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AEDO Profile: Louisiana Economic Development
Eli Dile   on Monday, July 9, 2018 at 9:03:00 am

By Jasmine Latiolais, IEDC intern, University of Texas at Dallas

IEDC’s Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) program recognizes the professional excellence of organizations in the areas of internal and external operations, structures, and procedures. This series profiles newly accredited AEDOs, putting some of economic development’s high-performing organizations in the spotlight.

AEDO member: Louisiana Economic Development (LED)

Accreditation date: July 2018.

Distinctions: Louisiana Economic Development is the only statewide AEDO.

Organizational structure: The Louisiana Economic Development Department is within the Executive Branch of the state government. The department has two budgetary units: the Office of the Secretary and the Office of Business Development. 

Leadership and staff: Secretary Don Pierson leads the organization, with six executive leadership positions reporting to him. LED has eight regional offices and 106 total staff members. Pierson was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Mission: “Cultivate jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana through nine integrated economic development strategies:

  • Strategically improve state economic competitiveness,
  • Engage with local partners to enhance community competitiveness,
  • Forge partnerships to enhance regional economic development assets,
  • Expand and retain in-state businesses,
  • Execute a strong business recruitment program,
  • Cultivate small business, innovation, and entrepreneurship,
  • Enhance workforce development solutions,
  • Promote Louisiana’s robust business advantages, and
  • Attract foreign direct investments and grow international trade.”

Population: 4.7 million.

Budget: $134.6 million, with $75.8 million issued from the general fund in 2016.

Highlighted accomplishments:

  • Graphic Packaging International and DHL Supply Chain are investing a combined $274 million in Northeast Louisiana to modernize Graphic Packaging’s paperboard mill and co-develop a new 1.27-million-square-foot folding carton plant and logistics center. More than 800 jobs will be retained and 93 new direct jobs added.

  • DXC Technology, a Fortune 250 firm, opened a Digital Transformation Center in New Orleans in early 2018 that will create 2,000 new direct jobs with an annual payroll of $133 million.

  • Sasol Ltd. of South Africa will complete an $11 billion chemical complex in Lake Charles by late 2018, adding 600 new direct jobs with an average salary of $88,000, plus benefits.

  • Venture Global announced an $8.5 billion investment to develop a natural gas liquefaction facility and LNG export terminal. The project will create 250 jobs with an annual salary of $70,000 plus benefits.

  • CGI Federal announced a $13 million information technology center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park in 2014 with projected employment of 400. In May 2018, CGI announced it will double employment to 800.

Q&A with Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson

What does your organization do particularly well?

Louisiana has long enjoyed a strong portfolio of foreign investment, and that’s only grown in momentum in recent years. Our inbound investment from Asia now exceeds $15 billion. China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan are undertaking massive projects in Louisiana, and we have strong ties with Europe as well. And that’s only on the investment side – trade between these countries is also huge.

What unique programs or initiatives does your organization carry out?

FastStart, our workforce development program, has been recognized for the last eight years as the number-one training program in America by Business Facilities Magazine. Everybody is focused on workforce these days, but FastStart truly stands apart. We’ve put a strong emphasis on growing the program’s capabilities, including new web-based tools; not just static websites that simply list information but portals that use algorithms to facilitate job matches. With Louisiana Job Connection, we know specific skill sets that are needed by an industry or a corporation and can do a very surgical request for resumes. We also have a Louisiana Business Connection portal which takes some of our major deals and creates a pathway for small and medium-sized businesses to provide services and supplies to major businesses.

There’s a lot of sophistication in our workforce development program, and it’s moving beyond just recruitment. We’ve been following these companies’ changing needs over the years, and now we’re going a step further in reaching out to candidates to come into the workforce pipeline through work-based learning. Very similar to apprenticeships, work-based learning provides hands-on experience for young people to identify valuable careers, know what the pay scales are, and align their skill sets. It gives people the chance to “try it before you buy it” and see if they would be happy in certain fields.

Our partnerships with community colleges and higher education institutions are also excellent. One example is Nunez Community College, which is preparing the local workforce for jobs with Boeing as it prepares its space launch system that will carry man back to the moon and eventually on to Mars. You’re looking at arguably some of the most advanced manufacturing in the world taking place here in Louisiana.

What is the biggest challenge facing your community, and how does your organization work to address it?

LED works across eight distinct regions of the state with very different needs and capabilities. In Lake Charles, we have a massive building boom, and meanwhile in Lafayette, they’ve had severe layoffs when the price of oil fell, though they’ve started diversifying. In the northern Shreveport and Bossier area, you have wins and losses; they lost a GM plant and really haven’t replaced it with anything of that magnitude, but they’re doing well with their port and are bringing in good investments. You go down the road to Monroe and they’ve struggled, but have a lot of success building their IT footprint. Working at the state level, I often compare my job to being captain of a baseball team. When our shortstop is in a slump, it’s my job to support him, and come up to the plate and drive in runs. When our pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, it’s my job to make sure he stays focused and in a good rhythm. Economic development in Louisiana isn’t fundamentally different in the big picture. We work together as a team, no matter what challenges we may face.

The past several years, our state has faced some significant financial challenges, but we’ve been working our way out of the deficit and just recently reached a turning point and regained fiscal stability. We were recently named by Southern Business and Development the number two state in the South capital investment and job creation in 2017.

Why did you decide to pursue the AEDO accreditation?

To be the only state accredited by IEDC, and recognized as a thought leader in the process, was important to us and to EDOs throughout Louisiana who are our close stakeholders. LED was previously accredited in 2006, and we’re happy to regain accreditation and join the three other AEDOs in Louisiana.

From an internal perspective, it engaged the entire department to act as a team and helped break down silos. We’re hopeful the process helped create a more efficient and effective organization, and the rigorous audit process has also made us a more confident organization. With our external stakeholders, we’re constantly educating them that we have a great product, and the AEDO status helps us differentiate the state from our competitors.

It’s especially important for our international audience. Typically, Louisiana ranks number one in foreign direct investment per capita. When you speak to an international audience in particular, all the accreditation and credentials you can demonstrate become even more amplified in importance. The AEDO credential inspires confidence in the data, and confidence in our organization’s integrity.


Congratulations to LED and Secretary Don Pierson.
Posted by: Michael Olivier on July 9, 2018 at 1:29:22 pm

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