Less than a decade ago, the thought of Louisiana winning accolades for its robust business climate would have seemed the stuff of dreams. But today such thoughts are hardly fantasy. In the latest round of praise for the state, Site Selection magazine ranked Louisiana No. 2 among states with the “top U.S. business climates.”
Here are highlights of just a few developments that are solidifying Louisiana’s reputation as a hub for business growth.
NEW ORLEANS – A provider of toxicology and DNA tests that help doctors customize prescriptions for individual patients is fast becoming a leader in the local biotech sector. Founded in 2012 with five employees at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, Renaissance RX now employs 80 people in the city and may soon grow that number to 425 with an $8 million investment in a new headquarters location. The company will consolidate its operations into a 30,000-square-foot building at 301 St. Charles Ave. Pairing toxicology lab results with DNA tests, the company can quickly produce a personalized medicine guide that serves as a blueprint for physicians to achieve the best treatment outcome for their patients. Renaissance RX has more than 800 employees, who mainly do sales and laboratory sample collections, in locations around the country.
MANUFACTURING DOES A STEEP CLIMB
LAFAYETTE – Helicopters could begin rolling off the assembly line next year at the new $26 million plant recently undertaken by Bell Helicopter at the Lafayette Regional Airport. The estimated 115 new jobs at the plant will come in addition to those at Bell’s two existing repair facilities in the area. The 82,300-square-foot assembly plant will produce the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X, which is under development in Canada. Bell has said the company has received more than 200 advance orders for the new aircraft, and the Louisiana plant could produce up to 200 aircraft a year once production is in full swing.
FUELED BY GULF OIL
AMELIA – Oil field services company Danos is responding to rising oil industry demand with a 120,000-square-foot fabrication yard that is set to employ about 150 people along Bayou Boeuf. The facility is in addition to the plant the company already operates in Larose. The new plant will allow Danos to expand its testing and instrumentation, focus on larger projects and broaden its offerings to the offshore industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
TECH GROWS IN CAPITAL CITY
BATON ROUGE – Stixis Technologies Inc. will open its first U.S. development center at the Louisiana Technology Park in Baton Rouge and begin ramping up its software services toward filling 230 jobs during the next several years. Based in Bangalore, India, Stixis engineers comprehensive software solutions, application management and support for customers in oil and gas, health care, digital media and entertainment, education, retail and government. To help develop the future work force, Stixis will mentor local students in developing agile software for big data analytics, business intelligence, mobility, cloud computing and social media applications. The company will assist LSU in shaping curricula to support the development of technology talent.
BOOM SPARKS MORE RIPPLES
SULPHUR – Even as it completes a $425 million chlor-alkali plant in Geismar, Westlake Chemical is investing another $330 million to expand ethylene production and make other improvements at its Sulphur facility. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the Sulphur expansion and upgrades will retain 480 existing jobs and create 25 new direct jobs. The expansion will add 250 million pounds of production capacity annually.
NURTURING JOB GENERATORS
SHREVEPORT – An organization that aims to give young business enterprises a leg up is working to provide a still bigger boost as it moves into its second phase of development. The nonprofit Cohabitat Foundation for the past four years has been offering entrepreneurial training and support, along with co-working space for business startups. The downtown Shreveport incubator has graduated more than 22 businesses into their own work spaces, and now has added a goal of taking six to eight startups to the next level by helping them evaluate the market for their products or services. By focusing on a handful of already-operating businesses over the next year, CoHab’s new program, Breaking Lean, aims to validate the work of a handful of companies that show particular promise. Announcements of companies that will participate in the program are expected soon.