Creating sustainable growth for La.

Center aids in wellness: 230,000 sq. foot facility opens Dec. 2015
March 5, 2014
Lawsuits dragging down oil-and-gas industry
March 5, 2014
Center aids in wellness: 230,000 sq. foot facility opens Dec. 2015
March 5, 2014
Lawsuits dragging down oil-and-gas industry
March 5, 2014

Louisiana businesses repeatedly face a boom or bust cycle, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is pushing for an increase in workforce development and lawsuit reform to help attain economic growth.

Stephen Waguespack, president of LABI, said Louisiana is competing in a global economy and the state is on the verge of unprecedented growth with an expected 2 million jobs in 2015.

However, there are still setbacks preventing Louisiana from embracing the approaching opportunities and turning them into sustainable growth.

He said in the 1970s, Louisiana outgrew the nation by 15 percent and the chemical corridor along the Mississippi River was a huge improvement for this region.

But from 1978 to 1983 the unemployment rate doubled, businesses closed, opportunities dried up and families had to leave the area.

“We can’t let that happen again,” Waguespack said. “We have to learn form the ‘70s and ‘80s to make sure that this is the time we make different decisions to better our state.”

To lay the groundwork for sustainable growth, he said businesses need skilled workers to fill those jobs.

Members of LABI reported issues hiring workers who possess a basic education and both technical and soft skills.

Louisiana ranked 48th in reading and 50th in math, which Waguespack said does not represent a workforce ready to take on jobs competing in a global economy.

“If we’re going to grab and invest in jobs here, we have to improve in those areas,” he said. “Those components are a must have in the economy no matter where you are going to work.”

To meet its own demands, Waguespack said industry has to be participants in developing curriculum and training to ensure schools are preparing students for skills and positions that are needed by employers.

LABI supports initiatives such as the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund, which provides incentives to four-year institutions to expand workforce programs and meet industry demand.

“We’ve got to start funding institutions into meeting job placement and workforce demand,” he said. “We’re supporting that fund very aggressively because it’s going to lead to improved partnerships that will help prepare our students for workforce.”

Another way to achieve sustainable growth is to improve the state’s reputation when it comes to lawsuit reform.

“The issue is in the global economy, reputation matters,” Waguespack said. “A state’s litigation environment effects where businesses go.”

Laws passed in Louisiana make the state’s legal climate scary to businesses and have cost the state as many as 50,000 jobs each year.

Waguespack described the jury trial threshold in Louisiana as an example of a problem created by the state. Louisiana is one of a few states to limit a citizen’s constitutional right to a trial by jury, and instead requires a civil trial before an elected judge.

The courts require a minimum $50,000 civil claim in order to request a trial by jury.

He said it is an example of how Louisiana residents suffer from laws out-of-line with other states, and it is also an inhibitor to sustainable growth.

“We’ve got a law that doesn’t push clean up as fast as it could but we have law that promotes litigation as fast as it can,” Waguespack said.

To put Louisiana on a path “to cruise-control growth,” LABI will continue to emphasize workforce development and lawsuit reform during the upcoming 2014 legislative session.

“It will not change until we change the market by changing the law,” he said.