While it is certainly true that the national economic downturn has affected our state, we still continue to outperform the national economy by adding jobs and bringing new business to the state.
The U.S. Census recently indicated that Louisiana experienced its second year in a row of population in-migration, and two major moving van lines also reported that more people moved into our state than out, a far cry from recent years when Louisiana was the only Southern state where people were moving out faster than moving in.
Last year alone, we announced economic development wins that will generate 17,000 new jobs bringing $2.5 billion in capital investment to our state. Our state gained jobs in both December of last year and February of this year, the only state in the country to do so in each month, and we were also the only state whose unemployment rate decreased in January.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana has the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and RealtyTrac.com, a leading online database for home foreclosures, reports that the state has the 11th lowest foreclosure rates in the nation.
By working hard to not only encourage new development, but to support our existing businesses, we are creating a productive economic environment in nationally tough economic times.
We recently worked to broker a deal with Pilgrim’s Pride chicken, which had made the decision to idle their plant in Farmerville. This would have been a crushing blow to Union Parish, Northeast Louisiana, and the state as a whole – involving the loss of more than 1,000 direct jobs as well as the ruin of hundreds of chicken growers in the area.
We came together, working with Louisiana’s Department of Economic Development, state and local officials and those in the chicken industry, to develop an agreement that would allow Foster Farms to buy the site from Pilgrim’s Pride and help protect jobs at the plant and in the area. While we still have more to do to finalize the agreement, our quick progress shows just what can be accomplished when we join together to work to save a community.
In addition to Pilgrim’s, just this year we have welcomed the expansion of businesses throughout the state. In Shreveport, Schlumberger oilfield services recently announced an expansion that will retain 120 jobs, and create 400 new jobs as well as 250 construction jobs needed to complete their new facilities.
Greensburg recently welcomed the expansion of Southland Steel, which will retain 141 jobs and create 35 new ones in St. Helena Parish. Performance Energy has announced that they will expand their facilities at the Port of Terrebonne in Houma, which will create 350 new jobs in the next five years.
In Baton Rouge, Albemarle recently completed a $21 million expansion after moving to our state last year, giving Louisiana our fifth Fortune 1000 company. Pennington Biomedical Research Center also recently broke ground on a 90,000 square foot expansion, which will potentially add 300 new jobs and will allow Pennington to remain among the top leading nutrition and preventive medicine research centers in the world.
We have also recently welcomed new businesses to the state as well.
CenturyTel Inc. announced at the end of last year that they will be merging with Kansas-based EMBARQ and that the corporate headquarters will remain in Monroe. This will give Louisiana its third Fortune 500 company once the merger is completed. Computer Programs and Systems, Inc. of Mobile also recently announced that they will be opening a new call center in Monroe that will create 100 new jobs in the next four years.
The U.S. Air Force also recently announced that they have selected Barksdale Air Force Base outside Shreveport as the permanent location for their newest major command, the Global Strike Command. This will provide a significant boost to the economy of Northwest Louisiana, generate increased business investment in the area, and create roughly 1,000 jobs.
The Air Force’s commitment also continues to position Barksdale and Louisiana at the forefront of our nation’s security efforts.
These recent job wins and business expansions highlight our state’s ability to foster new growth and create opportunities for our people even as our nation endures tough economic times. People and businesses across the country are taking notice that Louisiana is on the move.
All of these projects are important economic wins for our state, and they will continue to help our economy grow in the years to come.
In order to help continue this momentum, we recently created the Louisiana Innovation Council. The council will bring together academia, the business community, economic development interests, and workforce leaders to establish a comprehensive economic strategy and innovation agenda that will grow the state’s economy and enhance competitiveness.
Helping our existing businesses grow, as well as attracting new opportunities, is vital to the future of our state and our economic prosperity.
By helping to create more good-paying jobs, strengthen the local economy and improve the quality of life for residents across the state, we are building a better future for our children and our grandchildren in Louisiana.