BRAC releases list of targeted industries, foreign investors

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber revealed Thursday five targeted industries where it plans to concentrate its economic development efforts over the next few years.

The chamber also is targeting several countries, where it will seek foreign investment in the industries targeted for the local area.

The targeted industries, which were identified by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a commercial real estate consulting firm, as representing the best current and long-term growth opportunities are: chemicals and new energy production; fabricated structural materials; software design for enterprise, industrial and gaming applications; technical research and consulting in architecture and engineering, human resources, management and environmental services; and advanced shared services or satellite offices that provide back-office support services to companies’ headquarters.

In addition, three other sectors were identified as emerging opportunities, which could pay off down the line: health care; emerging fuels; and film production and entertainment services.

This designation means BRAC should look at actions that would enhance the local prospects of the industries, such as supporting Pennington Biomedical Research Center, keeping film tax credits competitive with other states and being nimble to all types of emerging energy sources.

The last time BRAC identified target industry sectors was in 2006. But significant changes have taken place over the past six years, such as the easy access to ample supplies of cheap natural gas, the national recession and Louisiana Economic Development’s “blue ocean” strategy, which calls for establishing footholds in industries that other states haven’t cornered, such as digital media, the report said.

“In 2006, the petrochemical industry wasn’t even listed as a target industry,” said Adam Knapp, BRAC president and chief executive officer.

Knapp said BRAC chose Newmark Grubb Knight Frank to conduct the survey because the company has extensive experience in helping companies select sites for new plants and offices. That gave it a different perspective over economic development firms, since the company knows what factors influence industry decision-making.

The report said the countries that are the most active in originating projects in the five target industries are the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. Japan also was mentioned as another country for seeking foreign investment.

Knapp and Iain Vasey, the organization’s executive director of business development, said cities similar in size to the Capital Region have identified markets for foreign direct investment, which led to the section being added to the report. This will work along with LED’s ongoing efforts to market Louisiana products for foreign export.

BRAC officials said this report will guide all aspects of their search for new business prospects in the nine-parish region, from developing marketing materials to pushing for policy changes.

“While we will continue to work with businesses in all sectors that are interested in the Baton Rouge area, this strategy will focus our outreach efforts on those industry sectors that offer exciting opportunities and will diversify the region’s economy,” Knapp said in a statement.