The United States is slowly emerging again as a global competitive leader, according to the latest World Economic Forum data. The rebound aided by forward-looking, public-private partnerships that create new jobs and the high-tech, high-value skills required in a borderless economy.

The State of Louisiana and IBM broke ground on one of these models for global competitiveness in Baton Rouge today.

This partnership with the state and multiple Louisiana academic institutions provides the foundation for the IBM Services Center in Baton Rouge, which will employ nearly 800 information technology specialists over the next four years.

This is the fourth U.S-based technology services center established by my company with local governments. These initiatives serve dual purposes: developing the talent that enterprises require to compete in a world that is being transformed by data and the technologies to exploit it; and strengthening the economic fabric of these communities.

These technology skills will be essential. In these early days of the 21st Century, new technologies including Big Data analytics, cloud, mobile tools and social platforms, are reshaping the agenda of business. Because the agenda is new, so are the skills to advance it. Nations, states and cities need to take a hard look at the skills of their citizens and at the capabilities of their educational institutions.

And in a global marketplace for talent, why would the United States tolerate any gap in its capacity to provide high-quality educational opportunities in the STEM domains: science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Why accept global rankings that show U.S. students running in the middle of the pack on math achievement? So it’s essential that U.S. businesses, government institutions and universities work together to design educational programs and produce graduates qualified to compete on a global stage for the high-value positions.

The public-private partnership in Baton Rouge will deliver grants totaling $14 million to Louisiana universities to substantially increase graduates in computer science and related fields. Louisiana State University will triple graduates in computer science and engineering. Our experts will work with the university on STEM curricula and assure that course work aligns with contemporary professional requirements.

A business agenda defined by data creates massive new possibilities everywhere there is a wireless signal. Public-private partnerships, such as the one in Baton Rouge, represent an important step to ensure the competitiveness and leadership in this digital, global marketplace of the 21st Century.


Colleen Arnold is a Senior Vice President in IBM's Global Business Services. She has held senior management positions for IBM around the world. Arnold serves on the Board of Directors for Cardinal Health, and on the board of  the School of Management, Syracuse University. She holds an MBA from Syracuse University and a BS in business from Nazareth College, both in New York State.