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BF: Louisiana has emerged as a national leader in workforce training with the Louisiana FastStart™ program. Is the availability of customized pre-employment training becoming a deciding factor in site selection decisions?
SM: In less than two years, Louisiana FastStart™ definitely has become one of our most powerful and effective recruiting tools during site-selection competitions. As one of the nation’s top workforce development programs, FastStart offers companies world-class, customized employee recruitment, screening, training development and training delivery, and also can provide specialized solutions for companies in a wide variety of industry sectors—from automobile manufacturers to digital media firms to aerospace companies. All of these services come at no cost to the company.
BF: The Deepwater Horizon disaster has caused disruptions in the oil drilling and fishing industries. Can FastStart play a role in retraining displaced workers from these sectors?
SM: In certain situations, FastStart could definitely retrain displaced workers in the oil and natural gas industries as well as the commercial fishing industries. For example, if a company is expanding in Louisiana, FastStart could help the company hire employees seeking new opportunities due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the drilling moratorium imposed by President Obama. Moreover, this could be extremely valuable for a company because FastStart would be able to identify employees with transferable skills, then train them using customized programs created through FastStart.
BF: How has Louisiana has positioned itself to be a major player in the revived nuclear power industry?
SM: Louisiana is well positioned to be a leader in the global nuclear renaissance because we possess a highly skilled and productive manufacturing workforce, a world-class workforce solution in FastStart, deep-water shipping infrastructure and a healthy business climate. Based on these strengths and early success in developing the industry, over the next two decades, the nuclear energy sector could create up to 20,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Louisiana alone. The Shaw Group, is developing a $100-million facility in Lake Charles, LA that will employ up to 1,400 people focused on constructing modularized nuclear reactor components. This facility is the first of its kind in the U.S.
BF: If you could change one perception about Louisiana, what would that be?
SM: One of the greatest challenges facing our economic development efforts is more closely aligning the perception of Louisiana’s business climate with the actual business conditions available here. Fortunately, we have made significant advances in reversing outdated perceptions. Companies now see in Louisiana an attractive business climate, high-quality available labor, low energy and utility costs, excellent logistics, an attractive business tax structure and one of the best workforce programs in the country.
ROLLING THE DICE
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has unveiled a bold plan for a complete state takeover of the Atlantic City casino and entertainment district, and the sell-off or shutdown of the struggling Meadowlands Racetrack.
The Atlantic City takeover would remove virtually all local control from the gaming district, from police protection to garbage pickup. The plans were outlined in a report by a special commission created by the governor to fix NJ’s struggling gaming industry.
Under the plan, Atlantic City’s entertainment and gaming districts would become an independent city within a city overseen by state government. That includes the casinos, the marina, beachfront and Boardwalk areas.
When he took office in January, Gov. Christie pledged to dramatically reduce the state government’s footprint. He backed this up by slashing about $3 billion from the state budget, including nearly a billion earmarked for education.
Now, apparently, New Jersey has found room in its state budget to pay for picking up the trash for privately owned gambling establishments.
Louisiana was our top-ranked state for workforce training in this year’s Rankings Report. Stephen Moret discusses the program and other major initiatives.