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 State, Provincial and International Reviews 
Friday, March 23 2018
Louisiana's Tech Sector Comes of Age

Momentum Builds from Advanced Manufacturing to Cybersecurity 

When Governor John Bel Edwards recognized Graphic Packaging International’s Andy Johnson on the Louisiana House of Representatives floor, the moment wasn’t lost on the hundreds of lawmakers, statewide elected officials, legislative staff and private citizens gathered to hear the governor’s 2018 State of the State speech.

“Time after time, the business community is saying yes to Louisiana,” Edwards said, recounting the 2017 selection of Louisiana by Graphic Packaging and logistics partner DHL for one of the world’s largest advanced manufacturing and distribution centers. “Last spring, we announced that Graphic Packaging International would be reinvesting in Northeast Louisiana with an all-new 1.27-million-square-foot carton manufacturing and logistics center in Monroe.”

Today, Graphic Packaging generates a $4.7 billion annual economic impact through its three West Monroe facilities, including a paperboard mill and two carton packaging plants. The new project modernizes the paperboard mill and moves the carton plants to Monroe as part of a $274 million capital investment that brings robotics, automation and cutting-edge logistics to Louisiana operations with nearly 1,000 employees. The companies fashioned a progressive payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, or PILOT, with local officials to pave the wave for a project that ensures a company presence for another generation in Northeast Louisiana.

“Andy, we thank you and Graphic Packaging International for being such outstanding partners and ambassadors for our state,” Edwards told Johnson. “Thank you for your vision and commitment to Louisiana’s future.”

The Digital Future
From manufacturing to cybersecurity, business investors are embracing Louisiana’s approach to forging a digital future. The state has elevated its commitment to that future by investing in targeted higher education initiatives linked to technology-driven projects.

Beginning with the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park in Northwest Louisiana — where state and local governments created the park’s $107 million Cyber Innovation Center anchor — the State of Louisiana has funded more than $235 million in new facilities and university curricula targeting the software, digital media, cybersecurity and information technology sector during the past decade.

The dividends are tangible. In that decade, video game developer EA opened a global quality assurance center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The state created the $29.3 million Louisiana Digital Media Center to house hundreds of EA employees and the university’s Center for Computation & Technology, a hub for Louisiana’s supercomputing research.

GE Digital Solutions followed in New Orleans with its 300-job technology center and annual payroll topping $30 million. In 2013, IBM announced plans for an 800-job Client Innovation Center anchoring a $55 million urban development in downtown Baton Rouge that will produce a $1.9 billion economic impact over 12 years. Another IBM Client Innovation Center will produce a projected 400 jobs at Century Village, an 88-acre mixed-use development in Monroe immediately west of Fortune 500 CenturyLink’s global headquarters.

In 2015, CenturyLink opened a 300,000-square-foot Technology Center of Excellence with environmentally-sensitive materials, space for 800 of its 2,700 Louisiana employees, and technology to drive innovation for its global cloud computing and hosted IT services customers.

Less than an hour west of CenturyLink on Interstate 20, Louisiana Tech University created the nation’s first four-year degree in cyber engineering and is leading a $14 million, 10-year higher education initiative to rapidly ramp up its production of computer science and STEM-related degrees. 

As with similar higher education initiatives for GE in New Orleans, EA in Baton Rouge, CenturyLink in Monroe, and IBM in Baton Rouge and Monroe, the Louisiana Tech effort pulls in other higher education partners, such as Northwestern State University and Bossier Parish Community College, each within an hour or less of the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City. There, in early 2018, CSRA exceeded its employment target of 800 for another major digital project.

Photo Caption: The Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City anchors Louisiana’s 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park., which includes an 800-job CSRA Integrated Technology Center, other cybersecurity employers and a major higher education STEM training center.

The CSRA Integrated Technology Center, next to the Cyber Innovation Center, joins talented professionals in the mission to serve largely federal and other public sector customers in meeting the future’s cybersecurity, cloud computing and big data challenges. Its arrival in 2014 — combined with CenturyLink, Louisiana Tech, the Cyber Innovation Center and Barksdale Air Force Base’s Global Strike Command — heralded a critical mass of tech assets now known in North Louisiana as the I-20 Cyber Corridor.

Photo Caption: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (center) cuts the ribbon on CSRA’s 96,000-square-foot Integrated Technology Center in Northwest Louisiana. Joining him are CSRA President and CEO Larry Prior (left) and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson (right).

“This facility is a key differentiator for CSRA and helps position us as forward-thinkers and trendsetters in the federal IT industry,” CSRA President Larry Prior said.

Mirroring CSRA’s success, Canada-based CGI’s Lafayette IT Center of Excellence surpassed its 400-job target ahead of schedule in March 2018 at the company’s 50,000-square-foot facility on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park. UL Lafayette is leading a $4.5 million, 10-year initiative to supply a pipeline of computer science and IT talent for CGI and other tech employers.

Photo Caption: In Lafayette, Louisiana, CGI reached full employment of 400 technology professionals within two years of the grand opening for the Onshore IT Services Center of Excellence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park.

“While I’m extremely excited about the growth of CGI’s workforce in Lafayette, I’m most appreciative of how engaged, active and committed CGI team members are at making Lafayette a great place to live, work and play,” Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said.

Other major investors are taking note of Louisiana’s leadership in higher education partnerships for the technology sector. When a $25 billion end-to-end IT services company explored sites for its largest Digital Transformation Center, Louisiana landed prominently on its radar.

DXC, and Beyond
In November 2017, DXC Technology selected New Orleans for a 2,000-job Digital Transformation Center that will be located in the city’s Central Business District, across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Later named as one of the top two economic development deals of the year, the DXC Technology project hinged upon Louisiana’s success with CSRA and other software and IT services employers.

Photo Caption: In New Orleans, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announces the 2,000-job DXC Technology Digital Transformation Center as “a landmark project to elevate (the New Orleans) economy as the city celebrates its Tricentennial” in 2018.

Proven success in producing a pipeline of college-educated technology talent — along with Louisiana’s commitment of a new $25 million higher education initiative tailored for DXC needs — convinced the company to select New Orleans over dozens of other North American cities. Coupled with indirect jobs stimulated by the new project, DXC Technology will support more than 4,250 new jobs in the region.

Photo Caption: In November 2017, DXC Technology Executive Vice President Stephen Hilton addresses a crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where he announced the company would hire 2,000 technology professionals for the company’s largest Digital Transformation Center in the world. New Orleans, Hilton said, will be “a blueprint for how we transform’s DXC’s workforce.”

“With this project, Louisiana gains a next-generation leader in global technology services, our college graduates will find unprecedented job opportunities at home, and New Orleans will welcome a landmark project to elevate its economy as the city celebrates its Tricentennial next year,” Governor Edwards said.

Like the innovative Graphic Packaging-DHL project on I-20 in North Louisiana, the state continues to attract technology-driven employers who are ushering in a new era of advanced manufacturing. When Epic Piping selected a site east of Baton Rouge, the global pipe fabricator built innovation into a 268,000-square-foot facility in Livingston, Louisiana. Epic Piping’s corporate headquarters are located on the 70-acre site, and the majority of the 560 workers who will pursue welding and fabrication work there also will enjoy 72-degree comfort year-round. That’s an uncommon amenity in traditional pipe fabrication, and the project pushes the innovation envelope throughout its operations.

The $45.3 million complex features advanced robotic equipment and cloud-based software systems that drive documentation of all fabrication, administration and distribution steps, leading to a single, efficient, paperless manufacturing process.

Technology also lies at the heart of product innovation in Louisiana. Honeywell has invested nearly $1 billion in Louisiana manufacturing sites in the past five years, with $300 million dedicated to producing a breakthrough automotive refrigerant — Solstice® HFO-1234yf. Already adopted in more than 40 million vehicles, the Solstice refrigerant is patented by Honeywell and produced at the company’s Geismar, Louisiana, Performance Materials and Technologies complex, where 305 of the company’s 816 Louisiana professionals work.

Photo Caption: In Ruston, students in Louisiana Tech University’s annual Cyber Storm competition duel in cyberspace during a daylong competition that serves as their final exam. The university created the nation’s first four-year cyber engineering degree and is a major contributor to Louisiana’s 1-20 Cyber Corridor and National Cyber Research Park.

“This has resulted in a central hub in Louisiana to manufacture our full portfolio of Solstice products,” said President and CEO Rajeev Gautam of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “Honeywell has invested nearly $1 billion in R&D and manufacturing capacity to bring next-generation air conditioning, refrigeration, aerosol and foam insulation products to consumers around the world.” 

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Photo Credits: Louisiana Economic Development

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