WAGGAMAN, LA — The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) joined startup riverboat cruise company French America Line and the City of Gretna to celebrate the inaugural launch of the Riverboat Louisiane on Thursday. The 150-passenger riverboat will set sail from its home port in Gretna on Saturday, October 22nd. The first voyage, a five-day round-trip journey to Natchez, is completely sold out.
French America Line, which offers premium tours along America’s waterways, announced the establishment of its corporate headquarters on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish in June 2016. Operations began out of JEDCO’s Business Innovation Center in the Churchill Technology & Business Park earlier this year and the City of Gretna’s ferry terminal branded as Quai Louisiane will serve as the home port for the Louisiane.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Louisiane and French America Line to the City of Gretna and Jefferson Parish. This riverboat presents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage our riverfront for the future resumption of ferry services with New Orleans while complementing our recently completed Gretna Downtown 2020 plan,” says Gretna Mayor Belinda Constant. “The launch of the Louisiane is tied to the creation of direct quality jobs in Gretna and numerous indirect jobs. I cannot overstate how valuable all of our partners in this project have been including JEDCO, Transdev, DOTD and the Port of New Orleans. We look forward to a long relationship with French America Line.”
French America Line has hired 32 local people since its inception earlier this year with an annual total payroll of over $2.6 million. Additionally, the riverboat cruise line has made it a priority to work with local companies. French America Line currently partners with 43 regional businesses. One such company is Bollinger Quick Repair, based out of Harvey, which refurbished the Louisiane after its trip from Oregon to Louisiana through the Panama Canal. The Louisiane, formerly the Columbia Queen that sailed Oregon’s Columbia River, was purchased by French America Line in 2015. The riverboat arrived at Bollinger in August for repairs and upgrades before relocating to its home port at the City of Gretna’s once underutilized ferry terminal in mid-October.
“We are beyond thrilled to be in Jefferson Parish and to call it home for the Louisiane. Not only does this mark the return to the New Orleans area of a US riverboat cruise company that provides quality jobs to US Citizens, in itself a notable achievement, but we are delighted with the quality of the workforce we have already hired here,” says Christopher Kyte, chairman of French America Line. “In terms of skills, enthusiasm and commitment, we could not have headquartered in a better location. We are in a business where our human resources mean everything for the experience our guests will enjoy. A quality workforce is critical to this and our decision to locate in Jefferson Parish has already proven wise and effective”.
French America Line invested over $7.5 million into the community with an estimated economic impact of $58 million. A portion of the revenue generated from French America Line’s operations will be exclusively reserved for the future development of a permanent water transit service connection between the City of Gretna and New Orleans.
JEDCO played a vital role in attracting French America Line to the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. The economic development agency provided site selection and incentive assistance to the company while also interfacing with the City of Gretna to reach an agreement on the use of the once-dormant ferry terminal branded as Quai Louisiane. JEDCO also financed a portion of the project to aid in the vessel’s relocation from Oregon to the City of Gretna.
“This project is a major win for Jefferson Parish,” says JEDCO’s President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “Not only will French America Line increase tourism to the West Bank, but also its partnerships with our local businesses will have a positive impact on our economy. Additionally, we find it commendable that the company was able to transport, refurbish, and launch the vessel in under four months, allowing French America Line to begin cruises before the end of this year. We are proud that French America Line chose Jefferson Parish as its headquarters. The JEDCO team will continue to be a long-term resource for French America Line and look forward to its many successes. ”
French America Line offers five-to-ten day cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, and Red Rivers with stops at major U.S. cities along the way. The boutique riverboat will offer 75 suites and staterooms, two restaurants, three lounges, a full-service spa and nightly entertainment. For more information, visit www.frenchamericaline.com.