Successful resolution to many issues we face in Southwest Louisiana will require participation in the government process by citizens and the business community, large and small. The Chamber SWLA, part of the Economic Development Alliance, has a very proactive agenda for this first year of a new decade.
2020 is a census year. It’s imperative that every resident be counted. The results could determine if our state loses a seat in congress or maintains the six seats we have. Federal funding for various programs is allocated based on population. An undercount of our population could result in cuts. Another vital part of the census is legislative redistricting for the state legislative districts as well as our congressional districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.
During the last redistricting there was an effort to move the Lake Charles area into a district with Shreveport. We fought and will do so again to keep the Lake Charles and Lafayette metros in the same district. Chambers of Commerce from Southwest Louisiana and Acadiana have been meeting to gauge support for working together on the redistricting issue and other common interests.
The Chamber SWLA’s I-10 Bridge Task Force continues work on our highest priority, which is to get a replacement for the outdated and unsafe I-10 Bridge at Lake Charles. This project also includes an overpass over the railroad in Westlake. Since the Task Force began its work over two years ago, progress is being made. Last January the Task Force announced its plan and support on the local, state, and federal level has been strong.
The Task Force is working with our Federal delegation to determine the amount of federal funds that might be available after the President’s pledge when he came to Hackberry last year. Governor John Bel Edwards has committed state funds for a stateDOT Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson is working on the project and the environmental impact study(EIS) needs to be completed. Public support for the new bridge is impressive.
With the upcoming state legislative session, the Chamber SWLA will represent our members to push for many important issues such as funding for Calcasieu Ship Channel dredging, increased financial support for early childhood education, programs to promote a prepared workforce, fiscal reform, and funding for infrastructure not only for the I-10 Bridge but also for all the many road and bridge projects throughout our five-parish region. We urge our legislators and our Governor, regardless of their party differences, to find common ground to solve these and other pressing issues in our state. Our state does not have four years to waste. Opportunity is here due to the industrial expansion in our area, but we must seize the moment.
The Chamber SWLA will proactively represent the business community and support policies to create a better quality of life for all residents of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis parishes and all of our state. 2020 must be a key year for finding solutions to problems that have plagued us for generations.