As we have just completed our nation’s 244th Fourth of July Celebration, this is a good time to pause and reflect on our nation’s system of government. In 2020, we are going through extremely difficult times. There’s the COVID-19 pandemic, the crash of our economy, the oil crisis, global issues, the Black Lives Matter movement, and a sharp political divide in our country.
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.
“Welcome to Opportunity” was used by the Alliance in our international marketing for several years. In spite of all the challenges of current times, this still may be an excellent theme.
In order to move forward, it’s good to look at our history, what we need to do today, and to present a vision for the future. In January of this year, our five-parish region was leading the nation with growth. Low unemployment, multi-billion and multi-million dollar investments had been made and a qualified workforce led to the area developing the reputation as one of the most dynamic regions in the United States.
As business owners race to open and begin servicing clients and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are trying to figure out if their enterprises are viable while others are closing permanently. In recent weeks, economic developers, investors, business strategist, life coaches, etc. have been sharing a message with the world business community. Essentially, the idea is that times are changing and common business practices and models are quickly becoming part of our past. This is not the first time business sectors have had to reshape and customize themselves to societal shifts and economic downturns.
Friday May 15, 2020, will be remembered as the day that Louisiana began to re-open after the March 16 Stay-at-Home order by the governor. In our region, perhaps more businesses and industries continued operation than most other states.
Our industrial plants continued operation, a number of grocery, building supply, and retail big boxes remained opened after being deemed essential. Many restaurants continued to operate with pick-up and delivery options, and drive-thru restaurants probably had record sales. Most folks came to believe that all businesses are essential including hair and nail salons, gyms, and retail shops including the mall.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is issuing a proclamation that will allow more businesses to open up Friday. This effort will go a long way in getting the state economy functioning after being paralyzed for almost two months due to COVID-19.
The results of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact all of us. The business community has been severely affected, with many closed. Therefore, thousands of our friends and neighbors in our region are out of work. The priority for all should be health and safety. It is imperative that we follow the recommendations of our medical community and continue to practice social distancing, frequent handwashing, and other steps to insure that the virus does not widely spread. Our region has fared better than some but we have had too many cases and deaths from the coronavirus.
Our region continues to lead the nation in industrial projects. Over $44 billion in projects are completed or wrapping up. We are anticipating a second wave of projects to begin this year, keeping in mind, our region is impacted by international events. The Lake Charles MSA (which is Calcasieu and Cameron parishes) is projected to lead the state in job growth the next two years.
If you have thought about opening a business or have a business idea you want to explore, or if you operate an existing business that needs expansion or re-imaging, then next month in SW La. is for you.
To compete internationally our best shot is to keep the regional approach. As has been said …to succeed we must think globally, act locally.
Successful resolution to many issues we face in Southwest Louisiana will require participation in the government process by citizens and the business community, large and small. The Chamber SWLA, part of the Economic Development Alliance, has a very proactive agenda for this first year of a new decade.