BRAC Public Policy Positions
BRAC is dedicated to fostering a strong, growing economy throughout the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area by serving as the primary advocate and change agent for the region’s business community. A region’s competitiveness determines its attractiveness as a place to do business and its ability to attract and retain firms and talent. Business and talent attraction and retention ultimately boost personal income and improve the quality of life for its residents. To that end, through research and advocacy, BRAC addresses high-priority competitiveness factors across a variety of public policy areas, such as education, transportation, talent, small business, entrepreneurship, health care and other issues that drive businesses in their decisions to invest in the Capital Region for their growth.
Here, BRAC outlines the organization’s public policy positions, organized according to topic.
Transportation & Infrastructure
Consensus transportation planning
Support collaboration toward the creation of a comprehensive regional mobility plan
In order for the region to receive equitable infrastructure investment commensurate with its needs, the new governor and the Capital Region Legislative Delegation must work cooperatively with local and regional officials, including the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), to form a consensus plan that identifies regionally significant projects through a data-driven analysis prioritizing greatest mobility improvement for the dollar.
Support multimodal strategies that give citizens greater transportation options
The region’s congestion problems are not limited to major thoroughfares but impact surface streets as well. A long-term plan must also include strategies that increase transportation options, including improved street connectivity and multimodal alternatives to automobile travel.
Relieve the “I-10 bottleneck”
Push accelerated action to improve mobility at this regional choke point
Louisiana economist Loren Scott, Ph.D., has characterized the corridor between La. 415, the Mississippi River Bridge and the split as I-10’s biggest bottleneck in the country. Congestion near the bridge impacts citizens and businesses across the state and region, and will require state and regional support to address it. DOTD is currently conducting a major corridor improvement study — both the study and the construction schedule should be accelerated for completion in the next four years.
New river crossing
Support an additional major alternative route through the region
Improvements to the I-10 corridor will provide meaningful traffic relief, but it alone cannot fix the Capital Region’s crippling congestion problem. For decades, a number of alternative routes have been proposed and studied. Using data-driven analysis, state and regional leaders must form a consensus and deliver funding toward the best and most feasible solution for congestion relief within the next four years.
Support comprehensive, fiscally responsible funding strategy to implement the regional plan
Just as a regional mobility plan requires a comprehensive approach, funding its components will require multiple strategies — including increased efficiencies and additional transportation revenue — to achieve a level of investment sufficient to meet the region’s backlog and capacity needs, improve safety and quality of life, and sustain economic growth.
IBM Smarter Cities Challenge
Monitor implementation of the IBM report recommendations
Through BRAC’s efforts, in 2014 Baton Rouge was awarded an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant that brought experts from around the world to focus on the Baton Rouge Area’s transportation and infrastructure policies, procedures and processes. By monitoring and advocating for smart solutions, BRAC will promote the development of a shared, openly accessible, current data set and repository for the region’s transportation system. BRAC also supports the development of a common project prioritization plan to secure an increase in federal and state funding for transportation infrastructure.
Public transit operations
Support the implementation of the transit reforms articulated by the Blue Ribbon Commission on East Baton Rouge Mass Transit through contracted management to improve performance of transit operations in the Capital Region
Congestion in the Capital Region continues to frustrate motorists, creating delays and safety concerns. Access to a high-quality mass transit system offers a multimodal alternative to traditional vehicle travel and works to improve the quality of the environment and congestion by reducing the number of cars on the road. Support for the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) is part of an overall strategy to reduce system-wide congestion. EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden chartered a Blue Ribbon Commission on East Baton Rouge Mass Transit that established goals and a strategic plan for transit reforms. Much progress was made by CATS toward its implementation in 2014 when the new, expanded routes were rolled out; however, much still remains to be done. BRAC supports the ongoing outsourcing and contracting of CATS, and will continue to support the full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, transparency and accountability to the public regarding implementation, and improvement of transit operations.
Regional airport services
Support strategic investments in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR) including aggressive use of airline incentives to recruit new low-cost carrier services and air service to new destinations
Airports play a critically important role in a region’s economic vitality by providing efficient and effective air transport to and from other markets. Residents and businesses of the Baton Rouge Area would be best served over the next 25 years by making continued investments in BTR at its existing location and by aggressively leveraging airline incentives to recruit a new low-cost carrier service to the airport. This extremely cost-effective strategy is expected to result in substantially reduced ticket fares and increased airline service levels (including the number of destinations served by direct flights and the number of flights per day) for Baton Rouge Area travelers.
Intercity passenger rail
Actively pursue the development of intercity rail between the Baton Rouge Area and the Greater New Orleans region through a multiregion coalition
In today’s economic development climate, a regional mindset is critical. While regions within a state may have once competed with one another, today’s economic landscape values the development of super regions as regional communities unite to leverage each other’s assets. The development of a Baton Rouge-New Orleans rail would allow for increased economic and business development of much of south Louisiana, serve the tens of thousands of commuters who already travel that corridor, and provide a critical evacuation route for several of the state’s most vulnerable parishes. A plan for the line has been released by HNTB, showing that the project is a fiscally responsible way to better connect Louisiana’s two largest metro areas.
Department of Public Works reorganization
Support the reorganization of the East Baton Rouge DPW
In 2014 EBR voters passed an ordinance reorganizing the DPW into a decentralized, multidirector unit with independent departments, each with specific performance metrics. This is expected to allow the department to reliably perform its critical functions in a timely fashion and support economic growth in the Capital Region. Decentralized authority will eliminate the decision-making stalemates that impact the provision of public services and delay private developers. At the same time, quantifiable performance metrics will focus work on critical tasks and encourage continuous evaluation and refinement of processes.
Support the East Baton Rouge “Complete Streets” policy and implementation
Complete Streets — streets that accommodate all users, including pedestrians and bikers — are affordable, environmentally friendly options for all citizens traveling for work, school, shopping and recreational opportunities. Complete Streets yield numerous mobility and economic development benefits, and BRAC supports the implementation of EBR’s Complete Streets policy (adopted in 2014) across the agencies of parish government.
Transportation network systems
Support increasing transportation options and access through new technologies that incorporate reasonable regulatory requirements for passenger and vehicle safety
The availability of a variety of easily accessible transportation options and alternatives serves to stimulate economic activity by giving people reliable means of conducting business travel and patronizing places of commerce. In keeping with BRAC’s support for improved public transportation and “Complete Streets” policies, BRAC supports new technologies like Uber or ride-sharing services that allow people to connect through transportation network services to provide options for citizens traveling for work, school, shopping and recreational opportunities.
Mixed-use and traditional neighborhood developments
Support well-designed, mixed-use developments that create vibrant alternatives to traditional single-family home neighborhoods
Each Super Region Canvas Workshop trip taken by business leaders to another national market has shown that well-designed, mixed-use developments offer unique and attractive neighborhood options. When these projects are designed based upon smart growth principles such as walkability, BRAC supports the risk taken by development businesses to build these creative alternatives to traditional residential neighborhoods. They can be distinctive options to economic development prospects seeking unique housing and neighborhood alternatives for their employees.
Land development processes
Pursue consistent and fair approval processes in planning/zoning matters
With the recent surge of development in the Capital Region, there is increased need for streamlined and consistent rules in the permitting process for new projects. In addition, outside businesses looking to expand or relocate to our region are often deterred due to the perceptions of permitting complexity. Planning and zoning rules that are consistently applied will support fairness and integrity in development as our region continues to grow. In addition, timeliness and consistency will instill confidence in investors who are considering expanding or relocating to the Baton Rouge Area.
Monitor and support the execution of the EBR wastewater improvement program and offer options as necessary to ensure the success of the program
The wastewater system in EBR has severe environmental deficiencies and is in need of major upgrades. The city-parish has approved the wastewater improvement program to make these upgrades in a cost-effective manner, yet the program is still estimated to cost over $500 million to complete. An inadequate wastewater system can create roadblocks to new industrial and commercial growth in EBR and can make the parish less competitive in its efforts to attract and grow jobs in the region. An expedient, yet rigorous, effort to execute on the approved wastewater improvement program should remedy this situation.
Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY)
Support governance of and investments in MSY that allow the state’s only international airport to compete with neighboring peers
MSY is a key asset to the Baton Rouge Area’s economic competitiveness. The airport has suffered from a landlocked position and years of political arguments as a result of being owned by one parish and sitting primarily in another. The creation of the Southeast Regional Airport Authority is a beneficial first step in bringing all parties involved together to determine the best course of action to ensure that the state can compete with our peers by having a world-class international airport. Regional cooperation and a well-founded strategy are necessary to ensure that we maximize the potential of this key economic asset.
Expansion of customized workforce training programs
Support the work of local Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) campuses Baton Rouge Community College and River Parishes Community College to provide fee-for-service workforce development training for Capital Area businesses
BRAC supports the increased cooperation between the two Capital Region colleges to clear red tape and become more responsive to the unique needs of each business customer, and will help make connections between local businesses and the LCTCS campuses.
Regional career and technical education
Support the implementation of Jump Start throughout the Capital Area
Jump Start aligns K-12 districts, community and technical colleges, economic developers, and business and industry to ensure that students earning the career diploma are earning an industry-based credential that prepares them for high-growth, high-wage career pathways.
The Jump Start program is the Department of Education’s career and technical education initiative. Supported by work of the state’s Workforce Investment Council, local Workforce Development Boards are responsible for ensuring engagement of businesses in Jump Start implementation at the regional level, and providing information related to the workforce and the economy to area schools and districts.
Skilled workers for high-demand occupations
Support funding, marketing and legislation to address workforce shortages in high-wage, high-demand construction and manufacturing occupations
Louisiana has seen major industrial projects begin as a result of competitive economic development efforts and low natural gas prices. With billions of dollars of announced construction in the Baton Rouge Area, and tens of billions in south Louisiana overall, the state is facing a labor shortages of skilled workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors. BRAC will support efforts in the Baton Rouge Area and state to address these critical shortages and ensure the workforce pipeline reflects projected occupational demand.
Support development of the property in Mid-City Baton Rouge, known as Ardendale, into a workforce and career education center
The Baton Rouge Area has a unique opportunity to create a center for career education that unites PK-12 education for high school students, adult career education and the community college system. Ardendale, nearly 200 acres of contiguous property located near Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC), is home to a satellite campus of BRCC, and includes an automotive training center. The East Baton Rouge Parish School System has signed on to develop a career-focused high school program on the same site. BRAC will support development of the Ardendale property for world-class career education and training for high school students and adults.
Support initiatives to increase the career orientation of students’ school experiences
Citizens and experts agree that young people need to be informed of their future employment opportunities as well as the qualifications required for their chosen career goals, whether they involve postsecondary education or technical training. Districts across the Capital Region should replicate and expand successful programs that address this objective, including dual enrollment in high school and community/technical college courses. In addition, districts should ensure an adequate number of specialized career guidance counselors and a sufficient level of support and training for these professionals.
Targeted workforce solutions
Support the continuation and expansion of FastStart, the state’s custom workforce training solution for economic development projects
Louisiana’s nationally recognized workforce training program, FastStart, was developed to meet the workforce needs of state and regional economic development priority projects. This program offers a significant opportunity to address workforce demand for recruitment prospects as well as the training needs of existing Louisiana businesses. Regional economic development groups should market the FastStart program to existing business, while also incorporating its merits into their marketing and promotional activities. In addition, FastStart should partner with regional community and technical colleges to provide training for businesses that will keep those businesses competitive and enhance the offerings of the Baton Rouge Area’s two-year institutions.
Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Tech Award reforms
Support initiatives to increase utilization of the TOPS Tech award
The TOPS Tech Award offers scholarships to cover tuition and fees at any Louisiana Community and Technical College or Louisiana-approved proprietary and cosmetology school. Receipt of the Tech award requires a GPA of 2.5 and an ACT score of 17. Despite this, only a small percentage of all TOPS awards are used within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Additionally, TOPS awards are not usable for “non-credit credentials,” a term used to denote those paths of study which do not lead to the attainment of an academic degree (but may, for instance, lead to the attainment of a technical certificate). BRAC will support reforms that will increase use of the TOPS Tech Award and to allow TOPS Tech Awards to be used for career-oriented or certificate-oriented courses.
Regional workforce services
Nurture and develop regional cooperation for the delivery of demand-driven workforce services in the Baton Rouge Area and develop expertise for project- and sector-oriented strategies
The Baton Rouge Area is experiencing rapid growth and enjoying significant new capital investment. However, companies are facing significant challenges in their efforts to meet the new demands of the economy. In particular, attracting qualified employees is a top concern for many area businesses. Coordination of the two local workforce boards in the Capital Region, continued strong involvement from key business representatives, and a collaborative workforce assessment with the Louisiana Workforce Commission that identifies areas of market demand will lead to a much stronger regional workforce system.
Sector-based workforce solutions
Support efforts to develop an actionable sector strategy to help meet the workforce needs of employers in a given industry
In a changing business climate, many industries are actively working to find creative solutions for the obstacles their industries are facing. Often, individual companies can find more efficient solutions by working with similar organizations in the same industry sector. Creating a structure for this dialogue and subsequent implementation of proposed strategies will lead to innovative and efficient solutions that will benefit the region as a whole. BRAC supports efforts to align workforce strategies for each of the organization’s targeted and emerging industry sectors.
Job demand forecasting
Organize regional workforce demand data to better inform projections by the occupational forecasting conference and produce better data on workforce capacity and production
The Louisiana Workforce Commission’s occupational forecasting conference calls for regions to submit input on local and regional workforce needs. The forecast is then used to determine high-demand occupations and to direct state and federal funding to prioritize higher education programs based on the workforce demand forecast. Ensuring the forecast accurately represents current and future regional needs is essential to a properly functioning workforce delivery system in the region. BRAC will continue to release an annual report that analyzes projected occupational demand and workforce supply from local universities, LCTCS institutions, and other centers of education and training.
Local workforce boards
Encourage and support the region’s Workforce Investment Act Area (WIAA) to improve workforce services, target demand occupations and economic development priorities, leverage resources, and better establish regional cooperation
The Baton Rouge Area has a WIAA that is positioned to lead workforce solutions on behalf of the business community of the region. Regional economic development organizations around the country have leveraged their WIAAs to better meet local workforce challenges. The Baton Rouge Area WIAA can align behind cooperative efforts to address workforce needs. Furthermore, their business-led board members should increase the expected outcomes of these federally funded programs. BRAC supports efforts by the region’s WIAA to pursue best practices to become models in Louisiana and nationally.
Statewide workforce solution
Support continued implementation of the comprehensive reform of Louisiana’s workforce development systems to streamline training delivery based on market demands
Despite substantial recent advances in Louisiana’s community and technical college system, Louisiana’s persistent “skills gap” — too many citizens lacking job skills and too many employers lacking qualified workers — still presents a huge obstacle to its economic development efforts. Reforms of the state’s workforce development systems, including streamlining responsibility among key public entities and empowering business leaders to set goals based on market demands, have shown promise for the development of a more responsive workforce system. The workforce development system should also incentivize postsecondary institutions to improve and increase offerings in high-growth industries.
Economic growth and competitiveness
Support maintaining and elevating state economic growth as a priority, and enact fiscal reform to advance Louisiana’s national competitiveness
To ensure continued economic growth and improved quality of life across multiple metrics, BRAC is committed to maintaining an aggressive state economic development program at Louisiana Economic Development (LED), advocating for fiscal reforms that increase budgetary flexibility, and pursuing pro-growth tax reform, redesigning but protecting economic incentives and reviewing each tax expenditure for importance, priority and performance.
State business development efforts
Strongly support measures to advance the state’s business recruitment and retention efforts
Louisiana can improve its competitive position by accelerating the development of certified sites that are most conducive for attracting immediate investment prospects, enhancing state capacity to effectively manage site selection opportunities, maintaining its statewide GIS with detailed site/building and workforce information, maintaining and coordinating a statewide prospect-protocol system with the regions, developing a real-time workforce information system, and fostering collaboration between LED and the state’s regional economic development organizations. Louisiana also needs to develop the infrastructure for innovation throughout the state and strategies to attract and build high-growth, knowledge-based industries.
Small business contracting assistance
Support regional and statewide services of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)
The Capital Region is home to many small businesses that are bringing new, unique and innovative products and services to market. BRAC has established a partnership with PTAC to provide access to new business opportunities and provide companies with knowledge of how best to apply for government contracts. BRAC will support efforts to continue funding statewide PTAC services and provide access to resources such as PTAC to bring more capital to the Baton Rouge Area.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
Support SBDC programs in the Baton Rouge Area
SBDC centers offer important services to small businesses, including entrepreneurial education and business plan advice. Today, Baton Rouge has only one SBDC office, located at Southern University, after LSU’s LBTC center closed in 2012. The Baton Rouge Area is currently under served when compared to other regions within Louisiana and around the country, and BRAC supports the re-establishment of expanded SBDC services in the Capital Region.
Oppose the enactment of a state minimum wage law
BRAC believes that wages should be determined by market forces, and that any statutorily mandated requirement forcing an increase will disproportionately burden small businesses, which are the least able to absorb such a dramatic increase in their labor costs. Such a proposal to increase the state minimum wage will add additional expenses to business owners, making it more difficult to hire new workers and potentially forcing a reduction in existing jobs. BRAC maintains that it is in the best interest of employers to pay competitive wages to recruit a highly skilled and talented workforce.
Health insurance costs
Oppose unnecessary insurance mandates that drive up health care costs and support the adoption of a more robust health care review law
Rapidly rising health care costs make it increasingly difficult for businesses to introduce or maintain coverage for their employees. Limiting the scope of mandated health care benefits and supporting legislation that will call for a more robust health care mandate review law will help control health care costs for businesses, making employer-based health plans more affordable, and supporting both workers and small businesses in the Baton Rouge Area.
Corporate franchise tax exemption
Support exempting the first $300,000 of taxable base from state corporate franchise tax
The majority of businesses subject to the corporate franchise tax pay very small amounts that generate very little revenue for the state. Exempting the first $300,000 of taxable base from the state corporate franchise tax would reduce a financial and regulatory burden for small businesses with minimal impact to state revenues. BRAC led efforts to eliminate the minimum annual $10 filing fee previously, eliminating an “annoyance” tax on small businesses.
Pursue improvements that simplify and accelerate the processes for acquiring necessary permits and licenses for business startups
Acquiring all the necessary licenses and permits to start a business is a frequent challenge for many business owners. Efforts to simplify and accelerate approval processes at state and local government levels are needed so that entrepreneurs can focus more energy on successfully opening and running their businesses. Streamlined local permitting and reporting, facilitated by online resources, can simplify the business climate for the region’s small businesses.
Support measures, including increased availability of online forms, to facilitate compliance with necessary regulations on business activity
Depending on the nature of their operations, small businesses in the Baton Rouge Area must comply with the regulations of some or many local, state and federal agencies. Reducing the associated costs of compliance would contribute to the success of many small businesses, even as regulations continue to protect consumer and public welfare.
Local tax on custom software
Advocate for measures to exempt custom software from sales and use taxes
State law excludes custom computer software from the definition of tangible personal property for state sales and use taxes, and enables similar exclusions from local sales and use taxes at the discretion of parishes and municipalities. Exempting custom software from sales and use taxes would level the playing field for local software development firms and enhance the growth of this sector in the Capital Region. In 2013 custom-built software was exempted from sales tax within the boundaries of the city of Baton Rouge, but remains in place for Baker, Central, Zachary and the unincorporated areas of the parish.
Pro-business tax code
Support pro-business state tax policy and reforms, especially those focused on the interests of small to midsize employers
Louisiana has made important improvements to its tax code over the last 15 years, making it a pro-business state for taxation. This tax code is important to protect and to continue to ameliorate.
Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Support the innovation economy
Prioritize and incentivize economic innovation and the knowledge economy
In today’s economy, economic success is being driven by innovation, not simply through capital accumulation or a reliance on natural resources. The Capital Region has made great strides in expanding the knowledge-based economy through research and high-tech innovation. Efforts that can be accelerated by leadership at the state level include:
- Appointing a director of Louisiana innovation to coordinate across state agencies and refocus existing university resources to applied research
- Reinstating the Research and Development Tax Credit
- Elevating the state’s programs that support entrepreneurship
- Encouraging further structural changes in higher education to expedite and increase technology transfer and research commercialization
Promote creation of new entrepreneurial enterprises
Support the development of new entrepreneurial firms and regional capacity for innovation
States and regions are adjusting their economic development strategies accordingly to meet this new challenge. With assets such as LSU, a major research university, and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a specialized life sciences research institute, the Baton Rouge Area has the possibility to spawn companies with disruptive technologies and the formation of significant, rapid job creation and wealth. The key element to enable this development is an ecosystem of entrepreneurial support, strong networks, risk capital and creative talent that will make more of these companies likely to form and succeed.
Angel Investor Tax Credit extension
Pursue by legislative act the extension of the sunset date for the state’s angel investor incentive
Angel investment is a vital part of the entrepreneurship finance system, providing the opportunity for high-potential businesses to scale quickly. BRAC was instrumental in the re-creation of the Angel Investor Tax Credit, which is one of the few statewide programs aimed at supporting innovation and entrepreneurship across Louisiana. BRAC advocates for the extension of this incentive beyond its July 2017 sunset date.
Support for new ventures
Support the efforts of Innovation Catalyst to provide seed capital and expert assistance
The Baton Rouge Area offers new startups many quality options for locating their startup in a physical environment. Promising companies with great technologies, management and new approaches to problems fail regularly due to limited or no access to the seed and growth capital they need to survive. Innovation Catalyst is a nonprofit venture capital fund that works to identify and coach high-potential entrepreneurs and make seed investments toward company formation. It is doing so in close coordination with the region’s existing service providers and incubators in order to make the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem more accessible to these startups. The entity has already raised over $2 million toward investments in early stage companies. Innovation Catalyst’s business plan was developed in part through a grant to BRAC from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
University research park
Promote the continued development of the LSU Innovation Park
University research parks convert public-sector and university research strengths into private-sector investment and jobs. The LSU Innovation Park, which provides space and services to innovative startups and growing companies alike, serves as a valuable land asset that leverages the intellectual richness of LSU and Southern and strengthens the state’s innovation economy. BRAC supports the continued development of the Innovation Park as a model of public-private collaboration.
Advance efforts to position LSU more competitively as a premier public research institution and support its engagement with the private sector
Research universities impact economic development in significant ways beyond simply educating students. The commercialization of university research and partnerships between the university and the private sector produce powerful economic gains. This is particularly true regarding programs that are directly tied to the regional economy, such as engineering and computer science. BRAC supports efforts to fund LSU at per-pupil levels relative to peer public research universities. Moreover, while the LSU System furthers the strategy of “One LSU,” BRAC supports that its decisions be guided by the goal to improve LSU’s competitiveness as a research university and strengthen its commercialization efforts. (See also Regional Competitiveness and Higher Education.)
Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC)
Aggressively pursue funding for continued growth of PBRC and encourage commercialization of PBRC intellectual property
As a nationally regarded biomedical research institution, PBRC conducts significant research in the areas of nutrition, obesity and other chronic diseases. PBRC’s impact as a hub of research and innovation can be enhanced with a renewed focus on opportunities for commercializing research to enhance the institution’s economic impact. Health care related to obesity and diabetes has significant economic growth potential in the future, and PBRC is the key state asset to underpin that sector.
Incentives for innovation-based economic development
Support incentives that improve the business climate for innovation-driven firms with high-growth potential, such as the Research and Development Tax Credit, Digital Interactive Media Tax Credit, Angel Investor Tax Credit, and Technology Commercialization Tax Credit
Recruitment and development of new business enterprises, especially ventures that create knowledge-based jobs, is important to the economic development of the state and region. BRAC has played a lead role in legislative efforts in this area, such as the Angel Investment and R&D tax credits. Continued support for and development of incentives will strengthen our ability to accelerate the region’s economic growth and compete for projects with high-wage jobs.
Public education performance
Pursue efforts to increase PK-12 performance across the Capital Region
Access to high-quality public education is an indicator of and fundamental contributor to a productive and developed society. Given this profound effect on the health of our community and economy, BRAC’s economic development strategy includes advancing public education as a foundational component. BRAC’s goal is a Capital Region in which education is widely embraced, where families and children prepare for postsecondary education in the form of a credential, two- or four-year degree, where lifelong learning is a common pursuit of the community, and where citizens enter and thrive in a knowledge-based competitive economy. BRAC supports high state standards and accountability, leads education reform initiatives in EBR Parish, and advocates for advancement of STEM education in the Capital Area.
Pursue greater collaboration from STEM stakeholders and advocate for increased quality and quantity of STEM education from Capital Area schools and districts
STEM literacy is critical for Capital Region students who will become the workforce of tomorrow. In order for area citizens to fully seize economic opportunities in the Baton Rouge Area, they must be able to apply the four STEM disciplines to solve complex problems with innovative solutions. This requires that they are prepared through workforce oriented, project-based learning in both PK-12 and higher education. BRAC will work with educators, its investors and other stakeholders to build partnerships and collaboration related to STEM education as enumerated in BRAC’s strategic plan on STEM education.
Charter schools and school alternatives
Endorse and support the development of high-performing alternatives to traditional public school models
BRAC and its regional allies should carefully support the development of high-performing public schools to provide alternatives to families whose children are in under-performing public schools, as well as state and local policies that advance this practice and engender successful schools. Families with children in failing schools should have the ability to transfer to a more successful public, magnet, private or charter school.
Recognizing that all area students and publicly-funded schools are part of the overall community’s public education system, regional and statewide policy makers should: 1) advance aggressive efforts to reinvigorate failing schools; 2) welcome and foster close relationships between local districts and the charter schools operating within their boundaries; and, 3) support the continuation and expansion of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which offers low-income children attending low-performing schools the opportunity to attend an approved private institution.
Support innovative efforts to turn around failing schools, including the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone
The Baton Rouge Achievement Zone (BRAZ) was created when state and local leaders recognized the need for new methods to address an increasingly large number of under-performing schools located in the urban core of the City of Baton Rouge. The BRAZ contains several schools that have been taken over by the Recovery School District, and several more schools whose continued under performance may trigger RSD takeover in the future. By working with innovative nonprofits that have recruited nationally competitive charter operators to the region, the RSD aims to bring creative thinking and unique resources to schools in the achievement zone. BRAC supports the academic advancement of the achievement zone, as well as the work of the nonprofit New Schools Baton Rouge, established to ensure the success of the BRAZ.
Accountability in public schools
Support efforts to protect and strengthen the state accountability plan for public schools in Louisiana
Louisiana’s award-winning public school accountability plan is a central component in efforts to increase student achievement across the state. The accountability plan includes high-stakes standardized tests that evaluate the ability of students to demonstrate skills in key subject areas. Maintaining the accountability plan, and increasing student expectations measured by it, will support increases in student achievement, educational attainment and long-term economic growth in our state and region.
Teacher performance and accountability
Support state and local policies that increase teacher performance and accountability through both evaluations and incentives linked to student achievement in the classroom
School employment practices should be structured to ensure the most effective and appropriate staff members fill each available role in the institution. The state has enabled and encouraged districts to hold school leadership and teachers more accountable for student achievement, and districts should seize this opportunity. Teachers, like other professionals, should be held accountable for their performance, with a goal of increases in student growth and achievement in every classroom. Teachers’ effectiveness in fostering student learning should trump years of service as the criteria for continued employment. Teacher performance, tenure, reduction-in-force and teacher pay policies should be linked to student outcomes.
Market-based teacher compensation
Support efforts that allow district leaders to adopt market-based teacher compensation practices
The ability to develop and maintain a base of qualified teaching professionals hinges, in part, on the capacity of school districts to offer competitive compensation packages, particularly for those positions that are toughest to fill. Many of the Capital Region’s districts have great difficulties hiring and retaining math and science teachers for high-poverty schools. In addition, starting salaries for teachers are often set at levels that are not competitive with neighboring districts or states. A more comprehensive market-based compensation system may help in attracting qualified teachers throughout the region by providing administrators with the flexibility to differentiate pay levels based on the subject area, market conditions and/or individual and school performance.
Support efforts to develop a pipeline of exceptional school leaders in the region’s public schools
Principals play a critically important role in school performance by setting the proper tone, making strategic decisions and demanding high levels of performance from teachers, staff and students. A strategy for principal cultivation and training is critical to the improvement of school performance and student achievement. Larger, more comprehensive investments in principal recruitment and development should be supported, including strengthening existing models, establishing a “leadership and training academy,” and exploring alternative approaches in the Capital Region.
Early childhood education
Support efforts to improve access to and effectiveness of early childhood education programs
Research demonstrates that children who participate in high-quality, academically rigorous early childhood programs have higher scores on math and reading tests, greater language abilities, and higher graduation rates. Not enough children in the Baton Rouge area are participating in high-quality early childhood education, and many of them are coming to Kindergarten under prepared. Districts in the Baton Rouge Area should invest in needed human capital, facilities, and other resources to greatly expand high-quality early childhood education enrollment, particularly among low-income families. Furthermore, the state should reinvest in early childhood education and continue to design and implement accountability models for this education.
Teach for America (TFA)
Support the operations and expansion of TFA as a critical program for bringing much needed human capital into underserved schools
The quality of the teacher in the classroom is the greatest predictor and determinant of student achievement. In many low-performing, high-poverty schools, high-quality teachers are difficult to secure. TFA recruits talented college graduates, and those seeking a second career, through a competitive application environment in order to place the best talent into challenging school environments. In south Louisiana, TFA has played an important role in providing motivated, spirited teachers in tough learning environments. BRAC supports the role of TFA as a key talent pipeline for our region’s educational improvement.
Fund and develop one-on-one or small group tutoring programs that aggressively help at-risk students who have fallen behind to catch up with their peers
Many students in the Baton Rouge Area — particularly those coming from low-income families — begin school at a stage of learning development that falls below the standard for their age. In such situations, national research suggests that one-on-one or small group tutoring with a highly structured curriculum in the early grades is one of the most effective forms of remediation. The funding and implementation of such tutoring programs could have a substantial impact on overall student achievement levels in the Baton Rouge Area. These programs can be structured in ways that efficiently target expenditures on children most in need and most likely to benefit from the programs.
Support efforts to develop and strengthen alternative certification programs for teachers and principals
Teacher certification requirements seek to ensure competence and appropriate skills among education professionals; however, rigidly designed certification requirements also discourage some talented professionals, particularly college graduates without degrees in education, from pursuing the teaching profession. As such, alternative certification initiatives are important to recruiting exceptional individuals into the teaching profession.
Support initiatives that empower principals to make school-level decisions and cultivate a performance culture focused on student achievement
Performance and experience in many large urban school districts across the country indicates that student achievement can be improved when key decisions, particularly regarding personnel and budgeting, are made by leadership at individual schools. Today, principals and other school leaders across the Baton Rouge Area have limited control or authority over critical issues such as teacher recruitment and development, budgets, curriculum, and discipline and safety policies. Empowering school-site leadership to make these decisions results in tailored and differentiated learning for distinct student populations, and has a positive impact on student achievement measures like test scores and graduation rates. Districts should identify and implement mechanisms to further empower school leadership to make these decisions at a school level and should avoid mandating school-level practices at the district level.
Oppose efforts to introduce collective bargaining arrangements in public school districts in the Capital Region
Collective bargaining arrangements can significantly restrict the ability of school boards to address the challenges facing public schools and, based on available evidence, do not contribute to increased student achievement. Specifically, policies and contract provisions demanded by teachers’ unions generally focus on issues of job security and uniform compensation increases, often in direct opposition to initiatives with proven or promising potential to increase student achievement (e.g., tenure reforms, market-based compensation and alternative certification). As such, collective bargaining likely would pose new obstacles to improving public schools and advancing economic development in the Baton Rouge Area.
Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) district restructuring
Support modifications to the state funding formula efforts to better address inequities created when new school districts and charter schools are formed
Restructuring the MFP, the formula used to distribute state dollars to local school districts, is a crucial element in fostering an environment open to innovation in educating Louisiana’s young citizens. For instance, the current formula creates undue burdens on existing school districts when new school systems are formed. This issue has resulted in the EBRPSS facing revenue shortfalls to cover certain costs (e.g., retired teacher medical and life insurance) when new districts have formed. The MFP should be modified to ensure fair and equitable funding for regions, such as the Capital Region, that are exploring innovative means to improve student achievement.
Alternative funding for school infrastructure
Identify mechanisms to accelerate funding for school infrastructure improvements, including the development of alternative-funding models
Ensuring an environment conducive to learning through school construction and maintenance is a key component to a positive educational experience, yet the system budget is not always able to fund needs for new or updated facilities as they arise. An examination of alternative funding mechanisms to accelerate investments in up-to-date infrastructure is needed to ensure that children have positive learning environments.
Independent School Districts (ISDs)
Evaluate any proposed independent school districts for potential negative impacts to demographics, financial stability and long-term monetary commitments of both existing and proposed districts
The Baton Rouge Area is home to several parish school districts and ISDs. In EBR Parish, several ISDs have formed over the last 15 years in areas that were formerly part of the EBRPSS. The formation of ISDs is complicated by long-term financial commitments, potential financial instability and prospective creation of demographic inequity. BRAC will evaluate each proposed ISD and remain neutral on its creation only if the following conditions are addressed in legislation creating such a district: 1) there is a mutually agreed upon formula for dealing with legacy costs between the new district and the previous district; 2) there is a plan to ensure the financial stability of all impacted districts, including the financial impact of any additional facility needs, and 3) reasonable effort is made to draw the district boundaries such that the demographics of the newly drawn district are comparable to the existing district.
LSU institutional advancement
Aggressively support and promote LSU’s development as a premier public research university and the state’s flagship institution
LSU and its allies should develop and promote the next phase of the National Flagship Agenda. It is essential that the university evaluate the elements of the agenda, ensure that the strategic direction previously laid out is viable and meaningful, and establish an organizational and political action plan to achieve its goals. As a flagship research university, LSU drives the Baton Rouge Area’s innovation economy. The region’s competitiveness and the future of LSU lie in its ability to be consistently identified as a top-tier research university.
Public education and training reforms
Support higher education reforms that increase two-year and technical college enrollment to better meet the state’s workforce demands
BRAC recognizes the business community’s need for employees with literacy, numeracy and technical skills, and appreciates the role of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in training those workers. Today’s businesses continue to cite lack of access to a trained workforce as an obstacle to their growth and success. The two-year system is responsible for providing many of today’s workers with the technical skills needed to support the region’s businesses. That is why BRAC supports the strategic plan developed by LCTCS entitled “Our Louisiana: 2020.” This plan addresses increasing graduates, earnings of those graduates, student transfers to four-year universities, number of students served, partnerships with business and industry, and foundation assets. As more of our growing industries provide jobs requiring two-year training, it is imperative that two-year institutions are strengthened and able to provide high-quality training to support regional workforce needs.
Higher education reforms
Support higher education funding and reforms that help achieve our region’s economic goals
BRAC will continue to support legislative and funding priorities that enable the implementation of the performance funding formula, raising admissions standards at four-year schools, granting management boards autonomy over self-generated funding, establishing centers of excellence and eliminating duplicative programs where feasible in the LCTCS. The GRAD Act and GRAD Act “2.0” have established many of these reforms, but there is still much work to be done. Louisiana’s higher education system continues to face numerous challenges, including a funding crisis that is likely to last for the next few years, increasingly competitive research environments, lower than desirable graduation rates, workforce demands not met by the system and programmatic issues. These challenges hold back the economic viability of the state.
Self-generated revenue autonomy
Pursue reforms that give control over tuition and fees to higher education management boards
BRAC supports providing full autonomy over tuition and fees to community and technical college and university system boards. Louisiana is the only remaining state in the country where the legislature holds full control over tuition and fees. BRAC research has shown that LSU remains underfunded for self-generated revenues compared to its peer research universities, in part because of the difficult process to increase tuition and fees through the legislature. BRAC will continue to support policies and legislation that provides tuition autonomy to the management boards of the Louisiana universities.
Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) reform
Support changes to the TOPS program that increase standards
BRAC supports a multiyear phase-in of higher eligibility standards for TOPS awards and a concurrent increase in grant opportunities for low-income students to stem the hemorrhaging of TOPS expenditures and shift TOPS back to its roots as a merit-based scholarship program. BRAC also supports the use of Go Grants as an important tool for providing access to higher education for low-income students (see the full research brief). Currently, the academic requirements for receipt of a TOPS scholarship are those of an average student (a 2.5 GPA and a 20 ACT score). BRAC supported successful legislation that will increase the GPA requirements for the TOPS performance award and honors award from 3.00 to 3.25 and 3.50 respectively, starting in the 2020 – 2021 school year. In addition to paying for tuition and fees, the TOPS performance and honors awards provide an additional annual stipend for qualifying students. This legislation did not change the minimum requirements for the TOPS opportunity award, which only pays for tuition and certain fees. As TOPS expenditures continue to climb simultaneously with cuts to higher education funding, an adjustment to all minimum performance standards will need to be pursued.
Performance funding formula
Support a formula for funding postsecondary institutions that rewards student progress and completion, success of the research enterprise, and programmatic alignment with workforce needs
BRAC believes that formulas for higher education funding should be focused more on student progression through meaningful courses of study and the development of premier research capabilities at certain four-year institutions rather than student enrollment. Such a formula would take into account aspects and outcomes such as differential program costs, student progression, federal research activity, alignment with high-demand workforce needs and increased production of degrees and certificates incentivizes higher education institutions to succeed in their individual role, scope and mission. This would assure the development of a robust postsecondary educational landscape from community and technical college certificates as well as four-year degrees through graduate education and premier research activities.
Southern University (SU) renaissance
Support strategies to assist SU in achieving a renaissance in the post-restructuring higher education environment in Louisiana and to produce high-quality graduates in key academic programs
BRAC believes that Southern University should pursue strategies to raise the academic preparedness of incoming students and to provide unique academic research experiences. By doing so, SU would substantially increase its ability to produce high-quality graduates who become business leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists and teachers. BRAC research showed that the economic value of Southern University on the Capital Region and the state rests on the ability of the institution to produce graduates of high academic quality who are prepared for a modern workforce. It is critical for SU to attract, retain and graduate in-state and out-of-state students with the highest academic credentials.
Monitor the progress of management autonomies and performance outcomes of universities as directed in the LA GRAD Act and support policies to enhance management autonomies for campuses
As funding challenges continue to impact the budgets for higher education institutions, it is imperative that internal operations of higher education institutions be streamlined in areas such as purchasing, procurement and facility management. Through the use of sound business operations, BRAC supports giving management autonomies to higher education institutions that will lead to cost savings and efficiencies. Many of these autonomies were provided in the 2010 and 2011 legislative bills known as the LA GRAD Act. More autonomies are needed, especially for the Division of Administration, and will be supported by BRAC.
Talent Retention & Attraction
Focus on talent
Cultivate access to world-class human capital to accelerate the development of high-performing companies and the region
BRAC believes that in order for the Capital Region to continue its economic success, it must retain and attract the high-level talent that local companies need to compete globally. Many regions with which the Baton Rouge Area competes also identify talent as one of their most important areas of strategic focus. Through its talent development efforts, BRAC’s program will complement the human resources recruitment efforts of regional companies, startups and economic development prospects by working hand-in-hand with them as they try to fill open positions for mid- to senior-level executives.
Public parks and recreational amenities
Support regional recreation and park organizations, including The Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, in efforts to upgrade public parks and recreational amenities in the Baton Rouge Area
BRAC understands that businesses and individuals evaluate numerous quality of life factors in determining a location to call home. Impressive public parks and recreational amenities are a significant component of quality of life evaluations and a component over which local governments have significant control. Efforts to maintain and improve the Baton Rouge Area’s public parks, including the establishment of signature parks with unique and compelling assets, will make the region more competitive in attracting and retaining talented workers and high-wage businesses.
Tolerance, diversity and community mindset
Support programs, ordinances and initiatives that set a progressive, inclusive community tone and ensure that key organizations and leaders are aligned to create positive change
BRAC believes that the most vibrant economies in the U.S. are those that have learned to embrace diversity and maintain an optimistic, inclusive vision for their community while always remaining receptive to change. These intangibles can have a major impact on economic development and talent retention and attraction, as well as community pride and commitment to enact positive change. Moreover, discrimination can have an adverse effect on community growth. That’s why EBR has an executive order protecting employment discrimination that has governed through the last two administrations. BRAC supports the proposition that this executive order should include protection based on sexual orientation and be codified into parish ordinances.
Support the adoption of a nondiscrimination policy in East Baton Rouge Parish that provides protection from discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and real estate and housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sex, veterans status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, provided that its enforcement is designed to be fair, impartial, and to provide equal protection of law to all individuals, and does not require the creation or excessive expansion of a governmental office or division.
With an understanding that discrimination can have an adverse effect on community growth, the most vibrant economies in the U.S. increasingly are those that have learned to embrace diversity and maintain an optimistic, inclusive vision for their community, while always remaining receptive to change. These intangibles can have a major impact on economic development, talent retention and attraction, as well as community pride and commitment to enact positive change.
Attractiveness of public spaces
Encourage cities and parishes in the Baton Rouge Area to improve the attractiveness of their communities by establishing well-maintained green spaces
BRAC prioritizes maintaining attractive green public spaces across the region and urban areas. By working toward this goal, the Baton Rouge Area can ensure that it makes great first impressions when decision-makers are evaluating our community for business expansion. Businesses, individuals and site-selection consultants evaluate communities using a number of factors, both objective and subjective. Initial impressions, often determined during drive-by experiences, can impact company decisions on where to relocate and individual decisions on where to live.
Arts and cultural amenities
Support the development of artistic and cultural infrastructure in the Baton Rouge Area
BRAC recognizes that successful metro economies are increasingly marked by a high degree of artistic activity and cultural amenities that attract young, educated professionals and knowledge-based companies. Research by the Knight Foundation has shown that community attributes have a significant effect on talent retention. By encouraging positive actions and celebrating those who make a difference (e.g., artists, philanthropists and developers), the Capital Region can create momentum and public support for the development of artistic and cultural assets that accentuate our unique regional character and history.
Engage emerging leaders in the future direction of BRAC and BRAC’s policy agenda
BRAC believes that the insights of the next generation of leaders are crucial to its ability to make proper policy decisions. BRAC supports Forum 35 and other organizations that actively foster dialogue with those leaders and potential leaders, and uses that information to formulate its policy agenda and help cultivate the Baton Rouge Area’s future young professionals.
Support proven strategies aimed at improving public safety
Public safety and crime are factors that affect the quality of life of communities across the Baton Rouge Area. Furthermore, crime levels can shape the region’s national image, particularly as represented in popular rankings of “best” cities and regions. Efforts to implement best practices in local communities, complemented by separate efforts to address the root causes of criminal activity, will help reduce the region’s crime rate and stimulate economic development. In addition to supporting crime reduction strategies, BRAC will work with area partners to review sentencing guidelines and parole use to address the disproportionate number of incarcerated Louisiana citizens.
Advocate for full-time operation of the misdemeanor jail to begin in EBR
Crime is a subject of concern for those living in EBR, especially within the city limits of Baton Rouge. Understanding the importance of enforcement of penalties for lesser or “gateway” crimes as a deterrent to future criminal activity, BRAC supports the operation of a fully operational misdemeanor prison for booking and bonding individuals, enforcing warrants and imposing penalties on misdemeanor offenders in EBR.
Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination (BRAVE) Project
Support the work of the BRAVE project in lowering violent crime, including shootings and homicides
The BRAVE program has seen major successes since its inception in late 2012. Although not totally conclusive, it is possible to attribute significant decreases in homicide rates and violent crimes to the outcomes of the project. The project has brought together law enforcement agencies across EBR in implementing a data-driven approach to law enforcement. BRAC supports this innovative program, modeled upon Operation Ceasefire, and its continuation and expansion.
Advocate for increased funding for Special Operations patrolling by the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD)
Special Operations is an overtime program and part of the BRPD Criminal Investigate Divisions with support and cooperative efforts from the Uniform Patrol Division. This patrolling takes place in high-crime areas and requires needed overtime funds. BRAC will advocate for the funding necessary to expand operations to full-time.
Support efforts to review minimum sentencing guidelines and parole use to lower the disproportionate number of incarcerated Louisiana residents, create statewide monetary savings and increase access to rehabilitation programs
Louisiana leads the nation in incarcerations and the world with the highest number of citizens currently imprisoned. Holding so many people in prison does not increase public safety and considerably strains our state budget. Working with statewide business community partners, BRAC will explore a two-pronged solution to this issue that includes reducing the number of people in prison through sentencing reform and greater use of probation, and investing some of the savings in enhanced community-based probation, parole and re-entry services.
Support the early intervention program of the District Attorney’s office, facilitated by the Family and Youth Services Center, which is a dedicated organization offering multiple agency services to students who are repeatedly truant from EBR Parish public schools
Thousands of children are absent repeatedly from EBR schools each year. Researchers have found a link between frequent truancy and the potential for future criminal behavior. A partnership between the EBR district attorney’s office, the EBRPSS, the mayor-president’s office, and the EBR Sheriff has allowed the Capital Region to efficiently address these issues. This dedicated facility for addressing child and/or family situations related to frequent truancy aids in lowering the rate of absences and reducing the potential for criminal activity from these absent children.
East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority and code enforcement
Support efforts to increase code enforcement practices, especially in high crime areas
In 2014, Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment producing code enforcement reform allowing Baton Rouge to operate more like New Orleans, which has shown best practices in code enforcement activities. As part of a “broken windows”-style community policing strategy, cleaning up vacant and abandoned properties will help promote order and community quality. BRAC supports efforts by the Redevelopment Authority and the mayor-president’s office, which is working to develop a fully operational code enforcement agency, to specifically address blight in high crime areas.
East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority (RDA)
Support operational funding for the RDA
The RDA is designed to redevelop urban Baton Rouge’s inner core neighborhoods into more vibrant, safe, economically strong areas. It was developed in state legislation by one of the nation’s preeminent experts in urban revitalization policy. BRAC supports the RDA and the policy objectives that underpin its formation as valuable urban policy based upon national best practices. The organization faces closure due to funding challenges and BRAC supports the efforts of the mayor-president and Metropolitan Council to identify funding for its operations and its expanded activities.
Access to health care
Support increased access to health care for Louisiana’s workforce, including a sustainable model for public-private hospital partnerships and expanding access to Medicaid
State health care reforms have been positive but face funding uncertainty in the future. The strongest path to financial stability would come from expanded coverage self-funded by hospitals. Along with the need to stabilize the region’s health care delivery market following the implementation of the partnerships and the closure of Earl K. Long hospital, access to affordable health care is also a major economic issue. Expanding Medicaid eligibility will bring thousands of jobs and provide coverage for thousands of workers in the Capital Region by bringing billions of dollars of federal investment to the state.
BRAC supports pursuing a Louisiana model to expand coverage eligibility in compliance with Affordable Care Act guidelines, pursuant to the implementation of a state hospital stabilization fund and self-assessed hospital fee to cover the state’s share of expansion costs, which will stabilize the health care market and provide savings to state government to fund other priorities.
Baton Rouge Health District
Support the creation of the new health district as a way to increase the economic development impact of health-related industries
The health care sector is one of the largest employment sectors in the region, thus the competitiveness of this industry is critical to the region’s economic strength. In 2011, BRAC took on the role as a convener of the major players in this field to discuss issues of competitiveness and areas where health care delivery and economic development opportunities convene. The Baton Rouge Health District emerged in 2014 as a new convener of the health care industry aimed at helping to maintain an open dialogue focused on exploring new ways to expand the industry, improve its physical connectivity and continue to increase its competitiveness. BRAC plays an active role in plans to create a Baton Rouge Health District, which promises to further strengthen this important sector of the region’s economy.
Clinical trial collaboration
Facilitate efforts to increase opportunities for collaboration around on-boarding and execution of clinical trials
Through a series of strategic prioritization meetings, the Health Care Council aligned on clinical trials as an area of potential significant economic impact and one in which the Capital Region is uniquely positioned to be competitive. BRAC has worked with expert consultants and regional health care partners to develop a financial feasibility study and business models to create a new consortium focused on the recruitment and execution of clinical trials coordinated across all of the region’s health care assets. These trials provide significant medical and economic benefits to the region.
Enhance the state’s competitiveness in biomedical and biosciences research through implementation of the MediFund
Working with super-regional partners, legislators and several other agencies, BRAC was instrumental in the creation of the MediFund during the 2013 legislative session. This fund supports scientific research and development as well as the advancement of biosciences and medical centers of excellence. In 2013, BRAC received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to support the launch of the MediFund Board of Directors, in collaboration with GNO, Inc. In 2015, BRAC will continue to work to implement the MediFund through the development of a strategic plan to increase biomedical research commercialization, destination health care and funding opportunities.
Academic medical center
Advocate for the creation of a university research hospital and trauma center in Baton Rouge
The creation of a state-of-the-art academic medical center would establish a university research hospital and trauma center in Baton Rouge, provide a premier training base for future Louisiana doctors, and advance economic development by attracting additional federal funds and catalyzing new business ventures. Formation of an academic medical center should be based on a rigorous assessment of the post-Katrina health care landscape in order to ensure that any new capital investment does not create an imbalance in the health care market. BRAC supports the new alignment of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and LSU’s Earl K. Long Charity Hospital programs for a new model for health care delivery. Additionally, LSU should pursue partnerships with other hospitals (e.g., affiliation agreements) wherever possible in order to avoid duplication of community resources, to minimize competition for scarce health care professionals and to maximize opportunities for graduate medical education. Finally, lawmakers should enact an equitable compensation model for indigent care.
BRAC actively engages on any government issue that has a significant impact on economic development in the Baton Rouge Area. For instance, changes to labor, fiscal and taxation policy can often have significant positive or negative impacts on the Baton Rouge Area. Listed below are issues that are not specifically covered by a BRAC issue council, yet still represent important components of the region’s economic development.
Capital Region Legislative Delegation
Actively support a partnership of the region’s legislators toward high-level, shared goals that bolster the regional economy
The ability of the Baton Rouge Area to secure positive outcomes in the Louisiana Legislature is significantly improved by a cohesive Capital Region Legislative Delegation. As it has in previous years, BRAC will work with the delegation to support initiatives that improve the regional economy.
Economic development organizations
Communicate with peer regional organizations across Louisiana about economic development best practices and state competitiveness
Similar to a partnership with the Greater New Orleans area, it is important that BRAC work with its other regional economic development brethren across the state to share information. By working together, the organizations can strengthen the overall competitiveness of Louisiana. BRAC has worked with the other seven metropolitan areas in Louisiana to form the Louisiana Regional Leadership Council (LRLC) as a coordinating partnership for the eight regional organizations. The LRLC offers opportunities to share best practices, prepare ideas to assist LED and pursue support for regional funding from the state.
Groundwater access in the Baton Rouge Area
Support the use of the best and latest science in determining methods to slow the rate of further salt water intrusion and protect drinking water, while monitoring the impacts to economic development
Since the 1960s, scientists have monitored the movement of salt water across the fault line that passes through EBR Parish as it moves from the southern side of the fault to the northern side. Baton Rouge drinking water comes from water in the sands on the northern side of the fault, much of it from wells that are in close proximity to the current location of the saltier water. The Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation intends to follow the scientific analysis being prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in making a determination of how best to prevent further intrusion and access to quality drinking water. Industry has concerns about being forced out of the groundwater rapidly without clear scientific analysis showing that relocation addresses the problem.
Engage with Greater New Orleans, Inc. to align the two regions’ business communities behind initiatives that provide mutually beneficial economic outcomes for southeast Louisiana
In order to maximize the economic potential of the Baton Rouge Area, BRAC will need to work in coordination with the Greater New Orleans region. In recent years, BRAC has created a partnership with Greater New Orleans, Inc. called the Southeast Super-Region Committee (SRC). The goal of the committee is for the two regions’ business communities to focus on specific projects that lead to beneficial economic outcomes for southeast Louisiana. It is also intended to foster personal relationships between the two regions’ business leaders in an informal manner to create closer strategic alignment toward mutual gain. The SRC will work to incorporate the Houma/Thibodeaux region into its work.
Monitor and aggressively oppose efforts to weaken Louisiana’s governmental ethics laws and enforcement programs
In 2008, Louisiana became a national model in governmental laws and enforcement when it passed a series of stringent reforms. These reforms go a long way in the state’s desire to reverse the long-held perception of government corruption and lack of integrity. The number one third-party ranking that Louisiana garnered has continued to pay dividends as we foster new business investment here; however, it is imperative that any efforts to weaken these reforms and anything that would lessen the positive effects of this newfound national distinction be deterred.
Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS)
Monitor and support the potential development of the TMS in our region
Part of the TMS lies below the northern parishes of the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area and represents a major potential shale oil reserve in the U.S. The TMS spans approximately 2.7 million acres across central Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, and holds a reservoir of approximately seven billion barrels of oil. The shale oil window depths range from 11,000 to 14,000 feet, which has historically made exploration and production in the TMS cost-prohibitive. Advances in horizontal drilling techniques have made the potential for exploration and oil production attractive again. Shale drilling could represent a major economic boost over the next three to five years if the productivity levels of TMS wells achieve and sustain the necessary quantities. Although low oil prices in late 2014 appear to have impacted drilling in the TMS negatively, BRAC supports the development of this shale trend. BRAC will promote information sharing among the parishes and our economic development allies to connect them with company representatives, industry experts and workforce solutions.
Aggressively support initiatives and policies that facilitate investments in long-term economic development
Optimizing resources available for investments in economic development means Louisiana must aggressively manage expenditures in areas that do not contribute to its economic growth and prosperity. To maximize resources for such high-impact areas, state leaders must ensure that Louisiana’s government operations are consistent with appropriate benchmarks in other states, particularly in areas such as health care spending and overall government employment. Aggressive fiscal discipline is necessary; without targeted investments in areas that drive economic development (e.g., higher education, transportation and workforce development), Louisiana’s economic growth will lag and social welfare costs will spiral out of control. In order to achieve success, cuts must be made in areas that exceed justifiable levels such that resources can be redirected to economic development priorities. Additionally, the growth rates of expenditure categories that do not directly contribute to economic growth should be carefully managed.
State business taxes and incentives
Advocate for targeted tax and incentive reforms that spur growth and remove unorthodox business taxes
Unorthodox business taxes
Pursue changes to state business taxes that put Louisiana in an unfavorable competitive position compared to peer states
While Louisiana has made recent progress in efforts to eliminate unorthodox business taxes, there are still instances that put the state at a disadvantage when compared to competing states. For example, lawmakers should consider eliminating the state’s corporate franchise tax, streamlining sales tax collections and lowering the top state/corporate income tax rate.
State business incentives
Support efforts to enhance statewide incentives that drive growth in targeted industry sectors
A key aspect of any state and regional economic development program is the ability to provide competitive incentive packages that are tailored to foster stability and growth in sought-after industries. In order to maximize the attractiveness of these incentives, the state must continue to evaluate and enhance the existing incentives to ensure that it remains competitive.
Single, unified collection of sales taxes
Support the creation of a single, unified entity overseeing collection of state and local sales taxes
Today, large companies doing business in all of Louisiana’s parishes have to remit sales taxes to 59 governmental bodies. These require audit and oversight by every tax collecting authority, which leads to inefficiencies for government and business alike. BRAC supports the alignment of sales tax collections into a single, unified collection entity.
Internet sales tax
Support initiatives that make sales tax collections mandatory by online retailers
The rise of the online marketplace has affected the physical marketplace significantly, but the most significant impact to local retailers and governments has been the effect on sales taxes. Local retailers collect sales taxes, where most online retailers without a physical presence do not. The outcome is a price advantage for online purchases by consumers and a disadvantage to established Louisiana businesses. BRAC endorses that this unfair advantage needs to be changed and sales taxes should be mandatorily collected on all online purchases that originate and/or occur in Louisiana. It is already required by law in Louisiana, but is essentially voluntary and unenforced by the state. BRAC also supports the efforts of the streamlined sales tax coalition to align U.S. states and therefore ensure federal government enforcement of online sales taxes as well. Furthermore, BRAC opposes arguments that the collection of this existing tax by state and local governments in Louisiana would represent a tax increase.
Qualifications of key state and local government officials
Establish professional requirements for state, regional and local board/commission appointments
State, regional, and local boards and commissions establish and implement policy that has profound economic impacts on our state and region. Strong leadership on key boards and commissions is critically important to the growth and development of the Baton Rouge Area. Improvements in the appointment process that require potential candidates to meet professional and educational qualifications would create a basis for solid, objective evaluation.
The EBR Metropolitan Council took a step towards this with a Qualifications Review Committee for CATS appointments, created by resolution. This should be established in ordinance and expanded to other boards and commissions.
Uniformity in property assessments
Support efforts to value property for tax collection purposes in a consistent manner that is well-aligned with market valuations
A non-uniform code of property assessment produces differences in measurements of real property values and leads to inflation in millages. In bringing all assessments into line with the true market value of properties and supporting subsequent roll-backs where appropriate, the market discourages government from raising millages to unreasonable levels. Uniformity in property assessments will enable a fair tax system and will promote a positive view of government, thus instilling property owner confidence in the economy.
State retirement system
Support adjustments to state retirement system requirements
The current state retirement program is out of line with the private sector and the evolving life expectancy of Louisiana citizens. Funding for state workers’ retirement in Louisiana needs to be stabilized to ensure state fiscal security. Amending state retirement systems to raise the retirement age and number of years of service requirements will not only secure a senior workforce in state agencies, but also ease the burden of the financially unstable retirement system.
Expand representation of parish-wide interests with the introduction of at-large seats using proportional voting mechanisms
The current system for electing EBR Metropolitan Council members in EBR and most other regional parish governments provides representation for individual local districts, but does not ensure that a parish-wide perspective is considered by EBR elected officials. Using a proportional voting mechanism such as cumulative voting or the introduction of at-large seats on local councils could encourage a parish-wide focus while also protecting minority voting rights.
Support the revitalization of blighted neighborhoods through coordinated, comprehensive planning and reinvestment strategies
The revitalization of blighted neighborhoods directly correlates with best demonstrated economic development practices. BRAC will work with organizations such as the RDA, Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the Center for Planning Excellence to develop strategies that attempt to restore blighted properties so that they can be put back into productive use. Doing so can have beneficial effects on quality of life in neighborhoods as well as issues such as crime.
Advance legal and political efforts to retain the region’s ozone attainment status from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
As ozone requirements and regulations continue to change, it is imperative that the region continue to aggressively pursue the most up-to-date ozone attainment designations from the EPA. The five-parish area has technically achieved attainment under the current ozone standards but has not yet formally been recognized as such by the EPA. Failure to achieve approval from the EPA on designation status can have a significant negative impact on the ability of the region to compete for business recruitment projects and to facilitate business expansions. As improvements are made in air quality, the region must continue to ensure that these improvements are recognized by the EPA and are reflected in the region’s attainment status. BRAC opposes the further reduction of the ozone standard below 75 parts per billion. BRAC supports changes to LDEQ policy regarding inter-pollutant transfer of VOCs and NOX Emission Reduction Credits and other policies. The pursuit of a clearinghouse for emission reduction projects would also enable more of these credits to be generated in the Capital Region.
Air emission controls and penalties
Oppose efforts by environmental agencies and environmentalists to require expensive controls and/or penalties on Baton Rouge Area businesses that do not address the root causes of ozone exceedance
Five parishes in the Baton Rouge Area—Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingston and West Baton Rouge—have been challenged in the past by non-attainment with regards to air ozone pollution levels. These pollution levels are associated with numerous complex factors, including industrial activity, traffic, mobile combustion equipment and natural causes of air pollution. Area industry has been aggressive over the last two decades in reducing air emission levels; however, ozone air pollution levels above federal standards have persisted despite these great strides. Future efforts to achieve attainment with ozone air quality standards should be based on sound science and not focused exclusively on industrial emission sources in a way that jeopardizes the region’s cost competitiveness. In particular, control requirements and/or penalties should be focused on the sources most responsible for exceedance.