The Lake Charles MSA ranked 10th in the nation for 2018 in per capita GDP. The people of SW La. can be justly proud of this accomplishment. It serves as testimony to a region producing goods and services for markets outside our region, which in turn brings more money, jobs and businesses into our local economy.
Voter turnout was very disappointing in our recent major election for governor and all statewide officials, the entire Louisiana Legislature, police jury, sheriff, and local positions. Statewide, about 50 percent of voters turned out, but Calcasieu had about 45 percent turnout in most races. A majority of 45 percent means that about 25-30 percent of our voters chose our elected officials.
Most candidates worked nonstop to earn your vote and they deserved better.
Louisiana’s Certified Sites program was first launched in 2012 to enhance the state’s business-friendly environment and to help attract investors looking to locate and start their operations quickly. The program was first intended for sites of 25 acres or more and was targeted toward heavy industrial projects.
In addition to building the multi-billion dollar industrial mega-projects, construction work on roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, retail shopping, restaurants, hotels, apartment complexes, and residences has created jobs for hundreds of SW La. residents. The goods and services produced and used during this economic boom created a growing economy and more jobs in every employment sector.
Earlier this month, the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau announced a new branding effort for the region.
Many of our younger generations may not realize that the American economy is fueled by free markets and free enterprise. Southwest Louisiana’s growth was spurred by a visionary entrepreneur, J.B. Watkins. He purchased thousands of acres, marketed it all over the nation, sold property, and according to articles, was basically a one-man chamber of commerce.
The Louisiana Economic Outlook was released last week by LSU Economist, Emeritus, Loren Scott. Again this year, SW La. is projected to lead the state in job growth.
On a daily basis, economists, business developers, and governmental leaders marvel at the indicators (job growth, gross domestic product, sales tax generation, etc.) which regularly demonstrate that Cameron Parish is impacting the local, state and global market.
With recent events at the Port of Lake Charles, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance/Chamber SWLA believes it is important not to lose sight of the positive impact the Port of Lake Charles has on all of our livelihoods.
Our region has well over five million visitors annually according to the SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most of those numbers are a result of our five casino resorts. Because of those casino resorts and the large number of new hotel rooms in our area, we now total about 9,000 hotel rooms in our five parishes.
Recent news reports indicate that some LNG projects will be delayed due to world market conditions and potential tariffs on China.
Recently, Dan Groft has joined McNeese State University as director of the H.C. Drew Center for Business and Economic Analysis, assistant professor of economics, and economist for The Alliance. Groft, an economist with a Ph.D. in economics from LSU, has worked with Louisiana Economic Development and most recently with the La. Department of Revenue.
We asked Groft about the current LNG market:
There are four designated Opportunity Zones in Southwest Louisiana. Each of these areas provides investors, property owners, government and business leaders a pathway to impact and improve struggling communities in our area realizing a tax benefit.
An Opportunity Zone is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as “an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.”
Healthcare is a major issue nationwide and especially in the workplace. Every business, large or small, struggles with providing health coverage to their employees. Having healthy workers on the job is vital to the operation of a business. Without quality healthcare, workers cannot be productive. Businesses suffer.
The economy of the Southwest Louisiana Region is very diverse. Petrochemical and LNG industries are getting the most talk because of the billions in projects underway. The backbone of our region remains agriculture and forestry. Healthcare is growing and, in fact, currently employs more people than any other sector. Hospitality and gaming bring millions of people to our area each year and employ thousands.
At last week’s meeting of the Louisiana Commerce and Industry Board, several speakers presented a progress report on the Sasol Megaproject in Westlake. While there has been much discussion about the benefits of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, known as ITEP, when the facts are reviewed, there is no doubt this incentive has been beneficial to our region, to the state and local taxing districts and to the employees who now enjoy quality jobs and a better standard of living.
Disruption is a buzzword we hear often. There is disruption caused by technology, growth, and political issues to name a few. Some of the changes are positive and provide opportunities. Many of the changes are challenging. Recently, I visited our five parishes working on various issues and have a renewed appreciation of the various communities with their individual culture, strength, and needs. Disruption in our region mirrors the national issues. For example, there is a major change taking place in the retail sector with the “Amazon Effect” a major cause.
All seats in the Louisiana Legislature are up for grabs this year along with parish and statewide offices including the governor. Since this is an election year, expectations for solving major issues in the 2019 legislative session were low. Unfortunately, those expectations were correct. In the regular session, which has to end by 6 p.m. Thursday, June 6, many good bills died or were not seriously considered.
When President Trump’s motorcade drove over the I-10 bridge in Lake Charles last week, a major breakthrough occurred in advocating for a new bridge. For many years, the Chamber SWLA has been communicating with our federal delegation about the need for a new bridge. With the establishment of the I-10 Task Force, serious investigations into all aspects of this project were undertaken on the local level.
Southwest Louisiana is on the map in the global economy. We have major companies based in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and soon Australia with manufacturing facilities located in our region employing thousands of high-skill, high-wage workers from local communities. The second wave of industrial expansion will soon begin and construction of more new petrochemical and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities is on the way.
At a recent economic development conference, attendees heard from Technology Futurist Jack Shaw, who provided a glimpse into the rapidly changing technology world. Technology has advanced so fast that many of us cannot fathom what will happen in the next few years. Not in 20 or 30 years but in three, five, and 10 years. Many of us have heard of the coming changes but brushed those ideas aside because we thought it would only affect future generations. Wrong. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform most aspects of our life. Autonomous vehicles, replacement of routine tasks and jobs with automation and robotics are here and moving rapidly into the workplace. Shaw said two of the major impacts would come about as a result of 3D Printing Technology and Blockchain.
Infrastructure is a word tossed around a lot these days, but nowhere is it more important than here in Southwest Louisiana. With our area leading the nation in industrial growth and job creation, the pressure on our infrastructure is growing daily. It’s becoming a crisis situation and our region deserves priority from the state and federal government to help us solve these issues. We have been overlooked for too long.
As we begin 2019, construction of several large industries is nearing completion and they are beginning operation. This is the goal for long-term and sustainable growth for our region. The permanent jobs created after construction is when our region gets tremendous benefits, not only in taxes to our local governments, but in high-paying jobs for our residents.
There are no certainties in the field of economic development.
• Are you a small business owner who needs funding to grow your business?
• Do you have what you believe is a good business concept?
• Do you want an opportunity to promote your business?
Interstate 210 Bridge Construction Work in Lake Charles, Louisiana Will Impact the Community and Business Sector...the question is 'How Much?'
It has begun.
On January 7, 2019, private contractors started the highly anticipated Interstate 210 construction project that is desperately needed in order to make sure the structure is safe for motorist.
Our region needs more S.T.E.A.M. in the New Year. That is, we need more emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And the “A” stands for arts. Future jobs and the future of our region depend on education and training in these categories.