Well, This Is Good News

Southern Business Development has Louisiana ranked as the top economic development state.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is obviously happy about it.

The release on this, from the Louisiana Economic Development website

For the third straight year, Southern Business & Developmentmagazine recognized Louisiana as State of the Year in the South, but in 2011 Louisiana stands alone as State of the Year after tying Tennessee in each of the two prior years.

Louisiana established a record-high score in the 2011 State of the Year rankings published today by the Birmingham, Ala.-based magazine. With 115.4 points per million residents, Louisiana easily outdistanced second-place Kansas (59.6) and third-place North Carolina (51.9). Tennessee fell to fourth place (49.6) among the 17 Southern states.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “Since day one we’ve made economic development our top priority, and this honor shows that our work to grow the economy and create jobs for Louisianians is paying off. Over the past three and a half years, we have announced economic development wins that will result in more than 42,000 new jobs and more than $9 billion in new capital investment, and we have moved up significantly in virtually every national ranking of states for economic development or business climate. This is certainly great news and we’ve made incredible progress, but we have a lot more work to do so that all of our sons and daughters can pursue their dreams right here at home.”

Several Louisiana communities also earned SB&D honors. New Orleans tied Charlotte, N.C., for Major Market of the Year; Lake Charles won the Mid-Market of the Year honor; and St. James Parish drew a Special Recognition award from the magazine as the parish or county within a metro area that generated the most impressive job-creation results across the South. The Nucor Corp. steel mill project in St. James Parish tied the Austal USA shipbuilding expansion in Mobile, Ala., for Heavy Manufacturing Deal of the Year.

Also, Baton Rouge earned honorable mention recognition behind New Orleans and Charlotte in the Major Market of the Year category, and Monroe earned honorable mention recognition in the Small Market of the Year division. States earn 5 to 10 points for each economic development project that will generate $30 million or more in capital investment and 5 to 10 points for each project that will result in 200 or more jobs. The maximum 10 points for jobs or capital investment (or both) is applied if the project in question is among the 100 largest in the South for jobs and/or capital investment.

Louisiana earned top honors with a wide variety of project announcements and expansions in 2010, such as Nucor’s new iron and steel production facility in St. James Parish, Globalstar Inc.’s relocation from Silicon Valley to St. Tammany Parish, P&G’s expansion in Rapides Parish, Chase’s processing center expansion in Monroe, the Blade Dynamics project at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the expansion of Aeroframe Services in Lake Charles, the DG Foods project in Bastrop and others.

The Southern Business & Development annual SB&D 100 issue places the state and metro rankings within the context of the 100 biggest, job-creating projects of the year. The Top 100 economic development projects across the South in 2010 are estimated to produce 83,739 jobs — the most in five years but far below the 136,442 jobs posted in the 1996 calendar year. The magazine began the rankings in 1994.

“Louisiana’s 495 points in this year’s (SB&D 100) is equally if not more impressive than what Texas did in calendar year 1996,” Publisher Mike Randle wrote in the rankings issue. “For one, with 115 points per million residents (PPM), Louisiana’s per capita score topped Texas’ in the (1997 SB&D 100).”

No state had ever reached the 100-point mark, “and Louisiana blew past that this year,” Randle wrote. The points-per-million score, while not the sole determinant of the State of the Year winner, is considered the most important factor by the magazine.

“By any reasonable measure, Louisiana’s economy has outperformed the South and U.S. since January 2008,” said Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret. “With the best state workforce training program in the U.S., Louisiana FastStart, as well as the most improved business climate of any state in the U.S., Louisiana is quickly becoming the new economic powerhouse of the South. We are very honored to receive this recognition, and we are especially pleased that leading companies like Nucor, Electronic Arts, ConAgra Foods, Gardner Denver, P&G, CenturyLink, Albemarle and many others have made decisions to invest billions of dollars and create thousands of new jobs in Louisiana.”

Since early 2008, Louisiana has moved up to its highest-ever position in every national, broad-based ranking of state business climates, including those published by Chief Executive magazine, Forbes, Site Selection magazine, CNBC, Business Facilities magazine, Pollina Corporate Real Estate and the Beacon Hill Institute.

Pollina Corporate Real Estate awarded Louisiana the company’s first-ever Most Improved State designation based on Louisiana’s improved business climate ranking from 2008 to 2010. Louisiana ranked 20th on Pollina’s 2010 business climate ranking, up from 27th in 2009 and 40th in 2008.

Earlier this year, Site Selection magazine ranked LED as the nation’s best-performing state economic development agency. Site Selection also ranked Louisiana’s business climate the ninth-best and the most improved in the nation.

Business Facilities magazine named Louisiana its 2010 State of the Year based on a strong business climate, business-friendly tax environment and overall business development success. Business Facilities also ranked Louisiana FastStart — the state’s customized training workforce program for expanding companies — as the No. 1 state workforce program in the nation in 2010, calling it the “gold standard.”

For more about the 2011 State of the Year rankings in Southern Business & Development, visit www.SB-D.com.

Obviously, this is going to be a major part of Jindal’s platform as he launches his re-election campaign. His opponents, whether they include Tara Hollis, Foster Campbell, Rob Marionneaux or some of the other diminutive political figures the Louisiana Democrat Party is able to march into the fray, will counter that unemployment in the state has doubled since Jindal took office. That’s not a particularly valid argument, though, considering that the May rate of 8.2 percent in this state is (1) still a solid point below the national average and (2) certainly driven in no small part by the devastation of Louisiana’s offshore oil industry thanks to slow-as-molasses federal permitting from a Democrat administration lustily despised by the state’s voters.

But there is an argument to be made that “economic development” as defined by how well you’re able to bribe companies to locate in your state is a bad measure; that kind of development has a lot less value than growing a Wal-Mart or a Microsoft within your borders. It’s doubtful in the extreme whether the latter can be accomplished by politicians; you’ve got to create the environment in which businesses can grow, and Jindal has done some of that but clearly not enough.

Luckily for the Governor, though, he’s certainly not going to get an opponent from the other party who understands economic development and its relationship to taxation and regulation well enough to provide legitimate criticism on the issue.

And that means economic development won’t be a problematic issue for Jindal even with an unemployment rate higher than he’d like.



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