Monday, June 17, 2024

Specht: Reasons for optimism looking back at 2021

by David Specht

You can add me to the top of the pile of other pundits stating how the past two years have been some of the most challenging of our lifetimes, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And, it times like these, it is easy to get down or even give up.

On that note, I want to take this opportunity, as we close out 2021, to inspire and share an optimistic view for our area.

Yes, the pandemic hit us hard. Not only have we lost people, friends, and loved ones to a deadly disease, but many others also lost their livelihood. A business can’t compare to a loved one, but loss of purpose or the death of a dream is still a crush setback. 

Notice: I said “setback,” and not, “defeat.” 

There is still reason to believe that we can all come back from what has plagued northwest Louisiana. And, I am not just talking about COVID-19. 

In this edition, you’ll read how the man in charge of economic development for our state is bullish when it comes to economic promise of our area. I, too, share his optimism.

Earlier this year, Shreveport got a much needed win when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a large Amazon warehouse distribution center with a thousand direct jobs was landing in the area.

In addition, Shreveport-Bossier has the economic powerhouse that is Barksdale Air Force Base. BAFB not only provides thousands of jobs but also spins off new initiatives and support agencies like STRIKEWERX at the Cyber Innovation Center and partnerships like the Louisiana Tech Research Institute.

The Port of Caddo-Bossier continues the spirit of Shreveport’s namesake. This hidden gem is a major industrial and manufacturing hub that provides hundreds of jobs and new businesses a landing spot and ability to ship their goods via water, rail and road.

Shreveport-Bossier has a medical school that serves to connect our community to research, education, and entrepreneurial opportunities while providing and attracting a workforce for our healthcare industry.

There is a burgeoning entrepreneurial community supported by BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program, Cohab, and marketing on an innovative level that is the Prize Fest. All of these programs help local would-be business owners make their idea a reality through connecting them with investors, giving them essential education and place to work, and competition to showcase their skills and ideas.

In addition, we have always prided ourselves on our ability to form partnerships. Industry has taken advantage of our location to four-year universities — Louisiana Tech, LSU Shreveport, Southern University at Shreveport, Northwestern State — and one of the state’s premier community colleges in Bossier Parish Community College to develop specialized education and credentials that provide essential skills and training for a much-needed workforce.

Lastly, a major reason to be optimistic is our way of life. Not only do we have things to do with our bountiful outdoors opportunities, riverboat gaming, and entertainment venues headlined by the Brookshire Grocery Arena, but we have one of the lowest cost of living in the country. The North Louisiana Economic Partnership consistently highlights that the Shreveport-Bossier City MSA is below the national average, meaning cost of living expenses are lower than most of the rest of the country. This also has the added benefit of being a factor for recruiting new workers and businesses who are tired of high costs of living and all the expenses that come with it.

We can take these as reasons to propel ourselves in the new year as we work ourselves out of the COVID recess and try to solve long-standing issues across the area.

I hope you will share in my optimism and help let it guide you as you make your own decisions in your career, business and life. Let’s finish the year strong and set ourselves up for unseen success in 2022.

David A. Specht Jr. IS PUBLISHER AND EDITOR OF BIZ. AND President of Specht Newspapers, Inc.

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