With a strong local economy forecast, there is great potential for our region to prosper. However, certain basic improvements are needed to take advantage of this potential. Among those are:
1. Education levels: We applaud the Calcasieu Parish School Board for their focus on the failing schools. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can volunteer and support teachers and students in this mission.
2. Workforce training: While we have a very low unemployment rate, many of our residents lack the skills necessary to fill the thousands of permanent jobs that are being created by industry.
3. Infrastructure: Drainage, water, and sewer issues hamper development and cause problems for existing businesses and residences. Major infrastructure such as widening of roads and new bridges are staggering in costs.
4. Quality of life: In order to keep our young people here in SW La. and make our area more attractive, more amenities such as parks, bike lanes, nightlife, and recreation are needed to add to the enjoyment of our citizens. Simple property clean up and picking up litter is something we all can do.
5. Affordable housing: With the growth and demand for residential units rising, housing costs are up. Low and moderate housing units are scarce.
6. Healthcare: Lack of access to healthcare for children and adults can lead to serious illnesses as well as hamper workforce productivity.
The “ALICE” study conducted by United Way targets another major issue.
Alice stands for “Asset Limited, Income curtailed, Employed.”Alice is a group of people who work hard but still cannot afford to make ends meet. About 40 percent of our area population falls in that category. Increased skills will create better employment opportunities to help move individuals out of this category.
In today’s climate, businesses and individuals must chart their own course. Yes, support is needed from government, but we cannot rely on government to solve our problems whether local, state or federal.
Cuts to higher education, lack of matching funds for road and bridge projects, and funding for the Calcasieu ship channel dredging are more issues which will require innovative solutions and public/private partnerships.
At the special and regular Louisiana legislative sessions, we urge our state legislators to come up with solutions to solve our state’s financial situation. With the expiration of the extra one-cent state sales tax at the end of June, most folks believe that some increased revenue is needed along with cuts to the state’s budget.
One of the biggest obstacles to state cuts is the dedicated funding that restricts almost 80 percent of the state’s general fund revenue. Getting those funds freed up would meet opposition from virtually every entity in our state with protected funds. Some dedications are important such as education and law enforcement.
The job is not easy, but can be done if our leaders consider what is best for Louisiana and compromise to make the state function without this crisis mentality hanging over us.