Saturday, April 13, 2024

Dr. Phillip Rozeman: Building on Our Strengths in Shreveport-Bossier

by BIZ Magazine

This Friday, Governor Edwards announced the location of a large Amazon warehouse distribution center with a thousand direct jobs in Shreveport-Bossier. It is one of the most important economic wins in our history and could not have come at a better time.

The announcement caused me to reflect back on a key lesson I learned a decade ago as co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Board of the Shreveport-Caddo Master Plan process. In community meetings involving over a thousand citizens, I heard the different perspectives of people who live in our community – people who want to see Shreveport Bossier flourish.

A key lesson from the over thousand citizens who participated in the meetings was the importance of capitalizing on the unique identify of Shreveport-Bossier and celebrating it – the wisdom of building on our strengths. The Friday announcement adds another strength to the ones we discovered when we looked around us ten years ago.

Shreveport-Bossier has a great economic development engine in Barksdale Air Force Base. BAFB not only supplies thousands of jobs but also spins off initiatives like Strike Works and partnerships like the Louisiana Tech Research Institute as a result of proximity to the Global Strike Command – all work supported by the Cyber Innovation Center.

Shreveport-Bossier is one of the smallest cities in the nation to have a medical school. This school connects our community to research, medical education, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Our community is a true center of excellence in healthcare with three large health systems with a workforce trained predominantly at the LSU Health Science Center.

The Red River provided for the birth of Shreveport-Bossier 150 years ago and continues to be a key to future development. Today, the banks of the river provide a place for entertainment for adults at Riverboat Casinos and families at Sci-Port, the Aquarium, and the RiverView Theater. Shreveport-Bossier has access to commerce on the Mississippi River and Gulf through the Port of Caddo-Bossier. The port is the location of businesses that provide hundreds of jobs in our community.

Shreveport-Bossier is one of a handful places in the world that can rightfully claim to be the birthplace of rock and roll, a music genre that literally changed cultures around the globe. This cultural juggernaut was created together by African American blues musicians and white country musicians bridging the racial divide.

Beyond this place in the history of rock and roll, not many cities the size of ours has the quality of life and cultural history of music, historical preservation and art. The Shreveport Symphony and Opera, Strand Theatre, Robinson Film Center, museums, nighttime music venues, Revel, ArtBreak, Kwanzaa, Mudbug Madness, Mardi Gras, and the list goes on and on.

In comparison to other moderate-sized cities, Shreveport-Bossier has one of the lowest cost of living in the country. Travel times in Shreveport-Bossier are minimal. Taking a trip to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, or Austin keeps things in context as we realize the ease of getting around the community. One participant in a Master Plan community meeting said he would make Shreveport’s tagline “Come back to an easier life”.

Shreveport-Bossier probably connects education and work better than any region in any state. With availability of BPCC, SUSLA, and NWLA Technical Community College, higher education works with businesses to develop specialized education and credentials of value for people working in our community. Shreveport-Bossier has not one but five higher education institutions. LSU-Shreveport, LA Tech, Northwestern, Grambling, and Centenary provide choices in Shreveport-Bossier for pursuit of university degrees.

Not may cities the size of Shreveport Bossier have a spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy exhibited by the people in this community.  Shreveport Bossier Community Foundation, Community Renewal, Providence House, Rescue Mission, VOA, SRAC, St. Jude, Holy Angels, Shriner’s, and the list goes on and on.  Not many cities the size of Shreveport Bossier have the diversity of churches and sheer numbers of places to worship.

The natural beauty and climate of Shreveport-Bossier provides the backdrop for Sportsman’s Paradise. The beautiful neighborhoods with large trees and the proximity of lakes are not duplicated in many moderate-sized cities. A family member of mine from Austin comes into town often to just take photographs of the natural beauty of Northwest Louisiana.

Emerging from the pandemic will be a time of change in every American community – especially in medium-sized communities like ours. There will be opportunity to recruit small and moderate-sized businesses looking to relocate from bigger cities. How we handle the recovery and change will be critical to our future success.

As we look forward, there remains concern about the continued shadow of COVID and the increased violence and jobless rates in our community.  However, the announcement Friday gives us forward momentum and a reason to reflect on what makes Shreveport Bossier a great place to live and work.  It will be a great time to both look back and look forward to capitalize on our unique identity and celebrate it.

The success of Shreveport Bossier requires many people working in multiple arenas. A thriving Shreveport-Bossier will take a collection of multiple recipes that will require many ingredients and a diverse group of cooks. No one person, government, or non-profit can do everything. This crossroad year of 2021 is a great time for us to pull together and go to work.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing Cardiologist.  He is past chairman of the Citizens Advisory Board of the Shreveport Caddo Master Plan, the Greater Shreveport Chamber, and Blueprint Louisiana.

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