Business summit highlights state’s budding cyber security, water industries

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Following the keynote address from Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Statewide Business Summit wrapped with a segment, titled Bold New World, highlighting the budding cyber security, water and advanced manufacturing industries in the state.

Speakers included leaders from the Bossier City-based Cyber Innovation Center, Baton Rouge’s Water Institute of the Gulf and the New Orleans-based NASA Michoud Assembly Facility.

The discussion centered around the need to develop a skilled workforce pipeline to sustain these innovative new industries in Louisiana, as well as the initiatives already underway to see that happen.

The Cyber Innovation Center, for example, began a move 11 years ago in north Louisiana to create a cyber workforce, starting with a new curriculum and programs implemented in local schools, said executive director Craig Spohn. The center hopes to expand the initiative to universities around the state.

“What we’ve done in north Louisiana is prepare our state for the cyber economy,” Spohn said. “Businesses are coming to north Louisiana because we have a cyber workforce pipeline. We want that for the state.”

The Water Institute President and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth gave an update on the institute, which opened last year as a research center focused on studying coastal restoration and sustainability—another area where Louisiana is at the forefront.

The bad news, Ehrenwerth said, is that the state is experiencing a coastal crisis, but the good news is Louisiana is far ahead of other states in addressing these issues.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the Michoud Assembly Facility is essentially developing the backbone of a Space Launch System rocket, said site leader Jennifer Boland-Masterson. The company has partnered with Nunez Community College, which launched an aerospace training center to help prepare students for careers at Michoud.

“Here in Louisiana, we’re building a rocket,” Boland-Masterson said. “We’re building our pipeline now, and it’s going to be local.”

The final summit discussion played off Edward’s remarks in his keynote address, which stressed the importance of investing in education to create the talent that these industries need to grow.

“It’s key to our success going forward,” the governor said. “When you marry talent and opportunity, it creates prosperity.”

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