Louisiana's resources and key location have made it a region favored by international investors almost from its founding by the French some 300 years ago. Today, international holdings in the state total nearly $21 billion, the ninth largest international investment among the states.
Louisiana's five deep water ports handle more than 457 million tons of U.S. waterborne commerce a year, including nearly half of all American grain exports. Four of the eleven largest U.S. ports (in foreign commerce tonnage) are located in Louisiana. In addition to grain, other cargoes include chemicals, coal and general cargo. Some 100 steamship lines and barge companies serve the more than 4,500 seagoing vessels and 100,000 barges that ply the state's waterways each year. Trade is conducted with 191 countries around the world.
Louisiana is the second largest refiner of petroleum in the U.S. Nineteen refineries--including one of the largest and most diversified in the world--produce lubricants and fuels, including 16.9 billion gallons (64 billion liters) of gasoline a year.
Louisiana's petrochemical industry manufactures one-quarter of America's petrochemicals, including basic chemicals, plastics and fertilizers. Annual production by the nearly 100 petrochemical facilities operating in the state is valued at more than $19.6 billion.
Louisiana's natural resources include 11 percent of U.S. petroleum reserves and 19 percent of the country's reserves of natural gas. It also is the largest producer of salt in America and a major producer of sulphur, lime and silica sands. In addition, Louisiana has an estimated 310-330 million tons of lignite. The total value of all mineral production in the state is the second highest in the U.S.
Louisiana has 13.8 million acres of hardwood and softwood forests that support a large pulp and paper industry and the production of pine plywood and lumber for construction. The state is also a major manufacturer of linerboard, Kraft paper and fine papers. Louisiana's mild climate and abundant rainfall give it one of the fastest tree-growing cycles in North America.
Louisiana's general manufacturing sector includes maritime, military, barge and recreational vessel shipbuilding, light truck assembly, aerospace and aviation facilities, automobile equipment manufacturing, food processing and apparel manufacturing.
Louisiana's fishing industry is the second largest in America, accounting for 26 percent of all seafood landed in the country. Only Alaska's fishery is larger. The catch includes oysters, crab, shrimp, menhaden, redfish, shark and butterfish. Crawfish and catfish are harvested from specially-developed freshwater "farms". The state's sports fishing on both inland and deep-sea waters is considered some of the best and most prolific in the U.S.
Louisiana is among the ten largest producers in the U.S. of cotton, sugar cane, yams, rice and pecan nuts. It also raises important quantities of soybeans, beef cattle, maize, strawberries and truck crops.
Among Louisiana's best known attractions are its Jazz music--invented and first played here--and its Cajun and Creole cuisines. Other Louisiana tourist attractions include outstanding hunting and freshwater and deepwater fishing, thousands of miles of rivers and bayous and hundreds of lakes for boating, water skiing and sailing; camping, hiking and canoeing and several dozen plantation homes, and historical sites. The state's largest city, New Orleans, is considered one of the most interesting in America and annually hosts more than six million visitors. Elsewhere in the state, more than a hundred festivals are held each year to celebrate crop harvests and forestry, the blessing of the fishing fleets and dozens of foods and ethnic groups.