Nathan Stubbs

LITE takes budget hit, lays off five

by Nathan Stubbs

The Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise laid off five employees yesterday, drastic measures taken as a result of stringent budget cuts coming down from the state. LITE CEO Henry Florsheim says the LITE board was informed by UL Lafayette last week that its state revenues were being cut by 10 percent, or just over $300,000 annually. Just under 75 percent of LITE's revenue comes from the state, via UL.

It appears LITE is the latest victim of deep higher ed budget cuts coming down from the state. UL is currently grappling with a mid-year $4.61 million budget reduction, the third round of cuts since January 2009, totaling a decrease of 17.48 percent or $16.45 million.

"It was absolutely harsher than we expected," says Florsheim, who acknowledges that LITE knew a cut was possible. "We hoped that we wouldn't have a cut forced on us," he adds, "because of all the progress we've made and the projects that we've been involved with in the last year and the companies we've recruited to Lafayette. But the university's stance is that they're protecting their core services."

Florsheim says the layoffs included artists and business development and events staff at LITE. In addition, he says the center has cut its expense budget for travel, business development and building maintenance. The budget cuts also mean lights-out for the flashing light show that has been a staple of the glass egg outside the building each night. "If I'm having to lay off employees, we're not going to be doing that," Florsheim says. For now, he says the grim budget realities mean LITE will have to redouble its efforts to restore funding through the private sector.

"At this point, nobody knows what's going to happen with the state budget next year," Florsheim notes. "So our job is to develop as many projects as we can that generate revenue for LITE and to continue to work with companies like Pixel Magic that can add economic impact to the state so we can justify the state putting money back into LITE."