Are Baton Rouge’s controversies harming economic development?

    From the decisions handed down regarding the fate of officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling to the ongoing St. George incorporation effort—not to mention the debates over the Industrial Tax Exemption Program and Baton Rouge Zoo—Baton Rouge has been a hotbed of controversy in recent months.

    And while it might not seem like Baton Rouge is a great place to be at the moment, several national site selection consultants and experts tell Business Report things probably don’t seem so chaotic to those outside the city. More significantly, they say local issues don’t factor significantly into the decisions companies make about where to invest and expand.

    “Virtually no impact,” says Ron Unger, executive vice president of Site Selection magazine. “I would daresay the typical site selection consultant would know little about any of those issues. Most CEOs would also be unaware of them.”

    South Carolina-based site selection consultant Mark Sweeney shares Unger’s assessment, noting that even the recent Sterling decision is less of a blemish on the area than one might assume given the negative national media coverage.

    “The shooting situation is not good,” Sweeney says. “But unfortunately it’s not unique to Baton Rouge. A lot of places in the United States have had shootings.”

    Sweeney says companies looking to make major investments in a market forecast 10, 20 or even 30 years into the future so issues like tax structure, education and infrastructure matter more than local controversies.

    One caveat, he believes, is the St. George effort.

    “If they’re successful in getting an independent school district it would raise concerns about the future of public education in the parish,” he says. “It would be seen as instead of trying to solve the problem by moving forward, trying to solve the problem by moving backwards.”

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