Acadiana Business

NYT: Look to Louisiana for a sneak peak of Romney's jobs plan

by Heather Miller

NPR's Money Talks' founder Adam Davidson, in a piece published on The New York Times' website, compares Jindal's corporate government strategy to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney's national plan for job growth. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney hasn't laid out specifics yet on his plan to grow the economy and improve the unemployment rate, but a New York Times piece by NPR's "Money Talks" founder Adam Davidson says Gov. Bobby Jindal's corporate governance of Louisiana is likely a close model for Romney's national plan.

Davidson, in an attempt to analyze Romney's economic platform, writes that business savvy CEOs often rely on laying off workers amid economic downturn, a trend that for Davidson begs an important question: "How do you apply business strategy to a jobs crisis?"

As it turns out, Davidson was told to turn to the economic policies of Jindal and the Bayou State for his answer:
When I put this question to business analysts, several pointed me in the direction of Louisiana, which has applied a number of Romney's principles. Its governor, Bobby Jindal, is a former McKinsey & Company consultant who has focused on making his state more attractive to businesses. Since taking office in 2009, Jindal helped cut antiquated taxes (like those on certain factory machines) and streamlined regulatory burdens (like lengthy permit processes). He and Stephen Moret, his secretary of economic development (and another former McKinsey guy), have also used state tax incentives in creative ways. A few years ago there were virtually no video-game designers in Louisiana; today, digital media is on pace to make up 5 percent of the state's economy. In 2011, according to Southern Business Development magazine, Louisiana attracted more new business-development projects per capita than any other state in the South. Its unemployment tracks below the national average, too. Romney would presumably be encouraged by the comparison.

Regardless of whether this growth was achieved by a federal infusion [of Katrina recovery money] or conservative policies (or a combination of both), it is not necessarily clear that it has even worked on a statewide level. Many of Jindal and Moret's highest profile projects focus on specialized industries, like pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and digital media, which offer a disproportionate number of jobs to already in-demand workers in gentrified urban areas. The median wage for a software developer is more than $90,000 a year, and new jobs are expected to grow at more than double the national average and nearly four times the state's average income. Moret was eager to point out one recent success story - a new G.E. software office in New Orleans. The facility, however, will largely employ computer engineers, software developers and other information-technology professionals. It's unlikely to have much of an impact on the city's poorer residents.

Moret contends that growth, no matter where it starts in the economy, will eventually effect everyone. "If we're able to grow faster," he said, "you can have a surplus of tax revenue, without raising tax rates, that you can invest in education." But when I pressed him on how job growth among programmers in Baton Rouge or engineers in the Garden District would enhance the lives of the chronically unemployed in the Lower Ninth Ward, Moret said, "We're not there yet." The state has successfully recruited some manufacturing and call-center businesses that employ high-school graduates, he said. These jobs, however, are unlikely to reach Louisiana's truly poor. "We haven't done well enough to see the reduction in poverty we're looking for," he said.
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