By Kevin Shannahan
Bossier Parish Community College hosted the 2017 Upstate Rising Economic Development Conference Friday, August 25th. Over 125 public officials, attorneys, real estate professionals and other community leaders attended the all day conference featuring presentations on various economic development areas. The attendees brought a broad range of perspectives focusing on a common goal-improving the economic lot of northern Louisiana. Natchitoches’ Director of Planning and Zoning, Juanita Fowler was one of the conference’s organizers.
Louisiana’s Secretary of Economic Development, Don Pierson, was the keynote speaker. While some of his talk was of unfortunate events, such as the recent news of our state being passed over for consideration to be the site of a new auto plant, he used that loss to illustrate what factors businesses look for in site selection. Factors such as infrastructure, workforce readiness and education levels as well as things that make communities attractive places to live all contribute to business location and expansion decisions. We must learn from this and improve for the future.
Natchitoches’ own Tony Davis gave one of the more dynamic presentations of the conference. Davis, past president of the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce, BESE Board member and Executive Director of the Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation, spoke on Natchitoches’ part of “Placemaking and Best Practices From Monroe, Natchitoches and Ruston.” He spoke about the Natchitoches Community Alliance and the need for workforce development, governmental change and the need to expand the area’s economic focus from tourism to a broader more diverse economic base. He talked about the need to have a unified approach to solving problems, rather than divisions between the city and the rest of the parish. His quote of “Meat pies and Steel Magnolias don’t build an economy.” summed up the need to change the way the city and parish do business.