BATON ROUGE, La. -- For the second straight year, LED FastStart ranks as the nation's best state workforce training program in a newly released report from Business Facilities magazine. LED FastStart beat competition from other Top 10 finishers Georgia (No. 2), North Carolina (No. 3), New Mexico (No. 4), Nebraska (No. 5), Florida (No. 6), Alabama (No. 7), South Carolina (No. 8), Nevada (No. 9) and Maine (No. 10) to claim the top spot in the newly released 2011 Rankings Report.
For the 2011 Workforce Training ranking, Business Facilities considered states' workforce training incentives, their success in securing projects, their coordination of workforce training between economic development organizations and higher education, and several other factors.
Gov. Jindal said, "LED FastStart is one of the reasons our economy continues to outperform the South and the nation. We created the program to revamp our workforce development system and offer a faster, higher-quality workforce solution so companies will invest here and create opportunities for our people. This is great news for our state, but we will not rest until Louisiana is the best place to create jobs and raise a family."
Launched in 2008 as part of Gov. Jindal's comprehensive workforce development reform plan, LED FastStart was created within Louisiana Economic Development to enhance the state's ability to attract jobs with business expansions and business recruitment at a faster pace than the South on a regular basis.
"We are extremely excited about the Business Facilities 2011 rankings," said Jeff Lynn, LED FastStart executive director. "We are committed to providing our clients with the most innovative, value-added workforce solutions for their new or expanding operations."
In addition to the No. 1 FastStart ranking, Louisiana scored high in several other categories in the Business Facilities 2011 report: Economic Growth Potential, No. 2 [after being ranked outside the Top 10 in 2010]; Best Business Climate, No. 7 [up from No. 8 in 2010]; and Cost of Labor, No. 10 [same ranking as 2010]. Also, the New Orleans metro area ranked in the Top 5 for the Logistics/Distribution/Shipping Hubs category.
"We continue to be impressed with the diversity and coordination of economic development efforts across the state of Louisiana," said Jack Rogers, editor-in-chief of Business Facilities. "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."
LED Secretary Stephen Moret said, "FastStart has become one of Louisiana's top selling points for business expansions and business recruitment projects. With FastStart, we are able to deliver a high-quality, flexible, fully trained workforce better and faster than any other state in the U.S. Through FastStart we are helping more and more companies to meet and often exceed their production ramp-up and productivity targets, which means FastStart is helping companies improve their profitability and overall success. Additionally, FastStart is helping position Louisiana to successfully attract and cultivate leading digital media and software development companies, which represents a new economic growth frontier for Louisiana."
Staffed with experienced industry training and human resources experts, LED FastStart provides customized workforce solutions -- such as employee recruitment, screening, training development and training delivery -- from pre-employment through post-employment phases at new or expanding facilities. Services are offered through LED at no cost to eligible Louisiana companies [typically those creating at least 15 new manufacturing jobs or 50 new service-related jobs in an economic-driver business]. LED FastStart's partners include the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Louisiana Workforce Commission, selected Louisiana universities and a variety of private-sector training experts.
LED FastStart has delivered or is delivering comprehensive workforce solutions for a wide variety of companies across Louisiana, including companies such as Electronic Arts Inc., Stupp Corp. and The Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Baton Rouge; SNF in Iberville Parish; Blade Dynamics and Folgers in New Orleans; Shaw Modular Solutions, Aeroframe Services, Sasol and Northrop Grumman in Lake Charles; Ormet in Ascension Parish; Cameron Valves in Ville Platte; Globalstar Inc. in Covington; ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in Delhi; Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Ronpak Inc. and Moonbot Studios in Shreveport; CenturyLink and Gardner Denver in Monroe; Schumacher Group and Pixel Magic in Lafayette; Roy O. Martin in Chopin; and Zagis USA in Lacassine.
LED FastStart clients describe the program as a critical component for not only meeting timetables set for the start of business operations, but for consistently beating those deadlines.
"It's been incredible how fast they've hit the ground running," said Roger Porter, CEO and president of Aeroframe Services in Lake Charles. "It's absolutely a breath of fresh air. I've been operating in several states with other business entities and never seen anything like this, so we're excited."
"For us, really, LED FastStart has been so responsive that it's been almost on us to try to keep up with them," said Paul Granberry, director of North American Generics Operations for Dr. Reddy's Laboratories in Shreveport. "They've been there from day one saying what do you need us to do, here's our thoughts, here's what we can do -- and we've really found it's been us trying to make sure that we can get the information back to them quick enough for them to be able to support us."
"LED FastStart had us up and running in nothing flat," said Peter Dalton, CEO of Globalstar Inc.
When presenting his Fortune 1000 company's financial results for the third quarter 2009 to Wall Street analysts, Gardner Denver Inc. President and CEO Barry Pennypacker said, "We were able to accelerate the relocation of certain manufacturing cells from Sheboygan, Wis., to Monroe, La., mainly due to the outstanding training support provided by the State of Louisiana [via FastStart], which has been integral to the success of this project."
LED FastStart has differentiated itself as a premier workforce-solutions provider by implementing comprehensive, highly customized solutions and by using the latest training methodologies and technologies to ensure that companies meet or exceed their workforce quality and productivity targets.
For example, LED FastStart is the first state workforce training solution that is using the Apple iPad as a training platform to deliver standard operating procedures, work instructions and streaming video to employees within a validated quality management system. The approach allows employees to use training aids that are portable and instantly updatable at any location within an organization, but safe via a secure software system or intranet.
With support from LED FastStart, Shreveport-based companies Twin Engine Labs and Moonbot Studios recently partnered to create a new iPad app, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." The app was developed completely in Louisiana with 100 percent Louisiana talent. It recently received accolades from a variety of publications around the country, including the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times, which have highlighted it as one of the best examples of the next generation of interactive children's books. Wired.com called it a "game-changer." Lampton Enochs, managing partner of Moonbot Studios, said, "We're a startup company. We didn't necessarily have the wherewithal to go down that path and create the iPad book. But with help from FastStart, we were able to create the (Morris Lessmore) iPad book. We submitted a second app to Apple just days ago, and that will be approved, we hope, and launched in the next couple of weeks."
With expertise in high-wage industries -- such as automotive, aerospace, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and corporate headquarters -- LED FastStart also has become one of Louisiana's top competitive advantages in site selection competitions for major job-creating projects.
LED FastStart has received positive national recognition from other publications. For example, in its February/March 2010 issue, Area Development magazine recognized LED FastStart as one of three elite workforce programs in the South (along with Alabama's AIDT program and Georgia Quick Start). The Area Developmentarticle noted, "Other states have attempted to model programs like LED FastStart, AIDT and Quick Start, but find it challenging if they lack expertise across a wide range of industries, plentiful and experienced industry advisors, a well-connected technical college system or a history of exceeding expectations when it comes to building relationships with industry."
The new workforce rankings are posted on the Business Facilities website, www.BusinessFacilities.com, and the full set of rankings is included in the magazine's July/August issue.