BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret announced five appointments for the state's economic development department, LED.
Anne Villa, currently Vice President of Operations & Finance for MDI Entertainment, a Scientific Games company, will serve as Undersecretary. In this role, she will be responsible for accounting and budget control, procurement and contract management, program analysis, human resources, grants management, information technology, performance reporting, performance monitoring of incentive contracts, management of incentive programs and management of the business affairs of the Louisiana Board of Commerce & Industry and the Louisiana Economic Development Corporation.
Jason El Koubi, currently LED's Director of State Economic Competitiveness, will serve as Assistant Secretary. As Assistant Secretary, El Koubi will be responsible for managing LED initiatives and programs related to business intelligence, state economic competitiveness, community development, small business development, emergency response and recovery, and entertainment industry development.
Don Pierson, currently LED's Assistant Secretary, will serve as Senior Director of Business Development. In this role, he will be responsible for assisting local communities across Louisiana with site development efforts and redeployment of large economic assets currently undergoing transitions, such as the GM-Shreveport facility, the Avondale shipyard in New Orleans, and the Accent building in Monroe. He also will continue to play a leading role in coordinating domestic and international marketing missions for LED, as well as managing special economic development initiatives.
Jeff Lynn, currently Executive Director of LED FastStart®, will now serve as Executive Director of Workforce Development Programs. In this new position, which combines his current position with another existing position (Director, Workforce Training & Development Program), Lynn will be responsible for both the FastStart program and LED's expanding efforts focused on systemic workforce solutions and programs to assist relocating companies with recruitment of experienced professionals and executives. Lynn will lead LED's efforts related to coordinating development of targeted workforce programs with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Louisiana Board of Regents and Louisiana Department of Education.
Chris Stelly, currently Director of Louisiana Film & Television and interim Executive Director of the Office of Entertainment Industry Development, will serve as Executive Director of the Office of Entertainment Industry Development. In this role, Stelly will be responsible for leading LED's entertainment industry division, which manages incentive programs targeting development of the film production, digital media, sound recording, and live performance industries. Stelly succeeds Sherri McConnell who left her post as Executive Director last summer.
In conjunction with these appointments, LED will eliminate the existing workforce position referenced above as well as an existing business development position, resulting in a net reduction of two existing positions as well as a net reduction in payroll of approximately $148,400 per year, including salary and benefits. Both positions currently are unfilled; therefore, no layoffs will be required.
"Anne, Jason, Don, Jeff and Chris are talented professionals who offer significant experience to LED as well as a commitment to help Louisiana realize its economic potential. They will do important work for LED and Louisiana. I'm delighted they are taking on new leadership roles in the Jindal Administration," said Moret.
A Louisiana native and Certified Public Accountant, Villa currently is Vice President of Operations & Finance for MDI Entertainment in Alpharetta, Ga. She previously served as Senior Finance Manager for Exide Technologies Inc. and Senior Finance Manager for Ryder Systems Inc. Villa earned her Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus in accounting from Georgia State University.
El Koubi has served as LED's Director of State Economic Competitiveness since 2008. In that role, he has researched opportunities to enhance Louisiana's business climate and has led development of the state's long-term economic growth strategy. Prior to joining LED, El Koubi served as policy director for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, where he was responsible for all of the public policy research activities of the organization. Under El Koubi's leadership, BRAC earned the top overall economic development research award in the country two years in a row. El Koubi previously served as a performance auditor with the Office of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and as an environmental consultant. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering with honors from LSU, El Koubi earned a Master of Science in Public Policy with honors from the London School of Economics.
A certified economic developer, Pierson has served as LED Assistant Secretary since 2005. Prior to joining LED, Pierson served as the executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation from 1988 to 2005, and as executive vice president of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. A former president of the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association, or LIDEA, and the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Executives Association, or LACCE, Pierson earned a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in the 82nd Airborne Division for five years and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute.
Lynn has served as the founding Executive Director of LED FastStart since 2008. Under his leadership, FastStart has been ranked by Business Facilities magazine as the top state workforce-training program in the country for the last two years in a row. Lynn previously served as Director of Regional Project Operations at Georgia Quick Start where he developed customized training solutions for leading companies, such as Cessna, AT&T, GEICO, Ford Motor Company, Suzuki, General Mills, Honda, Kia, Yamaha, General Motors and Pirelli Tire. Lynn holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Auburn University. Lynn previously was head of ASMT Training Systems for Ciba Vision.
Stelly has served as LED's Director of Film & Television since 2007 and as Interim Executive Director of the Office of Entertainment Industry Development since last summer; he joined LED's film office in 2004. Under Stelly's leadership, Louisiana has become one of the most attractive locations for film production in the country and the third largest state in terms of film production activity. Previously, Stelly served for six years in the Office of Governor Mike Foster. Stelly earned a Bachelor of Arts in English/Literature from LSU.
Lynn has been serving in his new role since last month. Villa will join LED in March. The other three appointments are effective today. The appointments of Villa and El Koubi will require approval by the Louisiana Senate.
LED will launch searches for a new Director of State Economic Competitiveness (to replace El Koubi) as well as a new Director of Louisiana Film & Television (to replace Stelly). For the Director of State Economic Competitiveness, LED will be seeking to find someone with exceptional analytical and communication skills and substantial experience with public policy related to economic development, complex project management and finance or economics. For the Director of Louisiana Film & Television, LED will be seeking a professional who ideally offers a combination of experience in the film/TV industry and a strong financial background.
Since 2008, Louisiana Economic Development has secured economic development projects that are creating more than 46,500 new jobs, more than $10.5 billion in capital investment and hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales for small businesses across the state. Site Selection recently named LED the top-performing state economic development agency in the U.S., and Southern Business & Development has named Louisiana State of the Year or Co-State of the Year for the past three years in a row.
Since early 2008, Louisiana has improved to its highest ever position on every major national ranking of state business climates, including those published by Area Development, Beacon Hill Institute, Business Facilities, Chief Executive, CNBC, Forbes, Pollina Corporate Real Estate, and Site Selection. Three of those national rankings (Area Development,Business Facilities and Site Selection) now rank Louisiana among the Top 10 states in the U.S. for business.