Individually or collectively, the burgeoning technology based environment in New Orleans would do well to enlist the help of as many stakeholders as possible.
This is the first of a series of interviews with veteran leading technology firms in the NOLA region, firms with experience developing technology-based businesses. Any new venture, concerned citizen, or elected official would do well to heed their advice.
Textron Marine & Land Systems, with headquarters in Slidell, La. and manufacturing operations in both New Orleans and Slidell, designs, produces and supports advanced wheeled combat vehicles and cutting-edge maritime craft used by United States and international armed forces, as well as civilian entities around the globe. The company’s COMMANDOTM family of armored vehicles offers a full range of options delivering enhanced survivability, mobility, lethality and sustainability. Its innovative turret technology and related subsystems also deliver outstanding performance and reliability. Textron Marine & Land Systems is an operating unit of Textron Systems. More information is available at www.textronmarineandland.com. Career opportunities at Textron Marine & Land Systems and all Textron business units can be found on Textron’s careers site at http://www.textron.com/careers/index.php .
Q1. There’s a significant effort by many in New Orleans to recreate the city into a technology hub for the nation. As an established technology leader operating in the city, what obstacles do you see that need to be addressed for this effort totake flight?
Richard Valenti: The New Orleans region needs to offer more technology-based educational opportunities via technical schools or technology-based curriculum at local colleges and universities. In addition, the region need to offer additional financial incentives to technology-based firms, especially small businesses, much like what has been done in recent years to lure the movie industry to the area.
Q2. With only a small number of quality universities in the New Orleans area, has your organization had trouble finding attracting talented new employees? Do you view this as a significant obstacle to developing the region as technology hub?
RV: With the history of boat/shipbuilding in the region, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering programs have been strong at local universities, enabling Textron Marine & Land Systems to recruit some talented young engineers to our organization. However, we have not had the same level of success in other technology-related fields. City leaders need to work with local universities to put a plan together with a joint focus on creating the skilled workforce that, combined with appropriate financial incentives, will attract a greater number of technology-based businesses to the area.
Q3. Can you identify new industries that have grown in the New Orleans area as direct result of Textron Marine & Land Systems’ operations in the region?
RV: Given that Textron Marine & Land Systems has been operating in the New Orleans area for more than 30 years, our support businesses have also been very well established in the region. Locally, our primary suppliers have been machine shops that assist us in producing detailed parts and sub-assemblies.
Q4. Building any industrial base in a region requires a collaborative effort. What can state and municipal government do to help Textron Marine & Land Systems’ accomplish its mission and attract other technology-based industries to the region?
RV: Recognizing the significant economic impact that a company like Textron Marine & Land Systems has on local and state economies, and that most of our facilities are in such close proximity to the state of Mississippi, we are always faced with strong financial incentives to expand and/or relocate into Mississippi. Louisiana needs to be more proactive in its efforts to neutralize those incentives. As we look to expand our operations and upgrade our capabilities in order to grow and maintain a solid business base and skilled workforce, we would prefer to do that here in Louisiana, but in the end we must do what is necessary for the future of our business. As for what the municipal governments can do, lowering the crime rate has to top the list. Given current crime statistics, it is difficult to recruit talented individuals to move to a region with the poor reputation New Orleans has nationwide.
During his more than 29-year career with Textron Marine & Land Systems, Richard Valenti has served in a variety of management positions in areas including operations, engineering, logistics, program management and business development. He is currently vice president, integrated supply chain. Valenti earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of New Orleans. He and his family reside in New Orleans.