Continued Growth Forecast For Southwest Louisiana In 2017
Outlook By George Swift, President/CEO, Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance
Photo By Jason Carroll, monsoursphotography.net
As we get set for a new year, all of us in Southwest Louisiana can be assured that we will see another year of increased growth. In fact, 2017 will see a major upturn in construction activity, with possibly between 16,000 and 18,000 construction workers in the area.
Currently, over $45 billion dollars are invested in construction underway; there are also almost $70 billion dollars in projects in various stages of planning and permitting. The amount of capital invested in projects that are underway now is greater than in any other place in the nation. With current projects totalling $113 billion, we greatly overshadow other areas.
There will be opportunities here for businesses and individuals if they choose to take advantage of them. Our area residents are urged to take advantage of scholarships for training that can provide high-paying jobs. Sowela, McNeese, union apprenticeships and ABC School are sources for training.
The jobs available will be in all sectors, including health care, aviation and hospitality, in addition to the petro-chemical industry.
This year, several of the pending projects will receive permits and move closer to construction starts.
Housing will continue to flourish, with single-family homes and apartments under construction. Construction workers will continue to use RVs, hotels, apartments and houses, but the rental supply is expected to be exhausted. With the exception of more RVs, construction workers should begin to use the worker villages that have been permitted.
Retail and commercial development will continue to grow. Outlying parishes will see increases in housing as well as retail growth.
With the certified industrial sites, including the Beauregard Airport mega-site, we can expect more industrial prospects to be looking at our area.
We are working with the state to certify more sites. No longer can you have a rice field and sell it as an industrial site. There is too much competition.
The Alliance is gearing up for a fast-paced year. We will continue to have work force and talent development as our No. 1 priority, followed closely by site development. We will unveil generational projects that will improve the quality of life of our residents, which is extremely important if we are to keep our young people here and attract new workers to our region.
In Lake Charles, the mayor and City Council races will be held March 25. With long-time Mayor Randy Roach not seeking re-election, a large number of candidates are gearing up. Electing officials with a vision and commitment to progress is essential if our area is to reach full potential. We cannot afford voter apathy. As citizens, it is our duty to make an informed vote. Thirty-percent voter turn-out won’t cut it.
Central to the quality of life in our communities and neighborhoods, is the quality of the schools that serve those areas. In the 2015-16 school year, there were 15 low-performing schools in the urban neighborhoods of Lake Charles. A common theme for the children in these schools is that the vast majority are economically disadvantaged students.
The City of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Parish School System are working with the National Resource Network to devise strategies that will relate the teaching and learning in these schools to the various workforce and career opportunities in our region. This effort is designed to help economically disadvantaged children make the connection between learning, knowledge and success in the workforce.
This initiative should be continued by the next city administration so that we can reduce poverty by better educating the next generations.
We are indeed fortunate to have the economic potential ahead of us.
With so much happening in our region, perhaps what is needed most is a sharp focus by government and the business community working together to find solutions to our growth issues.
The year 2017 promises to be an exciting and challenging one for Southwest Louisiana.