Comment to our Leaders

JULY 18, 2021 AT 2:17 PM

Dear City and Parish Leaders;

Before the City hires a replacement for Economic Development Executive, please consider a few things.

The successes that we have had with economic development came many years ago and through either a couple of strong contacts or due to location and/or natural resources.

I’ve heard that Mr. Arthur Watson, his connections, business acumen and dedication to his hometown, helped get Western Craft/Willamette (later IP), Country Pride/ConAgra/Pilgrims came about due to those efforts. Similarly, a deal with what became Trus Joist and now Weyerhaeuser developed from these same types of efforts.

Alliance Compressors came about when a local group of business people chased down Trane and wined and dined them, got the land and tax incentives from the city and finally put it together; that was over 20 years ago!

The wood chip business at the Grand Ecore port was also years ago in conjunction with the railroad and I think an economic arm of CLECO.

Martco was a location and natural resource play along with tax incentives. Martin Timber holds vast amounts of land and timber within a radius of the plant location.

What do all those have in common? They were bought with tax incentives and/or location & connections and availability of natural resources. More than that, they were all years and years ago!

What has happened since?

Despite having a couple of hired Economic Developers, along with the hard work of various volunteers – not much!

While there have been some advances made by some of our community leaders, the lack of sustained progress has not been able to overcome the glaring holes which still exist with our economic development presentations.

Why are we zero for 25 years?

We used to be able to draw people because of the National attention Natchitoches drew and was named a top place to live on a couple of occasions. We are not as high on that list anymore.

I think number one is when we get a fish on the hook, they check out our workforce and they see disastrous numbers. Add in a tough local economy and what many businesses see as an unfriendly workforce in the area.

Our local school board is certainly trying, but frankly we don’t have the kind of school record that many big companies are satisfied with having their employees’ children and grandchildren attend.

Guess what else, we can’t hide our crime statistics. Yes, companies checking us out do also check on those things.

Quite frankly, in the past NSU was more vibrant and was a huge positive. With the reduced number of Faculty, Staff, loss of various degree programs and the extreme reduction of actual students attending the NSU Campus in Natchitoches. NSU no longer contributes to the local economy at its pre-online level. NSU’s impact has been reduced on the local economy.

Does anyone really want to discuss these matters publicly?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

It is difficult for a community to admit that it has real problems, with real challenges, which have resulted in barriers to our collective efforts to attract new job opportunities; however, if we don’t have an open and honest dialogue about our weaknesses, how can we be expected to try to resolve these issues, and try to find a way to overcome those obstacles, and then hopefully be in a position to work effectively to successfully bring in good paying jobs to our area

Before we throw any more good money after bad, we need to put a group together and talk about it. Any immediate hire would be a waste of time and money. Any additional money raised for economic development needs to be put in a fund and held until some of our problems are addressed.

Until then we are spinning our wheels like we are traveling down Harmony Road, Pardee Road or Blanchard Road after a two-inch rain.

Please leaders of the City and Parish of Natchitoches, consider this message and do some study prior to spending tax payer money on the same story.

Randall Stephens

 

The preceding comment was posted/made in response to an article published on Saturday, July 17, 2021.

Michael Ferdinand has resigned as Natchitoches Economic Executive Director


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