B.R. jobs growing; more ahead
The new numbers are in from the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and Baton Rouge has gained 5,400 jobs from one year ago, with increases coming in construction, retail, education and health care.
This puts the Capital City at 7.2% unemployment, joining Lafayette as one of only two cities in Louisiana under the state average of 7.4% (which was better than the national average of 8.1%).
Across the state, job totals were up 39,300 in August from August 2011. This translates to a growth rate of 2.5%, making Louisiana No. 8 for best performance among all 50 states.
There are more jobs coming. This month, Ameritas Technologies opens in the Chase Building in downtown Baton Rouge and will create 300 new jobs—part of a much larger vision to counter the offshore outsourcing of American technology jobs. These new direct jobs, with an average salary of $63,000, plus benefits, will result in an additional 306 new indirect jobs.
Dan Borné, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, spoke recently to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge and pointed out that, due to the low price of natural gas, Louisiana is very competitive and the chemical industry has added 1,000 jobs a year for the last three years. He noted there is much activity going on and being planned and described it as “an exciting time” for that industry. Borné said expansions and new plants will require thousands of construction workers, too.
While Nucor is currently constructing its $3.4 billion steel mill in St. James Parish, The Advocate reported last week that Ascension and St. James parishes are being considered for “Project Frontier,” another industrial facility that could be bigger than Nucor.
This growth and the new jobs it creates is good news for the Capital Region. And while we still have the serious challenge of a high poverty rate, it can't be solved without at least the opportunity for work at a good wage. But that requires education and training—which dropouts don't receive and failing schools don't provide. That's why school choice is important. No one should be trapped in a failing school, which could lead to a life of poverty. (That has happened in East Baton Rouge Parish for decades.)
Also, you can't work in these plants if you can't pass a drug test. In other words, folks who want a good paying job must be prepared when it comes along—and whose responsibility is that? Government? Parents? The individual? The community?
Yes, there are many more issues that contribute to poverty—issues years in the making and not easily solved. (That's another column.) The good news is, if we can continue to create new jobs, we have the chance to impact families one by one, strengthen the economy, and address some of the other challenges we face, like poverty, crime and education. We certainly can't tax our way out of poverty.
So let's have the Capital Region lead the way and finish the year strong—and make 2013 a great year for growth.
Not your daddy's university
Times do change over 30 years, as you may have noticed throughout our most recent special anniversary issue. Even our institutions of higher education—many of which have been around for more than 100 years—are benefiting from and being challenged by technology. It creates opportunities and competition that will only escalate.
I have written before about Coursera, established by Stanford University in partnership with Princeton University, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. It is an initiative that offers MOOCs (massive open online courses). More than 1 million students signed up for the initial courses that were posted on its website.
Harvard and MIT formed their own nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses. One of its first courses enrolled about 120,000 students.
But not all are providing courses for free. There is real revenue in online education. USC has quietly established a global online graduate education enterprise, which officials say “expands access broadly, while maintaining all-important standards of academic rigor, integrity and quality.” This year USC will have 5,500 remote students and will generate $114.5 million in revenue online. They expect to double their number of remote students in the next five years.
This trend isn't in the distant future—it's happening now. As higher ed—and all businesses—face more competition and tighter budgets, they will have to be innovative and more efficient and discover ways to tap new markets and customers. That's a “blue ocean” strategy. Depending on things to remain static and operating the way “we've always done it before” will prove to be a dead end. Louisiana universities, like all others, will have to rise to the challenge in the 21st century as we chart a new course.
Special thanks to Junior Achievement
In our 30th anniversary issue, we included photos of all of our Business Hall of Fame laureates—an impressive group with lifetimes of achievement. But we erred in failing to mention our wonderful partner for the Hall of Fame since 1993, Junior Achievement. We apologize.
We have enjoyed partnering with JA and their board and appreciate their support of the Baton Rouge Business Awards & Hall of Fame banquet. We offer a personal thanks to Buzzy, Kathy, Pud'n and Paula for all they've done over the years. A portion of the proceeds from the event goes to support JA and their programs in our schools for students. We are proud of that investment in our future.
Junior Achievement's mission is “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.” They are the world's largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. JA is helping grow our future Hall of Fame laureates.
I would also like to acknowledge our sponsors—Capital One and Franklin—for their support that makes this annual event possible, and say thanks to all of the judges who give of their time year after year. We appreciate you.
Mark your calendar
Two big events are coming up soon for the business community. First, the Louisiana Business Symposium is set for Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Baton Rouge. It begins with the Louisiana Technology and Innovation Breakfast, featuring keynote speaker Jay Adelson. Adelson is known for founding and running companies such as Digg Inc. and SimpleGeo Inc. He was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. The symposium concludes with the annual Top 100 luncheon featuring economist Loren Scott, who will unveil his economic forecast for 2012-2013 for Louisiana and the Capital Region. For information and tickets, go to businessreport.com and click on “Events.”
And November will feature BREW. The Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, which is produced by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and RIO, and chaired this year by Stafford Kendall of Covalent Logic, will happen Nov. 11-17. There will be events, panel discussions, speakers and a new twist on “Pitch Night,” produced by SeNSE. Check out CelebrateBrew.com for details or call the BRAC.
Losing two leaders
In one week in August, I was saddened to hear of the loss of two men I truly respected: Rev. Charles Smith, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, and Derek Gordon, head of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Both men distinguished themselves in their vocations and made a big impact on our community through their leadership and service. They were such assets to our city and state, and I will miss them both as friends and visionaries.
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