OKLAHOMA CITY – The Water Campus in Baton Rouge was recognized as the top Resiliency, Recovery and Mitigation economic development initiative and the best economic development project in the country overall at the 2022 International Economic Development Council Awards ceremony Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
The Gold and Best in Show honors for the Water Campus were among five awards for Louisiana, the most the state has received since becoming the only IEDC accredited state economic development agency in the U.S. in 2018. The state’s rural revitalization program, including LED’s Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, won a Silver Award for Equity and Inclusion programs; and “Louisiana: Building for Tomorrow, Today,” LED’s multi-platform annual report, won Gold in the Specialty Purpose Website and Bronze in the Annual Report categories.
“Congratulations to the team at LED and the many state, regional and local partners who have worked so hard to confront some of our state’s biggest challenges in ways that create economic opportunities,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Receiving this national recognition for Louisiana’s economic growth and diversification is truly an honor, especially given the importance of our coastal restoration and rural revitalization efforts. Our commitment remains steadfast.”
IEDC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization supporting economic developers’ efforts to promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities. Its members work for local, regional, state, provincial and federal government agencies, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions. With more than 4,800 members, it is the largest organization of its kind in the world, and its annual awards are considered among the profession’s highest honors.
“Communities need our profession now more than ever,” IEDC President and CEO Nathan Ohle said. “This year's awardees exemplify the ingenuity, leadership, and determination needed to meet the challenges of today and the future. The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic development and demonstrate the level of leadership that our profession strives for every day.”
The Water Campus opened in 2015 and has earned international acclaim as a hub for public, private, non-profit and academic sectors to collaborate and develop innovative solutions for challenges affecting coastal communities and wetlands. The 1.6 million square foot campus houses business, residential, government, research and higher ed entities, including the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the nonprofit Water Institute of the Gulf, and the LSU Center for River Studies.
“The Water Campus was built to bring together the best minds from the academic, government, non-profit and private sectors to work collaboratively on some of our most pressing challenges,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf. “Together, we’re advancing innovative water and climate resilience solutions for Louisiana and exporting that knowledge to communities across the country and around the world. We’re honored that the IEDC has recognized this work with such a prestigious award as we continue to deepen collaborations and grow our region’s water sector.”
In February 2020, Governor Edwards signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Advisory Council on Rural Revitalization to assist and develop communities and attract new projects. With support from LED, the council issued a strategic plan in 2021 addressing concerns to rural Louisiana communities. LED launched its Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, targeting rural small businesses around the state for second-stage growth while prioritizing the expansion of broadband to close the digital divide faced by many businesses, schools, farms, health care providers and others in rural parishes.
“Our team at LED is dedicated to creating economic opportunity for communities all across Louisiana,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Our success represents the productive partnership we share with Louisiana’s business community, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, higher ed institutions, elected officials and others. Moreover, this recognition of our hard work is particularly gratifying, because IEDC represents the best in economic development experiences and practices, from the broadest international perspective to the local level.”
Numerous other local, parish and regional Louisiana economic development organizations were honored by IEDC, including Greater New Orleans, Inc., which was named Economic Development Organization of the Year for communities over 500,000 residents. For the complete list of winners, go to IEDConline.org.
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant economy. It is the only state agency in the U.S. accredited by the International Economic Development Council, boasting award-winning programs like LED FastStart, rated the No. 1 customized workforce training program in the U.S. 13 years in a row. In 2021, LED attracted 64 new economic development projects representing over 18,100 new direct and indirect jobs, 9,700 retained jobs and more than $20.5 billion in new capital investment. Explore how LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana and employers of all sizes at OpportunityLouisiana.com.