By Ida B. Torn/Opinion
Like most people in the United States, I traveled for the holidays. I couldn’t help but notice all of the economic growth in each place I passed through. I could not help but wonder why Natchitoches Parish doesn’t have that feel. In 2016, it seemed to me that the largest sector for economic growth in Natchitoches Parish was the dining industry. We cannot eat our way to prosperity.
In March of 2016, the Louisiana Economic Development issued a press release announcing that more than 800 direct and indirect jobs would be created with the establishment of IBM’s Client Innovation Center. The Center is being developed on an 88-acre site and it is a public-private partnership. The State of Louisiana is funding $4.5 million over 10 years to expand higher-education programs and all three universities in the area are getting involved, too, by expanding their technology programs. Natchitoches Parish has lots of land and a growing university, so why didn’t we get that project?
CBS’s 60 Minutes recently ran a segment on the Golden Triangle in Mississippi and the amazing accomplishments of Joe Max Higgins, CEO of Golden Triangle Development. Mr. Higgins, through his efforts, has reduced the area’s unemployment from 20% to 6% and has brought in more than 6,000 jobs since 2003 which has replaced almost 50% of the jobs lost over the last 25 years. Mr. Higgins focused on the theory “build it and they will come.” The Golden Triangle boasts highway, rail, port and air. Natchitoches Parish has all of these things, so where’s our economic boom? I suspect that if Mr. Higgins came to Natchitoches Parish, he’d tell us the same thing he told the people in the Golden Triangle. We don’t believe in ourselves; we have a losing attitude; we expect to be a loser; and we don’t expect to be a winner.
I have a sister who loves to tell people how miserable she is; so much that people audibly groan when they see her coming. It seems to me that Natchitoches Parish suffers from the same Poor Pitiful Me Syndrome. There are countless social media pages bemoaning everything that is wrong with Natchitoches Parish and very few that shine a light on all of the wonderful assets that we have to offer. If we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else will. It’s time to stop simply complaining about what’s wrong with our Parish. It’s time to work together for a better future for our Parish. It’s time for us to believe that our children deserve a good education; that our workforce deserves good paying jobs; and that our Parish deserves prosperity. It’s time to drink the Kool-Aid!
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