IEM is a disaster management consulting firm with about 200 employees in Baton Rouge. According to the company, only about 50 of those are involved in headquarters operations, and the other 150 could remain in Baton Rouge but may opt to go to North Carolina. If they stay, it would soften the blow considerably, except for the other part of the announcement which says that IEM plans to hire 430 workers in North Carolina.
The announcement comes after what Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp calls the offer of “an unprecedented retention package” with financial incentives and plans to address workforce concerns. Let me repeat that: workforce concerns.
It’s probably true that Louisiana has too many four-year campuses. We probably have too much duplication. Yes, the five-board management system that emerged from the Constitutional Convention of 1973 is cumbersome. Yes, some money could be saved in the course of the upcoming legislative session.
But it was the presence of three major universities in the Research Triangle region that had IEM looking eastward. During my ten years in North Carolina, I never heard anyone say that the state spent too much on education. And as I look at performance measure after measure, as I look at the educational levels of our adult workforce, as I evaluate Louisiana’s knowledge resources, I find no evidence that we have too much of what we need most: knowledge.
All that is to say, that as the legislature and Governor turn their full attention to balancing the budget, I urge them to see education as something more important than a target for cost-cutting. And as they meet in Baton Rouge, I hope at least some of their attention will be directed to the educational needs of places like Central Louisiana. I hope that they will see that LSU-A must retain its four-year status and that Cenla must become home to a comprehensive community college in the very near future. Anything less would consign Cenla and its children to a choice between second-rate opportunities and relocating to a more opportunity- and knowledge-rich environment.