Louisiana has reason to celebrate but no time to bask. With more people flocking to the Bayou, officials must keep pace for the never-ending jobs race.
Louisiana’s economy is outperforming the nation. While the state’s population grew by more than 157,000 from July 2007 to April 2010, its unemployment rates have remained relatively low. In November 2010 the unemployment national average was 9.8 percent. Louisiana’s rate was 8.2 percent, a full point below even the Southern average.
“Our aggressive focus on preserving our existing jobs and attracting new jobs is resulting in increases in our national rankings, improvements in our business climate, population in-migration and most importantly more good job opportunities for our people,” Gov. Bobby Jindal says.
According Louisiana Economic Development (LED) officials, Louisiana tied for third among all U.S. states in Gallup’s Job Creation Index for 2009. It held positive ground in 2010 as well with an above average index of 11.6. According to Moody’s Economy Adversity Index, New Orleans, Lafayette and Lake Charles have emerged from the recession. But the governor and the state’s economic development officials aren’t about to rest easy. In fact, Gov. Jindal laid out the Louisiana Way Forward.
“The Louisiana Way Forward means that during these tough economic times, we’re pursuing reforms and efficiencies that make government do more with less. Families and business across Louisiana are tightening their belts and we’re doing the same for state government,” says Gov. Jindal. “The Louisiana Way Forward will create a more accountable state government so that even when our revenues grow back, we will not simply restore funding to the status quo, but instead, we’ll make investments that produce results.”
The Way Forward includes further developing LED’s recently launched priority initiatives, including:
• The Louisiana FastStart program—building on the expertise of national-caliber corporate training experts recruited from around the country, Louisiana FastStart is a first-class workforce solutions provider that executed more than a dozen pilot projects in 2009 involving more than 11,000 hours of training delivered to more than 1,000 trainees around Louisiana. FastStart shifted into full gear last year, when it was cited by Business Facilities in our 2010 State Rankings Report as the top workforce training program in the nation.
• BERG—Launched in 2009, the Business Expansion and Retention Group, partnered with local and regional economic development allies to visit nearly 500 companies, and secured a variety of significant retention and expansion wins, including the relocation of pump and compressor manufacturer Gardner Denver from Wisconsin to Louisiana.
• The Louisiana Development-Ready Communities Program—enabling 12 communities (Arcadia; Crowley; DeRidder; Houma; Jena; Mansfield with Grand Cane, Logansport and Stonewall; New Iberia; Pineville; Slidell; Vivian; West Monroe; and Zachary) to complete an intensive six-month process to position themselves to more effectively compete with out-of-state communities for good jobs and business investment.
Also emphasized is The Blue Ocean target industry initiative. The Blue Ocean is a strategy project designed to identify the state’s best narrowly defined growth industries of the future, including:
• Digital media/software development (including selected segments within healthcare IT, education IT, video-game development and eReaders)
• Next-generation automotive manufacturing (e.g., electric vehicles, composites manufacturing)
• Specialty healthcare (medical corridors, obesity/diabetes research and treatment, pharmaceutical manufacturing)
• Renewables and energy efficiency (green building/manufacturing, hydropower, algae-based energy production, nuclear power module manufacturing)
• Water management (developing world-class water management industry, e.g., becoming the Netherlands of the U.S.)
• Next wave oil and gas (ultra deep water oil, unconventional natural gas, enhanced oil recovery)
“There is no longer a placeholder for Louisiana at the bottom of the major economic and business climate rankings,” says Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret. “The positive national recognition Louisiana has received since 2008 is a strong indicator that our economy has performed better than the South and U.S. during the recession. This consistent recognition also demonstrates that we are taking the right steps to grow our economy, create better job opportunities and position our state for long-term economic growth.”
Southwest Louisiana: Global Economic Player
Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) increasingly is becoming a player in the global economy as well as a major player in the nation’s economy as far as energy production, the petrochemical industry and a promising aerospace industry. The Parishes of Southwest Louisiana—Allen, Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis—bring their own mix of industry and culture to the region and these elements working together makes for a perfect combination.
With its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Southwest Louisiana serves as the home base for a vigorous petrochemical industry and several active 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, East Cameron Port and Vinton Port. With three liquefied natural gas pipelines in production, what happens around the coast communities of Southwest Louisiana keeps the lights on across the nation.
In March 2011, the Port of Lake Charles announced that they would be the site of the first new export grain terminal in the Gulf Coast Region in 25 years. IFG Port Holdings invested $59.5 million dollars in the project, which will employ 36 people and export Louisiana grain internationally. This is a great example of why Louisiana was recently recognized as one of the top export performers in the nation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Port of Lake Charles also manages vast land holdings in Calcasieu Parish and worked with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance in bringing Shaw Group’s Fabrication and Manufacturing Facility to South Lake Charles. The facility manufactures nuclear building components for national and international plants. It currently employs 182, but is looking to expand its employee base to 500 by the end of 2012.
Another holding of the Port of Lake Charles is Industrial Park East, which recently qualified as the 4th Certified Site in Louisiana based on Louisiana Economic Development’s (LED) Certified Economic Development Sites program. The program compiles an inventory of “shovel ready” properties as part of their efforts to make the state more competitive for economic development deals. Each site meets strict criteria for certification including extensive examination and documentation of the property’s suitability for economic development projects.
“This certification lets developers know that Southwest Louisiana is ready for growth and welcomes new business. The Port and our other regional partners (Chennault International Airport, Beauregard Economic Development, Jeff Davis Economic Development and Cameron Parish Planning & Development) work closely with the SWLA Economic Development Alliance to build upon our natural resources, our proximity to major markets via Interstate 10 and our amazing, hard-working workforce to fully develop the economy of Southwest Louisiana for generations to come,” said George Swift, president/CEO of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance.
Aerospace is another growing industry in Southwest Louisiana thanks in large part to the Lake Charles Regional Airport, servicing the air travel needs of 285,000 residents, and the Chennault International Airport Authority which services such industry players such as Northrop Grumman, Aeroframe Services and Louisiana Millwork. The Chennault Regional Airport plays a major role in the economy of Southwest Louisiana with its 10,000 feet of runways, capable of handling most commercial aircraft, and 800 acres of available sites with rail, road and water access for connection to the nation and global market. Both of these regional and international airports have foreign trade and enterprise zone designations.
Aeroframe Services, the largest privately owned MRO in North America specializing in Airbus airframe maintenance, is expanding their operation at Chennault and increasing their employment base from 250 to 650 jobs.
Working together, the five parishes of Southwest Louisiana are poised to build upon and strengthen their infrastructure and economy to improve the way Southwest Louisiana does business on a national and global scale.
For more information on economic development within Southwest Louisiana, contact SWLA Economic Development Alliance President/CEO George Swift at 337-433-3632 or [email protected]
North Louisiana Plans for a Hollywood Ending
The story of the film and TV industry’s boom in North Louisiana is the stuff of movies. Within six years, film/TV industry growth in Louisiana increased by 22 percent from 2001 to 2007, as compared to the national average of 1.8 percent. Much of that growth migrated to Shreveport-Bossier post-Hurricane Katrina, earning the region the title of Hollywood South. Business Facilities magazine named Shreveport/Bossier #4 in motion picture industry growth nationally.
The increase in filmmaking in Louisiana is fueled largely by the State’s generous film incentives. Prior to Louisiana enacting the film tax incentives, the State had only 500 people employed in the motion picture industry. By 2007, the employment number increased by 33 percent, according to a study commissioned by Louisiana Economic Development, the State’s lead economic development agency.
The Louisiana Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit Program offers income tax credits for “state-certified productions.” A production company can earn a tax credit of 30 percent for production expenses with no project caps. Production expenditures can include leasing immovable property located in the state, leasing tangible personal property within the state and compensation for services performed in the state. An additional 5 percent credit is allowed for payroll for Louisiana residents employed in connection with the production. The tax credits can be used by the movie production company or transferred to other persons or entities. Many Louisiana taxpayers have purchased and used the credits to pay their Louisiana income tax. The transferability of the tax credit allows the production company to monetize the credits in order to reduce their overall investment in the production.
This win-win opportunity drives down the cost of producing a film in Louisiana, thereby making the State a desirable film location. In the past five years, Louisiana has consistently ranked at the top for movie and TV production. Eight years ago, the Louisiana movie industry generated about 10 million dollars annually; now, it is a half-billion dollar industry that has brought significant jobs, capital investment and innovation to the State.
Louisiana hopes to produce other blockbuster hits with its newest incentive programs to attract and nurture the digital media and music industries. [For more information about the growth of digital media in Louisiana, see page 32.]
Even before the Louisiana Purchase, North Louisiana’s strategic location and assets have been integral to the region’s success. Historically, the region has been a prominent launching point for expansion-minded settlers heading west; a vibrant agricultural powerhouse where commodities were sent via the Red and Ouachita Rivers to deep water ports; and one of the more storied oil and gas regions of the 20th Century.
Today, North Louisiana’s 14-parish (county) region of nearly 800,000 residents boasts one of the most vibrant, diverse and balanced economies of its size. Still the region continues to reinvent itself. North Louisiana supports a large and sophisticated health care sector, a competitive manufacturing base, a reenergized oil and gas sector, a sizable and diverse service sector and supplier network, a transforming timber/paper industry, a hospitality/gaming industry and so much more.
Beyond its more traditional sectors, North Louisiana also nurtures emerging sectors, including information technology, nanotechnology and biotech/life sciences.
CenturyLink, which ranks in the 2010 Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies, started and expanded in North Louisiana. The Monroe-based business is a leading national telecommunications company, which recently merged with Embarq, a telecom business based in Kansas. The merger brought 350 new jobs to North Louisiana.
“Louisiana is and has been taking significant steps to make the state attractive for businesses with government that is serious about ethics reform and focused on eliminating tax barriers. In Monroe, where CenturyLink is headquartered, we have a loyal, educated employee base, outstanding universities and technical colleges and top rated healthcare facilities. Monroe also offers convenient proximity to the I-20 corridor, an airport with access to major U.S. hub cities, and a variety of outdoor, arts and entertainment options that contribute to the overall quality of life for our people. Louisiana provides great opportunities for business leaders looking for an attractive environment in which to build and grow their companies. We’ve found everything we need right here,” said Glen Post, president and CEO of CenturyLink.
The North Louisiana region offers 12 universities and colleges, four ports with access to deep water, 19 airports and a civilian labor force of 341,281 workers. These assets are strategically located along Interstate 20 and Interstate 49, creating an innovation corridor that has attracted international companies like Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, a leading pharmaceutical company headquartered in India.
“In 2008, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories decided to acquire a manufacturing facility in North Louisiana, because there existed a ready facility and a well-trained labor force that understood pharmaceutical manufacturing. In 2009, we decided to expand our operations in North Louisiana, because the talent and capabilities at the site demonstrated the potential to support additional product lines. Also, Louisiana’s incentive package and the cost competitiveness of the region made it very attractive for Dr Reddy’s to move some of its manufacturing activities from India to North Louisiana,” said Amit Patel, Senior Vice President of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories’ North American Generics.
The competitive advantages to locating and expanding in North Louisiana are confirmed by a host of top rankings the region has received in recent comparative surveys, including: #1 in cost competitiveness according to Forbes (April 2010) and KPMG Competitive Alternatives (2010); named one of the best places to find a job by U.S. News & World Report (August 2009); and #1 in governmental disclosure and ethics reform according to the Center for Public Integrity. North Louisiana’s cost of living is only 93.6 percent of the national average with one of the lowest housing costs, according to 2008-2009 Council for Community and Economic Research Cost of Living Index.
Whether you seek a place close to customers and suppliers, desire global access from a place with nationally notable and sustainable cost advantages or want a place with the kind of life-work balance that many envy, North Louisiana offers every advantage. The region is connected by railways, interstate highways, interconnected ports with access to deep water, and air service. Centrally located to the entire Southeast, companies in North Louisiana can reach nearly 30 million consumers in some of America’s largest markets in just one day.
Jefferson Parish: A Technological Nexus
Despite a declining national economy, Jefferson Parish continues to grow its business base, particularly in the technology sector. Home to the largest concentration of technology companies in Louisiana, Jefferson Parish offers a variety of state and local incentives, financing assistance and a brand new technology and business park for businesses looking to relocate or expand in the parish.
Churchill Technology and Business Park is a 500-acre park located on the outskirts of New Orleans in Avondale. The largest development of its kind in the metropolitan area, the park features build-to-suit facilities from high-end office to light manufacturing. Churchill is protected by building and landscaping codes, covenants and restrictions to maintain the integrity of the development.
The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) has constructed three buildings in Churchill to house its administrative offices, finance building and technology incubator. A fourth building, the Patrick F. Taylor Science and Math Academy, is under construction and scheduled to be completed later this year.
A highlight of the JEDCO campus is the state-of-the-art technology incubator, featuring flexible workspaces and technology enhancements, including video conferencing and a backup generator.
The incubator is designed for early stage technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, providing them with opportunities to commercialize their ideas and produce successful, financially viable businesses. The technology incubator is based on the success of the original JEDCO incubator program, where start-up companies generally focused on the creation of information technology systems. The new technology incubator will build upon that focus, working with entrepreneurial companies that are developing and expanding technology application and uses.
Because JEDCO is the managing agent for Churchill, the organization can assist companies with identifying tax credits, rebates and other applicable incentives for businesses locating in the park. For instance, the Enterprise Zone (EZ) Program offers businesses a $2,500 tax credit for each new job created, along with a five percent rebate on sales tax for materials, machinery or equipment.
Workforce development grants are available to businesses locating in the park for pre-employment training and the training of existing employees.
JEDCO also serves as a financing agent, assisting with financing of fixed assets, equipment, working capital and inventory. With a strong Aa1 Moody’s Bond Rating, JEDCO utilizes the lending resources of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Economic Development Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency to meet financial requirements of parish businesses. It is also an authorized agent for the Louisiana Revolving Capital Fund.
The business resources of JEDCO—along with world-class healthcare operations and eleven local colleges and universities—provide opportunities for research and a qualified work force. Outstanding public and private schools, a reasonable housing market and a moderate cost of living add to the area’s appeal.
The area near Churchill specifically has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, providing a range of services and amenities including the Tournament Players Club Golf Course, Bayou Segnette Sports Complex and Bayou Segnette State Park.
While Churchill offers a tranquil setting in which to work, its 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.
From identifying available properties to identifying applicable incentives, from providing market data to providing workforce development programs, JEDCO helps new, relocating and expanding businesses thrive. As the only local economic development organization in Louisiana accredited by the International Economic Development Council, JEDCO offers unparalleled professionalism and expertise.
Doubling Down on Digital Media in Louisiana
The Bayou State is staking a claim to be the nation’s leading hub for digital media. It seems that a month doesn’t go by without a big announcement in Louisiana involving a major digital media player.
For example, Gov. Bobby Jindal recently announced in Baton Rouge that gaming giant Electronic Arts Inc. plans to significantly expand employment at its North American Test Center (NATC) following a relocation of the NATC from its existing site on LSU’s South Campus to a new $28.2-million Digital Media Facility on LSU’s main campus.
The new Digital Media Facility at LSU is expected to result in a roughly 50 percent increase in the NATC’s headcount in Baton Rouge —from about 400 jobs today to more than 600 jobs in three to four years, including on-site contractors.
EA is close to maximum employment capacity at its current LSU South Campus location. Originally, in 2008, NATC was anticipated to create 20 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs. Already the direct employment at the facility has increased to about 200 full-time positions, including direct EA positions and full-time contractor positions and 200 part-time positions.
The new, 94,000-square-foot Digital Media Facility will house not only the NATC, but also LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology; it will include instructional space with cutting-edge audio/visual capabilities that will support LSU’s academic research efforts related to digital media and software development. The project is being financed with funding from the state capital outlay budget, Louisiana Economic Development and U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“Our announcement in 2008 of EA placing a first-of-its-kind in the U.S. video game testing center right here in Baton Rouge was a huge win for Baton Rouge and the future of our state,” said Gov. Jindal. “We’re proud of EA’s success and growth to date, and we’re excited that the company plans to continue its significant growth right here in Baton Rouge. The new Digital Media Facility at LSU will not only enable EA’s growth but it also will help us grow a thriving digital media industry in Baton Rouge and in other Louisiana communities so that we can continue to create good jobs for our people.”
Gov. Jindal worked to personally cultivate a relationship with EA since taking office, originally announcing the NATC with local partners in August 2008. EA’s presence in Louisiana has represented one of Louisiana’s most significant digital media industry wins to date, and has enabled LED to gain access to leading digital media companies around the world. EA has committed to assist Louisiana FastStart™ and LSU in their curriculum development efforts, as well as to assist LED in the cultivation of a vibrant video-game development industry in Louisiana.
The initial recruitment of EA and the continued growth and development of the NATC are the result of a special partnership including EA, LED, LSU, the Baton Rouge Mayor-President’s Office, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Louisiana’s burgeoning digital media sector is not limited to one location in the state—it has put down routes in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport areas.
A digital player recently landed in New Orleans is Bayou FX, a startup being developed by Hollywood visual effects pro Huck Wirtz. Bayou FX will focus on two areas of visual effects: composting/painting/rotoscoping and match moving, cornerstone techniques of the 2-D and 3-D film industries. The company will also offer computer animation work and animation/motion-capture consulting services.
Bayou FX will move into the I.P. North Building in Covington, LA, which currently houses operations for TurboSquid, a global marketplace for 3-D models, textures, and plug-ins. Bayou FX’s announcement followed the move last summer by Jackson Square Group, a market research technology firm, to launch its operations in downtown New Orleans. This was quickly followed by Globalstar, the satellite voice and data services company, with announced the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Silicon Valley to Covington.
The state’s digital media infrastructure includes the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE), a $27-million,70,000-square-foot facility located at the Research Park of the University of Louisiana Lafayette. LITE is a 3-D immersive visualization and high-performance computing resource center hosting clients in industry, government and university sectors. LITE’s facility includes one of the world’s largest 3-D visualization theaters.
Shreveport, LA continues to burnish its reputation as the motion picture capital of the South. The city has unveiled its crown jewel, Millennium Studios, which boasts two fully soundproofed stages, production offices for two films, an integrated CGI visual EFX house, storage, commissary and a screening room.
This studio represents an example of what government can do when it’s pro-business and really wants to create jobs. A cooperative effort between the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and the City of Shreveport, this package came together with a relatively small investment in taxpayer dollars. Already, it has created more than 80 full time jobs in Shreveport and approximately 150 part time or seasonal jobs. The area of the city where the studio was built is now going through gentrification and will become an active and productive part of the city.
Bayou is ready for its closeup
56 Feature films wrapped in Louisiana (2009)
12 Television productions wraped in Louisiana (2009)
8 Feature films in pre-production in Louisiana (as of February, 2011)
3 Television productions in pre-production in Louisiana (as of February, 2011)
4 Television series currently filming in Louisiana (as of February, 2011)
5 Productions filmed in Jefferson Parish (as of February, 2011)