RUSTON — Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Tech University President Les Guice announced last week two economic development initiatives: Tech Pointe II, a $15 million commercial office building that will generate an estimated 750 new jobs over the next decade at the university’s Enterprise Campus in Ruston; and a Louisiana Tech Research Institute hub at the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, where Louisiana Tech will bolster Barksdale Air Force Base’s Global Strike Command and related defense-sector efforts.
Both investments are designed to strengthen the growing bonds among higher education, economic development and private-sector job growth in Louisiana. Targeted higher education investments like Tech Pointe II and LTRI are helping campuses provide higher-quality career opportunities for a growing number of graduates. Compared with the 2015-16 academic year, the annual number of students graduating from Louisiana’s colleges and universities has grown more than 10 percent. The number of Louisiana Tech graduates accelerated at an 18 percent rate over the same period.
“This is real-world economic growth happening now in Louisiana because we have made a strong commitment to better fund higher education during this administration,” Gov. Edwards said, noting that higher education funding in the current fiscal year is $127 million higher than in 2015. “As one of our leading research universities, Louisiana Tech is a force for educating students who can fill the knowledge-based jobs of the future. Tech Pointe II builds on that demonstrated success at the Ruston campus, while our investment in the Louisiana Tech Research Institute will play a key role in the future vitality of Barksdale Air Force Base. These are both sound investments in Louisiana’s future.”
At more than 60,000 square feet, the new Tech Pointe II facility will join the existing, 42,000-square-foot Tech Pointe I building that has helped generate over 200 private-sector jobs and 150 student jobs since opening in 2012. Both Tech Pointe buildings are part of a master plan by Louisiana Tech to leverage its Enterprise Campus into a major research park, one that combines academic research, technology transfer and private-sector tenants to drive economic development along the I-20 Cyber Corridor.
To fund the project, Louisiana Tech created a private nonprofit entity – Tech Pointe II LLC – to develop, build, own and operate the commercial office structure. The nonprofit will raise $7.5 million in private funds, and the State of Louisiana will match those funds with an additional $7.5 million to complete the project. The university expects full development of the Enterprise Campus to span two decades, leading to as many as 1,500 research and research-generated jobs, while supporting 300 residents within the technology district.
“With the expansion of the Louisiana Tech University Enterprise Campus, we continue to develop a highly functional and attractive work environment designed to attract partnerships that engage the private and public sectors in high-tech job growth and economic development for our region,” Guice said. “This commitment from Governor Edwards will enable us to significantly ramp up our partnership activity and enhance the economic impacts for our region and the state. The additional support of the Louisiana Tech Research Institute will allow us to cultivate unique partnerships, build and deliver new educational content, and promote and extend novel research and development opportunities through the facility.”
Louisiana Tech will establish the LTRI office at the Cyber Innovation Center, located at the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City. Retired Brig. Gen. Gerald Goodfellow will lead LTRI as executive director after serving until July 2019 as the director of Strategic Plans, Programs and Requirements for the Global Strike Command headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base. For each of the next three years, the State of Louisiana will fund up to $1 million for $3 million or more in federal and private research funds attracted by the Louisiana Tech entity.
“The Louisiana Tech Research Institute endeavors to be a leading and trusted solution provider and talent developer to the U.S Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, and a broad range of defense industry partners,” Goodfellow said. “This new partnership between LTRI and Louisiana Economic Development will significantly enhance our efforts to serve our mission and generate new economic growth in North Louisiana.”
In partnership with the Cyber Innovation Center, LTRI will develop workforce talent to support the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, which is pursuing a proposed weapons generation facility at Barksdale as part of the nation’s nuclear modernization effort. State funding of Tech Pointe II and LTRI will be provided by LED.
“This support is remarkably important for the region’s continued economic and technical growth,” said President and Executive Director Craig Spohn of the Cyber Innovation Center. “With this funding, we can build subject-matter expertise in the local area that would otherwise be available only on either coast. With these funds, we can hire the requisite talent to help build programs that fill the needs of the Air Force nuclear modernization program. This is a $1 trillion effort that can be supported here next to the Air Force nuclear headquarters, Global Strike Command.”
The Cyber Innovation Center also is among the dozen tenants who operate technology offices at Louisiana Tech’s Enterprise Campus in Ruston. Other employers there include CenturyLink, the Fenway Group and Radiance Technologies.
Louisiana Tech’s Enterprise Campus includes the 130,000-square-foot Integrated Engineering and Science Education building dedicated in September, along with other business and technology facilities. Tech Pointe II is one of several planned Enterprise Campus sites that will incorporate adaptable floorplans, robust internet service, reliable power, superior lighting, video-enhanced security, and access to university amenities.
In addition to leading to employment of 750 technology jobs on the Enterprise Campus, Tech Pointe II will generate over $500 million in new economic impact over the next decade along the I-20 Cyber Corridor, said Davy Norris, Louisiana Tech’s chief research and innovation officer. The final design for Tech Pointe II will be completed by December, with construction beginning in mid-2020 and being completed by late 2021.
“The jobs will be in leading-edge economic sectors like software development, cybersecurity, engineering and digital marketing,” Norris said. “Louisiana Tech has a long history of nurturing strong corporate partnerships for the benefit of our students, our community, our corporate partners and the regional economy. Our Enterprise Campus is truly the focal point of these partnerships.”
“Louisiana Tech University is the heart of Ruston and the economic driver of our city,” Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said. “We are blessed to have such an outstanding and progressive university in our community. This expansion of Tech Pointe will provide additional opportunities for the advancement of knowledge and job creation in our city. On behalf of the City of Ruston, we are grateful to Dr. Guice for always working to make Louisiana Tech the best it can be, and to Governor Edwards and the state for their support of Louisiana Tech’s expansion and growth.”