Some are common goals, shared by multiple folks in the nine-parish Capital Region, while others are unique to a specific parish. Here’s a roundup of what area chambers and economic development officials say are their two key objectives for the start of the new decade:
East Baton Rouge Parish
• For years, traffic congestion has been the No. 1 concern of business leaders in the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s annual survey.
• Business leaders are focused on ensuring that the Interstate 10 widening, the MovEBR Plan and the work toward a new Mississippi River Bridge crossing and connectors continue apace so that Baton Rouge can fall off the list of most-congested midsized metro areas in the U.S.
• For decades, blight has remained a top issue in Baton Rouge, attracting war declarations from past mayoral administrations and inspiring a series of stories published in 2018 in Business Report.
• Obstacles the city-parish is fighting in its bid to alleviate blight include funding and the fact that many properties are privately owned.
• In 2018, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome launched a Blight Strike Team to help tackle the issue. The Metro Council has also established its own Blight Committee.
• With 2020 being a local election year, BRAC says the time is now to galvanize around public maintenance across our communities.
Business recruitment and expansion…
• The Ascension Economic Development Corporation is focusing on expanding its parish’s industries past the petrochemical sector to have a more diverse economy.
• Parishwide targets: warehouse distribution (pictured), advance manufacturing, speciality manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing.
• Gonzales and Prairieville: technology and software development
• Helping community development agencies in localities to develop large-scale retail options as well as revitalizing downtown areas.
East Feliciana Parish
• The Feliciana Airpark is expanding, with plans calling for the facility’s north ramp to be paved.
• Larry Thomas, chairman of the East Feliciana Economic Development District, says the expansion will be “tremendous” because it will give them more space for more aircraft.
Supporting the film industry…
• Municipalities receive funding when crews work in the parish, says Thomas, so the parish aims to support the film industry by promoting East Feliciana Parish as a location to film.
• “It’s kind of like Santa Clause came when movie crews come to town.”
• When it comes to drainage, the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce wants to see a parishwide solution, which has been a hot-topic issue since the 2016 floods (pictured) inundated much of the parish.
• Specifically, Chamber President and CEO April Wehrs would like to see a parishwide drainage district established.
Getting a better pulse on business…
• Because of the toll the 2016 floods took on businesses and finances in the parish, the chamber wants to get a pulse on how business in Livingston Parish has changed.
• The chamber will hold roundtables as well as hold one-on-one meetings with businesses and community leaders over the next year to better understand the changes.
West Baton Rouge Parish
Industrial Tax Exemption Program…
• Parishes are still grappling with new rules set for the ITEP program, which granted local government entities the power to veto a request from a company.
• With seven new parish council members taking office and several projects on the horizon, West Baton Rouge Parish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jamie Hanks says it’s important that they understand the program. “The importance of this program in attracting projects can’t be overestimated.”
• The chamber is hosting ITEP Lunch and Learn events to teach the process.
• With multiple plants looking to relocate in the parish and a steadily rising residential population, traffic relief is a top issue for West Baton Rouge Parish.
• A project Hanks is especially keeping an eye on is the La. 415 connector to the Mississippi River Bridge. The project is a 3-mile flyover between the Lobdell/La. 415 exit and a spot on La. Hwy. 1 between Port Allen and Plaquemine, which aims to ease traffic on La. 1 and near the Mississippi River and Intracoastal bridges.
West Feliciana Parish
• The parish has secured a $2.9 million capital outlay grant to improve the infrastructure at the riverfront, which will allow the parish to dock more than one riverboat cruise ship at a time.
• Parish President Kenny Havard says these improvements will increase the number of tourists into the parish and result in an increase in sales tax dollars.
Advancing the parish industrial park…
• West Feliciana Parish is currently selecting a vendor to harvest the timber (pictured) on parish-owned property within the industrial park.
• The parish also plans to prep the land and tie in utilities for several projects currently in the works for the area.
• Havard says the financial benefit from the industrial park will more than exceed the parish’s investment by creating new jobs for West Feliciana residents and creating additional property and sales tax dollars for the parish.