Moret: State needs diverse job opportunities, sustained growth

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Industrial projects like Sasol’s

estimated $21 billion expansion at its Westlake facility will benefit

the state’s economy,

but Louisiana really needs diverse job opportunities and sustained

economic growth to compete on a national level, state Economic

Development Secretary Stephen Moret said Monday.

“We have so far to go to catch up with the kind of economic opportunities that are available in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta,”

Moret told the American Press’ editorial board. “That will be true even four years from now when things are booming and business is going to be screaming (that) they can’t

find enough good workers.”

Moret said Louisiana needs to produce

about 40,000 new jobs per year to compete with Texas and other states.

The anticipated

construction and permanent jobs from Sasol and other similar

projects in Southwest Louisiana “is not enough by itself,” even

in the short term, he said.

“As big as that (industrial boom) is, the absolute best case scenario is you get maybe one year worth of the long run average

rate that we need,” Moret said. “What’s coming with these big industrial projects is a great blessing and a great boost to

help us down that path, but it does not solve that problem.”

Moret said the state’s low business tax rate and quality workforce development program puts it in a good position to benefit

from economic opportunities.

“It’s really this historic convergence between preparation, hard work and good fortune,” he said. “We’ve got all these different

pieces that have put us in an extremely competitive position for those types of projects. But as exciting as those things

are, I think we should aspire for more.”

Tim Barfield, executive counsel for the state Department of Revenue, said Louisiana could benefit from projects similar to

the IBM facility that is planned for downtown Baton Rouge. It is expected to bring in 800 new permanent jobs.

Moret said the state should make sure

there are enough skilled workers to fill any open positions once the

projects are completed.

“A lot of the skilled craft positions are in permanent positions at the plants,” he said. “The construction projects are also

going to be competing with permanent employment as well.”