The great industrialist Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” And so it is with economic development. Collaboration and teamwork always yield greater results than working alone.
As a regional economic development marketing organization, North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) never works on a project alone. It always collaborates with state and local partners to recruit or help businesses to expand in the 14 northern Louisiana parishes it serves. That’s why NLEP’s tagline is “Together We Achieve More.”
By leveraging our collective assets, we can build a stronger economy for Louisiana’s newest economic corridor, which stretches from Caddo to Ouachita and south to Natchitoches parishes. We already have witnessed some great successes built on the strength of partnerships.
The merger between two local economic development groups to create one regional group, NLEP, represents the first phase of “coming together.” As progress continues and we start to work together, success is a given.
Case in point: The collaboration across the corridor between Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City produced a program so successful that it has been selected for a national rollout this summer. The Cyber Discovery model is a professional development program that mentors high school teachers while encouraging students to pursue an education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math: the STEM subjects. The Department of Homeland Security awarded Cyber Innovation Center and Louisiana Tech a grant to launch Cyber Discovery as a national model this June, starting at the University of Baltimore in Maryland.
Cyber Discovery addresses a growing shortage of technically skilled workers, a problem that could have serious repercussions for America’s productivity and innovation. A recent report by Congress’s Joint Economic Committee predicts growing demand for STEM workers coupled with the retirement of baby boomers will create a real shortage that could hamper economic growth. A survey of manufacturers concluded that one-third were experiencing shortages of engineers and scientists even at the height of the recession.
The Cyber Discovery program integrates math, science and the humanities within the context of cyberspace. It requires a science/math teacher along with a liberal arts teacher to participate in professional development workshops followed by an immersive weeklong camp with six of their students.
The workshops and camps instill an understanding and appreciation of STEM subjects in high school teachers and their students. As teachers take the Cyber Discovery curriculum back to their classrooms, the program’s impact grows exponentially, reaching hundreds of thousands of students during a teacher’s career.
The results of Cyber Discovery are tangible. Louisiana Tech has experienced a 39 percent increase in enrollment in its College of Engineering and Science from high schools that participate in the program. Besides these obvious benefits, Cyber Discovery also teaches us another lesson: Collaboration can solve most any problem.