LOUISIANA: Custom Workforce for Expanding

26 Sep, 2020

As COVID-19 emerged in 2020, businesses paused expansion plans. Yet Louisiana’s recruitment pipeline stayed full, and soon began yielding impressive results. In July, Louisiana gained State of the Year recognition for best prior-year economic development results in the South. Days later, LED Fast Start® – Louisiana’s custom workforce program for expanding businesses – earned a No. 1 national ranking for the 11th straight year.

On the heels of that recognition, Gov. John Bel Edwards welcomed SchoolMint to Louisiana. A technology company serving 18,000 schools and 9 million students, SchoolMint joined Edwards to announce its corporate headquarters relocation from Silicon Valley to Lafayette. The hub of a traditional oil and gas economy, Lafayette is now helping Louisiana become one of the fastest-growing software and information technology clusters in the U.S.

“The vibrant and growing tech culture here is exciting, and we expect to create hundreds of high-tech jobs over the next decade,” SchoolMint CEO Bryan MacDonald said.

During the past decade, Louisiana laid the foundation for greater success through strategic investments in higher education, training and partnerships. Over $300 million in project-based software and advanced manufacturing investments are touching every state university and community college.

At the heart of that movement is LED FastStart. When Louisiana attracted the world’s first LEED Platinum frozen foods facility to Delhi, Louisiana, FastStart’s custom training became a global standard for Lamb Weston’s then parent, Fortune 500 ConAgra.

In Baton Rouge, state leaders funded a $30 million Louisiana Digital Media Center to house LSU’s supercomputing center along with hundreds of jobs and the quality assurance hub of the world’s largest video game developer, EA. Again, LED FastStart established company training standards worldwide.

“Louisiana Economic Development’s FastStart program remains our gold standard for customized workforce development and talent attraction,” said Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. “Nobody is faster at adapting new technologies and the tools needed to recruit and train a skilled workforce in today’s highly competitive market.”

LED FastStart helped Sasol Ltd. grow from 400 employees to over 1,000 at a world-scale $12.9 billion chemical complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“With the pre-employment process that FastStart is able to help us with, we’re able to screen much larger numbers of people much more effectively than we could before,” said Sasol Senior Vice President of U.S. Operations Mike Thomas. “That translates into us saving money and having a more professional workforce in the long run.”

Boeing is developing a Space Launch System for NASA in New Orleans, and benefitting from an aerospace center of excellence at neighboring Nunez Community College.

“FastStart is getting the word out — their advocacy for us has been fantastic,” said Jennifer Boland-Masterson, Boeing’s site director. “As we continue to ramp up this program, we are going to have the resources we need to build this faster and faster.”

Complete recovery from COVID-19 won’t happen right away, but Louisiana’s workforce and economic development strengths are preparing the state for more than mere recovery, and establishing the path for a more resilient, productive economy.



The SWLA Alliance Foundation is the only 501c3, nonprofit agency in the Southwest Louisiana region devoted solely to its economic development. With the support of its stakeholders, the SWLA Alliance Foundation enhances the economic footprint of the region through strong regional partnerships, workforce development, business recruitment and retention, and entrepreneurship.

They work with existing industry to develop their regional workforce and address future issues. The Alliance professionals meet with business owners and leaders in the community to ascertain current and future needs. Their team conducts BERG (Business Expansion & Retention Group) meetings in conjunction with LED (Louisiana Economic Development). The feedback helps shape the goals and programs of the Alliance.

The Alliance works with educational partners to develop a pipeline of future workers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math). They work closely with McNeese State University and SOWELA Technical Community College and the school systems in the five parishes represented.

They focus efforts through their Quality of Life Task Forces to make this region a better place to live. Their Vice President dedicated to Quality of Life works with numerous coalition and governmental agencies to bring small, but vital improvements to Southwest Louisiana residents.

The Alliance works with Site Selectors and LED to recruit new business to Southwest Louisiana. One strategy is to build a grid of Certified Sites throughout the region to highlight shovel-ready, development-ready sites. Another is to maintain numerous databases to answer industry requests for information and respond to LED or industry inquiries looking to expand into the region. For more information, please call 337-433-3632 or visit their website at www.allianceswla.org .

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