David “Rocky” Rockett, Jr. Executive Director, Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation

In recent weeks, members within the NWLA business community have been taking to the editorial stage to address an opinion from the sponsored website, WalletHub, regarding our community’s ability to provide jobs in our market. Obviously, any time a community is criticized it is widely viewed as disappointing. Particularly since the criticism did not compile a complete snapshot of our area to quantify the study, and chose to hang on a few particulars that skew data in one direction. Our community is on the right track in many ways, despite the challenges that come with attracting large business to a state that ranks last or near last in many typical matrix such as health, income, and education is a challenge. Not every community is picture perfect, but here’s what we are doing about it locally as we work together to build a strong community.

Let’s address the ways we attract jobs to the community. There are comprehensive economic development tools in place right here in our state and our MSA that position us to meet existing industry needs and respond to new demands. Our community is focused on workforce development, education, incentives, and sound infrastructure which aid our efforts of attracting new industry and adding jobs. Independently, these parts of the economic development matrix are important, but when coupled together by a community they can provide a comprehensive, proactive approach to economic development effectiveness.

Providing an educated, qualified workforce is a large piece of the puzzle we look to solve. Bossier has a quantifiable track record of investing in education, from K-12 through post-secondary programs. Bossier is unique in that it also possesses the community’s buy in with support from voters of the $200-plus million bond investment made in Bossier Parish Schools. Additionally, training for 21st Century jobs is top priority here locally, and Bossier’s cyber presence with NICERC’s nationally recognized STEM education programs prove we are forward thinking and innovative.

Much of the incentive offerings come by way of our capability to respond to business needs through our investments in workforce. Access to higher education and job training in our area of the state is impressive, as Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) shines bright for Bossier. The College is known for its commitment to training for jobs in high demand career fields. BPCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing is a great example of a custom fit partnership and investment made by Bossier and the state of Louisiana to attract Benteler Steel/Tube to the area.

From our interstate and rail system, to the Port of Caddo Bossier, to access to air transportation, Northwest Louisiana is getting noticed because of its ability to provide multi-modal transportation solutions which help to positively impact a company’s bottom line.

As a result of these grass roots efforts within our economic tool house, we have seen success among different disciplines such as IT, and gains in manufacturing, and healthcare. We see this directly relating to steady community retail spending, a continued growth in residential construction, a shrinking unemployment rate, and projected population growth through the next five years. These are all indicators that point to consumer confidence and prove we’re on the right track. The GBEDF will continue to advocate for policies that strengthen our community. Our economic development agenda focuses on delivering industry diversity and allows the GBEDF to support and invest in initiatives that sustain our community.