Luncheon discusses economic importance of Barksdale

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By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

The importance of Barksdale Air Force Base and its economic power was underscored at a luncheon Wednesday.

The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce hosted a special luncheon at the Petroleum Club in downtown Shreveport, bringing together local businesses to learn about the importance of Barksdale’s economic impact on the local community.

Guest speaker Lt. Gen. Robert “Bob” Elder, Ret. discussed Barksdale’s organizational needs, community impact, and local engagement opportunities.

Elder is is the former commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, as well as the former commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt AFB, Neb.

Elder pointed out three key goals that he believes the community should be doing to understand the economic impact Barksdale has on the local community and how to improve economic growth.

First Elder explained the community should ensure all of Barksdale organizations are successful, including working with the Air Force Association.

“At the local level we can do things that will make it easy for businesses to interact with senior leaders on base. They don’t have to go through all of the craziness that goes on to try to have a one on one conversation. We really need to work with the Air Force Association,” said Elder.

Secondly, Elder said that northwest Louisiana needs to be established as a strategic ops center.

“This really has to do with a culture thing. It’s about the mindset. It’s really about understanding why this base does what it does and is so different from other bases around the country. The community understanding what is happening is imperative,” said Elder.

He also pointed out that NWLA must overcome the misconception about education in the area.

“We are looking pretty good when you put it into context. If you compare northwest Louisiana to other parts of the country, it looks pretty good,” Elder said. “People come to Barksdale Air Force Base, stay two years and go somewhere else. That’s a way to get the message around the world. Make sure Barksdale knows that this is a good place for there children to go to school and a good place for everything else.”

Lastly, he said the Shreveport Regional Airport is aiming at becoming an international airport.

Elder said the areas has to overcome concern among some military personnel and civilians that they are not able to travel to and from the desired destination.

“There’s a lot of misperception about the Shreveport Regional Airport. We need to correct that. People are concerned that they cannot get a direct flight to where they need to go. So that stops people from traveling to Shreveport and they take an alternate route. The difference between a regional airport and an international airport is customs and immigration. I believe that the airport is working on changing it to international,” he said.