BioDistrict N.O. focuses on training, new funding source - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

BioDistrict N.O. focuses on training, new funding source


New Orleans, La. — The city's Biosciences Economic Development District is gaining more ground, and now a lot of focus is on training locals for the thousands of jobs it will create. And the district says it also needs a stable funding source to further its goals.

The new LSU Medical Center and the adjacent VA Hospital are on the rise between Tulane Avenue and Canal Street. The new cancer center sits on Tulane at Claiborne Avenue and on Canal Street there is also the BioInnovation Center --  and yet more development is envisioned.

"We think Galvez will be a signature street and this will be a rendering of what research buildings will be built in there," said Jim McNamara, president and CEO of BioDistrict New Orleans as he held a color mock-up of the anticipated development on Galvez Street.

BioDistrict New Orleans, which was created by the legislature, has a mission of expanding the biosciences industry here while creating high-paying jobs.

McNamara said the district hopes to create more than 30,000 jobs over 15 to 30 years, so having an ample workforce is critical.

"I think that we are right-sizing our activity to our population.  The key for us is to get New Orleanians engaged in these opportunities and not find ourselves having to recruit people from other cities to come in and take these jobs," McNamara stated.

"Jobs for those who are just starting their careers or those who have trades all the way through those who have advanced degrees," said Rod Miller, CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

He and McNamara said Delgado Community College has training programs, and the City of New Orleans' Job 1 program is also working on training opportunities to benefit the BioDistrict.

"There are a lot of people that are entering those programs... additionally it's going to attract new talent to the market," Miller said.

And recently, the Healthcare Information and Management Society trained some local potential workers ahead of hosting its huge conference in the city this week.  That "provided training for 86 people that could go through and come out of that training with a job that pays $15.50 an hour," said McNamara.

He said some of the trainees have already landed employment in the health information technology sector.

"It's really a multi-faceted pipeline or a conveyor belt that we're trying to create, starting with high schools to introduce high school students and even grammar school students on why stem education is important, the science, technology, engineering and math," McNamara stated.

While the BioDistrict is reaching out to young people, McNamara said they are also hoping more and more adults will shed their fears of science and biotechnology.

"One of the people that we recently helped get a job was retired, or laid off from the Times-Picayune. She was at the Times-Picayune for 25 years, so she sat behind a computer, did computer work, was familiar with the computer but scared to death of health care and of technology," he said.

And to further its vision of creating tens of thousands of jobs, the BioDistrict is pushing for a 1.5 percent construction impact fee on commercial construction.  It will need City Council approval.

"So that we can be independent and actually get out there and drive a full-fledged agenda," said McNamara.

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