Cynthia J. Hoffman is editor of Real Estate Forum magazine.

SAN ANTONIO-In an effort to “build a robust, diversified economy,” Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is embarking on an aggressive program to attract businesses, both large and small, to the state. “It is a very exciting time in Louisiana right now,” said Blanco in an exclusive interview with at the CoreNet Global Summit here. And “this is the perfect marketplace for us to raise the level of awareness that we are open for business.”

Although still in the early stages, the state has “several opportunities in the works right now,” said Blanco. “Some are native companies looking to expand and some are national companies looking to come to Louisiana.”

State officials are also talking to several insurance companies in an attempt to fill a large facility in Monroe. The asset once housed State Farm Insurance. Given the area’s large pool of workers skilled in that industry, the site would be a natural for another insurer, she added: “We would definitely work with interested parties.”

Blanco, who took office in January, has had some success in attracting and retaining business to the Pelican State of late. In the past four months, three manufacturers–including General Motors–have announced expansion projects that will total more than $700 million and add some 2,000 jobs

“We have a good number of incentives that we can build into a special package,” depending on the level of investment a company plans to make in the state as well as the number of jobs it expects to create, she said of plans to create a more business-friendly environment. In addition, the state legislature eliminated two taxes, a move that is expected to save businesses more than $1 billion over the next seven years. Significant investments in high-speed internet technologies round out the incentives.

In addition to manufacturing firms, Louisiana is seeking to attract a diverse array of industries, including call centers and biotech firms. “We are looking at the whole business spectrum,” she said. “We can find the right property for any interested party.”

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