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Rebuilding Southwest Louisiana...With Intention and Inclusion Is Necessary

Posted by: Eric Cormier on Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rebuilding a local or regional community/economy after a pandemic or natural disaster is difficult and complex.

No matter how much planning government and business leaders may have done prior to the troubles, the eventuality is that slow and spirit deflating moments become the reality.

Former heavy weight boxer Mike Tyson has a simple insight about planning, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Right now, we want to let our Chamber SWLA members, the overall business community, local, state and federal leaders, and most importantly, the citizens of our region know we are proud of all of their efforts among insurmountable odds.

Rebuilding structures, managing insurance issues, deciding how to reopen or not, looking for employees to hire, looking for a place to live, etc., all the while contending with personal stressors for extended periods of time due to the pandemic and weather events have pushed many to the edge.

Then we see those moments of light that give us time to pause and smile.

For instance, the group that owns the Panorama Music House – which sustained damage from last year’s storms – let us know what their intentions were with a post on the business’ website, “You can’t keep a good bar down! We will rebuild and emerge stronger than ever…”

On April 22, the Panorama Music House group posted on Facebook, “Exciting day as Jay Ecker, Bryant Maraist and I viewed the presentation for the rebuild of Panorama Music House and the addition of a rooftop patio bar in downtown Lake Charles, set to begin next month. Stay tuned and watch the progress.”

Another moment for us to savor can be viewed on the Chamber SWLA's American Press page.    Companies like: Lit Pizza, 100% Chiropractic, Nationwide Lending and Southwest Louisiana Credit Union have been featured as Chamber SWLA members with ribbon cuttings. These businesses have celebrated openings after dealing with difficult circumstances.

Giving a quick shout-out to the positive news of the latter businesses is in no way aimed at looking away from the multitude of heart-breaking problems faced by many business owners and families.

If there was ever a time when the citizens in the five-parish region should unify their efforts the present moment is it.

A business is only as successful as its customers who have money to purchase services and buy products.

Our region has some difficult decisions to make in rebuilding while also attempting to make the area resilient. Such decisions are even more complicated if varying groups (elderly, disabled, minority groups, citizens in poverty, rural areas and small business owners) are not just participants in listening sessions, but sitting at the table to assist in making plans, policy and involved in overseeing action.

The Resilient Nation Partnership, Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmosphere Agency released a report this month entitled “Building Alliances for Equitable Resilience – Advancing Equitable Resilience through Partnerships and Diverse Perspectives”. You can access the document at https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_rnpn_building-alliances-for-equitable-resilience.pdf.

“This resource is intended to inspire the whole community to make equitable and resilient practices a part of their day-to-day work now,” is the first statement made in the report.

I am one of those people who read reports and documents. It helps to know what researchers, policy makers, elected officials, business leaders, and focus groups are thinking and the types of solutions to complicated problems they are touting.      

Southwest Louisiana has the opportunity to take some different approaches for creating communities in the five parish area that offer more economic prosperity, potentially storm resilient homes, businesses and public infrastructure, and technology improvements.

I encourage you to read the report. The thoughts and findings are of great interest for all of us.

The words of Deohn Ferris, president of the Institute for Sustainable Communities – as stated in the first pages of the report – stand out:

  • ·        Be brave.
  • ·        Be an investor in relationship building and listening.
  • ·        Be clear in your purpose to collaborate and partner.
  • ·        Be respectful of diverse leadership and differing views.
  • ·        Be open to leaning from other people’s lived experiences.
  • ·        Be honest, listen, and be willing to make meaningful adjustments as you learn.

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