Rockett: 2018 was another year of big gains

It seems that 2018 was yet another year of big gains for the Bossier community.

We can mark growth through population trends, and over the past 15 years, Bossier has shown continual growth in the number of residents in both the city and parish.  The population trends are comparative to previous forecasts, as the data shows that over the next five years continued growth is on the horizon for nearly all cities and townships within the parish.

Population forecasts estimate an increase of 6.2% in Bossier Parish and a 5% increase for Bossier City. Combined, the city and parish can expect the potential to add over 11,000 new residents by 2023. Benton’s growth remains steady with a possible increase of 6.3% in new residents. The town of Haughton has the highest growth rate in Bossier Parish adding a potential 9.4% to their population in the next few years.  The city and town’s growth rates point to optimism and show a great opportunity for businesses to capitalize.

Bossier continues to grow into a dynamic innovative economic driver for our entire region. Bossier welcomed 200 new jobs and $20 million in business expansion projects.  Gains can be seen across every major industry sector.

Gaming got a lot of attention and a boost of support from lawmakers during the 2018 legislative session.  After nearly 25 years in existence, riverboat gaming laws were modernized in an effort to keep the gaming industry competitive. As a result, we can expect to see additional growth and investment.

The healthcare sector in northwest Louisiana is considered a major economic driver in the region.  Our MSA is home to top-rated healthcare centers, and teaching and research institutions.  Overall, our local healthcare sector employs over 35,000 with an average annual wage of $65,000.  More notable healthcare investments in Bossier can be seen in the completion of the CHRISTUS Bossier Emergency Hospital and the opening of the area’s newest retirement system, The Blake.

Just as predicted, oil and gas production in northwest Louisiana is seeing an upswing.  The increased drilling activity is directly related to the LNG plants coming on line in the southern portion of the state, making the area’s shale gas easy to export.  As a result of the increased drilling activity, interest from service companies within the industry are bringing new jobs.

Bossier’s industrial parks have seen continual interest over the years, however, 2018 proved to be one of the most active years of development.  New manufacturing and service companies have located within the parks, and some have expanded their services.  Ten acres is currently under development in Commerce Industrial Park by Cassity Jones, a lumber and building supply company. The company brings with it 44 additional jobs in Bossier.

The budding industries of cyber and IT continue to impact our local economic footprint in many ways.  The new year brought news of CSRA being purchased by GDIT and had the local community concerned about the future of the nearly 1,100 jobs represented at the ITC.  The community is doing its part to invest in education partnerships that will support the future IT workforce.  Higher education institutions are playing a big part in shaping the future of Bossier’s IT industry.  Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) and Louisiana Tech University serve as a great example of how strategic partnerships can benefit the community’s bottom line.  Bossier City is also taking steps to support the advancement of the cyber industry in the community through the funding of the Louisiana Tech Research Institution building to be constructed in the National Cyber Research Park.

Bossier is noted as a community that invests in itself, and as a result, the city and surrounding areas benefit from the smart growth strategies.  Bossier’s ongoing infrastructure upgrades not only help to ease residents’ day to day travel, it also helps to spur commercial development.  These efforts can be seen through the construction of a portion of Innovation Drive and the opening of Holmes Honda this year.  Continued commercial and retail development in the area is expected for the future.  Bossier’s East Bank District is another way the city has invested in itself and we have only just begun to see a return on investment

In addition to working with our partners throughout the year to bring new investment to Bossier, the GBEDF also invests in the community.  Our local community investment in 2018 was nearly $110,000 and directly impacts the film industry, Barksdale Air Force Base, infrastructure, tourism, education and workforce development.  As our region continues to change, the GBEDF leadership and our partners are working to create and support initiatives that will help to diversify our economy.

David “Rocky” Rockett is President of the GBEDF