News

07.09.15

Louisiana’s Target Industries Supported By Regional Assets

With e pluribus unum, Congress heralded a truth about the young United States of America. The new nation’s seal, clutched in the beak of a bald eagle, embodied the principle of federalism — the notion that a covenant of strong states, governing and collaborating, makes a nation strong.

More than two centuries later, Louisiana’s robust regionalism accomplishes a similar aim. By building regional assets and collaborating on statewide goals, eight regions in Louisiana are contributing to a historic level of economic success.

Since January 2008, that collaborative path has produced stunning achievements. Together, Louisiana’s state leaders and regional partners have attracted more than $62 billion in new capital investment and more than 91,000 new jobs associated with major new economic development projects.

A common thread binds these project wins: Louisiana’s state and local leaders not only preach partnerships with industry, they practice it. An example: Strong regional partnerships, anchored by state-funded, higher education initiatives, have helped bring the tech sector’s biggest names to Louisiana including IBM, CSC, CGI, EA, GE Capital and more.

In each case, state leaders, regional economic development officials and university administrators forged a plan for state-of-the-art facilities and advanced workforce solutions. CGI, for example, broke ground on a 400-job technology center that will anchor a research park while tripling the number of annual graduates in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s School of Computing and Informatics.

Said CGI President James Peake, “This groundbreaking is the culmination of a unified vision shared by CGI and the education, community and policy leaders of Louisiana that a strong economy depends on a highly trained, skilled technology workforce.”

Join us now on a regional tour that reveals why more companies than ever before are staking their futures in Louisiana.

Northeast Louisiana

Monroe-based Fortune 500 company CenturyLink made corporate headquarters expansion and retention announcements in 2009 and 2011. Combined, the projects are resulting in 1,150 new direct jobs and the construction of the just-completed 300,000-square-foot CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence.

The center, which nearly doubled CenturyLink’s corporate headquarters space, will serve as a network operations site for the telecommunications company while incorporating research and development and collaborative workspace to create innovative products in cloud infrastructure and hosted IT business solutions.

The region’s innovation profile rose still higher in February 2015, when IBM announced it will establish a 400-job Application Development and Innovation Center in Monroe. A longtime collaborator with CenturyLink, IBM will anchor an 88-acre mixed-use development of commercial, retail and residential space across the highway from CenturyLink’s headquarters in Monroe.

The project emerged from a unique private-public partnership between CenturyLink, IBM and the State of Louisiana that will create unprecedented opportunity for collaboration between the tech powerhouses on complex projects.

Across the way, the Technology Center of Excellence will be home to 800 CenturyLink employees and help boost CenturyLink’s payroll in the Monroe area to approximately 3,000 employees. Designed to draw certification as a leader in energy and environmental innovation from the U.S. Green Building Council, the center will attract CenturyLink suppliers to the region, infusing the Northeast Louisiana economy with additional momentum.

“We expect the center to spur innovation,” CenturyLink President and CEO Glen Post said.

Technology expansion in Northeast Louisiana has generated more assets to fuel growth, but it also has prompted industry-tailored investments in higher education. Both the CenturyLink and IBM projects include state-funded collaboration with local universities to bolster curricula in critical skill areas, such as cloud computing and analytics.

IBM’s selection of Monroe for the innovation center benefitted from momentum established by a separate project in Baton Rouge, where the company opened a permanent home for an 800-job technology center this year.

The Baton Rouge project includes collaboration with local universities, notably Louisiana State University, to grow the pipeline of tech talent and target curricula that match industry needs.

“Our experiences in Baton Rouge gave us confidence in IBM’s ability to be successful in Louisiana,” said Christine Alford, general manager for IBM Service Centers in North America.

But Northeast Louisiana isn’t solely focused on software development and IT projects. Thirty miles outside Monroe lies the Franklin Farm Mega Site, one of the top-rated U.S. greenfield sites for an automotive assembly plant.

Franklin Farm is being aggressively marketed by local, regional and state officials eager to convey its potential as an automotive industry asset, including rail and port access and proximity the Monroe Regional Airport.

The 1,440-acre, state-owned site near Interstate 20 continues to draw national interest among site selection experts as one of the best auto-assembly sites in the U.S. Southern Business & Development magazine has ranked it one of the top three sites of its kind in the nation.

Northwest Louisiana

The Shreveport-Bossier City area is enjoying breakout growth in two industry sectors — advanced manufacturing and cyber technology — that are reshaping the regional economy and creating thousands of high-wage jobs.

But diversification also characterizes Northwest Louisiana, with industries as varied as manufacturing, cyber technology and high-tech recycling.

“We have great diversity in our region,” said President Scott Martinez of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership.

A quick look across Northwest Louisiana underscores the point. The region is home to a $150 million paper-recycling mill by Pratt Industries; Academy Award-winning animation firm Moonbot Studios launched here; and Ronpak, a custom manufacturer for major retailers nationwide, developed a state-of-the-art packaging plant in Shreveport and moved its headquarters here from New Jersey.

Martinez credits regional growth to careful cultivation of local assets, especially in cyber technology and advanced manufacturing. He points to the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, where technology leader and Fortune 500 firm CSC is establishing an 800-job technology center. To attract CSC and other cyber leaders, the State of Louisiana and local governments first invested more than $100 million in the park’s Cyber Innovation Center that continues to develop the park and national technology and education resources to form a foundation for the future.

Cybersecurity tools developed at nearby Barksdale Air Force Base, which contributes more than $800 million in yearly economic output to the area, provided a springboard for the not-for-profit Cyber Innovation Center to develop the research park. “This is an example of one asset — Barksdale — driving the creation of another asset in the form of the Cyber Innovation Center,” Martinez said.

The Port of Caddo-Bossier illustrates how another Northwest Louisiana asset is generating economic momentum. Benteler Steel/Tube scrutinized more than 100 sites in 13 states before choosing the port on the Red River for its first U.S. hot-rolling tube mill. The German firm’s $975 million Shreveport steel site will create 675 new direct jobs.

“Port officials knew exactly how the port could help Benteler and were able to communicate that to the company,” Martinez said.

Offering clear educational pathways to skilled blue- and white-collar job seekers is another advantage that, in Martinez’s view, reinforces the region’s physical assets. A state-and-local-funded $22 million training center at Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC), for example, will produce a pipeline of workers equipped with precisely the skills Benteler needs. The BPCC Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology also will train the staffs of other regional manufacturers. Meanwhile, a team of CSC representatives is collaborating with Louisiana Tech University to ensure the university’s curriculum meets real-world computer technology needs.

Other regional innovations include the Digital Media Institute, a training program developed by the Biomedical Research Foundation. The program will be housed in the same Shreveport building as Oscar-winning animation firm Moonbot Studios.

Lampton Enochs, Moonbot’s managing partner, described cultural resources such as The Robinson Film Center and the Film Prize competition as supporting industry innovation and growth. Collaboration with Centenary College and Louisiana Tech are also important, he said.

“Every day, there are more job opportunities for the younger generation interested in digital media, software development and entertainment,” Enochs said. “For the first time, our kids who want to stay home and work in those industries have the opportunity to do so.”

Central Louisiana

In Alexandria, the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) brands its region boldly — “Central Louisiana: We Make Good Stuff!”— to underscore the critical role that manufacturing plays in the region’s past, present and future.

CLEDA’s statement is a fitting one for a region where formidable manufacturing assets combine with a highly skilled workforce.

An infusion of new manufacturing momentum — and the availability of a more than 1,500-acre mega site — makes Central Louisiana’s “good stuff” claim all the more fitting in 2015.

In February 2015, American Specialty Alloys (ASA) announced it will develop the company’s first aluminum-alloy manufacturing plant in Pineville. ASA’s $2.4 billion complex on the former site of an International Paper wood products plant will create 1,450 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of more than $70,000, plus benefits.

Utilizing robotic technology, environmentally friendly practices and a highly trained workforce, ASA will produce 1.3 billion pounds of aluminum annually for automakers seeking to replace heavy steel side-panels, frames and other parts with lighter, more fuel-efficient metals. The mill also will produce metals for the aerospace industry.

Meanwhile, established Central Louisiana manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Union Tank Car are creating co-location opportunities for growing supply firms. IPC, located at England Airpark, makes corrugated material for P&G, which produces Tide and other detergents at its Pineville plant. Another P&G supplier, PaperWorks Industries, relocated from New York to Alexandria to better serve the consumer-products giant.

Co-location opportunities offer advantages to homegrown firms, too. The Hayes Companies supplies metal to Union Tank Car and its 600 employees who build railroad tank cars at England Airpark, a former military base that now is a critical economic development asset for the region.

The region’s strong military presence at Fort Polk, a major U.S. Army training installation located southwest of Alexandria, makes Central Louisiana a natural fit for aerospace-related firms at England Airpark, which also includes the Alexandria International Airport.

An additional 852 acres newly under England Airpark’s control will allow the airpark to grow its largest available site from 700 to 1,552 acres — creating the region’s first bona fide mega site. Southern Business & Development magazine listed the location as a Top 10 site “perfect for any larger manufacturer” even before the additional 852 acres.

“It can support any large manufacturer in automotive, aerospace or high-end manufacturing,” said England Airpark Executive Director Jon Grafton. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.”

The site — to be fully certified in 2015 — abuts Alexandria International Airport, which provides direct flights to and from Asia and Europe, Grafton said.

“We can offer a large manufacturer that direct connection,” he said.

Long the heart of the region’s economy, timber and other renewable resources remain an important source of growth. Biofuels firm Cool Planet Energy Systems is building a new micro-refinery at the Port of Alexandria, for instance, where it will convert wood waste to gasoline. A second micro-refinery will follow in Natchitoches, located northwest of Alexandria, in a project that represents a cumulative $168 million capital investment.

Central Louisiana leaders continue to hone another key asset — workforce preparation — that is foundational to the region’s growth. Of the more than 44,000 ACT National Career Readiness Certificates issued in Louisiana, more than 25 percent have been issued in Central Louisiana, which has less than 9 percent of the state’s total population, noted CLEDA President and CEO Jim Clinton.

“We’re a region of makers, and our workforce reflects that,” he said.

Southwest Louisiana

Anchored by the Lake Charles metro area, Southwest Louisiana has drawn unprecedented investment in the regional economy in recent years. One of the nation’s largest, collective industrial expansions is taking place here, with $32 billion in projects underway and another $52 billion in projects announced or in the planning stages.

“These projects are centered around natural gas and are influenced by Lake Charles’ long legacy in the petrochemical industry, which was established after World War II,” said President and CEO George Swift of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “There are so many assets here: the port network, robust pipelines, a supply of natural gas — and a tradition of a solid and dependable workforce.”

The region enjoys a transportation infrastructure that features heavy industrial rail service; interstate corridors; deep- and shallow-water ports, including the 11th-largest port in the nation; and airport runways among the longest on the Gulf Coast.

Such factors, along with Louisiana’s highly ranked business climate and an abundance of affordable natural gas, helped attract a $10 billion investment in Cameron Parish to build Cameron LNG — a new liquefaction processing complex and liquefied natural gas export terminal. Cameron LNG, which broke ground on its latest $6 billion phase in October 2014, is a joint venture owned by affiliates of Sempra Energy, Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Japan LNG Investment LLC, the latter a joint venture formed by affiliates of Mitsubishi Corp. and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.

Meanwhile, one of the largest industrial projects in Louisiana history is taking place in Cameron Parish at Sabine Pass, an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico. Cheniere Energy is establishing a liquefied natural gas export facility that will include a total of six liquefaction trains, or production units. The company originally committed to four liquefaction trains, an investment of approximately $12 billion, then announced two additional trains, bringing the total project investment to more than $18 billion. 

Sasol, a South African global energy firm, also has found Southwest Louisiana an advantageous region for chemical manufacturing. In 2004, the company relocated its olefins and surfactants R&D laboratories from Texas to its Lake Charles Chemical Complex. In 2010, Sasol began development of the world’s first commercial ethylene tetramerization unit at the same complex — a $175 million project. And in March 2015, Sasol formally broke ground on a nearly $9 billion project to install an ethane cracker and complete a complex of six new chemical plants beside the Lake Charles Chemical Complex in Westlake.

“In our experience, Louisiana is a state that understands the challenges of modern business, particularly those challenges encountered by the energy and chemical sectors,” Sasol CEO David Constable said. “As a result of this understanding, LED has created an environment in which it attracts new business and provides the private sector with the opportunity to expand and flourish.”

To meet the workforce needs of Sasol and other manufacturers, the State of Louisiana funded construction of a $20 million regional training center at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles. Sasol’s workforce will be trained at the site on state-of-the-art equipment that simulates the plant setting. The highly adaptable facility will provide training for workers in many advanced manufacturing settings, ensuring that existing and new regional manufacturers will benefit from the specialized workforce preparation.

Swift said Southwest Louisiana’s aviation sector is also flourishing, thanks to a favorable infrastructure at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles. The facility has 10,700-by-200 feet of useable runway that can land the largest aircraft built today. It’s a high quality location for flight-test activity. “We really think aviation will continue to grow,” he said.

AAR Corp. announced the establishment of a 750-job aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul operation at Chennault. Chicago-based AAR is a global provider of products and services to commercial airlines and is also ranked among the Top 100 defense contractors in the world. Northrup Grumman also has expanded at Chennault, where the company services and overhauls KC-10 air tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

Swift said one of the region’s greatest assets is its untapped potential: “In the outlying parishes, we still have an abundance of room to grow.”

Acadiana

In Louisiana’s Acadiana Region, software development, health care, bio-informatics, advanced manufacturing, and deepwater oil and gas technology demonstrate the region’s diverse economic portfolio. These industries, combined with Acadiana’s longstanding role in international energy exploration and production, are elevating the region’s attractiveness for new business investment in innovative sectors.

The diverse economy stems from deliberative steps taken by regional leaders many years ago, said President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. Located in south-central Louisiana, Lafayette is the metro area at the center of Acadiana.

Among other projects, Lafayette invested in a municipal fiber-to-the-home-and-business service that brings 100 percent fiber-optic access to all of Lafayette at 1-gigabyte-per-second speed. It has allowed tech entrepreneurs to flourish.

“In addition to energy, Lafayette has positioned itself as a medical, transportation, entertainment, education, finance and retail hub,” Gothreaux said. “It’s our forward-thinking, communitywide initiatives that have allowed economic development, government, education and private investors to attract new technology-intensive businesses and innovations to Acadiana.”

Acadiana’s software development sector has expanded fast, evidenced by the 2014 announcement of Canada-based CGI, the world’s fifth-largest independent IT services firm. CGI is establishing a 400-job U.S. technology center in Lafayette.

Also in 2014, Silicon Valley-based software development and IT firm Enquero announced it will open a 350-job enterprise software and technology services center in Lafayette, from which it will serve commercial clients. Just a few months later in September 2014, Perficient — a leading information technology and management consulting firm — announced it would establish a 245-job software development center in Lafayette.

CGI, Enquero and Perficient join a thriving tech sector in Lafayette that includes website development and communications firm Bizzuka, listed among Inc.magazine’s fastest-growing private companies in America for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Tech leaders point to a strong regional infrastructure that includes the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s School of Computing and Informatics, a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence.

In 2014 as part of the CGI project, the State of Louisiana announced a $4.5 million higher education initiative over 10 years, led by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, that will triple the number of annual graduates in computer science, computer engineering and related fields.

Acadiana is home to a thriving advanced manufacturing sector that includes both large multinational companies, as well as homegrown innovators who sell their products and services worldwide.

Bell Helicopter represents a major step forward for Louisiana and Acadiana. Though Louisiana offers many aerospace suppliers and components manufacturers, including NASA contractors, Bell Helicopter is completing the first aerospace assembly facility built in the state in the modern era.

Located at the Lafayette Regional Airport, the Bell Helicopter facility will produce a new aircraft for the Texas-based company: the 505 Jet Ranger X helicopter. The assembly site will open in the second-half of 2015 and begin production in 2016, resulting in more than 250 new direct and indirect jobs. Bell Helicopter recently expanded its composites production with a new manufacturing facility in the Acadiana community of Broussard, and the company is retaining more than 60 existing jobs in the region.

“Louisiana is a proven and growing aerospace market and has access to a skilled, experienced workforce, as well as key resources and suppliers,” said Robert Hastings, Bell Helicopter’s senior vice president of communications and government affairs. “Bell’s operations in Lafayette will put us close to many of our key customers and can increase opportunities for collaboration within the company. Our experience has shown us that Lafayette Parish is a great place to do business.”

Lafayette has a history of innovation among its native companies, including C&C Technologies, which has developed groundbreaking offshore survey equipment. One of its latest products is the first commercially operated deepwater Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for oil and gas exploration, an instrument that is saving the oil and gas industry significant time and money.

Metal Shark Boats, which produces high-speed, maneuverable watercraft for the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, employs more than 200 people at its Jeanerette and Franklin shipyards, where it also builds response boats for law enforcement and commercial customers. The 2014 addition of a larger shipyard in Franklin will enable the company to build larger watercraft for energy industry customers.

Bayou Region 

Unimaginably massive, floating drilling platforms — some the size of city blocks — are rising in the Gulf of Mexico, where deepwater discoveries and additional investment in established offshore projects are key drivers of the Bayou Region economy.

South Louisiana oilfield companies that produce offshore vessels, equipment and technology deployed the world over are racing to keep pace with demand created by Gulf oil-and-gas projects, projects the Wall Street Journal describes as “bigger and more expensive than ever.”

Energy companies are investing billions of dollars in complex, years-in-development offshore projects lying hundreds of miles off the Louisiana coast. New plays in the Gulf of Mexico’s productive waters could create unprecedented drilling activity over the next two years, according to U.S. government estimates. Industry giant Shell, for instance, began production at two deepwater sites off the Louisiana coast in 2014.

Across Louisiana’s Bayou Region, demand for equipment and expertise tied to such investments is expected to generate tens of thousands of highly skilled oilfield jobs over the next decade, according to industry estimates.

“The deep water of the Gulf is a major driver for us,” said Eric Danos, executive vice president of Danos, an oil-and-gas fabrication and support firm based in Houma, Louisiana, the heart of the Bayou Region’s renowned oilfield industry.

The company recently began making offshore decking and platform equipment at its new 120,000-square-foot fabrication site on the waterfront in Amelia, part of a headquarters-and-manufacturing expansion that will create more than 400 new direct jobs over five years.

“We are growing really rapidly on the offshore side, and we needed to expand because we needed additional space,” said Danos, who noted that demand from land-based projects in Texas, Ohio and other markets is also feeding its growth, though at a more moderate pace.

Other established Bayou Region supply firms, including shipbuilders, are expanding in response to offshore activity and drilling projects as far flung as Alaska and West Africa. Shipyard titan Bollinger is developing additional drydocks at Port Fourchon big enough to handle its entire Gulf of Mexico fleet.

Other recent Bayou Region expansions include a new $40 million, 205,000-square-foot headquarters and machining facility by oilfield pipe fabricator K&B Industries in Schriever, and a new $62 million, 304,000-square-foot oilfield services manufacturing facility by Hunting Energy Services near Houma.

The offshore energy market is fueling expansion of South Louisiana oilfield expertise through new investments in education and training opportunities. Shell’s regional investment includes a commitment to fostering its oilfield workforce: It has created two-year associate and technical scholarships in offshore technology and marine operations at South Louisiana Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College.

At Fletcher Community College in Houma, BP and state education leaders partnered to create a regional Deepwater Center for Workforce Excellence that includes a 4,000-square-foot lab outfitted with $500,000 in state-of-the-art equipment.

Capital Region 

Located along the Mississippi River, Louisiana’s Capital Region is home to one of the world’s highest-performing petrochemical sectors. Refineries and manufacturers take advantage of a seasoned, dependable workforce and a transportation network that facilitates the movement of inbound and outbound product.

The manufacturing boom continues in the Baton Rouge area and includes multiple major project wins. CF Industries is completing a $2.1 billion expansion of its Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex, which supplies the global fertilizer industry, and BASF is expanding for the fourth time since 2008 with a $42.6 million polyurethanes blending facility in Ascension Parish.

Global methanol producer Methanex has relocated a pair of idle methanol plants from Chilé to Louisiana, where it is rebuilding them in a pair of Ascension Parish projects that represent more than $1.1 billion in new capital investment and that will result in more than 1,300 new direct and indirect jobs, along with 2,500 construction jobs.

Along with this industrial renaissance, the Capital Region’s filmmaking and software development sectors have accelerated the area’s economic momentum.

Established in 2006, the Celtic Media Centre is a thriving film studio located in the heart of Baton Rouge. Celtic’s more than 150,000 square feet of stage space has hosted major tent-pole blockbusters, including Twilight: Breaking DawnOblivion and Fantastic Four, as well as the much-anticipated Hap and Leonardtelevision series.

In addition, 81,000 square feet of office space houses dozens of businesses that support the film industry, including a branch of equipment vendor Manhattan Beach Studios. Celtic is one of the largest, design-built facilities outside of California, and one of few that can accommodate any production imaginable.

“You can make your production here for less. It’s going to be easier for you, and you can get a lot of local and state support,” said Celtic Studios Executive Director Patrick Mulhearn.

Louisiana is home to some of the nation’s strongest tax credits in film and digital media production. Movie Maker magazine named Baton Rouge the No. 1 place to live and work in the film industry in 2014 in its small-city category.

“Films are a good fit for Louisiana and Baton Rouge. Taking the broadest view, we’ve got mild winters, low cost of living and low cost of doing business,” Mulhearn said. “You don’t expect to find one of the country’s largest studios next to a Costco, but we’ve hosted some of the biggest productions on Earth.”

Digital media and software development continue to climb in Baton Rouge. Video game developer EA Sports selected Louisiana State University (LSU) for its North American Test Center in 2008 and significantly expanded its presence in 2012. To better accommodate the company’s facility needs, and to grow LSU’s digital media curricula, the university established the Louisiana Digital Media Center on the LSU main campus. The 94,000-square-foot site is now the permanent home of the EA North American Test Center, with employment flexing between 400 and 600 jobs, along with the LSU Center for Computation and Technology and a diverse digital media curriculum for students.

The Capital Region’s biggest technology announcement arrived in 2013, when IBM committed to investing in a new 800-job technology center in downtown Baton Rouge. More than 200 IBM employees were working in temporary office space before the company moved in May 2015 to a new $44 million urban development that includes the nine-floor IBM technology center and a 10-story residential tower of smart-home residential units and townhomes.

To answer the demand for more computer science graduates, the State of Louisiana is funding a 10-year, $14 million expansion of higher education programs, with the LSU-led initiative expected to double computer science faculty and triple the number of annual bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science at the Baton Rouge campus.

Southeast Louisiana 

The post-Hurricane Katrina recovery of New Orleans is well-documented as one of the nation’s greatest comeback stories. A city challenged by disaster recovery and evacuation quickly became a noted hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and intellectual energy. The region has seen continuing new investment in emerging sectors, while legacy industries also have expanded.

“Overall, the story is that in Greater New Orleans, 2014 might have been the best year on record, in terms of numbers of announcements and diversity of announcements,” said GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht. “It’s not just that the regional economy is doing well, but that it is doing so across a diversity of industries.”

Technology is one of those industries. By 2010, New Orleans had established itself as a vibrant tech center, earning accolades in national media outlets for its ability to attract innovators and tech entrepreneurs. New Orleans’ lower operating costs, high quality of life and state digital media incentives convinced global video game designer Gameloft and other tech firms to establish sites 
in New Orleans.

GE Capital selected the Crescent City for a 300-job information technology center that opened in 2012. With help from LED FastStart® — Louisiana’s top-ranked state workforce development program — GE Capital filled jobs at a much faster rate than expected. The company benefited from a valuable regional partner, the University of New Orleans, and $5 million in state higher education support over 10 years to develop the Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program.

“We feel strongly that this program will grow the future pool of highly skilled software development workers in the New Orleans area,” said Mike De Boer, chief information officer for the GE Capital Technology Center in the city.

High Voltage Software (HVS) is another major tech win for New Orleans. The company has shipped 95 game titles and worked with more than 25 major brands including Star Wars, Toy Story, Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Captain America and others. One of the largest third-party game developers in the world, HVS will establish a studio in New Orleans with 80 game development professionals.

The Southeast Region is experiencing international trade growth, evidenced by foreign direct investment and new activity in the Port of New Orleans. In 2014, the region witnessed the largest industrial investment in state history from mainland China, when Yuhuang Chemical announced plans to build a $1.85 billion methanol manufacturing complex with 400 new direct jobs in St. James Parish, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

A longtime player in international trade, the Port of New Orleans has attracted a flurry of new investment in the past year, including the return of Chiquita Brands International’s shipping operations from Mississippi. Chiquita plans to ship 60,000 to 78,000 cargo containers per year through the Port of New Orleans. Also last year, International Shipholding Corporation announced the relocation of a 100-job corporate headquarters from Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans, while Viking Cruises announced the establishment of its first North American river cruises, with the operations hub and an estimated 780 new direct and indirect jobs coming to New Orleans and the Southeast Region.

Additionally, Port of New Orleans tenant TCI Plastics announced a $36.5 million investment in a new 500,000-square-foot logistics facility that continues development of a mega-plastics district there.

“It’s important to stress that the lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is largest port complex in the United States and has incredible geographic advantages,” said Matt Gresham of the Port of New Orleans. “We have what nobody has, 14,000 inland miles of waterways, and 30 states you can hit without touching dry land.”