Legislature approves IBM incentive

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, left, and State Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, listen to debate Wednesday of a state  incentive package for IBM to locate a facility in downtown Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, left, and State Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, listen to debate Wednesday of a state incentive package for IBM to locate a facility in downtown Baton Rouge.

Legislators approved $8 million in state spending Wednesday for an IBM software development center at the former site of The Advocate on Lafayette Street in downtown Baton Rouge.

“This is one of the most exciting projects that we’ve been able to secure,” state Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

The project includes a $55 million riverfront office-residential complex in downtown Baton Rouge.

Part of the incentive package that the Jindal administration offered IBM is money from an economic development megafund. The committee approved an initial $8 million payment Wednesday.

The money will be spent on land acquisition, temporary office space and workforce costs. The workforce costs include personnel training, relocation costs, maintenance utilities and printing expenses.

State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, voiced concerns over IBM fulfilling its end of the business deal.

The development calls for an 11-story residential tower, with 95 apartments and nine luxury townhomes.

“Since this is going to be built in my district, I want to make sure it’s going to stay there,” Smith said.

Moret assured her that tough accountability standards are in place. If IBM fails to meet those standards, the company will have to reimburse the state, he said.

The project will receive funding from the state through the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2031. The funding consists of up to $23 million in megafund dollars, $34.1 million in state general fund money, $16.9 million in unspent hurricane recovery funding and $4.5 million from the city/parish of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The development is expected to create 800 new jobs, 542 new indirect jobs and 600 construction jobs.

Moret said Louisiana was chosen from a 12-state pool of prospects.

He predicted the project will provide a significant return on the state’s investment. He said it will continue the momentum for downtown revitalization.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, suggested the development could result in a parking problem in downtown Baton Rouge, which he said might not be a bad thing if it stems from too many business and residential projects.

Moret said there is a dramatic amount of unused parking capacity in two state parking garages downtown.