OUR OPINION: High tech loss hurts in Baton Rouge

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The news that a high profile company is leaving the Baton Rouge area for a more erudite location in North Carolina, home of the Research Triangle, stings, but is hardly what we would call a surprise.

Them what’s got in the high tech world is them what gets.

Until its recent announcement that it was moving its headquarters to North Carolina, eliminating a hundred or so jobs, disaster management company IEM seemed, at least outwardly, that it was content with its United Plaza Boulevard location in the state capital.

But the company was having difficulty filling job openings with people who had graduate degrees and wanted to work in Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, recognizing the importance of IEM in the city’s effort to build an innovative high tech culture within the dominant industrial  culture of the Mississippi corridor area, had been working to keep the company here with incentive packages.

In the end, company spokespeople said IEM will move because of tax breaks, and to have an environment where hiring educated people for its jobs is easier.

The company said it was also attracted to the Research Triangle also because of its innovative history and a culture built around public and private collaboration.

One hang-up for potential IEM employees is the condition of Baton Rouge public schools, and the expense of having to enroll children in private schools, which created an added relocation expense if they came to Baton Rouge.

IEM will reportedly maintain a satellite office in Baton Rouge and give employees there the option to stay, or go, to Durham, NC.

Inadequate public schooling, and a less than robust culture of innovation in the end led IEM to greener pastures in one of the three top high tech areas of the nation.

Baton Rouge has lost an important cog in its effort to move away from the smokestack culture of the 20st century and into the high tech world of the 21th century.

We hope the Baton Rouge area will not give up seeking high tech companies following this disappointing exodus by IEM.

Everyone in business should take IEM's departure as a lesson in how important advanced education degrees are to Louisiana’s future.