Our Views: Good prospect for our 2014

By a quirk of the calendar, with Christmas and New Year’s on Wednesdays, and an LSU bowl game and the Saints in the playoffs, there have been plenty of distractions over the last two weeks — enough so that we can almost say that Monday is the real beginning of the 2014 year at work for most of us, at least mentally.

But now that Monday looms and the workaday calendar resumes, it’s great that the outlook for Louisiana is positive on the economic front.

The growth in new companies and, importantly, company expansions in Louisiana has been tremendous in 2013, partly fueled by the expansion of the petrochemical sector that is literally fueled by cheap natural gas.

But that hasn’t been all, and we can look to new opportunities for Louisiana workers in this new year.

From the growth in the tech sector in the state, from Shreveport to Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Louisiana is attaining a greater diversity of its economic base.

Despite the big IBM announcement of a new center in downtown Baton Rouge, the skeptics might note that the tech sector is not near the largest employer in Louisiana.

But it’s certainly fast-growing, and big-names like GE in New Orleans and IBM in Baton Rouge may have caused a second or third look at Louisiana by tech companies.

By some measures, the economic and tax questions on surveys of site-location experts, Louisiana is now in the top 10 among the states.

Stephen Moret, head of Louisiana’s economic development office, can rattle off a long list of accolades for the low-tax environment and effective workforce programs for plants that relocate to the state.

All is not perfect, of course, as personal income statistics are up in Louisiana, though the rate of increase at 24th is about in the middle of the pack in the states. And as worthy are the observations of the economic development magazines, the dreadful statistics about children in poverty, poor education levels, cutbacks in higher education spending are not so promising. Those are key challenges for 2014.

Parts of Louisiana, rural and urban, are as poor as just about anywhere in the United States.

Still, as Moret noted, there have been economic successes for each corner of the state, including aircraft repair (Lake Charles) and assembly (Lafayette) and other manufacturing expansions in cities north and south.

We recognize the challenges ahead, but here’s one Moret prediction we like and hope to see fulfilled: “In 2014, Louisiana will be well positioned to secure a healthy share of new business investment projects in the U.S. Moreover, Louisiana’s economy will experience significant job growth from projects announced in 2008 through 2013 that have not yet fully ramped up.”

For the economy, we’re optimistic, too.