ouisiana workforce development officials estimate that 50,000 jobs will be created as a result of the more than $80 billion in industrial development that has been announced in Southwest Louisiana.
Regional leaders in the industry and education sectors — within the five parish/county area — are devising ways to train and educate as many people as possible in a timely fashion.
The mantra shared among the group is “quality workers for quality jobs.”
McNeese State University — founded in 1939 — is leading the way in graduating students from much needed science and innovation related degree programs.
University officials work closely with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance to make sure current and potential businesses understand that skilled workers will always be available.
“With over $77 billion in economic development projects in progress or announced in Southwest Louisiana, employers will depend on McNeese to provide science, engineering, math and computer science graduates that will be in high demand for the expanding industrial facilities,” McNeese President Dr. Philip Williams said.
The Alliance — which is located on the university’s campus — is committed to letting the world know about the outstanding education provided at McNeese while emphasizing the collaborative spirit shared among all regional stakeholders involved in workforce and economic development.
For instance, McNeese’s College of Engineering works closely with area industry partners to tailor coursework in the nationally accredited chemical, electrical, mechanical, electrical engineering and computer science programs to combine engineering and technology fundamentals with the practical, hands-on experience.
Dr. Nikos Kiritsis, Dean of the College of Engineering, notes that McNeese graduates are “job ready on day one.”
Along with featuring faculty with exemplary qualifications, accomplishments and decades of industrial experience, Kiritsis notes that “McNeese is one of the few four-year universities in the country to have a model chemical plant on our campus. Our students and current industry employees use the facility to train in a real world environment.”
The McNeese Institute for Industry-Education Collaboration is the region’s recognized provider of innovative, measurably effective training, continuing education and post-baccalaureate certificate programs specifically designed to help industry enhance employees’ technical knowledge and prepare them for very specialized areas in their professional field.
“By offering these training programs locally utilizing our facilities and faculty, industry saves thousands of dollars on travel costs and reduces the days that employees are offsite,” Kiritsis said.
The industrial construction and upgrade projects in Southwest Louisiana will also boost an already growing population.
“McNeese is in a prime position to provide for the increased need for the graduates in business, healthcare, allied health services, education, agriculture, criminal justice, recreation, tourism and entertainment that the economic and population growth will require,” Williams said.
McNeese was just the second university in the country to offer a curriculum for students in all majors that will teach them how to develop innovative concepts refine ideas, communicate the benefits and credibility of a concept, and create working prototypes. The Innovation Engineering minor is applicable to all business environments and employment settings and students use the high tech innovation lab to brainstorm, test theories and create solutions. An incubation studio offers students space, technology and tools to transform their ideas into new businesses. McNeese recently became one of the first universities in the country to offer its students and faculty Google Glass as a new research tool through the Innovation Center.
McNeese awards nearly 70% of the public four-year college degrees earned by residents of Southwest Louisiana, and for the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named McNeese one of the best regional universities in the South and also one of the top 50 public universities in the South. McNeese has also been nationally recognized as one of the top 58 public institutions for offering affordable tuition and high average salary earnings for its graduates.
hen Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus bills itself as “The Southeast’s Most Capable R&D Park,” it has the credentials to back up the claim. A collaboration of the University of Tennessee (UT) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Cherokee Farm is the only R&D park in the Southeast offering tenants the resources of a major research university, leading national laboratory and globally recognized researchers. ORNL Director Dr. Thom Mason and UT President Dr. Joseph DiPietro are solidly behind the project.
“A tradition of partnership drives everyone at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to find creative ways to bring our open science capabilities to industry for the benefit of everyone,” Mason said. “Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus is a powerful expression of this portion of our mission.”
Mason noted tenants have ready access to an array of tools, processes and research talent that are hard to find anywhere else. He cited the $56 million Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) as a major Cherokee Farm advantage.
“JIAM is an interdisciplinary facility that leverages ORNL’s world-leading materials science capabilities to address specific problems in a range of disciplines, including groundbreaking work in hybrid materials, structural materials, energy, modeling and materials characterization,” Mason said. “Organizations that rely on these specializations to develop market-leading products will find the capabilities of JIAM a strong incentive for locating at Cherokee Farm.”
DiPietro is equally enthusiastic about the campus and its ability to have a nationwide influence across a variety of scientific disciplines.
“Our university has helped Tennessee become a world leader in renewable energy, and we view the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus as a catalyst to continue to move the university, the state and nation forward in many areas of research, including materials science, high-speed computing, agriculture and biotechnology,” DiPietro said.
“As Tennessee’s land grant institution, the University of Tennessee fulfills a mission to educate, discover and connect across our state and beyond. The university has a long history of partnering with public and private industry to conduct research that expands scientific knowledge, grows economic development, adds to quality of life and benefits the people of Tennessee.”
The University of Tennessee recently has garnered some impressive national accolades: Information Week named UT’s business analytics master’s degree and business analytics program to its list of “20 Top Programs” in North America; UT’s engineering and supply chain management programs are top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings; and three UT engineering professors were recognized by Thomson Reuters news service as “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014.” The recognition was based on the total number of times that other researchers, professors and students cited the professors’ material in their own findings.
Cherokee Farm’s location is another strong selling point. Tennessee has no state income tax, and Knoxville’s cost of living index is below the national average. Housing choices are diverse, and prices are affordable. All of this contributes to Knoxville’s ranking as one of Kiplinger’s “Best Value Cities.”
Ready for Development
Located on 188 acres on the banks of the Tennessee River in Knoxville, Tenn., the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus includes 16 building sites that support approximately 1.6 million square feet of development. Parcels are available for immediate development, and the campus offers flexible siting options that include build, lease and multisite aggregation.