LABI Is Releasing Its “LA23” Strategic Road Map For Louisiana Soon

The timing on this seems pretty good, seeing as though we’re not far from setting the field for the 2023 Louisiana gubernatorial election and it’s fairly obvious some major changes in economic and other substantive policies will be on the table. It would be surprising, and probably disappointing, if the state’s premier business organization wasn’t participating in that debate.

And LABI, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, is intent on neither surprising nor disappointing. Thus, soon we will see something called “LA23″…

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has announced plans for “LA23,” a bold initiative to position Louisiana as an economic leader in the South by 2030, crafted through extensive research and a vetting process with a broad array of stakeholders. The mission of LA23 is to define and articulate key issues that face the people and businesses of Louisiana. It is a strategic plan and 8-year vision, but with specific near-term milestones to provide informed policy guidance for candidates in the fall 2023 elections. LA23 will be released in late summer or early fall of this year.  

“We are engaging business leaders, outside consultants and issue experts to help develop a roadmap for our state that works not only for Louisiana businesses, but for all Louisianans,” said LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack. “The drama of who may or may not run for office this year has glossed over a much more critical question: what is Louisiana’s plan for success? Our state is at the bottom of too many lists and at the top of far too few. Our people deserve better. The goal of LA23 is to provide a clear, data-driven guide for where the state needs to go and what we must accomplish to be an economic driver in the South.” 

“As a committed member of Louisiana’s business community, I am excited about our opportunity to make a difference over the course of this critical year, and I am particularly excited about our LA23 initiative,” said Jude Melville, CEO of b1BANK and LABI’s 2023 board chairman. “Louisiana needs a long-term aspirational vision, and we need a bold plan for achieving that vision. I am confident through LA23 our efforts will contribute greatly to both.” 

Throughout February and March, LABI will host regional listening sessions throughout the state to share current research, key concepts and solicit input from businesses and Louisianans. The second round of listening sessions will be held this summer. We are also sending surveys out statewide for the broadest level of input possible. 

To assist in the process, LABI has hired Ted Abernathy, managing partner of Economic Leadership LLC, as lead project consultant, Beverly Haydel founder of Sequitur Consulting, as project director, and CMA Strategies founding partner Pat McFerron to assist with data collection. Other outside specialists and partners will be utilized throughout the project. 

“2023 is a critical year for the future of Louisiana,” said Haydel. “I am confident that the data and research we collect through the LA23 project will provide our state and its leaders with a clear roadmap to implement innovative policy solutions that will drive economic growth and success for Louisiana.” 

“Make no mistake, this project will not be bogged down in session politics, and it will not be just a repackaged version of the greatest hits of the past,” said Waguespack. “LA23 is a gameplan to put Louisiana on the path to competing with Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. It’s time to get to work.” 

To learn more about LA23, click HERE

To hear LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack explain the project, click HERE to listen to his recent interview with Talk 107.3. 

Obviously, this is going to center on tax and regulatory changes which are desperately needed. Hopefully we’ll see LA23 also focus on a couple of other things.

One is a restructuring of government, and particularly to give more power to local governments and less to the state government. Louisiana’s Capitol-centric governing structure is far too top-down and it depends far too much on having a superstar governor to lead the place. As we have never had a superstar governor in the modern history of this place, we can see the results of that structure aren’t good (and no, Edwin Edwards and Huey Long were not superstars. They were disasters, and shame on you for thinking otherwise).

With respect to economic development, this matters a lot. Take Texas, for example, where the state isn’t all that involved in trying to land manufacturing or industrial facilities or corporate headquarters. Fundamentally, the state of Texas creates the best business climate it can with respect to taxes, regulation and infrastructure, and then it’s the locals who compete within that climate to bring the projects in. So XYZ Corporation will know they’re looking at Texas, but then they’ll decide whether they want to locate in Bexar County, Williamson County, Tarrant County, or maybe Travis County – and all of those local governments are offering incentive packages to bring in the jobs and capital those projects carry.

That’s a lot healthier than having Louisiana Economic Development deciding on a site and then pitching XYZ on filling it. Based on how badly Louisiana is getting its ass kicked by Texas, Florida and lots of our other neighbors we know this approach doesn’t work.


But more than that, and perhaps related to it, we’re hoping LA23 makes a priority out of incentivizing the growth of home-grown businesses rather than just trying to capture free agent corporations here. What’s hurting this state worst of all is that Louisiana’s business community is unhealthy. It’s incredibly difficult to get a business off the ground here compared to other places, and worse, once a business is off the ground it’s even harder to grow it into a Fortune 500 type operation.

We’ll be fanatical in support of LA23 if it states as a goal that in eight years Louisiana needs to be the best place in America to launch and grow a small business. That might seem unrealistic, but a program of policy changes aimed at getting us there can only help in ways which would do wonders for our people – in terms of morale, economic activity, social mobility, workforce development and even politics. We need to get this state to the point where it’s full of busy, budding entrepreneurs coming up with better mousetraps; we haven’t been that way in a long time.

Either way, it’s good to see deep thinking being employed on the subject of how to make our economy viable again over the next eight years. For the last eight all we’ve done is watch awful leadership take steps to kill it.



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