Attracting, retaining talent as important for Capital Region economy as it is LSU football

Talent—and the importance of both attracting and retaining it—emerged as a leading theme of this morning’s 2017 Leadership Power Breakfast, which was hosted by Business Report at the Crowne Plaza and attended by roughly 500 area professionals.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp and LSU football coach Ed Orgeron all spoke at the event, and all touched on the importance of talent.

After a challenging 2016 spotlighted the resiliency of the community, Broome said Baton Rouge is entering 2017 with optimism and a message of unity.

Baton Rouge is one of two areas in the state positioned for job growth this year, Broome noted, adding attracting and developing a skilled workforce is a major key to furthering growth. To do this, the new mayor is looking to the area’s young, up-and-coming professionals. She announced a new program, called the Baton Rouge Revitalization Fellows Program, to have young people become stakeholders in the city.

“We have to seek out the opinion of young people and get them involved so they will remain in the city they love,” Broome said.

She also encouraged Baton Rougeans to unite behind the shared reasons why they love the Capital Region. Knapp highlighted the city’s promising economic outlook in 2017, including a 1.5% projected job growth. But he also mentioned areas where the city is falling short, noting that compared to other cities, Baton Rouge has a lower rate of in-migrants with college degrees.

“We have to make sure we’re competing for talent if we’re competing for jobs,” Knapp said. “Human capital is the currency of economic development.”

BRAC launched a “Think BR” campaign in recent weeks through local media stations and advertisements to attract talent to the area. The ads feature Baton Rouge residents talking about why they love their city. Two new advertising spots unveiled for the first time publicly at the Leadership Power Breakfast highlighted the stories of Baton Rouge transplants and why they’ve decided to call the city home.

“We have to celebrate diversity in our community,” said Knapp, who encouraged area businesses to learn how to sell their open positions to outside talent. “It’s not true that you have to have been born here or gone to college here to love it here.”

Not only does the business community count on recruitment, but so does the city’s flagship university and its athletic programs. Orgeron recounted a story about when he was recruiting coordinator at the University of Southern California after then head coach Paul Hackett was fired in 2000. Orgeron’s own job was in jeopardy and many assumed he would lose it. But he continued recruiting for the team in the meantime, and new head coach Pete Carroll eventually kept him on staff.

“Keep knocking on those doors,” he advised both established and aspiring business leaders in the audience, “and those doors will open.”

Orgeron wrapped up the event by thanking business leaders for making Baton Rouge a welcoming home for student athletes, and providing internships and job opportunities for them after graduation.

—Annie Ourso

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