We continue to be impressed with the diversity and coordination of economic development efforts across the state of Louisiana. The Bayou State’s success is reflected in its stellar results in our 2011 State Rankings. For the second year in a row, Louisiana has topped the chart in our Workforce Training Leaders category on the strength of its widely praised FastStart program. But even this worthy achievement was overshadowed by Louisiana’s astounding breakthrough into the top tier of our top 10 listing for Economic Growth Potential. The state surged all the way to second place in the Growth Potential tally, while notching a very respectable seventh place in Best Business Climate. This was complemented by a traditional top 10 finish in our Cost of Labor ranking.
Louisiana FastStart’s innovative, customized programs are available to companies that meet eligibility requirements and are aligned with Louisiana’s diverse economic development targets, which include digital media, headquarters and business operations, service industries, advanced and traditional manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, and research and development.
To qualify for FastStart, a company must first commit to creating a net of at least 15 new, permanent manufacturing jobs, or a net of at least 50 new, permanent service-related jobs. Each request is evaluated prior to project commencement to ensure all eligibility requirements are met.
Louisiana Economic Development’s forward-thinking strategy is making bold forays into emerging growth sectors like digital media while maintaining the vitality of traditional mainstays like oil, gas and steel production [the $3.4-billion Nucor steel plant project was our 2010 Economic Development Deal of the Year Bronze Award winner].
Three years ago, Business Facilities broke the news that Shreveport, LA had emerged as a major player in the motion picture industry (we called it “Hollywood on the Bayou”). Now, we are pleased to report that Shreveport and several other locations in the state, including New Orleans, collectively have staked a claim as a national center for the burgeoning growth engine of digital media.
Moonbot, a digital media studio that appropriately is housed in a building known as BioSpace 1 in Shreveport, has been hailed for its first “interactive storybook” for children, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which began as a Louisiana FastStart training program. Within weeks after Moonbot released an iPad App of the children’s tale, Mr. Lessmore and his flying friends soared to the top tier of Apple’s most popular apps for iPad. Using rich computer-generated animation, innovative interactivity, original composed music and unique games sprinkled throughout the book, Moonbot’s reinvention of digital storytelling lets kids (and many of their parents) “repair” books, tumble through a storm, learn the piano and even get “lost in a book,” flying through a magical world of words. The Lessmore title also has won a Best In Show award at SIGGRAPH.
Louisiana also has made great strides in the telecomm sector. Industry giant CenturyLink recently agreed to keep its headquarters in Louisiana for the next decade, adding 800 new jobs in the state by 2016.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and CenturyLink CEO and President Glen Post announced the agreement two years after striking a deal to add a 350-job expansion for the Monroe, LA. telecomm. Together, the deals will create 1,150 jobs in northeast Louisiana over the next five years. CenturyLink provides broadband, voice and wireless service to a national customer base and now employs 1,970 in Louisiana.
The commitment came as the Fortune 500 Company was busy carving out a space of the national telecomm market with the help of a string of high-value acquisitions.
The telecomm merged with Embarq of Kansas in 2009 and completed the $12.2 billion purchase of Qwest Communications International of Denver this year. In April it also announced a move to acquire Savvis Inc., a St. Louis cloud computing service provider, for $2.5 billion. Analysts expected the acquisitions to drive a wedge between CenturyLink and its Louisiana base, but state leaders produced a slew of incentives to avoid that outcome, including:
- Two performance-based grants, including $14.9 million to pay for 50 percent of building or leasing additional headquarters space in Monroe and $3.3 million to reimburse relocation costs
- $1.2 million over four years to expand CenturyLink’s telecommunications partnership with Louisiana Tech
- Up to 150,000 square feet of discounted space in the state-owned Accent Building in Monroe through 2015, to be used as swing space for CenturyLink staff during construction of expanded headquarters facilities
- Employee training under the Louisiana FastStart program.
Business Facilities: Louisiana is Surging Upward