Chamber’s State of Bossier address
If there were ever a time to talk about Bossier, that time would be now.
Bossier, as a whole, is leading the way in many initiatives, including technology, education and community partnerships. These advancements and others were celebrated at the State of Bossier Address, hosted by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. This ‘annual report’ to the business community highlighted the accomplishments of the past year and a look into where the parish is moving in the coming years.
Jack Skaggs, Police Jury President, shared information on the Bossier Parish Police Jury. Among the things discussed were economic development trends, updates on Parish infrastructure projects and population growth.
Skaggs report of the Louisiana Parish Census shows a population of 126,345 in 2014, an increase of more than 27,000 people since 2000. Contributing factors to Bossier’s growth through the years is Global Strike Command, the partnership Bossier Parish entities have with Barksdale Air Force Base, the Cyber Innovation Center and the ebb, flow of oil and gas.
Bossier’s residential growth has created a need for infrastructure improvements. Key areas of improvement are to roads and bridges, traffic managements, water and sewer, parks and recreation.
A transportation plan was developed in 2004 as a long-term plan to meet future travel demands to meet city and parish growth as well as ensure the movement of people and goods safely through the area. Skaggs said although it was a great plan and on target, the “massive growth” has caused other projects to become priorities. He used Kingston Road as an example.
“The development, right now, is mainly in north Bossier/Benton. That’s where everyone wants to be,” he said. “Out of no where, [Kingston Road] became a place of major development. Everyone pitched in and worked together to get that road done.”
Additionally, Skaggs shared some of the goals and projections for the future. Future roadway projects in Bossier Parish include extending Swan Lake Road from I-220 north to Crouch Road, constructing an east-west corridor that will enhance and extend Winfield Road to connect with Benton Road and extending the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway south beyond Parkway High School, which is the only project not included in the 2004 plan.
Skaggs concluded by saying they hope to have the parish sewer district operational by the end of 2015 and to update the 2000 Transportation Infrastructure Plan.
Bossier City Mayor, Lorenz Walker brought a City perspective to the event and gave attendees an update on transportation projects, such as I-49, I-69 and extensions to the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, and shared how the city is working to address traffic issues. Transportation and roadways were first on the list for Walker, beginning with the I-69 project.
I-69 is a $29 billion project that will weave its way through north Louisiana, directly impacting east Bossier Parish. The route is divided into 32 segments and two of those will run from Magnolia, Ark. South to just east of Haughton and continue around Barksdale AFB to the port of Shreveport-Bossier before heading west into Texas.
“This is an international corridor that will run through the United States north to Canada and south to Mexico,” Walker said. “We’ve been working on this about 21 years now and we’ve probably got about 20 more years to go on this, but it is coming. This is extremely important to us because we will not only have I-20 and I-49, but we’ll have I-69.”
Other project updates included the northern extension of Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, George Dement Boulevard, the Douglas Drive and Plantation Drive extensions, and the future plans for Viking Drive.
Walker’s presentation confirmed plans for the Kroger Marketplace development on Airline Drive. Joining the lineup of stores is Hobby Lobby, Panera bread, Buffalo Wild Wings, Panda Express, and Jim Johns Barbecue.
Plans for redeveloping downtown Bossier were discussed. The plan is to utilize existing businesses as the assets to build a new town square area, expand residential and commercial opportunities and make it an attractive and functional community area where residents seek to work, live and play.
Moving forward, Walker said the top three chellenges for the City of Bossier City will be to continue improvements to reduce vehicle congestion on main roads, sustain and improve public safety and services with quality personnel (despite have 134 fewer personnel since 2009), and continue the highest level of support to the missions and personnel at Barksdale AFB.
As there have been many reports on Bossier’s ever growing population and business boom, Dr. Dave Norris, Chief Innovation Officer at Louisiana Tech University, covered key economic indicators for Bossier, relating them to how they compare to the state and nation.
The keys to economic prosperity in the 21st century, Norris noted, is quality pre-k through 12 education and higher education, public support for innovation and entrepreneurship, high quality basic local public services and healthcare, successful public-private partnerships, and leading edge public infrastructure.
“The communities that are going to succeed in the 21st century are the ones that can be innovative and entrepreneurial,” Norris said. “These are the kinds of things you have to have.”
Fortunately, Bossier is keeping up with those demands and is evident in population and economic growth statistics.
Norris’ presentation showed that Bossier Parish has a 6.9-percent change in population for 2010-2014, as compared to only 2.6-percent in Louisiana and 3.3-percent for the United States.
“This is the place people want to live,” Norris said. “Your population is growing and that’s a good sign.”
Bossier also has a “healthy unemployment rate,” decreasing by more than half since 2010.
“The numbers fell lower in Bossier Parish than they did in the state and nation as a whole. This was during a time when the country was recovering from the effects of the financial crisis of 2008 and those unemployment rates started falling in 2010,” Norris said. “There was a little change in 2014. Louisiana’s unemployment rate took a turn and started trending upward while the nation continued falling. Now the national unemployment rate is lower that the state of Louisiana’s. Bossier Parish still has a healthy unemployment rate and is certainly healthy compared to the rest of the state.”