The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance is a trade organization whose members are comprised of 60 industrial facilities located in eight parishes around Baton Rouge. The association’s mission is to drive solutions to common issues with an emphasis on safety performance and workforce development. One of the most pressing “common issues” today is the Baton Rouge region’s traffic congestion and aging infrastructure.
GBRIA’s members employ over 18,000 direct and regular contract workers annually in the region. An additional construction workforce completing turnarounds/outages and capital construction of about 30,000 were employed as well. Industrial facilities make up about 8% of the area’s workforce, and with a multiplier effect of approximately 5% (being conservative), one can estimate that industry is responsible for about 40% of all the jobs in the Baton Rouge region.
With such a widespread impact, the effects of people working industry can be felt everywhere, from rush hour traffic to the tax collector’s office. GBRIA being an organization that solves workforce issues, the topic of traffic congestion keeps coming up. Workers are complaining and voting with their feet. They are refusing to take jobs due to traffic congestion, deciding to bide their time elsewhere. The problem has grown so large that plant managers have made solving the traffic issues in the region their top priority.
GBRIA organized a working group that has been meeting since 2014. Results of the group are focused on short-term solutions that can make a difference. The following are the major improvements achieved to date. With the help of DOTD, a new ferry was put in service between St. Gabriel and Plaquemine. The Ascension Parish president and the Ascension Parish Legislative Delegation were able to advance a project to improve La. 30 and one to add a connector between La. 30 and La. 44. The Capital Region Planning Commission launched GeauxRide.com, a ride-share and employee benefits program, and GBRIA continues to promote the program to its members and area contract employers.
To solve the area’s long-term needs, GBRIA helped found Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS) in partnership with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Center for Planning Excellence in 2015. CRISIS’ mission is to provide a leadership voice to address the Baton Rouge area’s transportation crisis, identifying solutions and advocating for their prioritization and funding. The area’s business and industry leaders recognize that to get a new bridge or other large-scale new infrastructure in place in 10 or 15 years, we must begin now as a community and we must all speak with one voice for our region. The consequences of waiting are already impacting the region. Major corporations have voiced their concern that they are losing new projects to Texas or other locations because decision-makers in corporate offices do not see the region bringing forth solutions that would enable bringing more workers to the region.
GBRIA members are “on the move” in more ways than just traffic. Improving the area’s skilled workforce, keeping employees and their communities safe and improving how industry communicates with all of its stakeholders remain key goals of the association.
Connie P. Fabré is the executive director of the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, Inc.
Originally published in the first quarter 2016 edition of 10/12 Industry Report. Read more from this issue at 1012industryreport.com.