North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) honored the “Top” of economic development at its annual meeting last night.
The Top Event was held at Sam’s Town in Shreveport Tuesday, Feb. 6 and celebrated the past year in economic development across NLEP’s 14-parish region.
“A common cliche I’ve heard over my career is that economic development is a team sport. I think it goes beyond that – NLEP’s success is because of partnerships,” said NLEP President Scott Martinez
Martinez began the evening by recapping some of NLEP’s successes. He noted it is one of 60 accredited economic development organizations in the country, features four certified economic developers, operating reserves have quadrupled in the past five years, and that 75 percent of the leads being worked were generated by NLEP.
“We have a great product that shows we’re a successful, profitable location to do business,” he said.
The event also featured awards presented to projects or persons that have made a tremendous impact in economic development throughout north Louisiana during the previous year.
The Top Leader award is presented to an individual who has provided key support to the NLEP Board Chairman.
Stewart Ewing, former CFO of CenturyLink, was named honoree at the event.
“I accept this award on behalf of the employees, past and present, who allowed us to grow,” Ewing said. “Together we can continue to grow this part of the state. What you can do is support the people who move into the area, support public education, and support your community leaders.”
The Top Project award recognizes a project that illustrates North Louisiana as a destination for talent and investment.
This award was presented to Graphic Packaging International and DHL Supply Chain for their $154 million, 1.27 million square foot carton converting and logistics center in Monroe. The $274 million investment is the largest single construction project in Ouachita Parish.
The Top of Mind award recognizes programs and partnerships that ensure a strong pipeline of talent to support current and future employers.
This award was presented to the Manufacturing Managers Council of Northwest Louisiana for their support of NLEP’s award-winning North Louisiana Manufacturing Week, which promotes career opportunities in manufacturing to high school students.
“Our goal is to help support economic development in northwest Louisiana. We’re going to build manufacturing,” said Jim Shockley, president of the council. “I’m going to challenge you tonight: I challenge you not to let our most precious resource die — and that’s the people who work for us.”
The Top Advocate award is presented to an elected official serving in NLEP’s region that has shown outstanding leadership in economic development. The recipient — Lynn Treadway, Jackson Parish Police Juror and Chairman of the Jackson Parish Industrial Committee — was recognized for promoting economic development such as his work to certify an 82-acre site adjacent to the existing Jackson Parish Industrial Park.
The event featured keynote speaker Del Boyette, president and CEO of Boyette Strategic Advisors, one of the nation’s foremost economic development consulting firms based in Atlanta, Ga. His long career includes working and leading state economic development agencies and consulting services at KPMG and Deloitte. Boyette was the Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development for the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Boyette discussed the economic development trends that impact north Louisiana, specifically highlighting workforce and incentives.
“Workforce talent is the No. 1 issue,” Boyette said from the stage. “Two-thirds of businesses say their performance is impacted by their ability to attract skilled workers.”
He noted that for middle skill positions — positions that have more than a high school diploma but less than a college bachelors degree — in north Louisiana, 72 percent of those workers are either under- or over-qualified.
“You have to convince a company (looking to located in the area) that the talent will be there. You have to understand the quantity and quality of your workforce,” Boyette said.
When it came to incentives, Boyette noted that they’ve become somewhat of a “dirty word” in economic development.
“I’ve heard businesses say they aren’t sure they want the incentives because negative press will appear if they can’t reach the commitments in the agreement.”
He went on to explain that incentives are a useful tool that economic developers shouldn’t be afraid of, noting that they can be used properly.
“You have to think about what it means to your city, your parish, your area, your state. Not just what it means the company and the consultant representing the company,” said Boyette.