Martinez: Looking ahead to 2019

2019 will be a year of change, as new leadership takes the reigns at Shreveport City Hall.  Shreveport Mayor-elect Adrian Perkins ran on a platform of reducing crime; investing in infrastructure, marketing the City of Shreveport to companies for economic development and supporting Smart Cities initiatives.  All these strategies will foster economic development and require both resources and teamwork.

2019 also holds great promise for Bossier.  The community is positioned for growth as more federal defense spending may potentially mean billions of dollars coming to Barksdale Air Force Base (BAFB) and Global Strike Command. The development of a new access road for BAFB, which will alleviate congestion at its existing access points, demonstrates our community’s and the state’s commitment to one of the largest employers in the Northwest Louisiana. Additionally, the opening of the I-49 interchange at I-220 in October represents a major step forward in improving North Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure. The $142 million interchange is the largest infrastructure piece on the corridor and will serve an average of 68,000 travelers each day.

During 2018, our region has worked hard to build better communities and to enhance the skill level of  our workforce. In June Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, and Webster Parishes launched an initiative to become certified ACT Work Ready Communities. The North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) convened regional representatives from local governments, K-12 and post-secondary education systems, workforce development, economic development, chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations to apply as a regional team. This workforce initiative will help identify and close skills gaps; provide employers a tool to improve their hiring; and allow our communities to market themselves as “Work Ready Communities” in order to attract more businesses.  The regional team has completed the ACT Work Ready Communities training this summer and is well on its way toward meeting the goals to become certified as Work Ready Communities.

NLEP, an Accredited Economic Development Organization serving 14 parishes in North Louisiana, supports our local governments as they work toward improving the “product.” As a regional economic development group, NLEP markets the region to Fortune 500 companies and site consultants who influence where projects locate.  We also partner with our local communities to help foster an ecosystem that supports economic development.

The work done during this year will pay dividends in 2019. Unemployment rates for the Shreveport-Bossier City MSA continue to drop while the average employment earnings are on the rise, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Economist Dr. Loren Scott, who released a 2018 economic outlook for Louisiana, predicts new job opportunities in Caddo, Bossier, Webster, and DeSoto Parishes. He forecasts 500 new jobs by the end of 2018, and another 600 jobs added in both 2019 and 2020. With continual collaboration and hard work by public and private sector leaders, the Top of Louisiana will continue to be a Region on the Rise.

Scott Martinez is president of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP)