Impacts of the disastrous year 2020 remain with us in 2021.
COVID impact is still with us as vaccine supplies increase. Full reopening of our businesses and activities are possible when we bring the disease until control.
Until then masks must be a mandatory wardrobe component. Hurricane recovery continues with thousands of homes and businesses still being repaired.
In 2006, after Hurricane Rita, The Chamber SWLA and Foundation were combined with the SWLA Economic Development Partnership, which was the first real regional effort comprised of the elected officials in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes. This was done to combine resources, eliminate duplication, and have an effective economic development effort for the region.
The three organizations that comprise the SWLA Alliance each have different functions. The Chamber SWLA is the voice for business in our five-parish region.
We advocate public policy on the local, state, and federal level. The high-profile issue is a new I-10 Bridge in Lake Charles. After three years, the Chamber SWLA’s I-10 Bridge Task Force has moved this project to action. The Louisiana Legislature Joint Transportation Committee has authorized the State Department of Transportation to proceed with a new bridge utilizing a public private partnership (P3).
By competitive bid process, the state will select a company to design and construct the bridge and get a return on their investment by a toll. The process to get ready for construction will take about two years. In the meantime, The Chamber will push for our Congressional Delegation to support federal funding for the bridge so that the toll amount will be kept as low as possible. The Chamber also will advocate for increased broadband in rural areas and other issues.
The Chamber will be involved with state and federal redistricting later this year. Our goal working with One Acadiana in Lafayette is to keep the Lake Charles and Lafayette metros in the same congressional district. Developing future leaders is the goal of the very successful Leadership SWLA program. Since 1984, Leadership has over 800 graduates who are now business and community leaders. The Chamber is also targeting Quality of Life projects such as dog parks, bike racks, and litter control.
The SWLA Economic Development Alliance is a 501c3 organization and works for growth for all in our region. A major priority is workforce development working with McNeese and Sowela as well as the five parish school systems, to help train and re-train workers. We also recruit new industry to bring jobs to our area and work with existing industries to keep our current jobs here. Preparing our area with certified industrial sites is another key issue.
The Alliance Foundation also operates the Business Incubator at The SEED Center. Dozens of start-up companies have begun there and many have graduated, including WAITR. In addition to furnishing office space and conference rooms, incubator clients undergo training and mentoring. Due to efforts of working together with regional partners such as The Port of Lake Charles, Chennault Airpark, and many others our region has been recognized by Site Selection magazine as leading the nation in industrial projects four times in recent years. While many industrial projects have been completed, there is still a second wave of projects that should begin construction later this year or next year. There’s much more we do.
Funding for our organizations comes from business members of the Chamber and from public and private organizations for the Foundation. For those of you in business who are not members, please consider becoming part of the Chamber SWLA family. With over 1,200 members there is strength in numbers. Unfortunately, there are local and national companies who don’t support us. For the most part, these non-members do excellent business here. We think it’s a small request that they support an organization that works to create jobs and customers for them. There’s always some who want a free ride.
When you shop or need services support those businesses that support our area.
It will pay dividends for our region.