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Biz Bits

Business news from around the state

Louisiana’s economic development incentive programs have operated at top speed during the past year, generating the promise of hundreds of jobs at locations across the state. The action has kept Gov. Bobby Jindal scrambling from one ribbon-cutting to another as he announced new projects and corporate expansions from Shreveport and Bastrop to Lake Charles, Lafayette and New Orleans. Here are some highlights.

Name of the game: digital
NEW ORLEANS – Digital media technology took a big step ahead in the local area with the announcement that one of the world’s largest publishers of digital and social games will open a major studio here soon. Gameloft S.A. chose New Orleans over several recognized technology hubs around the country as the home for a new video game development studio that will enable work on a range of downloadable titles in mobile formats and other media. Recognized by a major U.K.-based industry publication as the 2011 Developer of the Year for mobile games, Gameloft expects to eventually employ 150 people locally at an average salary of $69,000. State performance-based grants helped secure the company’s commitment to New Orleans, which corporate officials praised for its “rich talent pool” and “world-class culture.”

Prescription for growth
LAFAYETTE – A stalwart of local business has a blueprint for creating 600 new direct jobs through a $19 million expansion. CEO William “Kip” Schumacher says the Schumacher Group’s two-year project will nearly double the company’s current local work force. The third-largest emergency medicine staffing and management company in the country, Schumacher Group was founded in 1994 and serves 180 hospitals in 24 states. Grants and training assistance provided by the state of Louisiana helped secure the company’s commitment to expand.

Employment lifts off
LAKE CHARLES – A major expansion of the bustling Chennault International Airport is set for takeoff, carrying the promise of new jobs and increased aviation activity. A $14 million investment by the state will enable the expansion of aircraft maintenance and repair activity that’s expected to generate at least 500 new jobs once construction is finished late next year. The project includes a new 112,000-square-foot hangar to complement maintenance space already being expanded by tenants Aeroframe and Northrop Grumman. The new hangar will be sized to handle wide-body airplanes such as the Boeing 747 and 777 and the Airbus A340. Total employment at Chennault already tops 1,100, with an annual payroll above $67 million.  

Baton Rouge-area startup adds elbow room
DENHAM SPRINGS – An $8 million investment by a startup metal-coating company spells opportunity for more than 40 people who will land jobs in the firm’s local headquarters. CAP Technologies renovated a 50,000-square-foot site where it will use an electrical process to clean and coat metals, eliminating hazardous acids. The company developed its concept at the Louisiana Business and Technology Center in Baton Rouge. Salaries at the new plant will average $52,000 per year, the company says.

Ronpak packages jobs
SHREVEPORT – A leading maker of custom-printed paper bags, packages and food wraps plans a new plant at the Port of Shreveport-Bossier, marking the first manufacturing expansion by Ronpak Inc. since 1985. The New Jersey-based company expects to complete its new 155,000-square-foot facility late next year but already has begun hiring additional employees. Ronpak owner Ron Sedley says the $17 million plant eventually will employ 175 workers at the port’s Regional Commerce Center, which the U.S. Green Building Council has certified as meeting high standards for energy efficiency.

From lemons, lemonade
TALLULAH – The closure of a Northrop Grumman operation here late in 2010 was bad news for local employment, but it wasn’t long before better news
filled the void. Barge-builder St. John Enterprises Inc. announced plans to create more than 450 jobs during the next five years at the local port facility by investing $32 million in cranes, machinery and other upgrades. The company has hired about 100 people with plans to employ about 450 workers by 2016. St. John will continue its barge fleeting, repair and cleaning services at the company’s original location in Garyville, north of New Orleans.
 

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