Written by: Kurt Foreman, NLEP President
Printed in Delta Business Magazine
As we head into a new year, I look back at 2011 as a year of progress and continued growth. While North Louisiana experienced some setbacks such as the pending closure of the GM plant, overall we’ve had more new jobs and new capital investments generated than lay-offs and closings.
Ronpak, a leading manufacturer of custom printed paper bags, packages and food wraps, announced in July 2011 it will invest millions in its new manufacturing facilities at The Port of Caddo-Bossier. Once opened, the facility will create 175 new direct jobs with a payroll of $50 million over 10 years. Also in 2011, Music Mountain Water invested $9.3 million to add a 200,000-square-foot injection molding facility at its Shreveport plant. The expansion will create 25 new jobs and retain 70 existing jobs.
Epic Boats, a recent start-up company based in California, will set up shop in Vivian, Louisiana creating 45 to 50 new jobs and $800,000 in capital investment. Schlumberger, an international company with local offices, invested millions this year on an expansion which generated 30 new jobs. CenturyLink, the third largest telecommunications company in the nation, announced 800 new jobs this year in addition to 350 jobs announced in late 2009 for a total of 1150 new jobs at its Monroe headquarters. There are also countless other companies quietly going about their businesses of expanding and adding new jobs that we don’t hear about.
2011 also represents the year in which the national media and national business groups took notice of Louisiana’s economic momentum and growth. The Shreveport-Bossier Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto Parishes, was named fourth in country for economic development by Site Selection magazine, a leading national economic development journal. Also in 2011, Forbes named Shreveport-Bossier the most cost competitive place to do business in the United States.
The State of Louisiana racked up more top ten rankings across the board than in any other year. Site Selection listed Louisiana as the No. 7 business climate in the country, No. 3 in new projects attracted in 2011 and No. 1 in the U.S. for per capita. Area Development magazine ranked Louisiana No. 6 in the U.S. in its 2011 ranking of “Top States for Doing Business.” Southern Business & Development named Louisiana State of the Year in 2011.
All these national rankings cap off a year in which the state climbed to its highest-ever position in lists that measure the economic progress of states, as calculated by leading publications. Over the past four years, no state has improved more than Louisiana. Pollina Corporate Real Estate Inc. ranked Louisiana No. 18 in its 2011 report on top pro-business states, vaulting 22 places since 2008. Forbes gave the state its highest ranking ever on its list of "Best States For Business," climbing 14 places to no. 30 this year.
In light of all these positive developments, we should be bullish about North Louisiana’s prospects in the coming year. I foresee a great year for the region, if our December activity is any indication. NLEP, a regional economic development marketing organization, has seen a surge in inquires in just the last month from prospective companies considering the region. Some will be visiting the area to look at sites and buildings.
NLEP helps existing companies expand and new companies locate in 14 parishes in North Louisiana. We are very optimistic about what the new year holds for our region and so should you. Let’s count our blessings and look forward to a prosperous year ahead.