DENHAM SPRINGS — The announcement Wednesday of a new warehouse distribution center south of Livingston was the third in a string of economic developments this year that promises to bring a total of $110 million in capital investment and 850 jobs to the parish.
Those numbers represent “one hell of an impact for a community of this size,” Michael Olivier, CEO of the Louisiana Committee of 100 for Economic Development, said Thursday during a monthly meeting of the Livingston Economic Development Council.
Olivier, who served as secretary of economic development for former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, described Livingston as a dynamic parish growing faster than perhaps its infrastructure can expand.
Olivier said infrastructure is a common cry across the state as the Legislature wrangles year after year with systemic budget problems that he said can be solved only through tax and spending reforms.
A fiscal reform study in the works aims to provide gubernatorial candidates and legislators — 30 percent of whom will be new next session — with ideas on what shape those reforms might take, Olivier said.
The study, expected to be rolled out in about 45 days, is a collaborative effort of the Committee of 100, LSU Public Administration Institute, Public Affairs Research Council, Council for a Better Louisiana, Louisiana Budget Project and the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, he said.
“True tax reform will require long-term commitment,” Olivier said. “The fix is going to require multiple years. It’s not going to happen in one (legislative) session.”
Olivier also spoke about the need for better alignment between the education system and the job market, noting that 60 percent of available jobs require literacy in science, technology, engineering and math — skills many applicants don’t have.
“Louisiana is going to need about 98,000 employees working in the STEM fields by 2018,” Olivier said. “We have less than 100,000 high school graduates a year. I don’t think we can fill up this pipeline fast enough.”
Livingston Parish officials hope to help bridge that skills gap by welcoming a new campus for Northshore Technical Community College in Walker in 2017.
Larry Collins, LEDC’s newly installed president and CEO, said that $6 million project requires a 12 percent local match — a goal the parish is only about $65,000 shy of reaching.
Other goals for LEDC this year include doubling the number of available sites the organization can show businesses looking to potentially move to Livingston by the end of 2015, then doubling that number again by the end of 2016, Collins said.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.