The executive director of the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District, Jerry Jones, has resigned to take a position heading up the economic development agency in Richmond, Texas, which is located in the rapidly growing Houston-Sugarland-The Woodlands metropolis.
Jones, whose new job title is director of the Development Corporation of Richmond, came to Baton Rouge in November 2018, after nearly a decade as economic development director in St. John the Baptist Parish. He was the first executive director hired by the district after it secured a permanent source of funding—a 2% occupancy tax on hotels in north Baton Rouge.
Though Jones’ two-year contract with the BRNEDD was up in December, he says he was not looking for another position but was recruited by a headhunter and felt the potential opportunity was worth pursuing.
“There’s more funding for the organization, more stability, more buy-in from the local governing authorities,” Jones says. “It’s one of those things that is too good to pass up.”
While Jones says he is proud of his accomplishments during his two-year tenure at the BRNEDD, he acknowledges there are not a lot of large, visible projects he can point to. Rather, much of the work he did was in building relationships and partnership that will serve as the foundation for future growth and economic development in north Baton Rouge.
“We brought businesses together with the community, worked more closely with BRAC and the mayor’s office and worked to help Millennial Park get off the ground,” Jones says. “Also, we had 20 small businesses open in north Baton Rouge in 2020 alone, despite the pandemic.”
The organization also helped gather data that is being used to help attract a grocery store to north Baton Rouge, he says.
Jones believes the BRNEDD could do more if it had more funding. The hotel tax generates about $200,000 a year for the organization, less than half what he believes it needs to launch effective economic development efforts.
“Most organizations in Louisiana are required to make do with very little and we did the most with the little we had,” he says. “In Texas, they seem to do things from a position of plenty.”
Creating more economic development districts in north Baton Rouge and utilizing Tax Increment Financing would also go a long way towards helping the area attract more business, he says.
In his new position, Jones will be working with economic development officials in Fort Bend County and other Houston-area economic development organizations to attract businesses to the area, he says.
Jones’ last day with the BRNEDD is Friday. The organization’s board will discuss naming an interim executive director at its meeting today at 3 p.m.