Recent reports rank Louisiana 37th in the nation for economic growth. Oil prices and the loss of 1,200 jobs in a year leaves our state struggling with deficits requiring tax measures and budget cuts.

Amid this dismal news, we must embrace the bright spots that show there are companies bullish about the state and our prospects for long-term growth.

Lake Charles has been hailed for its economic renaissance with half of the billions of dollars of announced projects because of the natural gas phenomenon, but there is another $3.5 billion investment in the central part of the state that begs attention. In late 2014, a group of investors announced their planned transaction with Cleco Corp., an 80-year-old, investor-owned electric utility based in Pineville.

The group, led by Macquarie, are long-term infrastructure investors and giants in their own right. From utility companies to airports to water systems, these investors look for stable, safe and long-term investments. They are among the biggest and best in the world.

Having Macquarie, British Columbia Investment Management Corp. and John Hancock invest in Louisiana can only be a positive for our state. These are investors with access to capital, the ability to execute and a belief that our state is worth a long-term investment.

Macquarie believes in the value of Cleco and Louisiana’s potential. They are making a premium investment for shareholders and making economic development commitments that will put millions of dollars in the Louisiana economy — $15 million, in fact, in the form of an economic development grant ,if this transaction is approved.

These investors are bulls on Louisiana’s economy, moving forward when so many people in our state are just trying to stay afloat. This confidence in Louisiana is further demonstrated by the $100,000,000 of customer rate credits that will be an immediate economic development boost for our communities.

How do we improve our rank as a state from number 37 in growth? By recognizing that deals like the Macquarie/Cleco transaction is an opportunity not only for a small, well-run electric utility, but also as an economic opportunity for our state.

Like Macquarie, I’m bullish about Louisiana’s future, and I welcome them and their fellow investors as partners in our state’s growth. This investment will reinforce that Louisiana is a good place for business.

Michael Olivier

former secretary, Louisiana Economic Development

Baton Rouge