Some is better than none. That’s how we look at Shreveport-Bossier’s economy as we move into 2020.
The Louisiana Economic Outlook for 2020 by Dr. Loren Scott, professor emeritus in economics at LSU, was published by the Economics and Policy Research Group of the LSU College of Business at the end of September.
After a 2-year-plus recession that cost Louisiana more than 23,000 jobs, the state’s economy began to grow in 2018. He predicts that national economy expansion, low interest and inflation rates, and a revived oil and gas industry should equal a strong 2020.
Dr. Scott predicts that the Shreveport Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — comprised of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, and Desoto parishes — will see .2% growth, totaling 300 jobs. This is the lowest growth of all nine MSAs in Louisiana.
In 2017, Dr. Scott predicted the Shreveport-Bossier MSA would stop the bleeding after falling 12,700 jobs below its 2008 peak, and in 2018 he summarized the MSA would return to positive, but very modest growth.
So, all indications are that type of good, but not great, trend will continue.
He said that the area’s largest employer in Barksdale Air Force Base and its 9,000-plus military/civilian workers would stay stable thanks to developments like a new entrance off I-20/220 in Bossier.
He singled out The Port of Caddo-Bossier and General Dynamics Information Technology in the National Cyber Research Park as bright spots, as well as increased activity in natural gas plays of the Haynesville Shale.
According to Dr. Scott, Western Global Airlines is making a $3 million investment with the takeover of the Express Jet facility to make an aircraft maintenance plant at the Shreveport Regional Airport.
And, he also noted that Shreveport-Bossier has the state’s largest and most successful casino market, employing more than 5,000 people.
What can we take away from all this? Well, growth of any kind is better than contraction. But diving deeper, it’s clear that this forecast is mediocre at best and worrying at worst. Our economy is lagging behind the rest of the state, which itself is lagging behind other booming areas of the country.
There are so many factors that play into the economic success of our region — an educated workforce for new businesses to utilize, political capital to get projects funded and approved, a healthy consumer base, solid infrastructure to move people and goods among others — that this report is a great flyover, but it’s only a start at how to measure success and progress.
This report shouldn’t be met with relief or worry, it’s merely what a friend calls “OTHER” — Opportunity To Hustle Extra Revenue.
It means finding things like the unofficial Cyber Corridor along I-20.
In a presentation at the Cyber Innovation Center in mid-November that saw the state officially commit $10 million for funding the Louisiana Tech Research Institute at the National Cyber Research Park, CIC Director Craig Spohn revealed that more than 1,100 tech jobs have been created. That exceeds the manufacturing sector in Bossier City and is not far away from the oil and gas sector’s approximately 1,600 jobs. The nation’s commitment to modernize its nuclear program could also mean billions of dollars flowing into Barksdale via the US Air Force Global Strike Command.
That tells me that the investment 10 years ago to build a new industry is paying off. So, how many other opportunities like that are out there?
Even amidst the backdrop of a heated election season, collaboration is essential to moving us forward. I’m talking collaboration among politicians, business leaders, various industries and higher education.
Yes, this is where we are right now. And, some is better than none. But not let’s be satisfied with that. Let’s work together to turn some into much more.
Sean Green | Publisher and Editor of BIZ. Magazine