Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Feb/Mar 08)
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was sworn in on January 14, 2008; at 36 years old, he is the nation's youngest governor currently in office. "I am asking you once again to believe in Louisiana, " says the governor on his website. Stephen Moret, the new director of Louisiana Economic Development, shares the governor's hopes and vision. "I am thrilled about the potential of what Governor Jindal wants to achieve. The governor plans to change the bad policy choices of years ago and transform Louisiana into a national leader by making dramatic strides very quickly."
A special session of the state legislature will focus on ethics reform. "A great deal of how a state is measured is based on the laws on its books," says Moret. Another session will concentrate on easing the tax burden. "We want to reduce or eliminate certain taxes such as the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, as well as the franchise tax on corporate debt and the sales tax on business utilities and natural gas," he says. Partnerships with the community college and technical college system are expected to augment and educate the work force.
Plans also include developing incentives for development targets, such as warehousing and distribution. "With our access to the Mississippi River, we have become a gateway to Latin America," he says. Louisiana's deepwater ports facilitate the shipment of agricultural products, chemicals, petroleum and coal, processed food, and transportation equipment. Nearly one-fourth of those exports last year went to Latin America. For the first nine months of 2007, Mexico was Louisiana's the number one export market.
Entertainment, film, and digital media are also active industries. "We are working aggressively to attract animation, video game development and special effects companies," says Moret, citing strong tax incentives for film, post-production, and digital media. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has reported that Louisiana's game industry grew 22.4% in 2006. Moret notes that three gaming companies - Yatec, Nerjyzed, and Resurgent Interactive - have already established a presence in Baton Rouge.
Corporate headquarters and shared services are spread out over the Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport areas. Staples recently located a contact center for its North American Delivery business in Baton Rouge that is expected to hire 400 people over the next four years.
Life sciences and biotechnology are healthy sectors in Shreveport, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. Moret points out that the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a nutrition-focused research center, is spinning off startup companies that will attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms to the area.
Energy offers additional development potential. Moret notes the potential for petrochemical companies and nuclear reactor component firms. "There has been a hiatus of 20 to 30 years since the last nuclear reactor was made in the U.S.," says Moret. "We are hoping to secure one of the top manufacturers of those modular components."
Hoping to steer automotive clients to the state, development representatives are touting the Franklin Farm, a 1,440-acre mega-site in Richland Parish along the Interstate 20 auto corridor, as the site for a potential automotive assembly plant. Approximately 100 auto suppliers are located within a 125-mile radius of the site.