‘Caravan’ updates on economic progress

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The North Louisiana Economic Partnership Economic Regional Caravan made its Bossier City stop Thursday.

The caravan is an opportunity for the public to be updated on economic development progress in the region, along with showcasing some of NLEP’s efforts and services.

Scott Martinez, NLEP president said the partnership is a one-stop shop for prospective businesses and industries, working with the state and local entities for economic development.

Martinez talked about such growth as Benteler Steel, Elio Motors and CenturyLink’s expansion in Monroe as good news for the region.

The NLEP will next ramp up existing business growth in the upcoming 12 months, Martinez said.

“It is important to pay attention to existing companies.”

Bossier Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Lisa Johnson said partnerships are the key to economic growth in this region.

“We work with economic partners to help provide information to get new business in town,” Johnson said.

In addition to attracting new business, Johnson said is important to protect some of the area’s economic assets — namely, Barksdale Air Force Base.

“We have the ability and connections to help a national asset in our back yard (BAFB) and we need to tell that story,” she said.

Cyber Innovation Center Vice President G.B. Cazes touted the progress with some of the Center’s programs and hinted at some future opportunities.

“We can’t really say anything right now, but hope to be able to celebrate a win in the next 12- 18 months,” Cazes said.

Bossier Parish Community College Chancellor Jim Henderson brought to light many of the achievements of the community college and its students, but was quick to acknowledge more needs to be done.

“To meet the needs of this region, we have got to develop the talent — give employers the right talent,” Henderson said. “BPCC can’t meet the needs of the area by itself. Not without partnerships.”

Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau President Stacy Brown said the area had seen major growth in hotel space over the past five years, due to the Haynesville Shale natural gas play exploration.

“We had a lot of transient workers in the area, and a lot of hotels were built to accommodate them,” Brown said.

Now, with the slowdown in that industry, the hotel-motel industry is facing some “growing pains.”

Brown said, however, recent events have showcased the areas ability to accommodate large groups, which is paying dividends.

“Someone saw the FLW tour event on NBC and how our area was able to handle that,” Brown said. “We received a call with interest in hosting a convention. ‘If you can handle that group, you can handle ours,’ they said.”

Bossier Parish Police Jury President Jimmy Cochran highlighted some of the investments the Jury has made in local projects as positive for economic development.

“No matter where we spend the dollars, it helps the community,” he said.

During the Regional Caravan series, NLEP board members and staff travel throughout the 14 parishes that they serve to meet with local elected officials and community and business leaders to engage them in economic development efforts.

North Louisiana Economic Partnership is a public-private partnership dedicated to the positive and sustainable economic development of the 14 parishes it serves in North Louisiana. The NLEP and its many partners work with both existing and prospective companies to facilitate the attraction and retention of capital investments in north Louisiana.