Ronpak worker loads bags
BERG Initiative Assists Louisiana Businesses

Businesses Identify Growth Opportunities

How do you determine what an existing business needs to grow and thrive? You ask them.

Reaching out to existing Louisiana employers to pose that question is among the best practices that shape the work of LED’s Business Expansion and Retention Group.

BERG’s six-member team works closely with established companies to help them identify opportunities for growth and navigate expansion challenges. The team also offers assistance with workforce development and training and acquaints companies with local allies and resources.

Its mission reflects LED’s larger recognition of the essential role that existing companies play in the Louisiana economy. Here, as elsewhere, established firms create almost three-fourths of the new jobs in the state.

Outreach to existing employers is an essential focus for BERG. Face-to-face yearly visits to Louisiana employers identified as “economic drivers,” due to the number of employees and other factors, more than doubled from 305 in fiscal year 2012-13 to 648 in 2015-16.

BERG’s target for 2016-17 is 600 to 800 such meetings across the state.

“We start by asking how business is doing, and then we talk about how we might help them,” said Melody Woodworth, BERG’s executive director. “It’s a chance to troubleshoot and connect the dots to resources and opportunities and simply be an advocate for what we can do to help them.”

Active engagement with Louisiana employers is among best practices that have made BERG one of the most effective such programs in the United States. Louisiana was among three states singled out as “exemplary” in a 50-state analysis of the effectiveness of such programs in generating economic development activity.

Ronpak worker checks bag prints

Citing the state’s workforce, training programs and incentives, Ronpak relocated its headquarters to Shreveport, Louisiana, from New Jersey

The 2014 report by SJ Dunnigan Consulting of Richmond, Virginia, cited “recognition of the important role existing companies play in generating new economic activities” as a key differentiator in Louisiana and other top-rated programs.

Effective partnerships with local economic development allies and a staff dedicated to business retention are additional best practices that shape BERG’s efforts. Yearly roundtables with local economic development partners in eight regions of Louisiana provide a forum for the BERG team to better understand and respond to challenges specific to employers in those regions.

Another aspect of BERG’s work is visiting the out-of-state headquarters of firms with operations in Louisiana to educate executives about the state’s advantages as a place for corporate headquarters. This also encourages companies to provide feedback, which helps BERG determine how Louisiana measures up against other states in which companies have additional operations.

BERG’s work is an increasingly visible element of economic development in Louisiana.

Notably, the sharp jump in visits to existing Louisiana companies tracks with an increase in new jobs generated through expansion projects. In fiscal year 2012-13, BERG played a role in 23 business expansions that created 8,096 jobs. In 2015-16, the team played a role in 33 projects that generated 17,052 total new jobs, more than doubling its total from just three years before.

After successfully attracting the business of a large food service provider, custom-printed paper bag manufacturer Ronpak was experiencing great success at its Shreveport, Louisiana, location. Citing the state’s workforce, training programs and incentives, Ronpak committed to the relocation of its headquarters from New Jersey to Shreveport. The relocation created 80 additional manufacturing positions and 20 new headquarters positions.

In fiscal year 2012-13, the team played a part in business expansions that created 8,096 jobs. Just three years later, in 2015-16, total new jobs generated through projects in which BERG played a role more than doubled to 17,052.

Additional business-retention wins in recent years include construction titan Brown & Root’s establishment of its base of operations in Baton Rouge, a decision that created 50 new jobs with an average annual salary of $192,000.

Formosa Petrochemical Corp.’s $9.4 billion expansion of its Louisiana operations is an additional notable win, and one that will generate 1,200 new jobs with an average annual salary of $84,500. The project was named as one of the nation’s top three deals in Business Facilities magazine’s 2015 Economic Development Deal of the Year competition.

Through face-to-face interactions, LED’s Business Expansion and Retention team is able to provide the information and tools needed by existing Louisiana businesses, a critical component of the state’s economy.

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