Each of the three speakers at this morning’s Leadership Power Breakfast, hosted by Business Report, had one thing in common: Each believes Louisiana and Baton Rouge can be leaders in a given industry if business leaders recruit and retain top talent.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, one of three keynote speakers for the event, touted Louisiana’s workforce, calling it the “most advanced” workforce in the nation and citing statistics claiming the state boasts the “highest value-added workforce in America.”
“Look at our state of Louisiana,” Graves says. “We have all these assets and strengths other states would kill for, yet look at the fact we have higher unemployment and are among the top five states people are moving out from. What is going on?”
He encouraged attendees to turn away from the decisive rhetoric being published on Fox News and MSNBC and work together to make the state a leader.
“The only way it can happen here is by us working together and not allowing this divisiveness that’s happening nationally and not allowing this prejudice to seep into our lives and into our business dealings,” Graves says.
John Kirwan, executive director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, talked of the initiatives underway at the Perkins Road facility and his intent to establish Baton Rouge as a destination health care hub.
“Our big vision is to eradicate obesity, and we’re building our strategy and story through partnerships and people,” Kirwan says, adding that by 2030, 60% of Louisiana’s population is expected to be obese.
In 2012 as a college student, ThreeSixtyEight CEO Kenny Nguyen visited New York City to accept an award relating to college startups. Nguyen recalls meeting one of the judges, an executive from a Fortune 500 company, who winced when Nguyen said he lived in Baton Rouge.
“I’m sick and tired of being asked why I play for Baton Rouge,” Nguyen says. “I played for the city because I live in the city, I’m from this city.”
Nguyen stresses that to establish Baton Rouge as a creative headquarters in the South, businesses need to be recruiting not just university students, but high school students. By reaching out to the younger generation, leaders help ensure the next generation of talent is invested in the community and wants to remain in the Capital Region to work.
“Be a voice for the community you represent,” Nguyen says. “If you don’t elevate the people you have, they’re going to find somewhere else to jump.”