Today, Business Facilities ranked LED FastStart® as the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program for a record ninth consecutive year. In the magazine’s 2018 State Rankings Report, Louisiana also earned Top 10 rankings among the best states for Economic Growth Potential, Foreign Trade Zone activity (exports) and Chemicals Manufacturing. In addition, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Hammond, Shreveport/Bossier City and the Port of South Louisiana-based Gramercy Foreign Trade Zone received Top 10 honors as regional economic leaders.
 
Business Facilities has ranked LED FastStart as the best workforce development program from any state every year this decade. LED FastStart works with new and expanding companies in target industries to tailor comprehensive recruiting, screening and state-of-the-art training solutions that enable employees to be fully prepared for the launch of new corporate operations on day one.
 
“Technology-based training is a vital tool for building a successful 21st century economy,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “When it comes to workforce development, it’s not enough to do one good thing over and over. LED FastStart has remained the national leader thanks to its evolving, technology-based approach to worker training that is both client-oriented and forward-looking. Our program gives Louisiana workers the best opportunities to land a good job, or move to a better job, and it provides high-quality workforce solutions to companies investing in Louisiana. This recognition by Business Facilities validates what Louisiana companies have come to know: When it comes to effective workforce development, no one does it better than LED FastStart.”
 
“One thing that sets LED FastStart apart from other programs is our commitment to improve and innovate, to ensure our private sector partners get the best possible experience as their needs and business trends change,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “In recent years, we have enhanced our recruitment and training programs with tools such as LouisianaJobConnection.com and LouisianaBusinessConnection.com. Meanwhile, it is critical for Louisiana to prepare its next generation of workers for careers in fields that will continue to be in high demand; that’s why we have devised such extensive partnerships with secondary and higher education institutions throughout the state in a broad range of workforce development programs.”
 
Louisiana has been working with its education partners to ensure that occupational demand for expanding industries is reflected in the coursework and training provided by the state’s technical and community colleges, as well as universities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. LED FastStart integrates these key education system assets as it serves its clients and positions the evolving program to produce the workforce of tomorrow.
 
“Congratulations to the entire LED FastStart team on this tremendous honor,” said Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan. “Nine consecutive years speaks to their commitment to economic and workforce development on behalf of the people of Louisiana. We are especially proud of the relationship and collaboration between our colleges and FastStart.”
 
Sullivan said the collaboration with FastStart has produced world-class programs like Certification for Manufacturing, or C4M, being offered at many campuses, the Sasol Regional Training Center at SOWELA Technical Community College, the partnership with Benteler Steel/Tube at the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technologies at Bossier Parish Community College, and the new Aerospace Manufacturing Technology program at Nunez Community College.
 
In one such project, the state invested $20 million in the Regional Training Center at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles to train workers at Sasol, which is completing an $11 billion ethane cracker complex nearby and adding 600 new jobs. Other regional manufacturers also may train their employees at the center on an ongoing basis. LED FastStart has provided extensive direct training services to Sasol, placing staff on-site at the SOWELA center, where simulation equipment helps trainees learn process technology skills they will apply in operating seven chemical plants at the new Sasol complex.
 
LED FastStart “learned specifically what our needs are, and through that, they’re able to develop innovative, leading-edge, very effective training tools that are exactly what it takes to meet our needs,” said Sasol Senior Vice President of North American Operations Mike Thomas.
 
For fast-growing tech startup Waitr, LED FastStart designed training modules that employees and trainees may access 24 hours a day on the company’s website. That access helps Waitr employees train on their own schedules, rather than report at a fixed time to a traditional classroom setting. Training developed by FastStart provides a deep grasp of company culture and operations, something critical to an online restaurant delivery business like Waitr.
 
“We consider the dynamic and talented professionals at LED FastStart as true business partners,” Waitr Director of Human Resources W. Chad Murray said. “They have provided keen insight and support within areas such as recruiting and retention, learning and growth, performance management and many other business functions. They understand our needs and culture. Waitr Inc. is a much better and stronger company because of our partnership with LED FastStart.”
 
Above and beyond regular campus funding, the State of Louisiana has dedicated over $65 million in recent years to higher education initiatives that are supplying talent to major technology employers, with FastStart support, and resulting in more than 13,000 new jobs.
 
As LED FastStart has continued to expand its job recruiting and training efforts in recent years, it has crafted innovative ways for workers to connect with job opportunities. LouisianaJobConnection.com helps job seekers connect to hundreds of Louisiana employers offering thousands of jobs. Louisiana Business Connection matches small business vendors with prime contractors on large Louisiana projects.
 
“Louisiana Job Connection has been instrumental in helping my company find talent for specific skill sets, particularly in the manufacturing field,” said Marianne Frazee, owner of Frazee Recruiting Consultants in Baton Rouge. “Their staff is very customer service-oriented and has been great to work with.”
 
Additional Top 10 recognitions for Louisiana in the 2018 State Rankings Report include: No. 4 for Foreign Trade Zone activity (exports), No. 9 in Economic Growth Potential and No. 10 for Chemicals Manufacturing.
Among the 12 highest-producing ports in the U.S., as measured by total tonnage shipped in 2017, five were Louisiana ports. As a leader in attracting foreign direct investment, Louisiana has become a key trade and investment destination for international companies, and the state’s ports have been important to that success. Louisiana offers a gateway to 38 interior states to provide manufacturers with access to worldwide markets via the Gulf of Mexico. The Gramercy Foreign Trade Zone is part of the Port of South Louisiana, the No. 1 port by tonnage in the Western Hemisphere.
 
Business Facilities bases the Economic Growth Potential ranking on across-the-board evaluation of growth strategies, targeted incentives, workforce training initiatives, the development of high-tech sectors, support for innovation/startups and the availability of low-cost energy, among other weighted factors. This is the second consecutive year that Louisiana earned placement in the Top 10 for Economic Growth Potential, ranking ninth in 2017 also.
 
The high marks dovetail with other recent measures of Louisiana’s economic development strength. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA program currently ranks Louisiana No. 1 for combined trade (exports and imports) on a per capita basis, and No. 2 for lowest electricity rates in the U.S. Area Development magazine has ranked Louisiana No. 5 in its Best States for Doing Business survey for the past two years, lauding the state in its latest rankings for specific results in such areas as competitive utility rates, certified sites, cooperative state government and favorable regulatory environment.
Six Louisiana metro areas earned regional honors in the 2018 Rankings Report:
  • Lake Charles is No. 1 for Job Growth (mid-sized metros).
  • The Gramercy Foreign Trade Zone is No. 2 for Top Foreign Trade Zones (Imports).
  • Hammond is No. 2 for Food Processing (Per Capita).
  • Baton Rouge is No. 5 in Agricultural Bioscience and No. 8 for Diversity in Types of Industries.
  • Shreveport/Bossier City is No. 7 for Economic Growth Potential (mid-sized metros).
  • New Orleans is No. 9 for Agricultural Bioscience.
Business Facilities has been a leading source of intelligence on corporate expansion and relocation projects since 1968. For more on the magazine’s 14th Annual Rankings Report, visit businessfacilities.com.