Pierson: Economic development drives economy

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

With great pleasure, I’m joining our partners at St. John the Baptist Parish, the International Economic Development Council and our allies throughout Louisiana to recognize 2017 Economic Development Week from May 8-13. It’s important to set aside time on the calendar to recognize contributions that make a difference in the life of our communities, parishes and state.

Let me explain why economic development matters so much to me. As a military veteran and state civil servant, I understand how deeply the fortunes of our state, local and federal governments rely on a sound economy.

In my role as secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, I work with my staff and with elected officials like Parish President Natalie Robottom in St. John Parish and her economic development director, Jerry Jones, to identify ways we can help existing employers expand and ways we can bring new industries to the parish and our state.

Between my federal and state service, I led the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation for nearly two decades as a private sector liaison in these same efforts.

What has become abundantly clear to me over the years is this: Vision, leadership and collaboration at all these levels is vital to our success.

Whether it’s securing a $600 million investment by Pin Oak Terminals at the Port of South Louisiana — the largest port by tonnage in the Western Hemisphere — or a nearly $1 billion expansion by Monsanto in neighboring St. Charles Parish, we need to identify opportunities and work together so that the best jobs of tomorrow can be secured for our families today.

As 2016 ended, LED published results we’re extremely proud of: More than 5,400 retained jobs, 6,600 new direct and indirect jobs and over $21 billion in capital investment tied to new large projects in Louisiana.

Our Small Business Services team helped serve over 13,400 small businesses and entrepreneurs last year, while reaching certification of 1,629 firms in our small business programs statewide and attracting $49 million in new small business investment and over 1,000 new small business jobs. Our work with allies throughout Louisiana made these numbers happen. Economic developers are not miracle workers, but we can help usher in the promise of growth, project by project and job by job.

As a proud grandparent, I delight in knowing that my grandchildren will grow up in a state with ever-expanding career opportunities because of what we are accomplishing together. The true importance of economic development lies there, in knowing that your family and my family can look forward to a future of brighter possibilities.

Don Pierson is secretary of Louisiana Economic Development. For more information, call 225-342-3437 or log onto opportunitylouisiana.com.