Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Economic taskforce unveils Shreveport recovery plan report

by BIZ Magazine

Local business leaders have encouraged Shreveport to seek a bond issue and invest in various infrastructure projects that would revitalize the city as it prepares to emerge from pandemic struggles.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, local business leaders formed the Shreveport Economic Recovery Taskforce (SERT) in May to focus on an economic recovery plan based on infrastructure.  

The 40-member strong group unveiled a report at the end of July it will present to the city. 

Co-chaired by Desi Sprawls and Larry English, the group’s members are top business professionals locally and across the country in the fields of technology, construction, transportation and finance. 

SERT specifically focused on infrastructure projects that are or can be shovel ready quickly, along with potential funding sources and encourages local government to explore public-private partnerships wherever feasible.

The report says that “infrastructure projects are a valuable tool for creating jobs and driving a positive economic ripple across the local economy.” 

SERT formed subcommittees focused on Downtown Shreveport Infrastructure, Digital Infrastructure, Transportation, and Future Bond Proposals.

The report notes that Shreveport is experiencing 30% unemployment, a $25 million budget shortfall, the closure of Libby Glass, the loss of thousands of gaming jobs and “hundreds of small business.” The report points out that pre-pandemic, Shreveport’s economic outlook was trending down and COVID-19 “simply accelerated the spiral.” 

“However, history shows us that out of great chaos, comes a chance for renewal. We have been presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our city’s infrastructure to compete in a post-pandemic, technologically driven, global economy,” the report’s executive summary states.

Proposed Downtown projects include:

  • New state office building and justice center
  • Improvements to make Texas Street more pedestrian and business friendly, such as lighting, security, parking, and walkway coverings.
  • Creating a Downtown loop defined by the casinos/Red River District and Commerce Street, Cross Bayou, Ledbetter Heights, and Cotton Street.
  • The report adds that the Cross Bayou/Ledbetter Heights area still has great merit and represents “the city’s premier waterfront redevelopment opportunity” and requires connection to downtown with infrastructure such as roads, stormwater systems, sewer connections, sidewalks, etc. The report adds this infrastructure should be built by a private developer with public assistance, using the developer’s future tax dollars to fund the required public improvements.

Digital infrastructure efforts included a survey to gather data about city residents’ internet usage and found that “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having access to the internet. From corporations shifting their workforce to remote working, to educational systems relying on distance learning, technology has become essential to how the world will work, play, and socialize.”

The report adds that providing internet access to urban and rural communities is an important initiative to make Shreveport “a destination city for companies and families over the next 20 years.”

Solutions include:

  • The creation of a map that accurately shows who has access to broadband technology in Shreveport. 
  • Developing a survey to identify what group of people in Shreveport are affected to determine who has access to broadband and where the greatest need for internet connection is.
  • The discussion around a Tech Village in Shreveport where we will house an incubator, STEM Alliance, Tech Research, and Business Community liaison.

The cost of upgrading Shreveport’s broadband infrastructure will be approximately $250M consisting of $150M in Private Capital and $100M in Public Capital.

SERT’s report also advocates for a new bond issue that would create new infrastructure jobs, upgrade local facilities, and expand broadband capabilities. The report adds, “Upgrading Shreveport’s public infrastructure will bring in private investment, creating even more jobs and providing the economic development the city so badly needs.”

Bond items include: 

  • $250M for broadbands access that would create an estimated 1,500–3,000 jobs over a five-year period
  • $32M on water and sewer upgrades
  • $76M in upgrades and renovations for the city’s police and fire departments, city parks, and other public facilities, all of which were originally proposed in the city’s 2019 Bond Proposal that failed a public vote. 
  • Streets and drainage improvements spread across all of Shreveport

Lastly, SERT advocate for transportation improvements:

  • I-49 Inner City Connector — $550-$640M to build, $802M annual impact when completed, revitalization of the Ford Street Corridor in Allendale, increased labor productivity by 2.9%, minority and women business contracting opportunities. In addition to the $100M state funds, federal funding should be sought through a future infrastructure stimulus bill and public private partnerships, including Opportunity Zone Funding.
  • Jimmie Davis Bridge Rehab — $125 million dollars in construction contracts, would relieve traffic congestion between south Bossier and south Shreveport, minority and women business contracting opportunities.
  • Amtrak Connection — Passenger rail between downtown Dallas and Downtown Shreveport would be the first step to creating high-speed rail between the two cities providing the Shreveport-Bossier region with easy access to one of the largest global airports in the world.

Read the full report for more details below.

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