Letter: Positive signs in Louisiana

We hear a lot about what’s wrong with Louisiana.

Some of the statistics that rank us behind most states in key areas of well-being are disheartening and need our attention. But it’s time to look at what’s right with our state because there is much to report — especially on the economic front.

For instance, recent rankings point to Louisiana as an emerging economic leader. This year, Chief Executive magazine ranked Louisiana No. 9 on a list of “Best & Worst States for Business.” Louisiana showed the greatest improvement of any state in the U.S. over the past four years, jumping 31 positions from 40th in 2010 to cracking the top 10 list.

That’s not all. Site Selection, a national economic development magazine, ranked the top 10 economic development groups in America for 2013. Again, Louisiana was a big winner with three of the top 10 groups calling the state home: the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Greater New Orleans Inc. and Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. These groups are fueling the kind of economic growth that creates pride, jobs and investment here in Louisiana.

The stats reported in Site Selection should make businesses and citizens do a collective high-five. For example, the Baton Rouge area in 2013 attracted $7.32 billion in capital projects and created 4,738 jobs. The Greater New Orleans economy was boosted by a reported $3.6 billion in capital investments and 577 new jobs last year. And best of all, southwest Louisiana secured a whopping $10.65 billion in announced projects, with 817 permanent jobs (and not counting thousands of construction jobs expected in the next decade).

We owe these wins to the scores of hardworking economic development professionals in both the public and private sectors. And we owe a thank you to all of the political leaders who are making economic growth a priority in Louisiana.

Economic growth is an academic term, but it is more meaningful when translated into truths such as: new graduates finding work here, our children moving back home for exciting job opportunities, businesses expanding and offering benefits to employees because they are prospering. In the end, jobs bring growth, but they expand more than pocketbooks. Jobs help build better lives, they build community, and they expand one’s dignity and pride.

And at a time when much of the nation is still struggling with joblessness, Louisiana is one of only 16 states in the U.S. with more jobs today than in 2008. As a Louisianian, I couldn’t be prouder to call this state my home. Louisiana will always rank No. 1 on my list.

Mike Reitz

president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana

Baton Rouge