Friday, June 21, 2024

Nolten: North Louisiana defying current trends of state tech industry

by BIZ Magazine

More than 48,000 people work in technology jobs in Louisiana, according to CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the information technology industry and workforce. 

Those employees’ estimated median wage is $68,661, which is 86% higher than the median wage for all occupations in the state. The tech sector has an economic impact of $5.7 billion and the state is home to approximately 5,300 tech businesses.

Recent reports from the southern portion of the state paint a dire picture about the tech industry and the mechanisms for luring this new industry to our state.

NOLA.com recently pointed out that Louisiana Economic Development ended its agreement with one technology company after it failed to meet job and payroll benchmarks. There were other disappointing developments in luring technology companies to Louisiana such as one company ending its incentive contract with the state, another closing in 2018, and a third laying off 200 employees. The article also poised questions over tech firms lured to Louisiana under incentive programs, and whether they deliver high-tech jobs.

The complete opposite is true for North Louisiana. The National Cyber Research Park (NCRP) in Bossier City is proud to be a shining example of what the tech industry can accomplish with the right leadership, support, and investment. 

For the past 15 years, Cyber Innovation Center (CIC) has been the catalyst for growth right here in our region. 

CIC is the anchor of the NCRP, and we work with our partners to promote research, education, and technological innovation and foster collaborative and strategic alliances between governmental agencies, private industry, and academic institutions.

We recently celebrated the 9th anniversary of our tenant, General Dynamics Integrated Technology Center (GDIT), announcing its decision in 2014 to locate in Bossier City, beating out over 130 other potential sites across the country.  

GDIT provides next-generation technology services to the federal government with over 1,500 high-wage, highly skilled employees.  

That monumental turning point in the NCRP and the economy of northwest Louisiana is a success story of return on investment of the very incentives being questioned.

A report by Dr. Loren Scott states that the NCRP has contributed more than 2,100 jobs. These jobs outpaced Bossier Parish’s oil and gas and construction sectors during the same time frame. 

Average household earnings of the Bossier Parish tech sector almost equaled the earnings of all parish hospital workers and are 26% higher than the average annual wage in the parish.

Employee earnings totaled nearly $123M, and regionally generated $154.5M in new business sales, $148.2M in new household earnings, and $6.7M in new revenues for government.

According to Dr. Scott’s report, by 2025, the parish will not only have received $62 million in tax revenues generated by activities at the NCRP but will have also gained more than $1.3 billion in new sales for businesses in the parish, more than $1.4 billion in new earnings for parish residents, and an average of 1,313 jobs a year.  

There has been discussion about state and city leaders investing as much time in building a skilled workforce as creating incentive packages. 

In Bossier City, we have taken the bull by the horns to work with our regional university and college partners such as Louisiana Tech University, and Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC), and Grambling State University to develop a talent pipeline so that our technology industry can flourish. 

The campus of BPCC lies nested within the NCRP. As one of the top community colleges in not only the region and state, but entire country, BPCC provides a pipeline of talent for a burgeoning workforce fostered within the NCRP. 

This allows students to see their futures as they make their way around campus.

The Louisiana Tech Academic Success Center (LTASC) is housed in a multi-use building belonging to BPCC. LTASC hosts cyber training, credential course work and field exercises. Also, individuals are taught cyber literacy skills and are provided help in dealing with cyber threats, and manufacturers are trained on how to protect their products.  

These technology degree graduates can complete their courses at this building and simply walk across the street to their high-paying careers.

While losses elsewhere in the state are a reminder why major economic development is usually met with skepticism, our nearly 15-year journey in our region —  a journey has required a long-term investment and perseverance by CIC and NCRP partners, city and parish officials, the State of Louisiana, and our congressional delegation — is proof that our workforce development was, and is, crucial for enriching the lives of those in our corner of the state.

It’s proof that we are delivering something special in northwest Louisiana.

Kevin Nolten is Vice President of the Cyber Innovation Center 

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