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Land, location important for growth

North of I-220 is the fastest growing portion of Bossier Parish for both retail and residential.

New businesses need land with specific attributes to locate and build in Bossier

Ed’s. note: Today is part two in a three-part series on issues affecting growth in Bossier Parish.

Land may be everywhere you look that isn’t covered with water, but not all land is created equal.

In low-lying Bossier Parish, wetlands and small streams are indisputable facts of life. So are takeoff and landing approaches for Barksdale Air Force Base, a network of railroads, highways and major traffic thoroughfares.

Having gone down the path of relying too heavily on a single sector of the economy, Bossier Parish now has a very diverse economy that includes major sectors such as retail, health care, military, education, hospitality, services and construction.

With that diversity comes specialized land location needs.

Rocky Rockett, of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, notes that different sectors of the economy have different types of needs and that some sectors are not compatible adjacent to others.

“Land management is important for Bossier Parish growth,” Rockett said.

Retailers want to be close to lots of rooftops. The fastest growing part of Bossier Parish, in terms of residential growth, is north of I-220 and the Bossier City’s retail growth has followed Airline Drive north to I-220 and beyond to be closer to rooftops while remaining in a high traffic corridor.

The planned Kroger Marketplace development, to be built between the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Home Depot, will occupy the last remaining large tract of land fronting Airline Drive between I-20 and I-220.

A short distance north, construction of a new Sam’s Club is well underway at the Stirling shopping center.

In contrast, some companies and services don’t need to front high traffic areas.

FedEx Ground, for example, has a distribution center in a low traffic area between Viking Drive and Shed Road. I-220 is just minutes away and provides access to other highways and traffic thoroughfares. Lack of traffic on the side roads in the area would undermine retail there.

Rockett said some companies need railroad access, others need water transportation and still others need air freight connectivity.

A location that works well for office space often will not work for retail.

Identifying land that could be used for specialized needs is something the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation is working on, Rockett said.

Decades ago, much manufacturing in the U.S. moved overseas but now Rockett said manufacturing is making a comeback and creating a need to identify suitable locations.

Cyber technology is a relatively new growth industry in Bossier, particularly with the announcement of CSC moving to the Research Park to create about 800 jobs over the next few years. With high tech and often automation used in manufacturing, Rockett said manufacturing companies see the value of paying higher wages for skilled workers in the U.S.

Putting all the pieces together –where manufacturing, retail, housing and transportation work in harmony – is a challenge for Bossier Parish and other areas.

“Land management is the key,” Rockett said. “You have to create corridors and follow them.”

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.