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Musings from Brew

The second annual Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week (BREW) came to a close on November 16th after a week replete with intriguing panels, unique networking events, and a high-stakes pitch competition that all celebrated entrepreneurship in the state of Louisiana. The week-long event featured talks on topics ranging from venture capital in the biofuels industry, to how nascent ideas ultimately become films. BREW also presented an impressive group of speakers, including Raising Cane’s Owner Todd Graves, ABC’s Shark Tank winner Jason Lucash, and New York Times best-selling author Josh Linkner. Alison Schmitt and Robert Bray, two Associate Consultants with EMH, attended the festivities on Thursday, and had the chance to sit in on two panels: “What Are Tax Credits and How Can They Help Me,” and “Every Musician is an Entrepreneur.” The panels highlighted the development of Louisiana as an economic force to be reckoned with, and also how the music industry is benefiting from tax incentives that attract recording projects to the state.

It is no secret that Louisiana has quickly become one of the most economically vibrant states, not only in the Gulf South, but in the entire country. This fact is reflected by the myriad of economic rankings earned by the state, including:

• 1st in the nation for export growth
• 2010 State of the Year by Business Facilities magazine
• 1st in the nation for economic growth potential
• 2nd in the nation for job growth
• New Orleans ranked 2nd in the nation by Forbes’ 2011 in the Best Cities for Jobs
• 2nd in the country for lowest tax burdens faced by new firms

(Listed above is only a fraction of the rankings received by the state, and to see the full list, click here.) Louisiana’s reservoir of economic accolades is a function, in part, of the state’s robust and unique set of tax incentives. These tax benefits target an array of industries and goals, from digital media and software (Louisiana ranked 1st in the nation for digital media performance), to entertainment (New Orleans ranked 3rd in the nation for independent filmmaking), to job creation and workforce training (LED FastStart ranked 1st three years running for nation’s best workforce training program). Southern Business & Development magazine distinguished Louisiana as the State of the Year in the South for three years in a row, and it is for all of these reasons that companies like GE Capital, Moonbot Studios, and Folgers have all chosen Louisiana as their newest homes.

Aside from its newfound reputation as an entrepreneurial and high-tech hub, New Orleans has always been synonymous with food and music. Our kitchens have produced the likes of Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme, and musical icons such as Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, and Dr. John all hail from the Crescent City. Louisiana is a breeding ground for culinary talent, and the restaurant scene in New Orleans is booming; but what about the music industry? What is being done to take advantage of the city’s indigenous musical talent? Promising, business savvy musicians looking to establish record labels and studios need to raise capital like any other entrepreneur; to raise money for their ventures, artists might look to familiar faces with a few extra dollars, or take advantage of crowd funding tools like Kickstarter. These types of financial resources are indubitably valuable, and have indeed been necessary for the growing music industry in the past. Now, however, Louisiana Economic Development (LED) is aiming to establish more of a business infrastructure around the industry by offering attractive tax incentives for sound recording projects created within the state of Louisiana. The credit includes a 25% tax credit on sound recording projects made in Louisiana, and has already produced significant results since its implementation in 2007. Such incentives make it more possible for passionate musicians to make a living at their trade, and the credits only add to New Orleans’ cultural and economic allure.

What sort of implications does this Louisiana-based growth have for the Gulf Coast as a whole? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the “Third Coast” and its rise to economic prominence to find out.