BATON ROUGE, La. — Business Facilities has ranked LED FastStart® as the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program for a record 12th consecutive year. Established in 2008, LED FastStart became the national leader in workforce training by building talent pipelines that connect Louisiana’s highly skilled workforce to new and expanding economic development projects across the state. In the 17th Annual State Rankings Report, Business Facilities highlights the strongest perfomers in economic development to a broad audience of industry professionals, executives and consultants that guide corporate site selection decisions.
In addition to the unprecedented success of LED FastStart, Louisiana also ranked No. 2 in manufacturing output, No. 6 in food processing leadership, and No. 9 in cybersecurity. Foreign Trade Zone activity was another bright spot for Louisiana, as Gramercy, Louisiana, ranked No. 1 for imports and No. 3 for exports.
“With its 12th year as the No. 1 state workforce development program in the nation, LED FastStart remains the leader in ensuring businesses and workers have what they need in a dynamic, changing economy,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire team at Louisiana Economic Development and LED FastStart for this incredible achievement. Across the nation, states are attempting to emulate the success of LED FastStart, but Louisiana maintains its leading edge with FastStart’s innovative approach to workforce development. The COVID pandemic has brought us many challenges, but the skilled and creative minds within LED FastStart have provided tremendous support to businesses, helping them weather the storm. This trend of innovation and creative thinking is seen in many aspects of our state, as indicated by Louisiana’s additional successes in this year’s rankings.”
LED FastStart works with new and expanding companies in target industries to tailor comprehensive recruiting, screening and training solutions. Under the leadership of Executive Director Paul Helton, LED FastStart has maintained its successful track record through continuously improving, adapting, innovating and implementing new programs to meet the changing dynamics of businesses and the workforce. FastStart’s custom solutions ensure that employees are fully prepared from day one of a project launch. FastStart is the only U.S. program to be ranked No. 1 since Business Facilities introduced the Workforce Training Leaders category in 2010.
“LED FastStart has remained the nation’s gold standard for workforce training by its commitment to ensuring that businesses investing in Louisiana have the best possible tools available to hit the ground running on day one,” said LED Secretary Don Pierson. “Abiding by the values of innovation, creativity and professionalism, it is no surprise that LED FastStart remains at the top of the rankings. FastStart sustains this success with the the support of the Louisiana Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards. I extend my gratitude to them, as they understand that a successful 21st century economy can only be built with a well-trained, highly skilled workforce.”
Business Facilities evaluates states in the customized training category in multiple ways, including collaboration among emerging industries and higher education systems. Workforce programs are evaluated for how well they integrate STEM skills – or science, technology, engineering and math – into training curricula. This year’s evaluation of states’ customized training programs was weighted on the programs’ flexibility in response to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, LED FastStart collaborated with the Louisiana Department of Education and partner high schools to make its delivery of STEM skills accessible online.
“Louisiana continues to set the standard for excellence in customized training,” Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said. “Louisiana was one of the first states to be hit by the onslaught of the coronavirus in March 2020, and it was hit hard. LED FastStart rapidly marshalled its impressive resources to help high schools transition to online courses while converting traditional in-person-instructor workforce training courses to a webinar format.”
Since 2008, FastStart has delivered 497,000 training hours to over 32,000 employees linked to 247 new economic development projects in Louisiana. FastStart recently enhanced its recruiting efforts with the launch of the new LEDFastStart.com. The site features tailored options to connect job seekers to jobs in their preferred locations, as well as integrated content from partner companies, with custom landing pages and depictions of Louisiana-based worksites and cultures.
“LED FastStart remains the leader in Business Facilities’ Workforce Development and Talent Attraction category, and I am honored to lead this incredible team to its 12th consecutive top ranking,” said Helton. “While we acknowledge that imitation is the best form of flattery, we strive to maintain this top spot as we continue to innovate new methods and embrace new tools to ensure Louisiana’s workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. We will continue to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers, and build on all we’ve done to make Louisiana attractive for new investments.”
LED FastStart also continues to foster its collaboration with Louisiana’s higher education partners. To date, FastStart has guided over $115 million in state funding to higher education initiatives that support talent growth and skills training, helping to ensure that colleges and universities have the tools necessary to prepare Louisiana’s talent pool for new careers. In 2020, LED FastStart facilitated the installation of new Haas 5-Axis CNC machining centers – considered essential for aerospace, automotive and other advanced manufacturers – at every college in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
In northern Louisiana, two of the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities pair with LED FastStart to develop jobs in tech fields and aerospace. At Grambling State University, a 50,000-square-foot digital library is being built, strengthening university degree programs in computer science and computer information systems. Grambling recently awarded its first degrees in cybersecurity, the first bachelor’s degree of its kind in the state. Meanwhile, Southern University’s Shreveport campus is home to the Aerospace Technology Center which prepares students for engineering and mechanical operations jobs in that industry sector.
In addition to statewide performance rankings, communities across Louisiana also performed well in Business Facilities’ rankings. New Orleans ranked No. 2 among cities named as logistics leaders. Baton Rouged ranked No. 3 for gross domestic product among mid-sized MSAs. In the recovery jobs growth category, Monroe ranked No. 4, and Shreveport ranked No. 7 among millennial magnets and No. 8 among cyber cities.
The 2021 Business Facilities rankings join the growing list of accolades for Louisiana’s economic development performance over the past year. In June 2021, Louisiana earned a Silver Shovel Award from Area Development magazine for economic development wins during 2020. In March, Site Selection magazine ranked Louisiana in the Top 10 for project performance on a per capita basis for the 11th time in the past 12 years in its Governor’s Cup ranking.
In October 2020, the International Economic Development Council, or IEDC, awarded a Silver Award to LED’s Community Competitiveness office for its Louisiana Development Ready Communities Program. LDRC has helped 47 Louisiana communities become more competitive for new investment and jobs over its 13-year history. Additionally, IEDC awarded LED FastStart with the IEDC Silver Award for higher education partnerships, and a Bronze Award for talent development and retention.
About Business Facilities
Business Facilities has been a leading source of intelligence on corporate expansion and relocation projects since 1968. For more on the magazine’s 17th Annual Rankings Report, visit businessfacilities.com.