La. digital center blends education, business

The Louisiana Digital Media Center on LSU’s campus is a mutually beneficial blend of education and business in computer technology and research, officials said Monday.

Construction began in 2011, and the building houses both the LSU Center of Computation and Technology and video game giant Electronic Arts Inc.’s North American Test Center.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and other education, government and business leaders spoke Monday at a dedication of the $29.3 million, 94,000-square-foot facility.

The Center of Computation and Technology occupies 50,000 square feet of the building, and EA’s test center uses another 30,000 square feet, Jindal noted.

Although EA officials initially planned to bring in 220 employees, its number of full-time and part-time employees in Baton Rouge has grown to 400 and is expected to range to as many as 600 in the future, the governor said.

Jindal added EA’s payroll at its campus testing center is more than the $5.7 million the company promised to deliver.

“EA has underpromised and overdelivered,” the governor said.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, Stephen Moret, later noted EA’s 2012 test center payroll totaled $6.8 million.

The test center’s 2013 payroll has not yet been reported, but Moret said company officials anticipate that it was larger than the 2012 total.

“It takes a village to make a game,” said Bryan Neider, EA’s senior vice president of global operations and shared services. “Our team at the North American Test Center … plays a vital role in the game development process, and we look forward to being a part of the Baton Rouge community for many years to come.”

EA is perhaps best known for its sports division’s Madden NFL football franchise.

“Thanks again to the state of Louisiana for putting together what is absolutely a world-class facility,” Neider said.

“This facility is quite phenomenal,” LSU’s Alexander said of the digital media center. “We hope it has worldwide impact.”

Jindal added: “Not long ago, jobs in the digital media sector were scarce in Louisiana. If students wanted to pursue careers in digital media and software, they would have to look outside our state — in California, Washington, Texas, Florida or Massachusetts. Now, people can stay here in Louisiana to pursue the career of their dreams and raise their family at home.”

The digital media center increases the hope that top LSU graduates will find fulfilling jobs in Louisiana instead of other states, according to William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden.

Several supercomputers now serve the CCT, added its former director, Stephen Beck, who now heads the university’s School of Music.

The center aids students and researchers in the fields of art, technology and engineering, Beck noted. And he said the center already helps to solve “large-scale, complex, computational problems.”

Added Beck: “Art and technology are not mutually exclusive.”

Center officials already are working to connect with other research centers across the region, the nation and the world, he said, adding he had hoped to someday see such positive collaborations.

“That someday is today,” Beck said. “This is a great day.”

“Big data analytics is a very significant component of research in the astronomical sciences, engineering design, advanced materials research and biomedical fields,” said K.T. Valsaraj, LSU’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.

Valsaraj said LSU students already are benefiting from CCT’s research efforts.

“We are creating degree programs in these areas,” Valsaraj said. “Jobs in these areas are available in many quarters, such as industry, government and academia.”

Added Valsaraj: “CCT helps in cutting-edge research of all types.”