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Creative solutions will keep our region on top

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Recent comments from visitors and economic development consultants are very encouraging about the current and future economy of our region.

We’ve heard repeatedly from sources outside our area that the dollar amount of current and future industrial projects is unprecedented and not something to take for granted, compared to other areas of our state and nation.

Currently there are $44 billion in industrial projects underway and $65 billion in announced projects, totaling over $109 billion. These projects will create over 18,000 permanent jobs in industry and ancillary services to support our growing population.

Opportunity abounds for our residents who will commit to attending Sowela, McNeese, ABC School, union apprenticeships, or other training institutions.

While we have unprecedented growth underway during the construction phase, there are geographical areas yet to benefit. Until all areas of our region and our residents with the desire to improve themselves can participate in financial growth, there is much work needed to be done.

Action by the Lake Charles City Council to adopt new financial incentives in certain targeted areas of the city will provide a new tool for attracting businesses along the Nellie Lutcher Cultural District, I-10 corridor, and lakefront.

Another incentive available to our region is to utilize new market tax credits. Last week, The Alliance hosted a financial professional who works nationally to utilize these tax credits. Meetings were held with Mayor Nic Hunter and his executive staff as well as representatives of the North Lake Charles Redevelopment Authority.

Lake Charles is due for creative ways to fund economic and community development projects. A map, compiled by the United States Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, shows a large portion of the city has high poverty rates. The area’s borders are the Calcasieu River, Highway 397, Prien Lake Road and sections near Lake Charles and the Calcasieu River Ship Channel.

In fact, the map characterizes the section as “severe distress.” Unfortunately, the “severe distress” areas also exist throughout our five-parish region.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury Community Development Financial Institution Fund, historically, low income communities experience a lack of investment, as evidenced by vacant commercial properties, outdated manufacturing facilities, and inadequate access to education and healthcare service providers. The new market tax credit program aims to break this cycle of disinvestment by attracting the private investment necessary to reinvigorate struggling local economies. The NMTC program attracts private capital into low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial intermediaries called community development entities. The credit totals 39 percent of the original investment amount and is claimed over a period of seven years.

This could be a vehicle to spur development in these targeted areas of Lake Charles and other qualifying communities in Southwest Louisiana. The Alliance continues to look for creative ways to increase our regional economy. In a few years, hopefully, the efforts of business, industry, government and concerned citizens result in our five parishes being a region of choice for generations to come.

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