From Cleveland to Baton Rouge might not be the traditional path for medical and academic superstars, but it’s working that way right now — and the movement is demonstrating to the entire state of Louisiana how economic development should be done.
A new multimillion-dollar bariatric surgery program spearheaded by the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center will not just help curb obesity rates in Louisiana but attract patients from across the state and potentially the country to participate in clinical trials and boost the local economy.
While it’s good for the capital city, we see Pennington’s initiatives as important to the entire state. Louisiana has a business reputation based on oil and gas, both in development and in petrochemical manufacturing.
Both are, despite the mental images of hard hats and drilling rigs, high-tech industries. They are just as important a part of Louisiana’s future as they have been in its past. We welcome more investment from this sector.
But at the same time, what are we doing to diversify our economy? It’s an age-old concern, underlined more recently by the impact in Acadiana and the oil-patch parishes of Louisiana during the slump in oil prices that occurred a few years ago.
On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards launched two steps toward a more diversified economy, in Ruston at Louisiana Tech University as well as at Pennington. An expansion of the research campus near Tech neatly bookended the state.
As Edwards is seeking reelection, it’s not surprising that he wants to draw attention to higher-education gains, directly related to his efforts to balance the state budget in four years in office.
Edwards’ work for higher education has paid off, supporting technology companies like IBM in the capital, CGI in Lafayette or DXC in New Orleans. And for all the importance of technology companies, one of the proven drivers of economic development is university research.
That’s why the stars from the Cleveland Clinic are important.
The international prestige of Pennington has been based on such prominent academics as George Bray and Claude Bouchard, but now it is getting a further boost from the relatively new director, John Kirwan, formerly of the renowned Cleveland Clinic.
Phil Schauer, former director of the clinic’s bariatric institute, will head the new initiative at Pennington. It’s a partnership involving Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and LSU Health New Orleans. Key backing came from state economic development funding.
That’s the kind of investment we’d like to see more of. Louisiana is doing economic development right with this kind of initiative and state leaders need to put up the money to make it more successful.