Green: No sense of regionalism is killing us

Shreveport-Bossier. It’s a simple, two-word phrase that holds so much meaning for so many people. For locals, it’s shorthand for where they live. For public perception, it’s how the twin cities are identified. But in the scope of business, it brands the entire area of northwest Louisiana (and even east Texas on occasion).

No one calls it Shreveport-Bossier-Minden. Or Shreveport-Bossier-Minden-Ruston. Or especially Shreveport-Bossier-Marshall-Waskom. And they probably never will. And that’s okay, so long as the people know that Shreveport-Bossier encompasses all those things. And, more importantly, know that the division of those areas doesn’t matter.

If we say Shreveport-Bossier as shorthand for northwest Louisiana, then why do we care about specifics when the rubber meets the road for securing new businesses and projects?

It’s an unwritten rule that each city or parish will put forth its best foot to attract a project. The issue is that despite a few exceptions, Bossier, Shreveport, Minden, and so on all compete at the expense of the other.

During the Upstate Rising conference last month, site selector professional Mike Mullis noted that regionalism is a must, saying, “There are so many projects that would look (at the region) that wouldn’t necessarily fit in Shreveport or Bossier, but may fit in Minden.”

He also advised particular cities/parishes to work together to find the best fit for a project while the remaining cities/parishes find different projects to diversify. He said, “You’re still fighting over the same projects.”

It’s no surprise there is an underlying current of animosity between the individual cities. I hear repeatedly that residents of Bossier City won’t cross the bridge into Shreveport and vice versa. And at its most cantankerous, people use a local stereotype to laugh at the other. For example, Shreveport is a crime-ridden, self-important cabal of old oil money. While Bossier is a narrow-minded bedroom community run by good ‘ol boys.

Sure, we put a good face on it when the cameras are on, but whether we like it or not, this is what I hear over drinks. I’m sure many in leadership are fine not using all of Shreveport-Bossier as a package deal to attract business. But according to a professional who helps decided where these billion-dollar projects go, it’s crucial.

And it’s something we have to solve internally before we can even think of marketing Shreveport-Bossier to these global companies. I’ve often said that a healthy Shreveport and a healthy Bossier are good for each other. You’ll always have people that are “their city first,” but these attitudes and stereotypes regarding our cities do no one any good.

So how do we fix it? It takes getting everyone to the table and putting aside ego. It means not viewing a win for Bossier as ONLY a win for Bossier, and Shreveport leaders not holding animosity. It means Bossier letting a project go across the river for the sake of securing a different one they have their eye on. And it means Shreveport being smart, aware, making hard decisions, and doing things efficiently.

This thinking is a tough sell. But, apparently, not as hard a sell as an area infighting.

Taking a mindset of “What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” while marketing this region’s quality of life and being open to utilizing Minden’s real estate availability and east Texas’ workforce could mean Shreveport-Bossier being all we want it to be.

It may sound pollyanna but as Mullis put it, “You have so much here to offer, if you can just encapsulate it and move forward.”

Sean Green is Publisher and Editor of BIZ. Magazine