Today, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson became an Honorary Life Member of the Southern Economic Development Council, the largest and oldest regional economic development organization in North America. Founded in 1946, SEDC awards Honorary Life Member status to the most accomplished, senior elite practitioners of economic, industrial and community development.
The Honorary Life Member Award is the highest honor bestowed by SEDC upon individuals in the economic development profession, with fewer than 100 recipients honored to date. Secretary Pierson received the honor today at the SEDC Annual Conference in Mobile, Alabama. New Orleans will play host to the 2019 SEDC Annual Conference.
“Don Pierson is a fellow veteran, a fellow champion of all that Louisiana has to offer, and one of the most distinguished public servants I’ve had the privilege of serving with,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “His track record in our administration is impressive, with billions of investment dollars attracted and thousands of new jobs created since 2016. Yet what strikes me most about Secretary Pierson is his willingness to go to bat for all of Louisiana — for small businesses as well as large, for people at all levels of our workforce, and for our local and regional economic development groups across the state. His leadership ensures that everyone in Louisiana is participating in our growth, and I salute him for this outstanding career honor.”
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Pierson served as an Airborne- and Ranger-Qualified Infantry Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division for five years. A former small business owner, he possesses 30 years in the economic development field, including 17 years of service leading the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation before joining LED, initially as Assistant Secretary in 2008 and continuing later as Secretary in 2016.
“I’ve worked with Don on numerous economic development projects over the past couple of decades,” said President Les Guice of Louisiana Tech University. “He has been the consummate professional who clearly understands the critical linkages between government, education and community in driving economic prosperity for our state. He brings us together in innovative ways to make things happen.”
Louisiana recently posted its lowest unemployment rate in a decade, aided by LED project wins that since January 2016 represent over $26 billion in new capital investment, 23,200 new direct and indirect jobs, and 15,400 existing jobs retained by expanding employers in Louisiana.
Bob Leak Jr., SEDC’s immediate past board chairman, serves as chairman of the Honorary Life Member Nominating Committee that confirmed Pierson’s selection.
“The HLM Award recognizes the highest level of commitment to bettering the profession of economic development,” Leak said. “Don exemplifies this through his work in the profession over the years.”
Current SEDC Chairman Samuel Powers described Pierson as a consummate economic development professional who has made a demonstrable difference in the communities he has served. “He richly deserves to be recognized,” Powers said.
Vic Lafont, president and CEO of the South Louisiana Economic Council, is a fellow SEDC Honorary Life Member who received the award in 2014.
“Don’s leadership qualities are grounded in his stellar management style that builds consensus among the most diverse of groups,” Lafont said. “He’s known for always reaching his objectives, but it’s never about Don. It’s always about the TEAM, and that’s the core of the economic development profession.”
Under Pierson’s leadership, Louisiana Economic Development became the only state-level economic development agency in the U.S. with active accreditation status from the International Economic Development Council. IEDC announced earlier this month that LED had earned Accredited Economic Development Organization status.
“I can think of no one who deserves this honor more than Don Pierson,” said President Rhonda Reap-Curiel of LIDEA, the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association. “He worked tirelessly as a local economic developer in Bossier City, partnering with other organizations in the region to bring investment and jobs to Northwest Louisiana. After joining LED, he continued to demonstrate the power of partnerships on a much larger scale. His commitment to the professional development of his staff and others throughout Louisiana, and his dedication to our Louisiana team, is an example to be followed. On behalf of LIDEA and myself, I wish to congratulate him on this honor.”
Secretary Pierson is one of three SEDC lifetime honorees with ties to the Shreveport-Bossier City area, along with William T. Hackett Jr., a former Shreveport Chamber of Commerce executive (honored in 1979) and Alvin B. Kessler, a former AT&T, Greater Shreveport Economic Development Foundation and Shreveport Chamber of Commerce executive (1992).
Other SEDC Honorary Life Members with Louisiana leadership experience include: former LED Secretary and current Committee of 100 CEO Michael J. Olivier (2003); former President and CEO of the Ascension Economic Development Corp. and current Director of Economic Development in Lexington County, South Carolina, J. Michael Eades (2006); former economic developer for the Louisiana Department of Commerce & Industry (a prior LED name) and the cities of Alexandria, Monroe and Bastrop, Miles K. Luke (1988); former LED Assistant Secretary and Director of Community Competitiveness Lewis L. “Skip” Smart (2011), who retired earlier this year; and SLEC’s Vic Lafont (2014).
All told, the Atlanta-based SEDC consists of more than 900 active and influential industrial and economic development professionals in business and industry, utilities, transportation, financial and education institutions, chambers of commerce, and local, regional and state development agencies. Through plenary conferences, focused meetings, professional research and publications, in-person and online networking, and educational opportunities, SEDC enables members to reach their optimum potential in professional growth and development. For more information about SEDC, visit SEDC.org.