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What Does Gov. Jindal Do Next?

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Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

HEY BOBBY JINDAL

IT’S INDIA NOT IOWA!

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent “speech to the nation” was panned by both Democrats and Republicans alike. It would not be fair to say that his national career has crashed and burned, but it certainly makes sense for him to put this agenda on the back burner. It may prove to be a wake-up call for Jindal to get back home and deal with a growing litany of financially related problems all over the state.   

When signs of a recession first surfaced, some prognosticators were predicting that Louisiana would not suffer the financial downturn that has spread nationwide.   But today, Louisiana’s downward spiral mirrors what is happening in many states all over the country. Louisiana presently has one of the highest rates of mortgages that are both overdue and in default in the US. And job losses, particularly in North Louisiana, continue to mount. As Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said last week, “Louisiana is heavily invested in industries that are shrinking.”

So where does Gov. Jindal look to find ways for new job growth and more financial infusion into the Louisiana economy? It would be naïve to think that existing industries outside the state would seriously consider expanding to Louisiana, or for that matter any other state due to the present downturn in the economy.   Jindal does have an ace up his sleeve. A chit if you will that is available to him alone, and to no other governor in the country.

Here’s a hint.  President Obama’s new pick as Secretary of the Department of Commerce is former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke.  He is the first Chinese-American governor and was overwhelmingly successful in attracting both Chinese investment dollars and business export opportunities for numerous Washington State companies.  Washington is the only state in America that has a trade surplus with China.  The Chinese do more trade with the state of Washington in any state in America.

 Washington is a major agricultural state, and farm exports to China have grown dramatically. Gov. Locke headed up eight different trade missions to China.  If you talk to Chamber of Commerce officials in the state, they will point out it was easy for this Chinese-American governor to gain special access to both Chinese officials and Chinese business executives. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Gov. Locke has the star power and connections necessary to successfully do business in China.”  Locke actively pursued bringing international students to Washington universities. These students account for over $300 million alone into the Washington economy. In short, the former Governor’s Chinese background created business opportunities not available to any other state.

China has in recent years become the world’s fastest growing economy, and America’s largest trading partner. But there is another Asian country that is directly challenging China as the leader of world economic growth. And it’s a country that, in order to maintain this growth, will have to increase importing natural resources as well as goods and services from outside its borders.

Here is what this country needs to import.  Various petroleum based products including synthetic rubber imports and a vast array of chemicals and chemical related goods including synthetic fertilizers.  Louisiana of course has the largest concentration of chemical plants in the nation.  Coal has become a major import for this country.   Jim Welch, who heads up Louisiana’s permit natural resources, confirms that the state has a vast supply of lignite coal in Northwest Louisiana that is ripe for mining.

This country has become a major fruit importer, and is particularly looking for citrus. Oranges from Plaquemines parish and strawberries in southeast Louisiana have strong export potential. And if increasing market opportunities became available, there could well be agriculture opportunities to produce apples, pears, figs, plums and a variety of other fruits. And don’t forget sugar. The India Daily newspaper reported recently that sugar prices in India have skyrocketed with forecasts of gloomy prospects for sugar production that Indian officials say could lead to a high import demand due to an output shortfall.

This country also is importing cotton, soybeans and animal hides for leather production.  Do you see the correlation? One of the fastest growing economies in the world is actively seeking a litany of products that are available in mass quantities right here Louisiana. And all these imports would be a financial boon for Louisiana’s numerous ports.  The traffic through Washington State’s ports under Gov. Locke increased dramatically.

The country of course is India. But how is it affected by the world economic downturn? Here’s what the New York Times said about India just last week. “While most of the world grapples with the crippling financial crisis and a recession, optimism reigns in much of India as its economy continues to grow. India’s trading dollar economy remains a relatively bright spot.” The paper went on to say in a separate article that “China and India are in the struggle for top rung on the ladder of world power. The speed with which India is creating world-class companies is a real shock to the Chinese.”

So we have a state (Louisiana) that is facing a major economic downturn, and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (India)that is searching for goods to import, many of which are produced right here in  Louisiana. Sure other states are seeking inroads into this country with a population of almost 4 times the size of the United States.  But just like the state of Washington, Louisiana has an edge.

Indian officials are certainly aware of Bobby Jindal’s high national profile and are just as aware of his heritage. Republican national chairman Michael Steele on ABC radio last week jokingly linked Jindal to the Academy award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, even offering the Governor “slum love out to my buddy. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin’ awesome job in his state.”

Here is what we can conclude.  Louisiana through its new governor has a special and unique opportunity to get business, exports and investment dollars from what is quickly becoming the world’s fastest growing economy.  The need is there, the products that are needed are here, and the former Washington State Governor has proven that heritage and ancestry means something.  It simply can make the difference as to what state gets the export business and the inflow of dollars.  So Governor, put aside visions of trekking across the Buckeye state where the first presidential primary will be held in 2012.  You got the first letter right.  But it’s India Governor, not Iowa. 

                                                                                              *******

      “India, with a population of 1.1 billion, and a middle class that is larger than the entire population of the US, is one of the world’s largest untapped markets.”Â Â 

                            State Senator Satveer Chauddary-Minnesota                          


Peace and Justice
Jim Brown 

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State ofLouisiana.  You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

Jim also has a new book out on his views ofLouisiana.  You can read about it and order it by going to www.jimbrownla.com. .

Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) fromNew Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.  

9 Responses
  1. Lana Rodriguez

    Dear Jim,

    You hit the nail on the head. I am personally invested in both China and India for the exact same reasons you cited.

    Here’s hoping that Gov. Jindal reads this column. Excellent!

  2. Pat

    Jim, Absolutely Great Column. The Business world is always about Networking…and having the “edge”. Governor Bobby Jindal should give Louisiana the “edge” in exporting U.S. products and specifically those produced in Louisiana to India. He at least should provide every effort to do so….in good…and especially in not-so-good economic times. Pat

  3. Hardy Parkerson

    Dear Mr. Brown,

    Don’t be so hard on the young man. Governor Jindal is doing a great job, especially for one so young. Give him a chance!

    Sincerely,

    Hardy Parkerson
    Lawyer in Exile

  4. olegonzo

    Somehow I don’t think that the key to La.’s future prosperity lies in selling sugar to India, or, for that matter, any produce. India is an enormous agrarian country. Just one of its agricultural states, Kerala, has a population of 35 million and most of them are farmers.

    You’d be better off trying to get Indian industrialists to invest in production facilities in Louisiana. It’s only a matter of time before Tata (owned by the world largest steel manufacturer, Mittal) pickup trucks are for sale in the USA. Might as well get a head start on that one!

  5. Good points made, but the fact remains that, for now, India is importing huge quantities of sugar, fruits, chemicals, coal, and other products all available right here in Louisiana. But none are coming from La. even though we have an Indian governor. Why not?

  6. Glen

    1. Lignite is a very low value coal. It doesn’t make economic sense to ship it very far. Most of it is burned within a few miles of the mine.
    2. The world sugar market price is much lower than the price in the U.S. Not likely the Indians will pay a premium price for sugar they can get elsewhere for much cheaper.
    3. Citrus has a limited shelf life. Would probably have to be shipped by air. $$$

    Nice thoughts but the concept of getting Indian investment is more likely to be productive.

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