Louisiana: Open for business

After the unprecedented shut-down of Louisiana’s economy necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, our state is ready to get back to work. Governor John Bel Edwards is committed to reopening parts of the economy, sector by sector in a safe manner.  His Resilient Louisiana Commission and the Louisiana Legislative Advisory Task Force on Economic Recovery have been created to develop policies to guide our State’s phased-reopening. As the President of North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP), I serve on both advisory task forces to ensure North Louisiana and our business community have a voice in this critical process. 

The Resilient Louisiana Commission is organized in a task force structure with 15 sector specific task forces dedicated to strengthening individual sectors of Louisiana’s economy. I will be co-chairing the Economic & Community Development Task Force with my friend Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans, Inc. The other task forces will be developing recommendations for the following business sectors: health care & human services; information technology & communications; financial services; transportation & infrastructure; energy; manufacturing; hospitality & tourism; rural development; education and workforce; construction; gaming; small business & retail; food & agriculture; and restaurants & entertainment. 

Similarly, representatives from a wide range of business sectors serve on the Legislature’s Advisory Task Force on Economic Recovery, including oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing, automotive, banking, hospitality, food and beverage, trucking, construction, and medical. Their industry-specific expertise will be invaluable in developing recommendations on how to reopen the economy safety. 

As a starting point for discussions that will be held in the coming weeks, NLEP has joined other economic development organizations and chambers of commerce to develop a preliminary framework on how to restart our economy.  This framework is based on conversations with groups of business leaders and an array of business associations and groups around Louisiana. There is broad support for social distancing to remain part of any type of reopening plan.  This framework also calls for transparent public health benchmarks, beginning with having enough hospital capacity to treat patients, ensuring we have enough COVID-19 testing capacity, developing work safety and hygiene protocols and keeping in place precautions for high-risk populations.   

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, NLEP has been monitoring our employers’ critical needs in a series of business surveys. Overwhelmingly, our businesses have been asking for public assistance in procuring personal protection equipment, particularly masks, sanitizer, disinfectant, and temperature scanners. Childcare is another big concern.  With schools and many daycares closed for now, any plan to reopen our economy must include solutions for childcare. The State needs to provide official guidance for safe daycare and summer school or camps. Additionally, we need to consider legal protections from the State for employers that follow official guidance for safety protocols, such as those specified by OSHA, CDC, and federal and state authorities.

The Governor has already lifted restrictions on non-emergency medical procedures and acknowledges that the healthcare sector will be the first industry to fully reopen. The next wave of business openings should be based on science and not hysteria. I believe public health and safely restarting the Louisiana economy are not mutually exclusive propositions. I look forward to working with both groups in developing a safe path to safely reopen the Louisiana economy. 

Scott Martinez | President of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership