Christina Buras: What I Learned at the Statewide Economic Development Summit
4/20/2017 1:54:40 PM

On Tuesday, April 11, I attended the Statewide Economic Development Summit, the product of a collaborative effort among economic development organizations from regions around the state. The day-long event was an exhibition of economic development issues from the purview of academia, the private sector, and the public sector.

I very much enjoyed two presentations in particular – one about business site selection, focusing on the community development to attract Millennials, and the other presentation about decentralization of industry in the digital age.

Site Selection
Greg Burkart, Managing Director of Duff & Phelps, gave the presentation about site selection. Mr. Burkart analyzes data gleaned from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the best location for a business to take root. He heavily focuses on the workforce in a particular area, taking out his data-driven microscope to carefully inspect the demographics of the locals. He presented us with a handful of slides showing population growth and education within different metro areas, called Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), within Louisiana. Here are some take-aways from Mr. Burkart’s presentation:

  • Between 2000-2015, the population of Louisiana, as a state, grew less than the national average of 4.2%. The state also lost Millennials during that same period, ending with a growth of -0.5%.
  • About 14% of Louisiana’s workforce holds Bachelor’s Degrees, where the national average sits at 17%.
  • Louisiana’s average manufacturing position is paid $68,000, where the national average is $55,000, so it can be a hard sell for a manufacturing plant to move to Louisiana, when the salary is above the national average.
  • Conclusion: Mr. Burkart believes that focusing on community development to attract Millennials will help make Louisiana’s workforce composition more appealing because, based on common attributes of Millennials, those individuals will have increased training and hold higher degrees of education, which is attractive to bigger companies. He used the example of Austin, which has a 94% retention rate for Millennials and has subsequently attracted huge corporations like Dell. He mused that Baton Rouge somewhat resembles Austin twenty years ago; he believes the groundwork is there for Millennial recruitment. He also recommended that economic developers focus on keeping the 14,000 highly trained active duty military in the region by approaching them with job offers.

Attracting Millennials
The second presentation that I thoroughly enjoyed was from Robert Gallardo, Ph.D., Associate Extension Professor and Leader at Mississippi State University Extension. He presented his case for how the increasing presence of technology can be effectively used as a powerful economic driver, giving rural areas within Louisiana a chance to level the playing field by leveraging the connectivity made available through the internet. He made an argument for a new industrial revolution of decentralized industry, made possible by the internet and mobile devices. Dr. Gallardo went on to give an example: How long do you think it took AirBnB to reach 600,000 rooms verse Hilton Hotel? The answer: it took AirBnB 4 years compared to Hilton’s 94 years. The digital age has changed the game in many respects, and Dr. Gallardo’s message was to not only keep up but harness this digital power to invent new competitive advantages.

How does this information help us at LCIA? As with everything we do at LCIA, we want to bring the information and resources we come across to you. One of the presenters made note that 77% of Louisiana businesses were nonemployers "Think about the impact if each business employed one person?” Our group strives to do just that - help our member-businesses grow, learn, and develop, which will then secure economic prosperity for your employees, their families, your communities, and our state. Going to events like these help us to keep the pulse of what’s going on in Louisiana, make personal connections with other organizations, and use this knowledge to create valuable programs for you.

"What I Learned at" is a series in LCIA’s Orange Blog where we provide a recap of LCI and LCIA events. Additionally, our staff will occasionally attend professional development and educational classes. We use this "What I Learned at" blog series to report what we learned to you.

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