Company that left N.O. for Texas after Katrina will move to Covington

A company that fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is returning to the area.

Rain CII Carbon LLC, which produces materials used in aluminum, steel and titanium dioxide, is moving its corporate headquarters from a suburb of Houston to Covington, officials announced Wednesday.

The company will lease about 20,000 square feet of office space in a building that will be built next year in Covington’s Northpark development.

It will begin operating from the new headquarters late in 2014, CEO Gerry Sweeney said.

The company, then called CII Carbon, occupied a building on the University of New Orleans campus until Katrina, Sweeney said.

“The office was almost completely wiped out,” he said.

Most of the employees moved to Kingwood, Texas, where there was available office space.

Once company executives began to consider the idea of relocating to the New Orleans area, things just “snowballed,” Sweeney said.

The time from request for site plans to announcement took just four months, said Brenda Bertus, executive director of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation.

The state will provide a package of incentives to help ease the move, including a $3.6 million performance-based grant to offset relocations costs.

The company will also be eligible for a $2 million modernization tax credit, according to information provided by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office.

The company has invested more than $100 million in its Louisiana facilities, including adding 15 new jobs in Lake Charles for a new power plant. It has four plants in the state of Louisiana.

The company will bring 71 direct jobs and another 70 indirect jobs to St. Tammany, Jindal said.

Some will be hired locally, but the company has about 50 workers who will be moving from Kingwood, according to Sweeney.

The jobs based in Covington will include commercial, operations and administrative positions, he said.

Wednesday’s announcement came at a news conference attended by Jindal, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister and other officials.

Each praised the move as a sign of the attractiveness of Louisiana in general and St. Tammany Parish in particular to businesses.

The company considered three sites, and “the north shore won,” Sweeney said. “It really came down to proximity to our plants and quality of life.”

He said the company felt the north shore is adequately protected from hurricanes, and he mentioned that it has easy access to an international airport.

The company’s new headquarters will be in a new area of Northpark, located along U.S. 190 just north of Interstate 12. Several other companies — including Chevron and LOOP LLC — already have offices there, and Chevron is expanding, having purchased 10 acres on which to build a new building.

“They are coming back because of the workforce, resilience of our people and the infrastructure for business investment,” Jindal said of Rain CII.

Rain CII has about 1,500 employees worldwide, and about 250 in the United States. Along with an associate company in India, Rain CII Group, it is one of the world’s largest producers of calcined petroleum coke, which is used in the aluminum, steel and titanium dioxide industries.