Governor Bobby Jindal addressed the Monroe Chamber of Commerce today where he launched his 2010 parish tour -- "Building a Better LA for Our Children." The Governor's tour will stop in every parish to highlight the significant progress his administration has made to create a New Louisiana that is the best place in the world to raise a family, get a great education and pursue a rewarding career. The Governor cited the BP oil spill, the President's deepwater drilling moratorium and the national economic downturn as challenges for the state, but he emphasized that these challenges will not get in the way of building a better Louisiana because the people of Louisiana will persevere and overcome these obstacles.
Governor Jindal said, "Today -- our state is in a war on many fronts. In coastal Louisiana, many communities are fighting to save their very livelihoods. Our fishermen, our shrimpers, our oystermen, and even seafood processors and restaurants have been deeply impacted by the BP oil spill. I have talked to many folks over the past months that have been unable to do the one job they have always known and loved. They wondered where their next paycheck would come from and worried about providing for their families -- some of them talked about their fears with tears in their eyes.
"There are also communities all across South Louisiana that are being deeply impacted by President Obama's deepwater drilling moratorium that was labeled as "arbitrary and capricious" by a federal judge. Those companies that are especially hurting are the smaller ones who supply deepwater tools or resources for deepwater drilling. Many have cut back and are on the verge of letting employees go. Of course all of these challenges have taken center stage in front of the existing backdrop of the national recession, which has touched nearly every family in our state -- even as our economy continues to outperform the national economy.
"During the oil spill crisis, people often asked me if I thought Louisiana would ever recover, would we ever be the same, would Louisiana return to be Sportsmen's Paradise as we have known it? Would communities and families be able to survive these tough times? The question is the same for the national economic recession -- will we be able to make it through these challenges? One of the main reasons I came here today is to answer these fundamental questions. If there is one thing you remember from this speech today I hope it is this -- my answer to all these questions is plainly yes.
"Times are hard right now. Yes, communities all across our state are facing very real challenges. But we will absolutely persevere through these challenges and overcome them. I am confident about this because I know the resilience and perseverance of our people. We have overcome hurricanes before, economic downturns before, and there is no challenge too big for our people. We may be fighting in a war today -- but I know we will win this war."
RESULTS OF BUILDING A BETTER LOUISIANA
Since setting out to create a New Louisiana, the Governor cited a number of facts and figures to highlight the state's strong economic momentum:
The U.S. Census indicated that Louisiana experienced its third straight year of net population in-migration from July 2008 to July 2009.
Among all states in the South, Louisiana has experienced the smallest percentage decline in jobs since January 2008.
* For the second consecutive year, Southern Business & Development recently named Louisiana "Co-State of the Year," noting that we attracted more significant business investment and job-creating projects per capita than any other state in the South, two years in a row.
* Pollina Corporate Real Estate recently released its rankings of top states for business; and Louisiana earned the first-ever Most Improved State designation based on its improved ranking from 2008 to 2010. In just two years, Louisiana jumped 20 spots in the ranking of best states for business (from 40th to 20th).
* Gallup's Job Creation Index for 2009 ranked Louisiana third best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
* Moody's Economy.com recently recognized Louisiana as one of 11 states it says are already recovering from the recession.
* According to Portfolio.com, Louisiana fared second best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia during the recession.
Governor Jindal highlighted a number of innovative programs and policies that have been implemented in order to create an environment that fosters growth and opportunity for Louisianians.
When he first took office, the Governor said he worked to clean up Louisiana's historical image of government corruption, and he called the Legislature into special session and asked them to pass the strongest governmental ethics laws in the country.
Governor Jindal said, "The results speak for themselves. Before the special session on ethics reform, the Center for Public Integrity ranked Louisiana 44th in the country for our disclosure laws, and after our legislation passed, we moved up 43 spots to number one in the country. No longer do we hear business leaders across the country worried about investing here due to governmental ethics concerns."
The Governor worked to rid Louisiana of a variety of onerous business taxes not charged by other states, taxes that often made Louisiana uncompetitive for new business investment and new, high-paying jobs.
Governor Jindal said, "We eliminated the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment. We eliminated the franchise tax on corporate debt. We eliminated the sales tax on natural gas and business utilities. And we passed the largest income tax cut in state history. Small and large businesses all across our state benefited from these tax cuts. In fact, our economic development department now reports that Louisiana's business tax structure no longer is an obstacle to attracting new business investment and jobs to our state."
Revamping the state's workforce development system was also a key part of the Governor's agenda. The Governor said, "When we took office, Louisiana had no comprehensive workforce development system to provide our businesses with a skilled workforce, nor did we have a system capable of guiding our people to find a rewarding career."
The Governor cited a number of statistics to highlight the importance of having a comprehensive workforce development system.
Finding qualified employees is one of the top obstacles to business growth for companies in Louisiana, and workforce issues are among the top two concerns for roughly 70 percent of the state's business development prospects. Over the next five to ten years, most jobs in Louisiana will require more training than high school but less than a traditional four-year college degree. Yet, only about 12 percent of Louisiana's high school graduates currently pursue training at a community or technical college. Additionally, 72 percent of Louisiana students are enrolled in four-year institutions and 28 percent in two-year schools, compared to averages in other southern states of 55 percent of students in four-year schools and 45 percent in two-year schools.
Governor Jindal said, "To put it simply, building a better Louisiana for our children means aligning our education system with our workforce needs. That's why we've worked to dramatically transform the way we train our people, including creating a Day One Guarantee, launching a new workforce development program, investing in higher education infrastructure and revamping our dropout prevention programs."
The Governor worked with the Legislature to create a "Day One Guarantee" to ensure Louisiana workers are ready to work on their very first day on the job or they will be retrained at no cost to the worker or the business.
Governor Jindal highlighted the creation of Louisiana FastStart -- a comprehensive, turnkey workforce solution for new or expanding business facilities in Louisiana. Recently, Business Facilities magazine ranked Louisiana FastStart as the BEST workforce development program in the country.
Governor Jindal said, "FastStart has turned workforce development from a concern when businesses look at relocating to Louisiana into one of the top selling points for our state. To put it simply, Louisiana FastStart is doing for workforce development in Louisiana what the New Orleans Saints have done for professional football. We have re-defined the entire image, and the world is taking notice."
To help ensure Louisianians have a first-class learning environment as they prepare for jobs in the 21st century, Governor Jindal worked with the Legislature to appropriate and to finance roughly half a billion dollars in critical higher education infrastructure investments across the state. This total includes general fund and capital outlay investments, as well as $225 million for Louisiana Community and Technical College campuses.
The Governor said he also worked to improve and invest in effective dropout prevention programs. Only about 67 percent of students in Louisiana are graduating high school on time, and each year, more than 15,000 students drop out of school. Every year Louisiana also locks up around 15,000 people. The Governor said these figures are not a coincidence.
Governor Jindal said, "It's unacceptable and that's why we've worked to replaced outdated and ineffective initiatives like the GED Options program, where fewer than 10 percent of students actually earn a GED, with a program called Jobs for America's Graduates, or JAG, where we had a 96 percent success rate in the past school year."
RESULTS IN NORTHEAST LOUISIANA
The Governor highlighted a number of statistics citing the progress made in Northeast Louisiana, including:
* Southern Business and Development magazine named Monroe the Small Market of the Year for 2009, based on business development wins.
* Trade and Industry Development magazine placed ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston among the top 15 new Corporate Investment projects announced in the U.S. for 2009.
* The Foster Farms project in Farmerville was recognized as one of the top 15 in the country for Community Impact by Trade & Industry Development magazine.
* HousingPredictor.com ranked Monroe the 7th best market in the NATION for real estate investors, largely based on recent job growth.
The Milken Institute ranked Monroe 18th for job growth from March 2008 to March 2009 on its Best-Performing Cities ranking.
In Northeast Louisiana, eleven economic development wins will result in 3,834 new direct jobs, 7,403 new indirect jobs, and nearly $781 million in new capital investment. Governor Jindal highlighted five of these new job wins:
CenturyLink created 350 direct and 520 indirect new jobs in Northeast Louisiana. CenturyLink is now the fourth-largest telecommunications company in the U.S., recently joining Entergy and The Shaw Group on the list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Louisiana. CenturyLink also recently announced their planned acquisition of Qwest, which will soon make it the third-largest telecommunications company in the U.S.
* Fortune 500 company ConAgra Foods recently announced it will construct the world's first large-scale processing facility dedicated to producing high-quality, frozen sweet potato products in Delhi, La., creating 500 new direct jobs, 1,300 new indirect jobs and up to $256 million in capital investment.
The state's investment in the expansion of Gardner Denver Thomas's operations in Monroe will result in an estimated 230 new full-time jobs and 505 indirect jobs. Gardner Denver Thomas, a Gardner Denver Inc. subsidiary, will consolidate its Thomas Products Division to the company's Monroe location from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
The state's investment in Foster Farms' acquisition of the Pilgrim's Pride plant saved over 1,100 direct jobs in the Ouachita Region and will support an additional 2,870 indirect jobs.
The state's investment in the expansion of Computer Programs & Systems Inc. will result in an estimated 100 new direct jobs and an estimated 51 new indirect jobs.
Governor Jindal said that while these statistics show significant progress, these jobs wins are about more than just numbers. The Governor told the stories of three people from Northeast Louisiana to show how these economic development wins are helping Louisianians.
Jim Bonner was born and raised in Northeast Louisiana. After college, he spent one year working in Texas before returning home. He then worked for almost 28 years with International Paper Company in Bastrop. He told us he thought he'd never look for another job while he worked at that plant, but Bonner was laid off when the plant shut down and he ended up spending about a year looking for a job. With his kids enrolled in school in the area and his mother still living in the area, Bonner wasn't going to consider looking for work outside the state.
Bonner's luck changed when early last year he got in touch with an old coworker who was assembling a team for the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston plant being constructed in Delhi. At his old job, Bonner worked in purchasing, and Lamb Weston needed a manager to head up its purchasing department. Bonner soon got the job and started working with the Delhi plant in March of this year.
Perry Stringfellow was born in Monroe and graduated with an Accounting Degree from Grambling State University. After graduation, he wanted to stay close to his family, so he found a position with a local company in payroll. He worked there for about two and a half years. After a while, Stringfellow wanted to give himself broader opportunities in his professional life, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to find anything in the Monroe area that would fit his skills.
Stringfellow didn't want to leave his home state, but he started looking into the possibility of moving away, because he thought he might need to do that to further advance his career. However, in November of last year, Stringfellow was watching the news and saw a story about CenturyTel merging with EMBARQ to become CenturyLink. Stringfellow soon saw employment listings for jobs at the growing company, including those in the newly expanding tax department. Stringfellow contacted CenturyLink and was hired in February. He was able to move his career forward without leaving Louisiana, and that's something Stringfellow never thought possible before CenturyLink.
Fred Bowens worked as a yard hand in West Monroe for 10 years until his company closed down. He was out of work for a little while before he heard about openings at Gardner Denver Thomas (GDT). GDT had recently consolidated its Wisconsin operations with its location in Monroe, and the company was hiring new employees to go through Louisiana's now first-in-the-nation FastStart program to train for new positions.
Bowens applied to work with GDT and was hired to work in Assembly. By participating in a two-week FastStart training program, he was able to learn the responsibilities of his new job right away and contribute to a great company in Northeast Louisiana.
INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Governor Jindal said, "Part of our work to build a New Louisiana for our children means we have to create an environment where businesses can succeed, grow and expand. To do that, we've made strategic investments to help build up infrastructure all across our state."
Governor Jindal took office in January 2008, he has led investments totaling more than $3.5 billion in state and Federal funds in transportation and road projects -- more than the past three governors combined during the same period of time.
In Northeast Louisiana, the Governor's investments include funding for renovations at ULM's Chemistry and Natural Science building, the ULM Library and Pharmacy School, the new LA Tech Business Building and the LA Tech Research Park. The Governor also supported funding for Delta Community College's new campus. Governor Jindal also worked with the Legislature to invest money for the Sparta Reuse Demonstration Project in West Monroe that will go towards the city's efforts to utilize unique technology to upgrade its wastewater system in order to have treated water reused at Graphic Packaging International, and to help offset the use of the Sparta Aquifer.
REFORMING EDUCATION TO STRENGTHEN LOUISIANA'S WORKFORCE
Governor Jindal said, "Another part of building a better Louisiana means we must ensure that our Louisiana workers are the most highly trained and skilled workforce in the nation. Training our workers starts by ensuring all Louisianians have a great education. We passed many bills in the recent legislative session to improve our education system and ensure every Louisiana child has access to a quality education. These are common sense reforms that will help improve our system and give our kids a better education. In short, we're giving options to parents and educators who know their schools and kids best."
The Governor signed the Red Tape Reduction and Local Empowerment Act to reduce red tape in the state's education system and provide schools with flexibility needed to improve student performance.
Governor Jindal said, "The premise for this new law is simple. If there is a state law or regulation in place interfering with a local school's ability to improve educational outcomes for our kids, we should waive it and get it out of the way. Different areas of this state face different challenges in the classroom. Rather than try to pass laws in Baton Rouge that propose a one-size-fits-all approach, I decided to push a law that allowed local stakeholders to make the decision on what state regulations were standing in their way and give them a quick waiver process to get relief. After all, parents, teachers and other local educators know more about the kids in this area than lawmakers in Baton Rouge.
Governor Jindal signed a new law that includes the use of value-added data to improve teaching and student achievement. The Governor said, "This new law incorporates student growth data as a component of teacher and administrator evaluations, which will enable school districts to identify and reward highly effective teachers and deliver targeted professional development to teachers and school leaders who need it. If a kid starts below grade level and ends the year at or above grade level, then teachers should be rewarded."
The Governor highlighted the passage of the LA GRAD Act which will help universities and community colleges graduate the kids they enroll in degree programs that will help them be successful in the workforce.
Governor Jindal said, "This bill puts in place performance incentives at colleges to increase student performance, better meet state and regional needs and improve institutions' overall competitiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency. It's great that our schools want to be number one on the playing field, but this new law is all about making sure we can be number one in the classroom too."
The Governor also signed a new law that requires the state board of education to give letter grades to public schools and school districts so that parents can more easily understand how their children's' schools are performing.
BATTLING FEDERAL POLICIES TO CREATE JOBS
The Governor noted that job creation has been challenged by the national recession and the anti-job policies coming out of Washington, D.C. Governor Jindal stressed that he would not let Washington's job-killing policies get in the way of continuing to build a better Louisiana.
"While we have remained unwavering in working to build a New Louisiana, this goal has not only faced the challenge of the national recession but the ongoing challenge of anti-job policies in Washington, DC. The possibility of cap-and-trade legislation caused tremendous concern and uncertainty among large industrial companies, resulting in lost opportunities for billions of dollars in new capital investment in Louisiana. In fact, Nucor -- a large company considering locating in St. James Parish - specifically told us on multiple occasions that issues related to cap-and-trade legislation represent the top obstacle to their project coming to Louisiana over Brazil or some other location overseas."
President Obama has called for the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program, which is resulting in the loss of more than 2,000 direct jobs in New Orleans, as well as the prevention of the creation of up to 2,500 more new jobs. Those losses do not even include the indirect job effects.
The Navy has also made changes to its shipbuilding procurement plan which has caused the closure of shipyards in the New Orleans area and Tallulah -- resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.
More recently, the deepwater drilling moratorium, which was not even supported by the Administration's own handpicked experts, has already begun destroying thousands of jobs and is eventually expected to destroy roughly 20,000 Louisiana jobs.
Governor Jindal said, "When the President came down here and I told him our concerns about this arbitrary and capricious drilling moratorium -- which courts have already ruled against twice - and the tremendous job losses it was creating in our state, he told me that those who lose their jobs could file for a BP check or an unemployment check. I told him, our people don't want a BP check or an unemployment check -- they want to go back to work!
"By any reasonable measure, our economy has outperformed the South and the U.S. since the beginning of the national recession. However, we would certainly be in an even stronger position if we did not have to sustain these job losses due to federal government policies that hurt business growth and job creation. At a time when our country is facing the most severe recession we have faced in decades, Washington, DC should be partnering with us to focus on job retention and job creation. There's no doubt that the policies coming out of Washington, DC are killing jobs here at home, and instead, creating jobs overseas -- but that's not going to stop us from building a New Louisiana."
MEETING FUTURE BUDGET CHALLENGES WITHOUT TAX INCREASES
When it comes to meeting budget challenges, Governor Jindal stressed that the solution in Washington is usually more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes. The Governor said this is the exact opposite approach his administration has pursued in Louisiana and reiterated his opposition to raising taxes on Louisiana people or businesses.
Governor Jindal said, "There's no question that the folks in Washington have chosen a different path than us, especially when it comes to meeting budget challenges. In Washington, the answer always seems to me more borrowing, more spending and higher taxes. Indeed, the national debt is on pace to double to $26 trillion over the next decade. Just this year's debt level alone equates to over $45,000 for every American, and $100,000 for every American family. We are literally spending our children's and grandchildren's money in our nation's capitol. Make no mistake -- that is not a sustainable model. That's the exact opposite of the approach we have taken and will continue to pursue in Louisiana.
"In Louisiana, we're doing more with less. Indeed, we've significantly cut government spending and reduced the size of government -- while pursuing innovative programs that are more effective at providing services for our people. By working to right-size state government, we've reduced the size of the budget and reduced the number of government positions by more than 6,300.
"Because of the national economy and the decline in federal revenue, we face significant budget challenges in the upcoming year. The size of the problem may be different, but our approach will continue to be the same. So how do we overcome these challenges?
"I will not raise your taxes. Without question -- we will not push this problem onto the backs of our people and our businesses. That is not the way to handle a budget crisis. We know the way back to prosperity is not through higher taxes. The way to strengthen our economy is to empower our people. Like families and businesses all across Louisiana, we must continue to tighten our belt -- and raising taxes would only kick the problem down the field. We cannot hide from the challenges we face."