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Historic Challenges Face Southwest Louisiana

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The mission of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance is to be the regional leader for business and workforce development resulting in improved quality of life for all residents in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis parishes. The mission of the Chamber SWLA is to serve as the voice for the regional business community.

Events of 2020 have presented challenges that were not foreseen at the beginning of this year.

We were anticipating a second wave of industrial projects to begin and to continue to lead the state in job creation. Then came the COVID-19 outbreak and in mid-March, the government ordered closure of non-essential businesses, cancelled schools, and stay-at-home orders. The economy of the nation ground to almost a halt. Despite devastating small businesses, and restaurants in particular, our area’s industries continued to operate along with grocery and large retail outlets.

Then came the drop in oil prices upon which our state relies for jobs and revenue. The combination of the coronavirus effects with large numbers of cases and deaths and the oil crisis has caused most of the expected LNG projects to be delayed.

Recovery task forces were appointed by the governor and another by the Senate president and House speaker to make policy recommendations for re-starting the state’s economy. Many pieces of legislation were drafted and presented at the shortened regular legislative session and at the special legislative session which is now underway. Conflict between the governor and the majority of the Legislature has yet to be resolved. The governor has vetoed some legislation and it remains to be seen if the legislature has the votes to override the vetoes.

Then on May 25, the very unfortunate death of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted in hundreds of protests in cities around our nation and the world to protest heavy-handed police tactics. Now, we have a third crisis to deal with.

The U.S. Chamber and over 400 Chambers around the nation including the Chamber SWLA, have signed on to a national initiative to address inequality of opportunity. The U.S. Chamber will conduct a national virtual town hall June 25. Details of the time with meeting link will be released soon. After this national event, with the planning of the Chamber SWLA’s Business Development and Inclusion Task Force, we will conduct a regional town hall meeting, or meetings, to discuss inequality through education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice reform.

“The moral case for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is indisputable and there’s overwhelming evidence that greater diversity benefits the American economy, businesses, communities, and employees,” said U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark.

Southwest Louisiana has weathered many “storms” and disasters including wars, hurricanes, oil crisis, and more. Our resilient people have always emerged stronger than before. As we proceed through the many issues facing us now and begin a dialogue on issues that are uncomfortable for many, let us continue to work in unity and be a model for our nation. Let’s show the USA what we’re made of in SWLA and Louisiana. If we do that, we can live up to our mission to create a better quality of life for all residents.

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