an emerging aviation services sector. The Boeing Corporation operates a major, aviation maintenance facility in Lake Charles which employs some 2,000 workers to repair and refit jet aircraft, while Collins Defense Communications, a division of Rockwell International, operates an aircraft modification center in Shreveport.


Louisiana excels in the three most promising areas of biotechnological research and development - bioprocess, recombinant DNA and monoclonal antibody technology. Scientists at Louisiana State University were the first in the world to bring about the successful birth of a calf from one quarter of a transplanted embryo. Louisiana's growing role in the world of biotechnological research is augmented by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a world-class facility in Baton Rouge which specializes in the study of the role of nutrition in health.

Film Industry

Louisiana's film history dates back to a 1908 production on "Faust." Last year (1994), production revenues from feature films, television, commercials and music videos produced in the state totaled more than $37 million. Recent feature films shot here include Interview with the Vampire, The Pelican Brief, and Heaven's Prisoners. The Louisiana Film Commission offers a variety of services to both in-state and out-of-state production companies.

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