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Cover Story: 2014 Business Facilities Rankings Report

BF July/August 2014 Cover

By Business Facilities Staff
From the July/August 2014 issue 

With this issue, Business Facilities‘ annual Rankings Report marks an important milestone: It seems like only yesterday that we began our yearly tradition of separating who’s on top from who’s not, but this is is our 10th annual Rankings Report. After all of the hard times we’ve all been through together in recent years, we’re very pleased that we’re still here to deliver this to you and you’re still here to read it. (For Metro and Global Rankings, visit this link.)

The past 10 years have been a roller-coaster ride that carried all of us to the top of an unsustainable boom and then left us hanging on for dear life when the bottom dropped out—and a seemingly endless free-fall began. We’re happy to report that most of us survived the landing. After numerous twists and turns—and more than a few jarring dips (some unexpected, others caused by a feckless Congress throwing obstacles on the rails)—most locations are safely back on track and climbing again.

The rapidly evolving economic development landscape forced us to be as agile as an Olympic gymnast in adjusting our rankings criteria (and categories) to reflect the “new normal” we’ve all been confronting in recent years.

When the Great Recession hit, most of our rankings categories were configured to give you a static snapshot of the leaders in job-creation. When jobs stopped getting created (and in many areas employment was still hemorrhaging), we introduced the concept of growth potential as a key measure in our flagship rankings categories. When the pendulum began to swing in the direction of Recovery, we adjusted with it. Growth potential remains a key criteria for many of our rankings decisions, but we’ve leavened this with an increasing emphasis on verifiable performance. We’ve also continued to take a fresh look each year at the configuration and definitions of our specific rankings categories, adding new ones and tweaking the previous year’s offerings to generate a more meaningful result.

Best Business ClimateA good example of this process is our state ranking for Automotive Manufacturing Strength. This category originated as a snapshot of the state-by-state vehicle production scoreboard. In recent years, we transformed this ranking into an analytical assessment of growth potential that gave added weight to industry trends and projected expansion based on commitments from the major automakers. This shifted the balance of power from the traditional Rust Belt automotive giants to the emerging auto powerhouses in the right-to-work Southern and Border states. As we did last year, we’re supplementing our flagship Automotive Manufacturing Strength ranking with an Automotive Jobs Leaders category that is not based on growth potential but instead reflects overall employment in the sector (including supplier networks). Not surprisingly, the traditional Northern auto centers (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana) continue to rule the roost as supply chain Jobs Leaders.

We don’t want to tip our hand, but don’t be surprised if these two categories eventually merge. The playing field is leveling (the Rust Belt states are joining the right-to-work bandwagon) and the German, Japanese and Korean transplants have put down deep roots in several states. Inevitably, our growth potential criteria will be supplanted by an objective measurement of actual growth and employment—and all the big players will compete for the same crown in our flagship auto sweepstakes.

We’ll continue to be quick on our feet to provide you with this reliable constant no matter the ups-and-downs of economic fortunes: that our annual Rankings Report will be the fairest and most accurate assessment of progress being made by the locations that are leaders in charting a path to sustainable growth in these troubled times. Here then, without further ado, are the results for Business Facilities’ 10th Annual Rankings Report.

Climate Change That’s Welcome

educationracetothetop

If natural gas, gumbo and Mardi Gras are the only things that come to mind when you think about Louisiana, think again. Name a growth sector—digital media, advanced manufacturing, IT/software—and Louisiana has a specific program geared to welcome new players, with a proven track record of successful startups.

Pick a successful growth strategy other states are starting to replicate and you’ll discover that Louisiana has made it work on a grand scale. Nowhere is this more evident that in the unprecedented cooperation between higher education resources and business in LA.

It’s no surprise that Utah and Texas, two of the business-friendliest states in the nation, round out the top three in our Best Business Climate ranking. But our top three would be well advised to take note of the contenders coming up fast in their rearview mirrors (and remember that “objects are closer than they appear”). Rising stars Tennessee and Indiana, our fourth- and fifth-ranked states in Best Business Climate, show no signs of abandoning their upward mobility in this flagship category.

TN is Race to the Top Leader

The U.S. Department of Education recently released its assessment of the progress made by recipients of Race to the Top (RTTP) funding in the first three years of the program. Tennessee, one of the first states to receive funding (TN has been allocated $500 million in Race to the Top funding), is leading the pack in implementation of the educational reforms mandated by the federal program.

bestinfrastructureIn January 2010, Tennessee passed the First to the Top Act (FTTT). FTTT laid the foundation for broad-based education reform, including a comprehensive evaluation system for teachers and principals based on multiple measures of effectiveness; the removal of the restriction on the use of value-added data for promotion, retention, tenure and compensation decisions; state intervention in TN’s lowest-achieving schools; and a statewide plan for higher education established through the Complete College Act of 2010.

In Year 2 of the RTTP program, Tennessee created a Common Core Leadership Council, recruiting 200 high-performing educators to serve as Core Coaches to train and support their peers in the transition to core curriculum standard. The state also fully implemented its Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) educator evaluation system.

Tennessee also met the targets for the first half of the grant for establishing and implementing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Hubs and Platform Schools to identify and disseminate high quality STEM practices.

In Year 3, Tennessee’s State assessment results show continued growth across grades and subjects, with particularly notable progress exceeding the State’s Race to the Top targets in grades 3-8 and high school mathematics. The state’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results also evidenced significant gains. Further, the state made progress closing achievement gaps, particularly in the 167 schools identified as Focus Schools based on significant achievement gaps in SY 2011-2012. Focus Schools on average outperformed non-Focus Schools in the percentage gain in proficiency of economically disadvantaged students in all subjects.

economicgrowthpotentialMoving into Year 4 of its grant, Tennessee plans to build on its progress and continuously improve implementation of its key initiatives.

Auto Giants Keep Getting Bigger

After rising through the ranks of our Automotive Manufacturing Strength category like one of the Saturn V rockets they used to produce in Huntsville, Alabama finally has reached the summit in our flagship auto category. The Crimson Tide rolled into the top spot by edging past Tennessee, our top-ranked state in Automotive Manufacturing Strength for four consecutive years.

We want to emphasize that the space between our top two finishers was closer than Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 0.060 margin of victory in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and No. 3 and No. 4 (Indiana and Kentucky) were revving their engines and gaining on the frontrunners at the finish line.

The development that literally put Alabama on the map as a major jobs producer took place two decades ago, when Mercedes-Benz decided in 1993 to locate its North American manufacturing hub in Tuscaloosa. Mercedes’ decision was a game-changer: the German automaker’s arrival opened the door for other industrial giants to come to Alabama. It also established the state as a front-runner in foreign direct investments and jump-started a torrent of exports from Alabama to the world.

biotechnologystrength-drugspharmaMercedes-Benz’s long-term commitment to Alabama was followed by a parade of auto giants who have vaulted the state into the top five in U.S. automotive production, with more than 900,000 vehicles produced in 2013. Hyundai, Honda and Toyota have major automotive production facilities in Alabama, all of which are in the process of expanding.

“When you see companies like Mercedes adding new lines [the company will produce its fifth new model in Tuscaloosa this year], when you see Hyundai put a third shift in, adding 800 new jobs, and when you see the level of automation at the plants, you know that we’re producing the high-quality vehicles here in Alabama,” Gov. Robert Bentley told BF in an exclusive Governor’s Report interview.

automanustrengthAlabama got a turbocharged boost to the top of our automotive scoreboard from the Alabama Industrial Development Training [AIDT] program, an innovative leader in workforce training initiatives that specializes in developing on-site training facilities for key industries, including aerospace, ship-building and automotive.

Last year, the state signed an agreement with Mercedes-Benz that recognizes Shelton State Community College as one of the best in its field in preparing individuals for careers in manufacturing. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) and AIDT formalized a $1.6-million contract for Shelton to support MBUSI’s technical programs. The initiative will be funded through AIDT’s Workforce Development program.

“We’ve had resounding success with our Automotive Technician and Mechatronics programs over the past year,” said Markus Schaefer, president and CEO of MBUSI. “More than 100 candidates have enrolled in the program, which has been recognized in Alabama, nationally and globally as a model in the arena of workforce development. Shelton State and AIDT have been critical in the success of these efforts.”

Shelton is using the largest portion of the funds ($1.2 million) to buy equipment that will be housed on campus to train students in robotics, electrical and other high-tech skills required in manufacturing. The remainder of the funds support students with tuition, fees other program expenses.

biotechnologystrength-meddevicesBut the latest news out of the Volunteer State is a strong indicator that our long-time auto champ plans to reclaim its crown. At press time, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Volkswagen Group of America officials announced that VW will expand its sole U.S. manufacturing facility in Chattanooga. Volkswagen will add an additional manufacturing line and create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of Volkswagen Group of America. Volkswagen’s total global investment for the expansion will be $900 million, with $600 million invested in Tennessee and 2,000 new jobs being created in Hamilton County, TN.

aerospacedefenseindleaders“The impact of this announcement goes far beyond the 2,000 new jobs because of the large multiplier effect of the automotive industry. Adding an additional manufacturing line and the National Research & Development and Planning Center sends a clear signal that Tennessee can compete with anyone in the global marketplace,” Haslam said.

The expanded plant in the Enterprise South Industrial Park will manufacture a new automotive line, a midsize SUV for the U.S. market. Production of the new SUV will begin in the fourth quarter of 2016, with the first vehicle expected to roll off the new assembly line by the end of 2016.

“With the midsize SUV, the expansion of the Chattanooga plant and the new development center, we are focusing on the wishes of U.S. customers,” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, in Wolfsburg, Germany, said. “The Volkswagen brand is going on the attack again in America.”

For the VW expansion, the state of Tennessee is providing a $165.8-million grant for costs associated with site development and preparation, infrastructure, production equipment acquisition and installation, and facility construction. In addition, the state will provide a $12-million grant for training new employees. As part of the incentive package, Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to waive its right to claim certain statutorily available tax credits directly related to the expansion.

biofuelsleaders-ethanolWithin a few days of the VW announcement, Gov. Haslam also revealed that automotive supplier SL Tennessee will construct a new 250,000-square-foot building to join its two existing facilities in the Clinton/I-75 Industrial Park, a Select Tennessee Certified Site. The South Korean automotive parts manufacturer will invest $80.5 million and create 1,000 new jobs in Anderson County. Located in Clinton since 2001, this will be the company’s fifth expansion.

creditqualitySL Tennessee will begin construction in August 2014 with a goal of being fully operational by April 2015. The new facility will manufacture and produce head lamps and tail lamps for the automotive market. With the addition of  the building, the company will also be consolidating its data infrastructure for North America to the Clinton location.

Indiana has been a long-time bastion of automotive employment (IN ranked third in our Automotive Job Leaders  category); recent expansions in the Hoosier State make it a future contender for top honors in our flagship Automotive Manufacturing Strength ranking as well.

A joint effort by Greater Lafayette (IN) Commerce, the City of Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.—which convinced Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) to invest $400 million to build the Subaru Impreza at its Lafayette facility—garnered an Honorable Mention Award in BF’s 2013 Economic Development Deal of the Year competition.

The Subaru expansion will create 500 new jobs and yield an estimated direct economic impact of more than $1.8  billion over the next 10 years. Construction of the planned expansion at Subaru’s Lafayette plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

biofuelsleaders-cellulosicethanol“We are proud that Indiana will be home to the continued investment of a world-class company like Subaru,” Gov. Mike Pence said. “With our competitive tax climate, strong workforce and unmatched infrastructure, the world recognizes that the Hoosier State is open for business.”

The SIA expansion announcement spurred a series of supplier expansions in the Greater Lafayette area, including the expansion of Heartland Automotive, which makes interior parts for Subaru. Heartland will be doubling the capacity of its Lafayette facility to meet demand from the Impreza line. Heartland’s $19-million investment will create 225 new jobs.

Wind is Powerful in Texas

exportsleadersIt may surprise some folks that the birthplace of Big Oil also rules the roost in our Renewable Energy Leaders—Power Generation ranking. When it comes to wind power, the Lone Star State has put its money where its mouth is, backing up an exponential growth in the installation of wind turbines with the most advanced alternative energy transmission grid in the nation.

Many states are making giant strides in generating power from alternative energy. But converting energy from the sun, wind or water into electricity is only the first step in the migration from fossil fuels to a greener future. Building the new transmission grids that can carry clean energy from remote wind farms and solar arrays directly to industrial markets is the hard part—and one state stands out among the rest for getting the job done. Texas earned Business Facilities’ Achievement in Alternative Energy Award for its completion early this year of the most ambitious power transmission project in the nation.

In January, Texas completed the last segment of the $6.8-billion Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission project (CREZ), capping nearly a decade of planning, upgrades and new construction along 3,600 miles of high-voltage transmission lines across central and West Texas.

CREZ is being overseen by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which runs the state’s largest electricity grid (and one of three grids in the nation located in Texas). The new expansion is allowing CREZ to transmit 18,500 MW of wind power—much of it emanating from windy West Texas—to load centers in the eastern part of the state. That’s about 50 percent more capacity than currently is installed in Texas and more than three times as much as any other state. CREZ has helped to spur a surge in new wind farm projects in West Texas and the Panhandle, where the new lines have opened millions of acres for potential development.

biotechnologygrowthpotentialAmerican wind power topped four percent of the U.S. power grid supply for the first time last year. Four percent doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to power 15.5 million homes, making wind the fifth-largest electricity source in the U.S. (renewables in total now deliver about 13 percent of the nation’s electricity). Seventeen states now get more than five percent of their electricity from wind, which is expected to supply about 20 percent of overall U.S. power by 2030.lowestindelectricityrates

Texas continues its impressive dominance of installed wind power capacity (35,937 MW), more than twice the amount of its nearest competitor. TX is preparing to defend its crown next year with 7,000 MW of new capacity under construction (nearly two-thirds of the capacity being built this year across the country). Iowa surges into second place and Oklahoma joins the top five in our annual wind power generation ranking.

Iowa again tops our annual Wind Power/Percentage of Overall Energy ranking with 27.4 percent of its power coming from wind, one of only two states to top 25 percent (SD is no. 2 at 26 percent). Kansas gusts up two notches into third place, despite a Koch Bros.-financed campaign to strong-arm state legislature in slowing the turbine effort down. Now that Texas has brought online its new transmission grid, we can expect the Lone Star State to move up the ranks in this category.

Heroes of the Recovery

Now that the Great Recession thankfully is receding into the history books, we thought this year’s state rankings would be a good place to take the long view on the Recovery—specifically, which states climbed out of the biggest craters faster and better than anyone else.

So we’ve created a new category, which we’re calling Employment Recovery Leaders, but which also could be titled “Heroes of the Recovery.”

For this new state ranking, we compared state unemployment rates when the economy bottomed out in Dec. 2009 (the Recession officially ended in April 2009, but unemployment didn’t peak until the end of that year) to the most current numbers available (April 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics). The top-ranked states in this new category are the ones that had the biggest drop in unemployment during this period.

employmentleadersThe Palmetto State tops the list, with jobless numbers dropping to 7.1 percent from a Recession high of 12 percent. South Carolina played to its strength—manufacturing—and got big boosts from Boeing’s decision to put its assembly plant in North Charleston, and from several new tire plants.

Most of the states that were clobbered by the housing market collapse, including Florida, Nevada, California and Oregon, made it into the top 10 in our Employment Recovery Leaders ranking. They were joined by Rust Belt giants Michigan and Ohio, which rode the wave of a resurgent U.S. automotive industry.

In our traditional Employment Leaders category, which ranks the states based on the lowest current unemployment rates, oil-rich North Dakota repeats as the undisputed leader.

As we detailed in the BF Blog, North Dakota has a problem that every other state would give their proverbial left arms to acquire: for at least the past four years, the Peace Garden State (one of our favorite state nicknames) has been creating far more jobs than it has available workers.

The Bakken shale-oil boom has brought thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in revenue to ND, driving the state’s unemployment rate down to a U.S.-leading 2.6 percent, which is probably as close to full employment as any state will ever get. With fracking expected to continue its exponential expansion in ND and state coffers brimming with surplus revenue that can be used to prime other growth sectors, the upward trend in North Dakota no doubt will continue through the end of this decade and beyond.

Not only is there a critical shortage of workers to fill all the new jobs in ND, there’s also a dearth of housing for the influx of new oilfield hands that are arriving from other states every month.

Last month, some regional economic development organizations stepped forward with an interesting idea to address the chronic shortage of workers in North Dakota, which is not limited to the oil industry but cuts across all sectors, including healthcare, construction and retail. According to a report in Prairie Business, a regional group called the Valley Prosperity Partnership—which promotes growth in the Red River Valley and includes as a member the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.—recently released an Action Agenda 2014-2019 report which urges that North Dakota explore the creation of a “targeted immigration” program.employmentrecoveryleaders

The goal of a targeted immigration program would be to recruit foreign workers with specific skillsets and match them to jobs that need filling. The Valley Prosperity Partnership cites a program across the border in neighboring Manitoba as an example of how such an international matchmaking effort can succeed.

Through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, thousands of individuals are recruited based on labor market needs and thousands more are matched with employers with skill shortages once they arrive in Manitoba, Prairie Business reports. The program reportedly has seen an 87-percent retention rate, resulting in nearly 140,000 new permanent residents for the province since 1999. Of that total, nearly 30,000 have settled in rural areas, according to a report from Canada’s Office of the Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Busy Beehive Yields Job Honey

While North Dakota must figure out a way to address its workforce availability issues in order to fully realize its economic growth potential, Utah has no such problem. With the fastest growing population in the U.S. and a highly regarded educational system, the Beehive State claims the top spot in our flagship Economic Growth Potential category.

When Gov. Gary Herbert took office in 2009 (replacing Jon Huntsman, who was named U.S. ambassador to China by President Obama), he set a daunting goal of making Utah the number one performing economy in America and the premier global business destination.

“That was a pretty bold, audacious goal in 2009 and yet we see that literally being fulfilled,” Herbert told Business Facilities in an exclusive interview.

naturalgasprodleadersThe results can’t be denied: a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, the second fastest growing economy in the nation, a highly diverse mix of thriving industry sectors and a well-educated, rapidly expanding population (43 percent of adults have post-secondary level degrees) that enjoys arguably the best quality of life in the U.S. Utah, BF’s 2011 State of the Year, has perennially occupied the top tier in our flagship state rankings categories in recent years, including Best Business Climate.

Gov. Herbert’s economic development effort has been built around six strategically targeted growth clusters, including aerospace/defense, life sciences, IT/software, energy, finance and outdoor products/recreation.

The Salt Lake City area is a leading hub for advanced aerospace manufacturing and composites fabrication. Boeing, which has a fabrication and assembly operation in Salt Lake City, is in the midst of refurbishing an 870,000- square-foot facility in nearby West Jordon where it will build composite horizontal stabilizer components for its 787 Dreamliner. Earlier this year, the Chicago-based aircraft giant came close to moving its primary 787 assembly facility from the Seattle area to Salt Lake City [a last-minute union deal kept the plant in WA].

“Boeing explored 54 locations across the country [for the 787 assembly], but the first phone call they made was to my office in Salt Lake City,” Gov. Herbert told us.

The focus on advanced materials for aerospace/defense applications has drawn carbon-fiber leader Hexcel and ATK (which fabricates stringers and frames for the fuselage of the Airbus A350 XWB at its Clearfield, UT facility) as well as Boeing to put down roots in Utah. Fabrication of outdoor products and sporting goods from composites also is an emerging growth sector in the state.

Easton, which makes hundreds of outdoor products and sports equipment including baseball bats, produced all of the arrows used in the Olympics at its Salt Lake City facility. Another major composite arrow maker, Hoyt Archery, also has a plant in Utah.

renewenergyleaders-powgenUtah’s IT, data center and software cluster continues to grow exponentially and includes industry titans Adobe, eBay, Twitter, Oracle, C7, IM Flash and Microsoft. The strength of this cluster was a key factor in the NSA’s decision to put its new $1.5-billion National Cybersecurity Data Center at Camp Williams. “Utah’s Silicon Slopes are now recognized as being completely competitive with Silicon Valley, only with better skiing,” Gov. Herbert says.

The Beehive State is a national leader in the hot growth sector of digital media, drawing key players including Disney Interactive and EA to Utah. Higher education resources played a key role in the workforce development for the digital media industry in Utah: a Cluster Acceleration Partnership for digital media was spearheaded by Utah Valley University and supported by the nationally recognized animation department at Brigham Young University.

According to Gov. Herbert, the state’s emphasis on education is the key to growth in every targeted sector in Utah.

“This is so critical for our state we set a goal to have 66 percent of the adult population with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020,” he told BF.

Louisiana FastStart: Still the Gold Standard in Training

Louisiana’s FastStart continues to set the standard for the best workforce development program in the nation. FastStart, which is run by Louisiana Economic Development (LED), was launched in 2008 to help attract and develop workers for new projects.

LED’s FastStart aligns with top manufacturing and service industries and provides—at no cost—a single, comprehensive source for delivering a well-trained workforce from day one for expanding employers in the state. To qualify, companies must be within Louisiana’s target industries and manufacturers must create a net of at least 15 new direct jobs and service industries a net of at least 50 new direct jobs.

installedwindpowercapleadersLouisiana has attracted major projects, such as IBM’s 800-job technology center in Baton Rouge; two headquarters expansions by CenturyLink in Monroe that are creating more than 1,100 new direct jobs; a 675-job, nearly $1 billion project by Benteler Steel/Tube in Shreveport to produce oil and gas tubular goods; and $16 billion to $21 billion gas-to-liquids and ethane cracker project by Sasol Ltd. in the Lake Charles area that will result in more than 7,000 new direct and indirect jobs, and a similar number of construction jobs.

“In these and many other projects, LED FastStart became a critical advantage in Louisiana winning these highly competitive projects over sites in other states and nations,” said Stephen Moret, Secretary, LED.

Early on in 2009, Louisiana convinced Gardner Denver Inc.—a Fortune 1000 pump and compressors manufacturer—to reconsider its decision to close a Monroe, LA site where they employed 71 people. They were so impressed by what FastStart could do to improve the efficiency of their operations, that Gardner Denver closed a much larger Wisconsin plant and kept the Louisiana plant open—expanding it to about 300 jobs, including contract workers.

automotivejobsleadersThe company’s then-CEO, Barry Pennypacker, told analysts in the first quarter after the transition that the move to Louisiana already was building greater profitability for the company.

Here’s what some LED FastStart clients are saying about their experience in Louisiana:

“Life without FastStart becomes very challenging,” said Kevin Mitchell, Sector Vice President for Production Operations and Site Manager, Northrop Grumman, Lake Charles, La. “We would not be able to meet a lot of our objectives without those types of skills coming out of FastStart. I could not come up with a complaint if I tried: It was outstanding support.”windpower-percentoverallenergy

According to Ray Peters, Vice President of Human Resources and Marketing, Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. LLC, Alexandria, LA, “It’s all about responsiveness. FastStart has been extremely responsive to our needs, has helped us certainly along the way, and are willing to be creative in terms of working with us to get the people that we need to staff our manufacturing facilities.”

To date, LED has trained more than 18,000 individual workers in the state through the program and delivered 226,000 hours of training to the more than 100 companies served.

FastStart’s training and technology professionals build a thoroughly customized plan for each client, getting to know the company from the inside out. And that approach, along with world-class technology and tools, has paid great dividends for Louisiana and the companies that are expanding here.

Some other success stories include Gameloft, Benteler Steel/Tube, GE Capital and IBM. Paris-based Gameloft sought a second U.S. site to complement its New York digital game development studio. Louisiana’s best-in-the-nation Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive intrigued the company, which began looking at New Orleans. But the company didn’t know if Louisiana could generate enough game development talent for a 150-job studio.

workforcetrainingleadersIn advance of the site decision, LED FastStart quickly completed an online recruiting campaign, attracted 1,700 applications and provided résumés for 700 qualified candidates—making Gameloft’s decision to choose New Orleans an easy one.

Benteler Steel/Tube, the German business unit of Austria-based Benteler International AG, selected Shreveport, LA for a new 1.35 million-square-foot manufacturing facility that will build state-of-the-art tubular goods for oil and gas production companies in North America. Workforce solutions were key to Louisiana winning the project.

lowestcostoflaborIn addition to proposing a customized blueprint for attracting 675 employees for Benteler’s Shreveport project, FastStart—along with Louisiana’s Community and Technical College System and local economic development partners—will oversee development of a new $22 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at nearby Bossier Parish Community College. That center will provide manufacturing technology training for Benteler workers first, then support training for other manufacturers in Northwest Louisiana.

FastStart also works closely with software development firms such as GE Capital, which is creating a 300-job technology center in New Orleans, and the 800-job IBM Technology Center already open in Baton Rouge and moving to a permanent office in 2015 at a new urban development under construction.

For GE Capital’s New Orleans technology center, the state committed $5 million over 10 years to higher education solutions that would increase the pipeline of software development and information technology talent in the city.

 

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