It’s Time to Drink the Kool-Aid

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!

Please watch these videos:

The Golden Triangle – 60 Minutes

How Far will Joe go for jobs – 60 Minutes

17 thoughts on “It’s Time to Drink the Kool-Aid

  1. I’m all for economic growth, but there won’t be any big businesses looking to locate here with all our broken roads and trash throughout the Parish. We won’t even be considered until the road system and bridges are fixed.

    • I understand about roads & trash it says a lot about our community. It’s pride or lack of it. But, this isn’t a new problem. I think companies are concerned with start up costs, tax burden, qualified labor all of which translates to profits. I worked in Guadalajara, Mx for awhile & the roads were poor with trash everywhere. Yes, cheap labor was one of the drivers but, I want to believe someone would like what we have to offer if they just knew we were here. Remember, we have railroads and an industrial port on Red River. Food for thought.

  2. I could write a book on my lifelong trials on trying to make a living around here. I was born here, went to college here and now have a little property here. However, I spent most of my professional career working elsewhere. Mostly in Shreveport because that’s where the jobs are. But, if any of you want to get together and “scout” for companies that might be willing to relocate here, I’m in. We have a state dept of economic development but I don’t know what their methodology is for recruiting businesses to relocate, but I’d be willing to bet they are well-paid for “looking around”. Look at our neighbor Texas. Nearly every little town has at least one industry or business. We have a couple. Maybe the solution is expansion of existing industries. Not sure. It could be an opportune time for such an effort, with a new President that seems to be interested in preserving American jobs. Just my 2 cents…

  3. Dear, For those of us who remember Jim Jones “drinking the Kool-aid” is not a real good reference. Perhaps what we need is some Slim-Fast and a couple of good energy bars. 😉

    • I think you’ve completely misunderstood the reference. In this case it means that everyone needs to get behind a positive message and outlook. Everyone needs to “drink the kool aid” and think alike in a way that produces positive results.
      It doesn’t mean that we should all simply swallow the poison and die.

      Read the message again.

      • Mr. Maynard, she is right. The phrase “drink the kool-aid” has become common lexicon for going all in and believing wholeheartedly, but it comes from the tragic history of the Jim Jones community. It is an unfortunate turn of phrase, and there are many others which could be used in its place. It surprises me that in a world where people are constantly being offended about something, that this phrase continues to be widely used. While I don’t think she was offended, and neither am I, it might be advisable for a journalist to seek other ways of communicating his point. God bless.

        • i agree with your assessment about it being “lexicon for going all in and believing wholeheartedly”…and to the origin of the phrase. But your assumption is that the Kool Aid is laced with arsenic. In the context of this story, however, it is not a negative thing. I firmly believe that the intent of the term here is to rally everyone to “go all in wholeheartedly” on being positive and reverse the negative attitudes that are so pervasive in Natchitoches. Dwelling on the origin of the term and not the context in which it is used will skew the interpretation of anything. I suggest that you read it again with a more positive approach and see if you change your mind.

  4. great article and very true .I had left for 27 years and recently moved back
    and in that time I have noticed not much growth at all,it is very sad to see.
    I like it here and good people.But the roads are awful,no good paying jobs,not many places to eat or shop,so people will go elsewhere until change is made.

  5. I’m going to step out of my role as a weekly columnist for NPJ and comment here simply as a Natchitoches resident. To me, “drinking the Kool Aide” implies giving up. I don’t think anyone in Natchitoches is ready to or wants to give up. I’m also a member of the Parish Tourist Commission and I can say that this is a dedicated group of people who are working hard to attract more and more people to our local businesses. I realize that tourism, of course, is not the complete answer to the economic needs of the region. It would be great to have some new high tech plants here that pay high salaries. But the fortunate towns that get such amenities are few and far between. And, as I’ve said before, Natchitoches has come a long way since the 1970s when I first visited here and Front Street was a depressing stretch of mostly shuttered store fronts. I’m not saying we should be content with a glass half full, but Natchitoches has done better than a lot of other towns this size, not just in the South but all across the nation.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by saying that drinking the kool aid is synonymous with giving up. Can you please clarify?

  6. I’m a Natchitoches native and professional economic developer in Oxford, MS. Joe Max Higgins is a friend, colleague and mentor for me. The 60 minutes piece was a very good description of what he does to attract large manufacturing projects to the Golden Triangle. However, if you look past the dazzeling veil of landing these whale projects, you’ll find that the primary economic indicators (net job growth, net annual wage growth, net population growth and growth in manufacturing employment) are all going backward in that county and region.
    Oxford, however, is showing significant growth in all areas by focusing on the long term strategy of quality of place and growing from within. We have attracted a few whale projects, and lost even more. Our secret for success is that we are keenly focused on small, locally grown businesses and developing an atmosphere of “we give a damn” about our community.
    I would love to come back to my home town and demonstrate the differences between the 60 minutes version of success, and the quiet and substantial version in Oxford.
    Natchitoches has a long way to go to in terms of economic development. However, if you try to take the Joe Max approach, you may not be very happy with the results.

  7. I dought that an education at the local high schools will ever be adequate to be competitive in any situation.

  8. When the FUMC of Natchitoches were in the process of adding a new worship area one of our pastors had a worring thought that it would not ever fill, at the time I reminded them of this same quote as well, we still use this quote in passing.if you have not attended one of our Contemporary Services I urge you to do so, then you will fully understand the value of this quote.

  9. Awesome and true. Sorry about your sister, but there are a lot o people here like that. If we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else will.

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