Community seeing return on investment in Cyber Innovation Center - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Community seeing return on investment in Cyber Innovation Center

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)

It was a vision and investment many in the area doubted - $107 million to build a facility that looked like something out of a Star Trek movie.

Now six years later, the purpose of the Cyber Innovation Center's Research Park in Bossier City is finally becoming clear, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

"A global provider of next-generation IT solutions will be creating 800 new direct jobs right here in Bossier City," announced Gov. Bobby Jindal at a press conference in February.

Computer Sciences Corporation, or CSC, is coming to town, and bringing with it the promise of long-term economic development.

Through a $29 million investment from the state, CSC will anchor the National Cyber Research Park, near the site of the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC).

"As a company, we could not be more pleased with the value this partnership brings. It brings the benefit of education, technology, workforce, economic development," says David Zolet, with CSC.

But none of it comes cheap, and it would never have been a possibility at all without millions from both state and local governments.

In addition to the $29 million for CSC's 116,000 square foot facility, the state is also providing a $14 million investment in higher education over the next 10 years.

That will be used for expansion of programs to beef up the number of graduates in areas like computer science and cyber engineering.

The state's also forking over nearly $10 million as part of an incentive package to secure the CSC project.

"There's been a lot of hard work, a lot of planning, a lot of investment, a lot of testing and construction," says LA Tech University President Les Guice.

Locally, Bossier City provided just under $34 million, and the parish almost $17 million, to build CIC in 2008.

The state came up with $57 million more.

More recently, the city is pitching in another $7 million, along with the parish's $3 million, to get CSC here.

But where big checks are written, there will be critics.

"As a conservative, I'm for a limited federal government," said Congressman John Fleming at the press conference, before adding, "but this is different. It's a public-private partnership with tremendous advantages going forward."

Economists say when companies like CSC offer only services, especially technological services, it's often tough for the public to put a finger on productivity, because there's no tangible product, but that doesn't mean we're not getting a return on our investment.

"If you look at the Cyber Innovation Center, they have been very good community citizens. They have been very supportive of education, in general," says Dr. David Hoaas, Economics professor at Centenary College.

"In a sense, we're so far behind other areas, that you actually need this kind of government-induced expenditure in order to kind of bring us up to the point that then you can become competitive," says Jeffrey Sadow, LSUS Political Science professor.

For Bossier Parish District 3 Police Juror Wanda Bennett, it's been a long road, but one she says was absolutely necessary to make this vision become reality.

"We knew we couldn't possibly do it alone. It was going to take coordination between a lot of different agencies, there would be money needed."

Bennett says she and other local leaders were warned the process would be frustrating, and there would be times they'd want to abandon it altogether.

"This is not a short-term type of situation that you get into. Make sure that you know what it is, and this is what you want for your area, and you believe that you can deliver it."

And with millions upon millions spent, and all the necessary signatures on dotted lines, Bennett believes we're finally seeing that coveted return on investment.

"We needed to make sure that we were buying into something that could be a future for us, and it was possible for us, and it was not something that was fly-by-night."

CSC will receive the services of Louisiana Economic Development's Fast Start program, geared toward producing highly-trained workers.

LA Tech is also doing its part with plans to quadruple the number of undergraduate degrees awarded annually in technology programs.

The university will receive at least 65% of the $10 million promised for higher ed.

The CIC will provide 40,000 square feet of temporary space to CSC, while the new facility is being built.

The company plans to complete construction on its technology center by mid-2015.

The expected yearly salary for the 800 direct jobs is about $50,000 before benefits.


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