Interview with Josh Tatum of Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Voovio Interview with Josh Tatum, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Greater New Orleans

Louisiana’s tradition as an “energy state” runs deep. This historical dominance – even dependence has created challenges in the past years. The Greater New Orleans, Inc. is the regional economic development nonprofit organization that developed programs to provide sustainable pipelines for future jobs, greater equity & a clean energy model for the nation. We partnered with them to help preparing future workforce, being both members of the Project P.O.W.E.R. This Project is a $1.4MM grant, approved in fall 2021 that Voovio helped petition the Department of Labor along with CF Industries and River Parishes Community College. We had the honor to conduct an interview with Josh Tatum, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Greater New Orleans, Inc. Read the interview here to find out more about the objectives and purpose of Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the Project P.O.W.E.R.

Interview with the Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) has been designated as the Region 1 STEM Network Center by the Louisiana Board of Regents LaSTEM Advisory Council. Could you tell us what STEM Network Centers do and what the responsibilities of GNO as the Region 1 STEM Center

“The Louisiana Regional STEM Centers are a statewide, cross-sector of network systems, representing a plethora of stakeholders, with a focus on equitable access to STEM learning experiences for every learner- from early childhood to higher education to adult workforce training. The Regional STEM Center networks are designed to bring educators, business leaders, STEM professionals, and community leaders together to build student success and engage them with STEM career opportunities in their local area. As the Region 1 STEM Center, GNO, Inc. works closely with business and industry, higher education, non-profit training providers, and K-12 education to ensure programs and curricula meet industry demand. Our goal is to ensure we are creating an equitable and prosperous STEM ecosystem in the region that is creating talent pipelines to aid in business and industry growth.” To learn more about GNOrocs efforts visit us here.

As the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Greater New Orleans, Inc. you’re responsible for managing GNO Inc.’s signature workforce development program that will provide sustainable pipelines for future jobs. Could you describe what your work looks like and who in the industry you work with?

“GNO, Inc. recognizes that the economic growth of our region and its businesses depends upon the strength of our qualified labor pipeline. We continue to build and develop innovative programming and resources to help create economic mobility for our residents as they build careers within our local companies in our key growth industry sectors. GNO, Inc. focuses on 6 key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, trade & logistics, energy, digital media/IT, environmental management/coastal restoration, and bioscience/healthcare. As the Director of Strategic Initiatives, I oversee our signature workforce development program coined GNOu. The long-term success of the Greater New Orleans region is predicated on our ability to expand and sustain a skilled workforce available to our region’s growing industry sectors. GNO Inc. serves as a workforce development intermediary, connecting employers to education and training providers to produce industry-relevant programming and curricula.

GNOu cultivates demand-driven workforce development partnerships that are coordinated by GNO, Inc. for the benefit of employers, higher education, and students. GNOu is a “triple win” for the region. Companies receive the employees they need, higher education partners receive market-relevant curriculums for their students, and residents are better equipped for high-demand jobs in the region.”
To learn more about GNOu efforts visit us here.

Louisiana’s tradition as an “energy state” runs deep. This has created a challenge in the past years. E.g. the state was hit by 2 of the largest hurricanes that ever hit the U.S. What do you see as the main challenges caused through this that the industry is facing?

“Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans is no stranger to disasters and downturns in the economy that have left many communities economic and physically devasted.  Since Hurricane Katrina, and most recently Hurricane Ida, Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans region have made significant investments in flood protection levee systems and infrastructure that are keeping our communities resilient from future disasters.  We saw in the recent events of Hurricane Ida in August of 2021 that those investments that were made after Hurricane Katrina paid off.  Communities were not flooded and the turnaround time back to normal was quicker than ever before.  Louisiana and Greater New Orleans is resilient and understands what it takes to be leaders in this space of emergency preparedness and recovery.  Every community is vulnerable to natural disaster.  Louisiana is ahead of the game when it comes to having a game plan, strategy, and ability to make the right investments that are keeping our communities safe and allowing business and industry to prosper.”

The renewable energy industry sector grows. Therefore, the H2theFuture Coalition has developed the project POWER. How is the program supposed to scale workforce efforts and help prepare the workers in this sector?

“The $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the marquee of the US Economic Development Administration’s  American Rescue Plan programs that aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those grappling with decades of disinvestment.

The Challenge provides transformational investments to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country, all while embracing equitable economic growth, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness

GNO, Inc. was one of 59 other finalist that have been selected to advance to Phase 2 of the process. H2theFuture, led by the GNO, Inc., aims to build a green hydrogen energy cluster to decarbonize the South Louisiana industrial corridor. The coalition proposes to coordinate and execute five interrelated projects to support the H2theFuture strategy to catalyze the green hydrogen cluster’s growth. The projects include: the Preparing Our Workforce for Energy Renewal (Project POWER) training program; Green Hydrogen End-to-End Pilot Program; Net-Zero Business Development; Innovation by Air, Land & Sea, three R&D infrastructure projects in green hydrogen, carbon utilization and sequestration, and naval engineering; and the New Energy Institute of America, which will be a physical hub of the green hydrogen cluster to coordinate stakeholders and incubate clean energy startups. The coalition’s goals in South Louisiana are:

  1. to preserve traditional energy jobs in lower-carbon applications,
  2. to train future workers for new clean energy jobs; and
  3. to do so in a way that remedies historical economic, environmental, and social inequities.

As Louisiana and the GNO region begins to see green hydrogen, solar, and wind projects grow, GNO, Inc. and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) have been working closely with the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) to ensure the workforce and talent is prepared to enter into these new jobs.  Additionally, through Project POWER, GNO, Inc., LCTCS, and LED are proactively working with energy industry partners to begin creating customized training programs that meet there needs for new entrants and incumbent workers seeking to enter renewable energy sector or make the transition into the sector from other sectors.  The maritime industry has also been a key player in the renewable energy space.  GNO, Inc., LCTCS, and LED have been brining together all partners through key industry roundtables to ensure the workforce ecosystem is creating demand driven programs that is preparing citizens for high wage, high demand careers and providing the talent pipelines that are directly connected to industry for their continued success and growth.”

At GNO Inc. you developed new training programs in solar, wind, and green hydrogen. Could you tell us more about the programs?

“In Fall 2021, GNO, Inc. and River Parishes Community College were successful in receiving a US Department of Labor, Delta Regional Authority Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) grant. The funding is providing RPCC the ability to expand their training offerings in hydrogen, solar, and wind energy fields. RPCC is located in the River Region between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. This area of the state is seeing large hydrogen project announcements, with the most recent $2.1 billion investment from CF Industries that will expand their green hydrogen production. As industry continues to expand and build projects in the region and state, GNO, Inc., LCTCS, and LED are developing customized industry training programs that are meeting the needs of industry talent. Utilizing a customized approach helps industry find the needed talent and individuals are better prepared to enter into these careers with skills needed for industry success.”

About Josh Tatum

Josh Tatum serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Greater New Orleans, Inc. and oversees initiatives that ensure the GNO region has a business-friendly environment for business attraction and retention efforts. Tatum is responsible for managing GNO Inc.’s signature workforce development program, GNOu, and additional workforce development initiatives that will provide sustainable pipelines for jobs of today, and of tomorrow. Through the GNOu model, Tatum works directly with existing and new industry leaders to create customized solutions that stimulate a thriving business environment for continued growth.

Voovio Interview with Josh Tatum, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Greater New Orleans

We thank Josh Tatum and the Greater New Orleans Inc. for the time to conduct this interview and these interesting insights.