Baton Rouge Named No. 1 Metro For Economic Growth Potential
In Business Facilities 9th Annual Rankings Report

Baton Rouge, LA has been named the top-ranked metro for Economic Growth Potential in Business Facilities’ 9th Annual Rankings Report.

“Louisiana’s capital has had great success in executing its strategy of bringing together business and higher education in innovative public-private partnerships that spur initiatives in new high-growth sectors,” said BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers.

Traditionally known as the “Creative Capital of the South,” Baton Rouge has established itself as a thriving high-tech hub for IT/software development and digital media while continuing to be an attractive location for corporate headquarters, relocations and traditional manufacturing, Rogers said.

“With a dynamic new riverfront development, a cutting-edge IBM tech center and some of the hippest digital media studios in the nation, we expect great things from Baton Rouge for years to come,” he added.

In March, IBM announced a new 800-job technology center in downtown Baton Rouge that will provide software development and software maintenance services to clients in the U.S. The new tech center will provide IBM’s clients in the U.S. with services that address the increasing demand for flexible software to keep up with Big Data, cloud and mobile requirements. IBM Services Center: Baton Rouge will deliver technology services including application development, application management and system integration.

“Baton Rouge has put itself in the forefront of a burgeoning IT sector being driven by the compelling need of businesses to avoid getting overwhelmed with Big Data,” Rogers said. “We expect this sector to grow exponentially.”

A central element of the public-private partnership that secured the IBM center is the construction of a mixed-use, riverfront complex that will be developed by Commercial Properties Realty Trust (CPRT), a real estate investment trust that manages and develops property holdings of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF). The riverfront complex is being built on the old Advocate newspaper site.

Two of BF’s top 10 metros in Economic Growth Potential—Baton Rouge and no. 9 Shreveport—also have established themselves as hubs for the hot growth sector of digital media. As the magazine detailed in its March/April 2012 cover story, Baton Rouge has attracted leading digital studios including Electronic Arts, Firebrand Games, Crawfish Games and the Academy Award-winning visual effects studio Pixomondo.

Speaking of Oscars, Moonbot, an animation and visual effects studio, helped put its hometown of Shreveport, LA on the global digital media map. At the 84th Academy Awards™, Moonbot won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for its digital interactive storybook for children, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Moonbot was founded in 2009 by William Joyce, a Shreveport native who has worked for Disney/Pixar and FX Studios, among other award-winning digital design shops. The company credits LED’s FastStart training program and digital media incentives for helping get their story off of the shelves and onto the screen.

“It’s truly amazing that a concept first drawn on one of LED’s training iPads in a Shreveport studio eventually led to the red carpet at the Oscars,” Rogers said.

Youngstown, OH, which took sixth place in our Economic Growth Potential ranking, is literally creating new jobs in three dimensions. The long-time Rust Belt manufacturing center impressed BF with its success in cementing its position as the nation’s leading location for the development of 3D printing.

As detailed in the magazine’s May/June cover story, Youngstown is now  home to the new National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). NAMII was established in Youngstown to research how cutting-edge 3D printing technology can be moved from the research phase to day-to-day use. 3D printing allows businesses to download designs from the Internet and transform the printouts, layer by layer, into three-dimensional physical objects.

“The applications for this new technology are endless, and it will revolutionize manufacturing,” Rogers said. “It is fitting that the Youngstown region—which played an important role in the development of U.S. manufacturing in the last century—now is leading us to new heights in the 21st.”

Youngstown landed the NAMII pilot project on the strength of Ohio’s TechBelt Initiative, which has close to 11,000 manufacturing operations in the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh region. “We believe Youngstown will be the lynchpin for a revival that will help lift Ohio back into the top tier of manufacturing leaders,” Rogers said.

Mobile, AL snared second place in the magazine’s Economic Growth Potential Ranking on the strength of its success in landing a crown jewel of aerospace manufacturing—the North American assembly hub for Airbus.

“Airbus will be a powerful engine for growth in the Mobile region for decades to come,” Rogers said.

Airbus will use a facility at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile to assemble its A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. The project represents a $600-million investment that will create up to 1,000 jobs when the plant reaches full capacity; building the facility will create nearly 3,200 construction-related jobs over a three-year period.

A supplier network already is queuing up to put down roots in Alabama to service Airbus. A subsidiary of Labinal, Safran Engineering Services, announced in December that it will operate an engineering supporting facility in Mobile. Labinal is part of the French aerospace conglomerate, Safran Group, which met with Gov. Robert Bentley during a visit to the Farnborough International AirShow in England.

Huntsville, AL, BF‘s no. 4 metro in Economic Growth Potential, has signaled it intends to defend its turf as a leading national center in aerospace. This month, Moon Express, Inc., a lunar resource company, announced the opening of a Propulsion Development Facility in Huntsville, that will be key to landing the world’s first commercial spacecraft on the Moon.

Business Facilities’ Economic Growth Potential metro ranking is based on the magazine’s evaluation of successful growth strategies, diversification of growth sectors, recent projects and available incentives, among other factors.

The complete results of Business Facilities’ 9th Annual Rankings Report will be posted on the BF website on August 5. The results also will be featured in the cover story of BF‘s July/August issue.