biz bits

Across Louisiana, companies are hatching expansion plans, and the state’s economic developers continue to court business. Here’s a look at the recent action.

Prospects good for research jobs
LOUISIANA –– The state of Louisiana laid $10 million on the line recently in the hope of generating bigger payrolls in several regions. The risk took the form of a “challenge grant” to Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The state’s pitch: Create 250 great new jobs, and the $10 million is yours.

To receive the full sum, the center must secure federal and private grants sufficient to create at least 250 permanent positions based in New Orleans, primarily at LSU Health Sciences Center, and across the state, including Shreveport’s LSU Health Sciences Center. These positions will employ scientific and technical staff performing research and clinical trials in obesity and diabetes. The center must raise an additional $10 million in matching funds from philanthropic contributions.

CenturyLink deal looks good
MONROE –– The recent announcement that Monroe-based telecommunications giant CenturyLink acquired rival Qwest is winning praise as a move that further solidifies the business in northeastern Louisiana. Last year, incentives offered by the state helped secure CenturyLink’s commitment to retain its local headquarters and add 350 new jobs in the region. Gov. Bobby Jindal has hailed the Qwest acquisition as evidence that CenturyLink will continue to grow its business of providing voice, broadband and video services over advanced communications networks across the country.

Shreveport invites startups to come on down
SHREVEPORT –– The idea of clustering fledgling businesses in shared office spaces, which first caught on in New Orleans, has spawned a spinoff in North Louisiana. CoHabitat Louisiana in Shreveport offers working space with a café-like atmosphere designed to nurture micro-enterprise development. Founded by businessmen Blake Burris and John Grindley working with the Downtown Development Authority, CoHabitat set up shop in an unoccupied building and aims to draw creative, entrepreneurial-thinking individuals out of home offices and into downtown Shreveport.

Chris Schultz, who founded the entrepreneurial hub Launchpad NOLA in New Orleans, says the timing is right for the “co-working” trend in Louisiana. “Clustering of entrepreneurs and freelancers in a strong community environment accelerates their success,” he says.

Economic development agency Greater New Orleans Inc. helped open the first “intellectual property” technology cluster, called I.P., in New Orleans, and last year the agency opened I.P. North in Covington. Schultz says he looks forward to collaborating with all of the business hubs to create a network of entrepreneurs across the state.

Gambling on growth in Capital City
BATON ROUGE –– Pinnacle Entertainment recently backed off on an expensive expansion it had planned in Lake Charles but affirmed its plan to spend $250 million on a new casino project in the capital city. The plan includes a 100-room hotel, restaurants, lounges and an entertainment venue, along with the 1,300 slot machines and 50 table games it will put on the Baton Rouge riverfront. Pinnacle Entertainment President Anthony Sanfilippo says the project will bring 700 construction-phase jobs and about 1,000 permanent jobs to the area. The company already employs 3,800 people in its Louisiana casinos –– L’Auberge du Lac in Lake Charles, Boomtown New Orleans and Boomtown Bossier City.

High cotton
LACASSINE –– State officials are awaiting word from Zagis USA as to where the company will locate its second Louisiana cotton-spinning mill. Late last year Zagis commissioned a new $20 million mill in Lacassine, creating some 60 jobs in the South Louisiana community. An estimated 20 percent of Louisiana’s annual cotton crop is feeding production at the plant. The state provided Zagis with a $2.4 million forgivable loan and approved $10 million in industrial bonds in return for the company’s commitment to build two plants. Zagis has not yet announced the location for the second one, which may employ up to 100 people.

Coffee gets stronger in NOLA, St. Tammany
NEW ORLEANS –– Folgers Coffee Co. announced in the spring that it will expand two coffee production plants in New Orleans and its distribution center in St. Tammany Parish. The company’s $69 million investment is expected to add 120 direct jobs to the 450 local people Folgers now employs. Economic development officials estimate the expansion will also produce 380 additional jobs in area companies that do business with Folgers.

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