Governor Bobby Jindal, Commissioner of Administration, and Secretaries of Labor and Economic Development Announce Workforce and Economic Development Initiatives
Governor Bobby Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis were joined by Labor Secretary Tim Barfield and Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret today to announce workforce and economic development initiatives included in the Governor's upcoming budget.
Jindal said, "Creating a business climate that encourages our Louisiana businesses to expand and create more jobs is a vital step to transforming our state so that our children and grandchildren don't have to leave to pursue their dreams. Additionally, we must ensure our Louisiana workforce is highly skilled and trained and our workers are ready to work on their very first day on the job. Our workers compete with other workforces from all across the globe and we must give our students the tools they need to be successful in an increasingly competitive global economy, in addition to ensuring we have skilled workers to fill existing jobs right here in Louisiana."
Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis said, "Businesses find it difficult to grow or locate in Louisiana because of workforce challenges, and too many of our young people leave the state because they see better job opportunities elsewhere. It's a terrible chicken-and-the-egg situation that this budget confronts from both sides by aggressively targeting business retention, expansion, and recruitment on the one hand, and on the other hand focusing the coordinated efforts of various state agencies to help provide our young people the workforce skills they need for good jobs right here in Louisiana."
Moret said, "These initiatives will ensure that our state prioritizes retention and expansion of our existing businesses and will position us to better compete for new business investment next year and beyond."
Barfield said, "Louisiana is poised to create real systemic change in workforce development to increase educational and workforce development opportunities for Louisiana citizens. Whether emerging or existing industries, Louisiana business and industry require a qualified, skilled and trained workforce in order to continue to thrive and remain competitive in a global market. Facing enormous workforce development challenges, business and industry are seeking short term solutions to address worker shortages, but at the same time these industries also need to develop a pipeline of potential workers preparing to enter the workforce with the necessary skills and training as a long-term solution. To provide both, short and long term solutions, funding for the community and technical college system must align with workforce development needs and the cost of priority, high growth/high demand programs. Also as a priority, Louisiana must dramatically improve communication, coordination and integration among workforce development entities and stakeholders. Utilizing a regional approach that leverages business leadership in strategic planning, our goal is for Louisiana's workforce system to be demand-driven, customer-focused and results-oriented."
Workforce Development Initiatives:
$3 million for Quick Start Training Program from the Louisiana Economic Development Fund. Louisiana's fiercest economic development competition, including Alabama, Georgia, and other states, often wins projects over our State because those states offer turnkey workforce solutions for new and expanding businesses. The Louisiana Quick Start Initiative will be an innovative, turnkey workforce solution that will help expanding and new firms to identify and screen high-potential employees, develop customized training programs for them, and train them to be prepared to deliver once each company is ready to begin (or expand) operations. This initiative will be designed based on best practices in place elsewhere and will be implemented largely through partnerships with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) and private providers.
$10 million for Workforce Training in new General Fund is recommended for Higher Education System for workforce development and increased capacity in high demand fields throughout the State of Louisiana. This will provide Louisiana's business and industry with a well-educated, highly skilled workforce capable of improving the State's competitive edge. It will also help the State address shortages in key areas such as allied health and the construction trades.
$4.5 million for Career Technical Assistance in new General Fund in the K-12 budget to increase the capacity of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) to expand career and technical education program offerings across the state. Funding will go toward expansion of career technical offerings in specific, targeted programs and areas of the state, as well as additional increased LDE staff to meet the needs of students to expand and establish more relevant, diversified offerings for their students.
Labor market demands verify that it is important to recognize that not all of the high school population will obtain a four-year college degree. It is, however, important that high school students be prepared to continue their education beyond K-12 to the technical or two-year colleges.
Every district in the state will be impacted by having industry based certification training available to their Career and Technical Education instructors.
Economic Development Initiatives:
$400,000 for a Business Retention/Expansion Team, new in State General Fund. Roughly 80 percent of all future job growth in Louisiana - and 100 percent of any future job losses - will come from the businesses already located in Louisiana today. LED currently has no designated staff leadership to focus on this critical activity. A new senior-level LED official will lead a team consisting of new and existing employees focused exclusively on cultivating our existing businesses. This team will: aggressively pursue retention/expansion prospects identified via company consultations, company inquires, and partner communications, and will develop best-in-class prospect management capabilities for both small/medium projects and mega projects (e.g., SWAT team), as well as "save" opportunities. Working with local and regional partners around the state, this team will interview all of our top economic-driver companies around the state (approximately 1,000 firms) to identify obstacles and expansion opportunities. The results of this team's work will be utilized to inform changes in state public policy needed to make Louisiana more competitive for economic growth.
$17.9 million for the Governor's Economic Development Rapid Response Fund (an increase of $7.9 million over Fiscal Year 2007-2008 appropriation) continues in the budget to provide a rapid response capability for securing economic development opportunities for the State.
As a result of recent increases in state marketing efforts, positive recognition in the national media, business interest in Louisiana has increased substantially. LED currently is managing approximately 70 significant prospects, not including the entertainment sector. Increasing the Rapid Response Fund from $10 million to $17.9 million will allow LED to effectively compete for a larger number of projects in FY09. The current $10 million fund was nearly depleted only halfway though the fiscal year.
$2 million for Project Specific Site Preparation/Evaluation, new funding in Statutory Dedication. This funding request allows Louisiana to level the playing field with other states by improving our ability to professionally and rapidly respond to site-specific information inquiries from site-selection consultants. Every year Louisiana competes for hundreds of economic development projects through the process of site selection. This process is one in which an initial search of many sites may be proposed, but in the end only one site wins the competition once it has passed all criteria. Criteria includes many items, such as title searches, wetlands delineations, soil evaluation, archeological evaluations, transportation assessments, land surveys, environmental assessments and others. The process also requires multiple requests for proposals and visual presentations. Other states have funds budgeted to provide these services and Louisiana does not. When Louisiana competed for ThyssenKrupp, the State had to utilize over $3 million from its Rapid Response Fund to prepare detailed site information; accordingly, less funding was available to close other projects. With a dedicated fund for project-specific site preparation efforts, Louisiana will be able to improve the quality (and speed) of its responses to site-selection consultants, which will be particularly helpful in winning large economic development projects.
$2.5 million for State Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking, Planning and Research initiative, new funding in Statutory Dedications. In today's extremely competitive economic development environment, companies increasingly consider fundamental economic conditions (e.g., workforce quality, tax and regulatory policies, transportation and infrastructure, higher education institutions) to be more important in site selection decisions than tax incentives and sales presentations. Although incentives often are very important in runoff situations between multiples states, they are not the primary driver of company location decisions. This initiative will enable LED to provide economic policy leadership for the State to position Louisiana to compete for more attractive, high-wage jobs in the future. Through a combination of staff leadership and third-party efforts, LED will: articulate what Louisiana needs to do to improve its competitive positioning against other states in tax and regulatory policies, infrastructure financing, higher education, and other areas; articulate service-level changes within state agencies to make Louisiana a competitive place in which to do business; develop strategic plans for the development of ports, airports, and transportation infrastructure; develop industry-specific strategic plans to protect the competitiveness of mature industries (e.g., wood products) and grow emerging industries (e.g., digital media); launch targeted initiatives through LED and/or in partnership with other state agencies to improve state competitiveness; and articulate what our State must do to move to the top of national rankings of importance to economic development. All of these areas will be evaluated from the perspective of what will generate the maximum economic impact and job creation potential for the State.