Monday, June 17, 2024

David Rockett: Response to pandemic spurs economic growth and investment

by David Rockett

The Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation has served as a liaison to business and industry and invested in areas of the community that support and encourage economic development. Throughout our history, varying market fluctuations have been observed as the economy responds to the ever changing political and business climates.

The pandemic brought on its own set of challenges and market shifts. No businesses were spared from effects of the pandemic. Whether a business experienced a disruption in supply chains, labor shortage, revenue loss or even increased demand throughout the pandemic, it is almost certain they were forced to pivot due to the fluctuations in the market as consumer habits shifted drastically. Not all of the changes that businesses were forced to make were negative. Some companies’ ability to respond and change to market shifts has had positive impacts and even brought on greater investments. 

Shreveport will be the home of Amazon’s first robotics distribution center in the state. Companies such as Amazon lend a great example of a response to a market shift brought on by the pandemic. Increased e-commerce activity has caused retailers alike to turn to the use of robotic logistic technology in order to meet consumer demand. With no slowdown in sight, total e-commerce sales from 2018 are anticipated to increase 70 percent by 2022, according to research from eMarketer.

Implementation of robotic and AI technology in these state-of-the-art distribution facilities help to provide many benefits within the transportation and warehouse sector. Among increased productivity and efficiency of warehouse workers, the technology used for automation helps to offer safer working conditions for employees by reducing the strain of workforce ergonomics while allowing for increased social distancing.

Pandemic or not – market shifts are inevitable; however, how a community responds to them can be a game-changer in its ability to support and ultimately spur additional investment.

Northwest Louisiana has the right tools at its disposal in order to support economic activity at this level. The work our community has done to prepare a skilled workforce through partnerships and increasing educational attainment, as well as investing and planning infrastructure improvements has helped to pave the way for significant investments such as Amazon.

Along with Amazon’s $100 M capital investment, the company is estimated to create a total of 2,500 new direct and indirect jobs. The need for skilled labor is always at the forefront of economic developer’s mind. Challenges with staffing in the transportation and warehouse sector center around a tight labor supply and the ability to attract younger workers who are technologically savvy.

These challenges are not specific to Shreveport, but rather experienced across the sector. Although the labor market is tight, there has been success locally with the assistance of Bossier Parish Community College in the creation of apprenticeships and fast-track training programs to help increase the local skilled labor pool.

The number of jobs alone created by Amazon will force a draw for labor from surrounding communities. Northwest Louisiana’s potential workforce expands into portions of east Texas, reaches south Arkansas and further east towards Mississippi. The presence of Barksdale Air Force Base is also a positive for our labor pool as military retirees chose to stay local and transition into civilian job roles.

Maintaining and improving existing infrastructure throughout the region is critical to support new and existing businesses. While the region’s superior access to transportation helped to land an Amazon distribution facility in our community, there will need to be a continued focus on expansions to accommodate increased traffic flow due to the heavier flow of commerce brought on by the distribution center. As illustrated in a recent article we published on the economic priorities for Bossier, long-range planning for additional routes such as the I-69 bridge effort in south Bossier can create greater synergy with the Port of Caddo-Bossier and its future projects which will in turn have positive impacts on the regional economy. 

The good news of new jobs and capital investment with the recent announcement in Shreveport does not stop within the city and parish’s municipal boundaries; it will extend its positive economic impact throughout the entire northwest Louisiana region. We welcome Amazon to northwest Louisiana and look forward to the positive impact this will bring to the community.

David “Rocky” Rockett | Executive Director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation

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