- Associated Press - Friday, September 29, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Top officials in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration have traveled to London for a business-recruitment trip timed to coincide with this weekend’s New Orleans Saints game in the city.

The governor’s top budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, and Edwards’ top business official, Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, are on the trip that began earlier this week.

Louisiana’s nine-person delegation also includes Pierson’s international commerce division chief and private business leaders. The London visit is a joint event with the Committee of 100, a nongovernment economic development organization in Louisiana.

“Louisiana Economic Development leverages opportunities around major events to engage corporate attention, with a focus on companies that have significant investments in Louisiana or may be considering additional investments in our state,” Pierson said in a statement Friday.

Delegation events began Tuesday and wrap up Monday, according to the governor’s office.

The Edwards administration didn’t announce the trip in advance, but provided information about the visit and its participants in response to questions from The Associated Press.

While in London, the Edwards administration said the group is meeting with representatives of companies who already do business in Louisiana, such as Shell Trading and Supply, Lloyd’s of London, Drax Group, British Airways and British Petroleum.

Also on the agenda are meetings with companies “actively considering investment in Louisiana” and with British trade and energy officials. The Edwards administration wouldn’t release details, citing confidentiality for economic development negotiations.

The delegation is attending the London-based Saints game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, hosting “prospects” who are considering doing business in Louisiana, according to information provided by Edwards’ office and Louisiana Economic Development.

“Face-to-face conversations with CEOs allow us to present compelling information about Louisiana’s competitive business environment,” Pierson said.

The trip was estimated to cost Louisiana taxpayers about $15,000 for flights, hotel stays and meals for the three state officials in the delegation. The other six members of the delegation were using private dollars to cover their travel costs.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser also is in Europe this week, along with members of his staff and 17 tourism industry officials, visiting Germany and Britain for a separate trip to market Louisiana as a destination for visitors and to promote the expansion of direct flights to New Orleans. The tourism delegation will return to Louisiana from the weeklong trip Tuesday.

“International visitation to our state has recently seen an increase of 37 percent. International visitors stay longer and spend more money. That is a win for the state as tourism in Louisiana brings a return on investment of $40 for every $1 spent,” Nungesser said in a statement.

But the Republican elected official said he won’t attend the Saints game while in London because several players have refused to stand during the national anthem.

It wasn’t clear how much Nungesser’s trip would cost taxpayers. The lieutenant governor’s office didn’t immediately answer questions about the visit’s price tag.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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