A decade or so ago, when New Orleans began garnering attention in the business press as an up-and-comer in technology and entrepreneurial innovation, it was fair to wonder whether the praise marked the start of a lasting change or merely a short-term ripple generated by the city’s post-Hurricane Katrina recovery. Today, the answer is becoming clearer.
Two recent business announcements have helped solidify New Orleans’ place in the country’s technology landscape. In November 2017, Virginia-based DXC Technology announced it would open its first U.S. “digital transformation center” in New Orleans, bringing a global tech focus and 2,000 jobs to the city in the next five years.
DXC, which operates similar centers in the UK, Belgium and Australia, has not only put its name atop a Poydras Street office tower, but also inked a partnership deal with the state to support STEM training at several Louisiana universities.
Site Selection Magazine named the DXC’s New Orleans announcement one of the top 20 economic development deals in the U.S. for 2017. But wait, there’s more.
In June, another multi-national tech company, Austin-based Accruent, announced it will open a technology center in downtown New Orleans to employ some 350 people in job areas ranging from software engineering, human resources and cloud operations to project management and sales. Accruent, too, will work with Louisiana colleges to expand the local tech talent pool.
“Since 2012, New Orleans has led the nation in technology job growth, and we are pleased to continue this trend with the talent we need to support our strong acceleration in new technologies,” Accruent CEO John Borgerding said in making the announcement.
While these companies are evidence that New Orleans’ appeal to outside tech companies is “for real,” the increasing success of home-grown enterprises shows that the city’s growing reputation as an entrepreneurial hub is also well deserved.
Of the many startups that launched during recent decades in the humble quarters of this or that business incubator, one of the most successful is the company now known as Lucid. Founded in 2010 as market research innovator Federated Sample LLC, Lucid now occupies several floors in a downtown office tower and employs 225 people in offices from its New Orleans headquarters to the UK and India.
All of these businesses, and hundreds more, are benefiting from a robust set of incentive programs that Louisiana offers to encourage businesses to launch and grow in the state. Many of the incentives are tax breaks that are tied to the number of jobs a company promises to create here. Equally important are the educational incentives that urge companies to partner with Louisiana colleges and universities to develop workers with skills tailored to the needs of a particular industry.
The state has shown foresight in creating these economic development incentives. While tax breaks cannot guarantee the success of an enterprise that starts or chooses to grow in Louisiana, such programs have helped the state stay in the game in the face of ever-stiffer competition. Most importantly, economic development officials and lawmakers increasingly understand that business incentives should not focus merely on drawing companies to the state, but should also, as Governor John Bel Edwards has said, ensure the availability of a talent pool to keep those businesses in place.
“Our ultimate goal is not just to attract new projects, but to create a technology sector where our people have a diverse offering of opportunities to solve the challenges of tomorrow,” Edwards said recently.
Such thinking helped Louisiana rise to No. 5 in the country last year for growth in software employment, according to a Software.org report that said some 12,000 people now hold software jobs in Louisiana.