Made In Louisiana
From spacecraft to submarines, Made in Louisiana means quality manufacturing.
At a cavernous factory in eastern New Orleans, Blade Dynamics creates a product not far removed from the company’s name: 150-foot, multi-megawatt wind turbine blades, with light rotors and composite frames that generate unrivaled efficiency in capturing wind power. Blade Dynamics will rely on the Mississippi River to move the revolutionary blades from company headquarters at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility to some of the nation’s windiest spots in the upper Midwest. Technology, workforce talent and a sophisticated infrastructure convinced the British founders of Blade Dynamics to choose Louisiana for their first production site.
Nearby in Baton Rouge, baseball’s biggest star — three-time MVP Albert Pujols — makes his way each spring to the unassuming headquarters of Marucci Sports. On the floor of the buzzing factory, the future Hall of Famer hand-selects billets of raw ash and maple that Marucci will shape, paint and hand finish with a precision that has made its bats the brand of choice for more than 300 big leaguers — and the hottest name in baseball merchandise.
Minutes away in Geismar, La., Dynamic Fuels LLC creates ultra-clean jet fuel with animal fat and cooking oil waste. The $138 million plant, a joint venture between poultry giant Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corp., supplies fuel to the U.S. Navy and commercial airlines for the first passenger flights in the country powered by biofuels.
Louisiana-made wind turbine blades, baseball bats and green jet fuel speak to the diversity of products made in the state. It’s a mix that reaches from digital gaming to pharmaceuticals and agribusiness, and one that shares a common bond: Louisiana’s workforce; creative, targeted incentives; and ability to customize business assistance make the state an unrivaled location for new and existing manufacturers.
The quality of the state’s world-class workforce tops the list of reasons why companies choose Louisiana. A right-to-work state, Louisiana has one of the highest rates of worker productivity in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state enjoys an enduring reputation for its work ethic, a legacy that grew out of Louisiana’s renowned Gulf of Mexico industrial welding and oilfield fabrication firms.
The quality of the local workforce heavily influenced submarine-maker Oceaneering International Inc.’s decision to remain in Morgan City, La., when the company considered site options prior to launching a $28 million expansion completed in 2008. The comprehensive search for potential manufacturing sites quickly confirmed that the South Louisiana workforce and immediate access to the Gulf of Mexico provided inimitable advantages to Oceaneering, which makes tiny, remotely operated submarines that allow offshore drilling firms to reach deep sea sites beyond the reach of human divers.
“We’re here because of a calculated decision, and that’s access to the Gulf of Mexico and the state’s workforce,” said Jerry Gauthier, vice president of the Americas region for Oceaneering International. “It became clear very quickly that this was the best place for us to be.”
Louisiana’s leaders have moved to bolster the state’s tradition of workforce excellence with groundbreaking business incentives. The state’s programs include specialized tax rebates for payroll costs in target industries and locations, software development tax credit, and modernization tax credits to retain existing manufacturers when they upgrade production sites in Louisiana. Other state assistance includes incentives for companies that conduct research in Louisiana and those that create jobs and wealth-creating investment opportunities.
LED FastStart®, Louisiana’s custom workforce solutions program, has proved a potent draw for manufacturers who generate a majority of their sales out of state. The program provides custom-designed workforce recruiting, screening and training at no cost to qualified companies. In 2011, Business Facilities magazine ranked FastStart the best workforce training program in the U.S., and the program has been used by new or expanding manufacturers across a spectrum of industries.
But Louisiana’s most powerful business attraction tool may be the state’s ability to combine incentives into fast, adaptable solutions that match the unique needs of employers. Recent LED incentive packages have won Louisiana new business from global companies that operate in the satellite technology, interactive entertainment, food production and pharmaceuticals sectors, underscoring the state’s ability to attract a diversity of new investments.
Louisiana’s fast, flexible response convinced satellite communications firm Globalstar to move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Covington, La., just north of New Orleans. The company provides mobile voice and data services to clients in more than 120 nations through a constellation of satellites.
From the start, Globalstar officials were drawn to the quality of the local workforce, the lower cost of living and the state’s favorable tax environment. But Louisiana offered additional advantages that Globalstar could not find elsewhere, including the state’s software development tax credit, worth 35 percent on in-state labor costs and 25 percent on other production expenditures.
Additional advantages for Globalstar’s Louisiana relocation included custom employee training in the company’s sophisticated systems through LED FastStart, reimbursement of relocation costs and other performance-based financial assistance.
The company launched the first six of its second-generation satellites within a year of the 2010 decision to move to Louisiana.
“Our move to Louisiana was just another step toward rebuilding Globalstar into the world’s pre-eminent provider of high-quality commercial and consumer mobile satellite voice and data services,” Chairman Jay Monroe said.
Louisiana’s software development tax credit and workforce quality likewise shaped a 2008 decision to establish a unique global game-testing center for Electronic Arts Inc. in Baton Rouge. The tax incentive combined with what EA spokesman Craig Hagen called “some of the best talent in the world” to seal the company’s decision to establish a first-of-its-kind North American Test Center. Soon, EA would be testing games and instituting new quality controls in Louisiana for games produced all over the world.
In about a year, EA will expand when the $30 million Louisiana Digital Media Center opens at Louisiana State University’s flagship campus in Baton Rouge. The center will build on the state’s existing high-tech talent pool by providing a home for EA and for LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, an innovative research center that taps supercomputing applications to aid the work of academia and industry. Dedicated space for teaching and research at the center will foster advances in work performed by LSU and EA. The investment in the state’s intellectual capital will add momentum to what video game developers and other software firms say they are finding in thriving tech hubs in New Orleans, Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge. Growing networks of sophisticated IT workers there are creating new homegrown ventures that take advantage of Louisiana’s specialized incentives and expanding talent pool.
In North Louisiana, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston selected a Delhi site for the world’s most advanced sweet potato processing plant, further illustrating how the state’s custom solutions can help companies develop new efficiencies through technology and workforce excellence. Lamb Weston’s more than $200 million facility will benefit from a 10-year tax advantage through Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program and through a unique screening, hiring and training program developed by LED FastStart.
Meanwhile, Lamb Weston’s environmentally friendly plant works hand in hand with area farmers to expand regional sweet potato production. The plant deploys new technology to process and package high-quality frozen sweet potatoes, and Lamb Weston’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project represents the first LEED Platinum-certified frozen foods production facility in the world.
The state “offers a great environment for business and a skilled workforce,” said Jeff DeLapp, who helped guide the project for ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston.
Louisiana also customized an incentive package for India-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and the North American expansion of the firm’s pharmaceuticals site in Shreveport. A state Rapid Response Fund provided financial incentives to support a $16.5 million expansion of the existing plant, while LED FastStart developed a site-specific plan to quickly recruit and train new employees for the expanded production.
To secure the project, the state offered sales tax rebates through LED’s Quality Jobs Program, which also offers cash rebates of up to 6 percent on payroll costs.
The incentive formula provided a winning combination for Louisiana and Dr. Reddy’s, which focuses on developing and manufacturing branded and generic pharmaceuticals. Cultivating such companies jibes with Louisiana’s goal of growing the specialty healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
“Our plans … are driven by the combination of several factors … (including) the work ethic of the people of North Louisiana as well as the incentives put forth at both the state and local levels,” said Amit Patel, Dr. Reddy’s senior vice president.
In short, “Made in Louisiana” means quality and performance across a breadth of manufacturing worlds.