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Believe in Louisiana?

I certainly do. Before I get on my soapbox, I want to acknowledge how blessed I am to be in Louisiana. My firm is supported and hired by some of the most amazing clients and businesses. A good majority of our business comes from Louisiana companies. Thank you. I would not be where I am nor have what I have without them. Just about every person ever employed at my company is homegrown and Louisiana-educated. I am a transplant from New York but have been here so long I now say I am from Louisiana.

There are many Louisiana executives, politicians and bureaucrats who believe in Louisiana as a place to do business. They demonstrate their commitment in very big ways. This is not about them.

One of my frequent comments is, "I am a lot saner when I pay attention to what people do, instead of what they say."
Why is it that some Louisiana companies, politicians, and bureaucrats who profess to be all Louisiana all of the time use our tax dollars to pay businesses outside of Louisiana to do the work that could be done by many of the competent companies in this state?

Last summer a Louisiana business (fabulous one by the way) received nearly $20 million in tax incentives for job creation. The first good contract it had in the creative industry was awarded to an out-of-state firm. Don't they get it? They just paid someone else to create jobs elsewhere in an industry that exists here. They just told the taxpayers that no one in Louisiana was good enough to do that job.

My colleagues throughout this state amaze me at what they can do technically, creatively and strategically. Why not hire one of them?
We have a self-esteem problem here. If we don't believe the talent and resources exist here, how can we expect anyone else or any other business to expect they do?

I am not so provincial as to say it all exists here. Lots of out-of-state businesses hire my firm. As a matter of disclosure, I co-own a manufacturing company based in Kentucky and Indiana - only because that is the only place outside of Europe we can manufacture what we make. (By the way, we did it with private capital, not taxpayers' money.)

All too frequently, the state, economic developers, Louisiana politicians and businesses recruit and pay outside consultants to put on educational seminars, create strategic initiatives, do the work (remember the 1012 Corridor gig?) and ask us to pay for it with our checkbook and attendance.

I love learning. I would love to learn from some of my many competent and skilled colleagues in my own state. I often look at what they do and say, "I wish my firm could do that."

I have a hard time believing that not one person or company could fulfill a number of IT, digital, strategic marketing, media and creative jobs that are let out of state every year. How are we going to pay competitive salaries if the best accounts and work in our industry are sent out of state? How are we going to provide an opportunity for today's students to work in Louisiana?

On more than one occasion I have been told that no creative company in this state is good enough to do the work. I have even been asked to recommend a Baton Rouge company because they "had" to use a Louisiana firm, but really preferred a Texas company. Say what?

Our politicians brought in Google, promoted it and sent business to it. When my staff tried to register for the event, they were told there was no room at the inn or for them.

Just last week all of the creative agencies and other businesses in town were invited to attend a Social Media Marketing seminar hosted at LEDA. Great. Well, not so great - it was an out-of-state firm. Don't they realize when they do that they are encouraging businesses to use them and not us?

The Chamber of Commerce here promotes special discounts from Office Depot - why not a locally owned office supply business? In the words of a local office supply business owner, "I thought the chamber was here to support local business." This just illustrates it is not limited to the creative and media industry.

Believe in us. Use us. Pay us. We'll create more jobs than you know what do with and we'll keep your children home.
All this talk about the creative class in Louisiana ... put your money where your mouth is.

Got business? Check out some of my colleagues:

Julie Calzone is president and CEO of Calzone & Associates, an advertising, marketing and PR firm based in Lafayette. To comment on this column, reach her at [email protected].