A history of the Shreveport-Bossier economy

*Edited from a summary of the Shreveport-Bossier MSA’s history as provided from the Louisiana Economic Outlook produced by Dr. Loren Scott

The Shreveport/Bossier area suffered through a prolonged, and deep, recessionary period from 1985-89. While this decline was partially a result of a badly declining exploration industry, that was not the main culprit. 

The AT&T effect: Both the depth and length of the recession was due to the downsizing of AT&T’s phone equipment manufacturing facility in Shreveport that employed 7,450 people to near 1,100. 

Casinos to the rescue: In 1994, Shreveport-Bossier’s employment began to rise by an average of 4,600 jobs a year due to riverboat casinos. Casinos added jobs to the region in the construction of large hotels.

Durable goods dependence & national recessions: The years 2001-03 were particularly difficult ones for this MSA. The MSA lost 4,300 jobs over this three-year period. In both percentage terms and in length, it was the worst decline in the state. 

Several factors played a role in this rather poor record. First, there was the closure of some large manufacturing facilities in the area. Too, the state’s most successful casino market took a hit as business declined with the recession. Finally, a mixture of other firms, including Frymasters, Beaird, and Exide Technologies imposed significant layoffs in 2002. Beaird, in particular, went from a 700- to a 30-person workforce. 

GM, Beaird, and Frymaster stop the fall: The Shreveport/Bossier MSA turned the corner in 2004 and grew for five years in a row, expanding at a very healthy rate of almost 2% a year over 2004-08. Initially, General Motors was a key player in this recocery as its employment in the region jumped from about 2,400 to 3,600. 

After taking over Beaird Manufacturing, the Eakin Company initially put that firm back on an expansion path with 30 employees jumping to about 570. Frymaster came back at an all-time high employment level of over 600 employees. The new firm Steelscape (now Ternium) oopened at the Port of Caddo-Bossier, creating 240 new jobs in 2007. 

Haynesville & Barksdale mitigate the Great Recession: When the Great Recession hit, Shreveport-Bossier did not lose its first job until 10 months later. The U.S. economy lost 6.1 % of its jobs; this MSA lost only 2.3 % and it only lost jobs in one year—the only MSA in Louisiana to pull that off. Instead of ranking dead last in the state, Shreveport-Bossier ranked 2nd in least jobs lost during the Great Recession. 

There were two key factors behind this unusual performance. Haynesville Shale exploration over 2008-09 pumped in funds amounting to $3.5 billion in 2008 and $7 billion in 2009. Secondly, the awarding of the Global Strike Command to Barksdale Air Force Base also helped mitigate the impact of the Great Recession. By September 2009, 275 of the 900 jobs attached to the AFGSC had relocated to Barksdale. In addition, Barksdale gained part of 700 positions. 

These gains did not mean the region escaped the recession unscathed: 

Problems at General Motors dropped its workforce to about 800. 

Capital One Bank closed a 150-person call center and Verizon closed a 300-person call center. 

Beaird Industries closed at a cost of about 400 jobs. 

Recovering From the Great Recession: The Shreveport-Bossier MSA actually started enjoying job gains in 2010. The increase was only 400 jobs or about 0.2%, but this was the only MSA in the state to grow that year. The region also had a good year in 2011, adding 2,100 jobs, a very respectable growth rate of 1.2%. 

That, however, was not the pattern that has continued. Except for slight growth in 2010-11, the Shreveport-Bossier MSA was in a decline from 2008 to 2017, losing 10,700 jobs (-5.7%). 

Several factors contributed to this poor performance. First, the GM plant closed in August 2012, costing the region 800 high-paying jobs. Activity in the Haynesville Shale dropped by 84%.

A third factor holding back this region’s economy has been a reduction in forces at Barksdale AFB. The troop count which was 8,655 in 2012 dropped to 6,609. 

Finally, competition with Indian casinos in Oklahoma has significantly eaten into Shreveport-Bossier’s gaming sector over the past few years. This sector has shed 1,378 jobs between 2014-2019 according to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Gross revenues at the six Shreveport-Bossier casinos and its racetrack have fallen by $67.2 million between FY14 and FY19, a decline of 9.1%. 

Two key factors have helped mitigate the decline: The Cyber Research Park enjoyed a growth spurt with its tenants — the Cyber Innovation Center, General Dynamics IT Center, and the Louisiana Tech Academic Success Center — employing 1,100 people. An additional bump was provided by the arrival of Glovis America and 156 employees at the old GM plant.