Monday, June 17, 2024

From Bossier to Baton Rouge & Beyond

by BIZ Magazine

The Legacy of Don Pierson:  A Transformative Era in Louisiana Economic Development

Louisiana, historically celebrated for its rich culture and vibrant communities, has been undergoing a transformative economic journey under the leadership of Don Pierson. Having recently concluded his role as the Secretary for Louisiana Economic Development (LED) at the end of January, Pierson sat down for an in-depth interview to reflect on his tenure, share insights, and outline the future of economic development in the state.

Pinnacle Achievements and Initiatives

Pierson said, “Over the past three years alone, LED’s efforts yielded more than $20 billion per year of new investment in Louisiana, creating thousands of permanent jobs, thousands of construction jobs, and jobs with high compensation.” He emphasized that LED’s results were “outstanding” and contributed to Louisiana’s lowest unemployment rate and higher wages.

Internally, Pierson highlighted that LED achieved the distinction of being an Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO), saying, “The only state in the nation to have such a designation, and one that should instill public confidence in the investment that is made to support LED.” Another internal accomplishment was the recognition of LED’s FastStart workforce training program as the best in the nation.

Addressing Fiscal Challenges

Pierson acknowledged the fiscal challenges on day one, saying, “Severe budget cuts were imposed on all governmental agencies in Louisiana.” Despite these challenges, LED reduced staffing and stayed focused on key economic development principles. Pierson outlined these principles as aggressively supporting existing industries, competing for new industries, supporting and growing small businesses, and embracing globalization.

Local to State Transition

Transitioning from leading the Bossier Chamber of Commerce/GBEDF to becoming LED Secretary was a significant shift. Pierson emphasized, “When you understand that the Parish role is important, and critical to success, your pathway to success at LED is enhanced.” He credited his local perspective for understanding the significance of strong local partnerships across the state.

Key Economic Development Strategies from Bossier

Pierson said, “In Bossier, I came to understand that a strong economy is a diversified economy.” He applied this strategy at the state level, fostering growth in various sectors, including information technology, energy, and advanced chemical manufacturing.

Comparisons and Distinctions in Economic Development

Pierson acknowledged the universal truth that all economic development is local. However, he highlighted the complexity of LED’s responsibilities at the state level, saying, “A focus on 64 Parishes, north and south, east and west, can be far more challenging.”

Collaboration and Partnerships

Partnerships played a pivotal role in LED’s success. Pierson said, “LED participates with Regional Economic Development Organizations, Ports, Chambers, and others with financial assistance, guidance, and navigating other state agencies (DEQ, DOTD, etc).” He emphasized the importance of reasonable and appropriate use of public funds.

Notable Economic Development Projects

Pierson cited several key areas of success during his tenure, saying, “LED fostered tremendous growth in building Louisiana’s information technology footprint,” and highlighted investments from major energy companies like Exxon, Shell, and Solar One. He also mentioned the success in advanced chemical manufacturing, securing over $100 million in federal dollars for small and emerging businesses.

Outlook and Future Plans

Looking ahead, Pierson expressed confidence in Louisiana’s continued success, especially in chemical production and emerging fields like electric vehicle battery production. However, he highlighted challenges such as workforce pipeline development and addressing deferred infrastructure maintenance.

As for his own future, Pierson affirmed his commitment to economic development. He said, “With 16 years of experience in Bossier, and 19 at the State level, I am confident that there will be some very interesting ‘win-win’ conversations in the future that will lead me to some important accomplishments in 2024 and beyond.”

Advice for Local Economic Development Leaders

Pierson condensed his advice into three key points, saying, “First, get your education and certifications in economic development.” He emphasized the importance of remaining engaged in the evolving field. Secondly, he highlighted the significance of financial expertise, saying, “Finance is a big part of our projects, and one that will only become more competitive in the future.” Lastly, he stressed the importance of building strong relationships with elected officials at all levels.

Don Pierson’s legacy at LED is one of resilience, adaptability, and strategic vision. As Louisiana continues its economic journey, Pierson’s insights provide a roadmap for sustained growth. The full interview can be accessed on bizmagsb.com, offering a comprehensive exploration of Louisiana’s economic development landscape.

_ BIZ Magazine

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