Originally run in the August 16, 2022, edition of The American Press newspaper.
In spite of the many weather events and the worldwide pandemic that impacted our region in a negative way, the people of Southwest Louisiana have proved they are resilient as we continue to recover and look toward the future. We have seen unprecedented growth in the past decade due to the over $45 billion invested by industrial businesses in this region. Don’t take that for granted. These completed projects have created over 15,000 permanent jobs and further strengthened our industrial base which is helping us to recover.
The good news is that we have nearly twice that amount in potential projects that will be investing in the future.
In order to accommodate these investments and grow our communities in population and supporting services, we need to plan strategically where growth will likely occur. With this knowledge, our leaders must educate the general public that for our region to be successful, growth is best addressed in advance. Playing “catch-up” is always painful as it frequently involves further restricting already over-taxed assets. By planning and building in advance of the anticipated need, growth can be more easily absorbed into the community and create additional growth. One local example of planning was the four-laning of East McNeese Street in Lake Charles which has provided areas for dozens of businesses to be located there.
Infrastructure projects are not always the most glamorous, but they are necessary in communities that want to grow and enjoy the status of great places to live.
Some examples of needed projects are:
Investment in water and sewer capacity at Chennault International Airport. With the relocation of Mallard Cove Golf Course from Chennault to MorganField, there are several hundred acres available for development but without further capacity the growth will be limited.
The same goes for The Beauregard Airport Certified Mega site.
Same story at Lacassine Industrial Park on I-10 in Jeff Davis Parish. Kudos to the Jeff Davis Police Jury for recognizing this and applying for grants to make expanded water and sewer capacity possible.
In Cameron Parish, the need is more visible. Short term, two operating ferries are needed. Business and industry can’t operate without a dependable way to cross the ship channel. For safety reasons, residents must be able to quickly evacuate. Ultimately a bridge over the ship channel and this can be justified by the billions of dollars in industrial investment in Cameron Parish.
While the focus is on a new I-10 Bridge in Lake Charles, it’s time to plan for a 210 North route around the city.
Major projects take vision, focus, and commitment to conceive, plan, fund, and construct. They are investments in the community that enhance the livability for the current residents, as well as, enhance the attractiveness of the community to potential future residents.
100 years ago, the business community of Southwest Louisiana provided vision, leadership and commitment for the deep water ship channel that is the economic engine of Southwest Louisiana today.
The Chamber pushed for a Junior College for Lake Charles which eventually became McNeese State University.
More recently, the Chamber SWLA formed the I-10 Bridge Task Force that has provided vision, leadership, and commitment to make the replacement of the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge becoming a reality. Now is the time to focus our energy as the business community on the next highest priorities in each Southwest Louisiana parish to get the ball rolling and achieve great and lasting projects. Hopefully, future generations will look back many years from now and be grateful for the vision, leadership, and commitment we had by investing wisely in our infrastructure to make this region a great place to live, work, and play.