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Why Industry Is Moving Back to the Bayou State


Roy O. Martin, III, is the third-generation president of a lumber company bearing his name, which employs more than 1,000 people in Louisiana.

railcar manufacturer chooses a Texas location for a new plant and then switches tracks to a Louisiana site instead. A lumber company purchases land in Texas on which to build two facilities — and then realizes it was barking up the wrong tree and settles on a Louisiana site. This double-barreled course correction is more than a coincidence. It is evidence of a new economic-development dynamic at work in The Bayou State that is landing projects and creating jobs.
      Until recently, Louisiana's attributes — including its transportation infrastructure, work ethic and south-central location on the Gulf of Mexico — have not been enough to attract much attention from expanding companies outside the state's signature energy and petrochemical industries. Today, industries as diverse as aerospace, customer contact centers , shipbuilding, biotechnology and food processing are investing in the state, and companies in those industries are expanding. Each new project is a significant win for Louisiana, where economic development has been a challenge.

      A Catch-22 has been undermining Louisiana's business-expansion climate for years now. Existing businesses' growth prospects were stymied by a dearth of labor due to students on career paths that led outside the state. At the same time, students sought work outside the state due to a real or perceived lack of job opportunities inside the state. Meanwhile, Louisiana has not enjoyed the economic development spotlight of other southern states that in recent years lured major automotive projects, although the significance of General Motors' recently announced Shreveport expansion cannot be overlooked. Nevertheless, if perception is reality, then the time has come for an image makeover.

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