La. among top in the country for business-friendly climates

GE Capital is open for business in the Central Business District. Leaders say the city’s growing information technology workforce is one of the reasons the company’s financing arm decided to open a technology office in the Crescent City two years ago.

“Even though it’s not the largest market, it’s still a market that is growing and attracting new talent. That was very important to us,” said Mike DeBoer, chief information officer of GE Capital New Orleans.

It’s not the only company that has recently decided to locate or expand to Louisiana. A survey in Area Development, a quarterly corporate site selection magazine, said there’s record job growth and economic development in the state.

In the survey, Louisiana ranks second in the country for incentive programs, third in overall business environment, and fourth in most cooperative state government.

“Our approach really has changed. It’s not just that our incentives are the deepest or our costs are the lowest, but our fundamental approach to business is friendly and welcoming and that’s something that it wasn’t for many decades,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO INC.

Area Development’s survey largely credits new economic policies Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state legislature put in place.

In New Orleans, officials say public-private partnerships are key.

“We’ve seen over 4,500 new jobs come into this city over the last four years and looking to many, many more,” said Aimee Quirk, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s economic development adviser.

Perhaps the biggest challenge now is growing a skilled local workforce fast enough to keep up with the jobs coming in, and providing the resources so those companies are comfortable staying here.

“The biggest thing local officials can do is bring companies and schools together so we’re creating a workforce before the need versus after the need,” said DeBoer.

DeBoer said the company has a partnership with UNO, in which students are hired as apprentices.

So far, GE capital has hired about half of its 160 employees from Louisiana, and the other half from outside Louisiana. The company is looking fill a total of 300 positions by next year.

City and state officials say they have grown their workforce development programs.

Forbes last year said New Orleans was third in the country for I.T. jobs, behind only San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

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