BATON ROUGE — Business Facilities ranked LED FastStart®as the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program for a record 10th consecutive year.
Established in 2008, LED FastStart became the national leader in workforce training by building talent pipelines that connect Louisiana’s highly skilled workforce to new and expanding economic development projects across the state.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Paul Helton, LED FastStart has sustained its successful track record through an adaptive approach, innovating and implementing new programs to meet the changing dynamics of businesses and the workforce. In the magazine’s 15th Annual Rankings Report, Louisiana also ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for Lowest Industrial Electric Rates, and ranked No. 2 for both Foreign Direct Investments and Foreign Trade Zones-Imports. Additionally, Louisiana earned Top 10 rankings among the best states for Cybersecurity Growth Potential (No. 3), Foreign Trade Zones-Exports (No. 3) and overall Economic Growth Potential (No. 8).
“Today’s rankings confirm that Louisiana has the right tools to deliver economic success and move our state in the right direction,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “LED FastStart is the undisputed leader in workforce training, and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire team at Louisiana Economic Development and LED FastStart for this incredible accomplishment. A 21st century economy requires 21st century ideas, and that is LED FastStart’s focus: What can we do today to help our workers and our businesses thrive tomorrow? By focusing on those priorities, FastStart brings the best career opportunities to our people, and the best people to our employers.”
LED FastStart works with new and expanding companies in target industries to tailor comprehensive recruiting, screening and training solutions. FastStart’s custom solutions ensure that employees are fully prepared from day one of a project launch. FastStart is the only U.S. program to be ranked No. 1 since Business Facilities introduced the Workforce Training Leaders category in 2010.
“We work with determination and drive to innovate and continually improve, and this is how the LED FastStart team remains the gold standard for workforce training in the nation,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “I am proud to lead this dedicated team of training professionals whose collective efforts have resulted in this 10th consecutive national honor. I also wish to acknowledge the outstanding support provided by the Governor and the Louisiana Legislature. Our elected leaders are strong advocates of FastStart and understand that tomorrow’s jobs can only be secured with a highly skilled and well-trained workforce.”
Business Facilities evaluates state workforce leaders in multiple ways, including collaboration among emerging industries and higher education systems. Workforce programs are evaluated for how well they integrate STEM skills – or science, technology, engineering and math – into training curricula. Additionally, programs are evaluated on dual-credit high school technology programs, industry-specific training academies, and on-site training facilities for advanced manufacturing and other sectors. States gain extra credit for upgrading programs to replace traditional tax credits with innovative ideas. These features, coupled with how the state uses them to attract projects, factor into the magazine’s overall evaluation.
“LED FastStart has pioneered and validated just about every best practice for workforce training that you can think of,” said Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers, who highlighted the program’s leadership in enhancing workforce training through technology. “FastStart remains the gold standard for highly customized workforce development programs. Ten years ago, they were the first to use iPads to train workers, now they’re pushing the envelope with virtual reality. They’re always ahead of the curve.”
LED FastStart goes beyond training to connect job seekers and Louisiana employers in other ways. FastStart operates LouisianaJobConnection.com, where employers register and post jobs, while job seekers upload résumés and pursue career opportunities. A sophisticated algorithm enables key word, certification and skill matches to produce ideal fits for participants. LouisianaBusinessConnection.com, also managed FastStart, connects economic driver companies with Louisiana small businesses, allowing traditionally underserved firms to participate in major projects.
Since 2008, FastStart has delivered 463,000 training hours to over 29,000 employees linked to 233 new economic development projects in Louisiana.
“On behalf of our entire LED FastStart team, we are proud to be No. 1 for an incredible tenth year in a row,” Helton said. “To sustain this success, we have fostered a culture of innovation and ingenuity; we’ve bridged the gap between job seekers and employers; and we continue to work with our partners to serve the State of Louisiana. As we celebrate today, the state has my assurance that we will not rest on our laurels. We will build on all we’ve accomplished and meet the workforce challenges of the future with ambition and fresh ideas.”
FastStart works with partners to ensure that high-demand occupations are reflected in coursework provided by Louisiana high schools and colleges. Those efforts yielded LED FastStart’s Certification for Manufacturing, or C4M, Program, which provides students with skills sought by the manufacturing industry. Successful completion of hands-on C4M work results in industry-based certifications.
“Today’s announcement once again proves that Louisiana is laser-focused on growing the economy through workforce development and improving the lives of its people through relevant training,” said President Monty Sullivan of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. “We are proud to partner with LED FastStart and congratulate them on this tremendous honor.”
The Port of South Louisiana’s No. 1 ranking for imports in a Foreign Trade Zone coincides with the Mississippi River port’s 303 million tons of cargo handled by its terminals in 2018 via vessels and barges. That volume ranks the Port of South Louisiana as 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 third consecutive year Louisiana earned Top 10 placement for Economic Growth Potential, following No. 9 rankings in both 2017 and 2018.
The latest Business Facilities rankings join a growing list of accolades for Louisiana’s economic development performance. Earlier in July, Southern Business and Development magazine ranked Louisiana No. 2 in the South for best economic development results, with New Orleans ranking No. 1 among Major Markets and Lake Charles winning Small Market of the Year honors for a record ninth year in a row. Additionally, in 2018 Louisiana earned its ninth consecutive Top 10 ranking among Site Selection magazine’s Top State Business Climates and its eighth straight Top 10 ranking in Area Development’s Top States for Doing Business.
In July 2018, LED became the only state economic development agency to earn AEDO, or Accredited Economic Development Organization, status from the International Economic Development Council.\