Northern Louisiana is known for its strong manufacturing, agriculture and health care sectors as well as its natural beauty and family-friendly atmosphere. However, the region is now nurturing a new and exciting sector — a booming information technology (IT) cluster that first took hold in 2001. This emerging sector is evolving into a powerhouse, generating buzz, connections and collaboration throughout the I-20 Corridor.
The region’s rapidly growing technology cluster along the I-20 corridor has attracted high-tech professionals back home. It has also attracted innovative tech companies such as Pierry Inc, a company that has been recognized as one of the fastest growing firms in Silicon Valley. The growth of the I-20 Technology Corridor is fueled by our expanding technology assets: innovative programs hosted by public educational institutions; private/public technology partnerships and a growing number of technology companies locating in northern Louisiana.
North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP), an Accredited Economic Development Organization, works diligently to promote the I-20 corridor to technology companies who want to expand or relocate to the area. By promoting and marketing our existing high-tech cluster, NLEP and local partners expect to foster and cultivate a knowledge-based economy. Recently, NLEP hosted a familiarization tour of Monroe and Ruston, bringing in five national corporate site selectors who influence where companies expand or locate new operations. These site selectors, who work with Fortune 500 companies, were very impressed with the number and quality of our technology assets.
Another partner in fostering the growth of the I-20 Technology Corridor is the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City. The Cyber Innovation Center serves as a catalyst in the growth and evolution of our knowledge base economy. It anchors a 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park that creates opportunities for government, private industry, and academia to collaborate, conduct research, and develop state-of-the-art technologies and innovative best practices. The Cyber Innovation Center recently partnered with CenturyLink, the City of Monroe, Monroe City Schools, and Ouachita Parish Schools to launch a STEM curriculum in area high schools.
Our technology corridor also includes 11 colleges and universities that offer programs that produce intellectual capital. Our higher education partners work readily with existing technology companies to develop curricula to fit their needs. They also produce the technology skilled workforce to support our existing companies such as CenturyLink, which is the third largest telecommunications company in the nation.
Upon completing the Level 3 acquisition, CenturyLink will become the second largest telecommunications company in the United States serving Enterprise customers, and will further cement its position as one of the largest carriers of Internet traffic in the nation. The company’s recent headquarters expansion in Monroe has resulted in 800 new jobs and the construction of a state-of-the-art Silver LEED certified Technology Center of Excellence.
CenturyLink’s global footprint has attracted other tech companies like IBM, which is currently bringing 400 new technology jobs to North Louisiana. IBM will also anchor Century Village, an 88-acre technology park and mixed-use development currently under construction in Monroe.
On the westside of the I-20 Technology Corridor, EATEL Tier III Data Center and CSRA, Inc. serve as the main technology anchors. The EATEL Data Center in Shreveport is the state’s only Tier III data center – the highest certification for data centers. CSRA opened its new Integrated Technology Center in Bossier City, marking the completion of a two-year project that is expected to bring 800 new jobs to North Louisiana by June 2018.
These assets, programs, and partnerships form the foundation of our rapidly growing I-20 Technology Corridor, and we sincerely hope this Corridor will eventually transform the economic landscape of our region. If you are interested in supporting the I-20 Technology Corridor, please consider becoming a member of Tech by 20, a group which exists to support the development of a vibrant technology ecosystem along the I-20 Corridor of North Louisiana. It seems that we often focus on the negative aspects of our region, but we should not overlook how many parts of our state would love to have our growth opportunities and resources.
Alberta Green is the vice president of organizational strategy and IT Initiatives for North Louisiana Economic Partnership, an Accredited Economic Development Organization for 14 parishes in northern Louisiana. She is an active member of the Ouachita Business Alliance.