Secretary of Economic Development Don Pierson took his turn in front of an Appropriations Subcommittee on Business Development Tuesday. He says while some areas in Louisiana are seeing economic growth, that’s not the case across the state.
“Today in the Capitol Region here in Baton Rouge and beyond, you’re employing more people than ever in history. The same thing is true in Lake Charles,” says Pierson.
Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds asked how effective incentives were in creating more jobs in Louisiana.
According to Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that tracks state subsidies, the state awarded nearly $17 billion in incentives and subsidies to businesses from 2008 to 2016. The projected number of jobs created as a result was just over 130,000.
Secretary Pierson says he looks at those incentives as an investment.
“I fight this dragon everyday. It’s an imaginary dragon, but it’s in the minds of people that they believe there’s corporate welfare out there," but instead, says Pierson, "we make the state a partner in a venture and we demand a return on that investment.”
Echoing debates had in the most recent special session, New Orleans Representative Gary Carter asked about job vacancies within the Department, of which there are currently nine.
“I want to increase investment in the state and if you’re not filling critical positions to do the job, that’s a concern I have," notes Carter.
Pierson says the Department understands "there is tremendous fiscal challenges, that money that you allocate to us is money you can't allocate to education, TOPS, to the healthcare system. But we feel like we grow the pie.”
As of February, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is the fourth highest in the nation, just below six percent.