SNAPSHOTS: 60 Seconds…with Stephen Moret, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development
By the Business Facilities Staff
From the July/August 2013 issue
BF: Louisiana keeps moving up in our annual Best Business Climate ranking. What are the key steps the state has taken to make it more business friendly?
SM: The most important have been our efforts to enhance Louisiana’s economic competitiveness. For example, we’ve worked to adopt comprehensive governmental ethics reforms, eliminate unconventional business taxes, create national-caliber workforce development programs (such as the number one-ranked LED FastStart program), and implement comprehensive education reforms to improve student achievement and graduation rates.
Additionally, we’ve dramatically enhanced LED’s business development approach, utilizing a highly customized project management process that delivers comprehensive, creative, fast and professional solutions for leading companies working to establish major new business operations.
BF: Louisiana’s FastStart program has topped our Workforce Training ranking for four years in a row. How does FastStart facilitate partnerships between institutions of higher education and major companies?
SM: The secret of LED FastStart’s success is customization through deep insight into what makes our client companies tick. It’s not enough to provide an off-the-shelf program, as most companies already can do that internally or working with local community and/or technical colleges. Instead, we start with a blank sheet of paper to define exactly what each company needs to succeed, including everything from desired culture and skill sets to customized employee recruitment and screening, as well as training development and delivery. And we creatively, collaboratively and relentlessly focus on the details.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
These have been dark days for Detroit. The finances of a city once the center of the automotive universe are in the hands of an unelected manager appointed by Michigan’s governor. The manager will determine what he can salvage from a legacy of decline that recently made Motown the largest U.S. city in history to file for bankruptcy.
But out of the ashes of this monumental collapse— and in the midst of one of the most run-down neighborhoods in Detroit—a remarkable revival is rising like a phoenix. In 2008, Chrysler rolled the dice and invested $1.8 billion in its Jefferson North plant on Detroit’s dilapidated East Side. The workforce at the factory stood at 1,300 survivors who were producing less than 100,000 Jeeps per year.
Today, we’re pleased to report that new Jeep Grand Cherokees are rolling out of Jefferson North at a higher rate than ever before. Annual production at the facility has tripled since 2008. The 4,600 workers now employed at the plant will produce nearly 300,000 vehicles this year, generating an estimated $2 billion in annual profits. You read that right: The last remaining auto assembly plant within the city limits of Detroit is now perhaps the most successful vehicle production facility in the world.
For both IBM and GE Capital, we’re helping ramp up their initial professional staffing needs—a job for which FastStart is uniquely qualified. And for each company we’re pursuing long-term strategies. For GE Capital that’s more about specific software and IT curricula they’d like to see in place at New Orleans campuses; for IBM it’s more of a comprehensive talent pipeline solution across many quantitative-intense fields—such as engineering, mathematics and science—that will serve the company and its external customers well through an 800-job technology center.
Across these two projects, we are investing nearly $20 million to expand existing computer science programs to meet the future talent demand. You definitely will see more of these specialized higher education partnerships in the future in Louisiana.
BF: Louisiana recently enacted new several new incentives programs. Are these incentives succeeding in bringing businesses to the state?
SM: We are just beginning implementation and marketing of these incentives. So far, the program with the greatest market appeal is the Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive Program, which provides a payroll rebate of up to 15 percent annually for 10 years for qualifying companies. That incentive helped us secure the largest manufacturing project in state history—the $16-21 billion Sasol gas-to-liquids (GTL) and ethane-cracker complex in Southwest Louisiana.