By: Stephen Waguespack
Each year at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, we recognize some of the outstanding work by businesses, policymakers and other partners making progress in our state. Time and time again, Louisiana businesses large and small step up to make local investments in our communities and create quality jobs for our people. Those efforts are vital to helping create the state we deserve, and we are proud to show our appreciation.
Next week at our annual Free Enterprise Awards ceremony in Baton Rouge, LABI will highlight an impressive group of honorees whose contributions I’d like to share.
We award the honor of Free Enterprise Champions to individuals who demonstrate exemplary commitment and contributions to the state’s business climate and their local communities. Our Businessperson Honoree, J.H. “Jay” Campbell, Jr., former chair of Associated Grocers, has been an integral part of LABI for many years. But over the last three years, as the state has grappled with seemingly never-ending budget issues, Jay Campbell has been on the front line to serve and offer advice on tax policy that will grow the economy. Jay served on two bodies created by the Legislature to make suggestions for tax reform: The Sales Tax Streamlining and Modernization Commission and the HCR 11 Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy. Jay’s often tedious and time-consuming work on these committees and his dedication to the principles of free enterprise have paved the way to ensure that when a window opens for reform, Louisiana gets it right.
I’m particularly proud of our 2018 Young Businessperson Honorees: The Students of Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School. The school opened in 2016 as part of a network of Catholic schools nationwide that educate young people of limited economic means to become men and women of faith, purpose and service. Through a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, integrated with a relevant work-study experience, students graduate ready to succeed in college and life. Cristo Rey students earn a majority of their education cost through the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). They collectively earn approximately $1.2 million towards their tuition and work in over 16 different industries here in Baton Rouge, ranging from medical, finance, law, engineering, non-profit and everything in-between. Cristo Rey students work seven-hour days four days a month. They spent three weeks during their summer attending job training, and their school year runs August-June, longer than your average academic year. Louisiana needs this next generation of young leaders and this innovative education model.
LABI’s 2018 Company of the Year with more than 100 employees is ExxonMobil. As a charter member of LABI, we have had the honor of standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners at ExxonMobil for many years. Through annual multi-million dollar investments in their facilities and the more than 500 products manufactured at their Louisiana sites, ExxonMobil creates jobs, supports area businesses and significantly contributes to the state and local tax base. The ExxonMobil refinery is the largest manufacturing employer in the state and the chemical plant is the second largest. ExxonMobil provides more than 3,000 long-term jobs and employs thousands of contractor workers across the state. In fact, in Baton Rouge alone, one in every eight jobs can be traced back to ExxonMobil. Exxon’s ongoing investment in the workforce of tomorrow keeps Louisiana competitive and the economy moving.
Golfballs.com is the 2018 Company of the Year with fewer than 100 employees. As Louisiana’s first online retailer back in 1995, Golfballs.com initially sold used golf balls but has transitioned over the years into one of the leading golf Internet retailers. Golfballs.com employs nearly 100 Louisianans and has sold more than 5 million golf balls in all 50 states and 40 countries. Because of his experience creating his company from scratch, during a time when there was no playbook for online retail, President and CEO Tom Cox has been on a mission to grow Louisiana’s offerings to entrepreneurs and support for startup companies. Through service on various boards and entities, and an active role in the Opportunity Machine, a business incubator and accelerator in Lafayette that has been home to more than 30 startups, Tom is helping others find the tools they need to succeed.
Entergy Louisiana LLC is our 2018 Manufacturer of the Year with more than 100 employees. This Fortune 500 company has helped create 23,000 new jobs in Louisiana since 2005. Entergy Louisiana is committed to creating and sustaining healthy, vibrant communities and that is seen daily in their community outreach. Whether it’s through investments to create jobs and spur community growth, donating to law enforcement agencies to protect officers and residents, supporting the arts and beautifying urban spaces, or aiding local food pantries to alleviate hunger — Entergy gives back year-round to the communities it serves. We thank them for their consistent commitment to improving lives in Louisiana.
Our 2018 Manufacturer of the Year with fewer than 100 employees is Eastman Chemical Company. Eastman Chemical is a global advanced materials and specialty additives company producing a broad range of products found in items we use every day. Eastman’s commitment to the community and to creating a safe work environment for their employees is where this company truly shines. Eastman is an active supporter of Industry Neighbor Companies where they provide Iberville schools with supplies and support an “adopt a family” program. The company also organized teams of volunteers in response to the Great Flood of 2016. They also partner with River Parishes Community College to support the Introduction to Process Technology Program to prepare local students for plant jobs, offering scholarships to many who choose to pursue that career path.
The Workforce Innovator of the Year Award goes to SOWELA Technical Community College, an institution educating the region’s workforce since 1940 when it first opened its doors to students. With the billions of dollars of industrial expansions in Southwest Louisiana, many industrial crafts are in high demand. SOWELA’s workforce development programs and partnerships with major LABI members like CITGO, Shell and Sasol represents vision and leadership, seizing a rare opportunity for Louisiana’s talented workforce. From providing scholarship funding to training and modern equipment used in the field, the public-private partnerships at SOWELA ensure every program on campus is directly tied to a job opportunity in the students’ community. All of this helps to make certain that our workforce is benefitting from the job growth economic development provides.
Economic Development Partner of the Year Award recognizes exceptional leadership by an economic development or business organization. Todd Murphy and his team at the Jefferson Chamber has been one of our strongest local partners going back two decades. Over the past year, the Jefferson Chamber partnered with LABI to fight for critical issues not only in Jefferson Parish but across the state – fighting together for common-sense reforms that would reduce car insurance rates, promote innovative companies such as Uber and Lyft, and call for comprehensive reform in a constitutional convention. The Jefferson Chamber is also actively taking the lead in early childhood education as part of the Ready Louisiana Coalition, working to provide children with a foundation for success.
Finally, The Ed Steimel Achievement Award honors long-standing membership and service to LABI and recognizes individuals who have committed extraordinary time and effort to improve the quality of life in Louisiana. This year we posthumously honor Stephen “Steve” Stumpf, our former Chairman of the Board at LABI. Like Steimel, Steve was a respected business leader and beloved philanthropist – and his passing was an incredible loss to Louisiana. Steve owned and operated a variety of companies in the New Orleans Region, most recently serving as the former CEO and Chairman of Durr Heavy Construction. But his impact was felt far beyond the construction industry. Known for having a strong moral compass and big heart, he was deeply committed to his family, his faith, his friends, his employees and the community. He was passionate about helping others and worked to provide individuals access to value-based resources that improve their mind, body and spirit.
In conjunction with the Free Enterprise Awards, LABI will also honor those legislators recognized in the 2018 LABI Legislative Scorecard as “Most Valuable Policymakers” (MVPs), All-Stars and Honorable Mentions. The 2018 Scorecard was released in August and can be found online at https://labi.org/assets/images/2018-Scorecard.pdf.
Once again, we want to thank all of the 2018 award recipients for their service to Louisiana. We hope that by recognizing them, we can not only publicly acknowledge the critical role they play in our communities, but also use their examples to inspire others in our state to take action as well.