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Growing Louisiana’s Workforce: High Tech Training for the New Economy


In an effort to grow its economy and lure new industries to the state, Louisiana has passed several economic development initiatives and policies, including new legislation to reform the state’s workforce development system.

Uniquely rich in geography, history, and resources, both natural and cultural, Louisiana is strategically located on the Gulf of Mexico, astride the mouth of the nation’s mightiest river, the Mississippi. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is bouncing back. According to research released by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis earlier this year, Louisiana was ranked as one of 20 states with an economy growing faster than the nation as a whole. Of a dozen southeastern states, Louisiana’s growth rate placed second only to Georgia.

Government leaders have helped boost Louisiana’s economy through the passage of several economic development initiatives and policies, including the Gulf Opportunity Zone, one of the most aggressive business incentives in U.S. history. According to Louisiana Forward, the state’s economic development agency, Louisiana has seen significant growth in high tech industries such as advanced materials, digital media, and life sciences.

To help meet the needs of Louisiana’s growing high tech economy, train workers, and provide companies with greater access to economic services, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and lawmakers passed several key funding initiatives and approved of legislation to reform the state’s workforce development system, including:

  • The Mega Project Fund, a $404 million immediate fund for all or a portion of economic development mega-projects.
  • The Small Business Bonding Program, a $5-million fund to provide financial assistance to small businesses.
  • The Workforce Training Rapid Response Fund, a $10 million annual fund that will address immediate training needs for new or expanding businesses in the state at community and technical colleges, and fund training for high-demand, high-cost training programs.
  • The Louisiana Fast Start Program, a $3 million fund that will help attract new industry into the state by delivering comprehensive workforce training services, pre-employment re-cruitment, and customized, job-specific training.

Prior to these initiatives, business owners faced hurdles when trying to access state programs. Now, companies will have greater access to a comprehensive, more “user-friendly” workforce development system, an integrated state agencies’ service program, customized business services, and training services for workers. With the state’s unemployment rate hovering around 4 percent and an aging workforce, these initiatives will help provide key training to help fill the 100 jobs that are currently available across the state.

Louisiana’s efforts to overhaul its workforce development system mirror that of a national trend. Workers must be trained to help fill high tech jobs that are becoming available in the evolving knowledge-based U.S. economy. At an annual Workforce Innovations Conference in New Orleans earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said the U.S. economy will continue to drift further away from traditional labor sources to higher skilled labor in the next decade, as more than half of the nation’s employment growth-an estimated 15.6 million new jobs-opens up in engineering, health care and professional occupations. According to Chao, high-growth industries, such as nanotechnology, geospatial technology and life sciences, will join the need for an estimated 1 million engineers and nearly 3 million health-care workers, which people can’t access with a high school education alone.

According to Stephen Moret, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, Louisiana’s economic development efforts are paying off. Louisiana is already in the running for about a dozen projects right now that will provide over 1,500 new direct jobs and over $400 million in capital investment.

Attracted to a more competitive business climate, Bercen Inc., a chemical company that provides products, services and innovation to the paper industry, has decided to relocate its headquarters and laboratories to Livingston Parish, Louisiana. The company plans to expand its local manufacturing operation for a total capital investment of $5 million, along with adding 20 new jobs with average annual salaries of $90,000 (plus benefits) to the state. Bercen is the second company to relocate their headquarters to Louisiana in just a matter of months.

Bercen Inc. relocated to Louisiana due to several factors, including its proximity to Louisiana State University and Southeastern Louisiana University; lower taxes; a robust petrochemical industry; proximity to raw materials and customer base; and proximity to the Port of New Orleans.

Development of a comprehensive workforce system and key funding initiatives in Louisiana is helping the state grow its economy and build its workforce, while attracting new business to the state. If your company is looking to grow your industry in a technology-driven economy, here are a few Louisiana locations that will help meet your needs.

Big Doings at Churchill Business and Technology Park

Businesses looking to start up, relocate or expand are hard pressed to find a better location than Louisiana’s new Churchill Business and Technology Park, the largest master-planned site in the state. The 500-acre park is located on the outskirts of New Orleans and in the middle of Jefferson Parish, a commercially successful area stretching from the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico at Grand Isle.

Now in Phase I of development, Churchill’s initial 40 acres have already been cleared, with utilities, water systems and streets in place. Construction on two office buildings will begin this fall. Churchill’s standards in both covenants and construction, coupled with extensive landscaping, green space and water features, also make it an appealing home for high-end office space or headquarter facilities.

The park, located just 12 miles from the Louis Armstrong International Airport, is at the core of the largest intermodal transportation network in the South. Its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, major ports on the Mississippi River and multiple rail lines and interstates make it an ideal site for distribution services, warehouses and new manufacturing facilities.

Because Jefferson Parish is already home to a diverse selection of industries, businesses that locate in Churchill will be able to tap into a wealth of business resources in economic sectors such as international trade, defense manufacturing, transportation, energy, petrochemicals, and new media. These business resources-along with eleven local colleges and universities and world-class health operations-provide opportunities for tenants to uncover new opportunities for innovation and expansion.

Churchill’s proximity to New Orleans also provides ample opportunities for play. Employees can enjoy cultural offerings of neighboring New Orleans, boundless recreation activities along the Gulf Coast and a family-oriented atmosphere within Jefferson Parish.

Largely unscathed by Hurricane Katrina, the west bank of Jefferson has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, providing a range of services and amenities including the Tournament Players Club Golf Course, the Alario Center, Bayou Segnette Sports Complex and Bayou Segnette State Park. Outstanding schools add to the area’s appeal.

Spearheaded by the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO), Churchill is designed to provide the greatest flexibility to meet short-term goals and long-term vision. The park is divided into major parcels to accommodate a wide variety of businesses and facilities. Tenants also have the flexibility to choose lot sizes to meet specific needs rather than choose from subdivided lots.

JEDCO stands ready to help new, expanding, or relocating businesses become part of Churchill Technology and Business Park. For more information, call 1-800-816-3133 or visit www.churchillpark.org.

By Air, Water, Rail or Road – Louisiana is Connected!

Sitting between two major metropolitan regions and on the Gulf of Mexico, regional Southwest Louisiana offers numerous transportation options without limitations.

The Lake Charles Regional Airport currently has 350 acres available for commercial and industrial development with rail and road access and a major U.S. port within 10 miles. Chennault International Airpark Authority, servicing industry players such as Northrop Grumman, EADS Aeroframe Services, and Louisiana Millwork, has 10,000 feet of runways and 800 acres of available sites accessible to rail, road and water. These regional and international airports have foreign trade and enterprise zone designations.

Airports in outlying areas include the Allen Parish Airport, the Beauregard Parish Airport, the DeQuincy Industrial Airpark, and the Jennings Airport.

With its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Southwest Louisiana serves as the home base for a vigorous petrochemical industry and several ports including the Port of Lake Charles, which is the closest deep-water port in Louisiana and 11th largest in the nation, the West-Calcasieu Port, the East Cameron Port and the Vinton Port.

Cameron Parish runs along the Gulf Coast and is home to various industries from oil and gas companies to marine support vehicles and fishing boats. The East Cameron Port is one of the top five ports for fisheries in the nation. With three liquefied natural gas pipelines in the works for completion over the next three years, what happens in Cameron Parish keeps the lights on in Chicago.

Southwest Louisiana has an extensive rail network serviced by Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Kansas City Southern. Many industrial sites located in Jeff Davis, Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes come with rail tie-ins.

Bisected by Interstate 10, the region is well served by several major U.S. and state highways. Running from the Gulf of Mexico to the tip of Beauregard Parish, Louisiana Highway 27 plays a major part in transporting and delivering seafood, oil, gas, and petrochemicals as well as serving as the commuting lifeline for the Gulf Oil Rig workers. U.S. Highways 167 and 171 shoot off of I-10, supplying the region with goods from across the nation and delivering the products of Southwest Louisiana across America.

If your company is looking for an economically and culturally diverse place to live and work, contact us at www.allianceswla.org.

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