Economic development and finances, according to all three mayoral candidates, are issues that need serious study. It’s our opinion that these are hand-in-hand. Attracting more business and industry means more dollars in local coffers through liquid spending and tax money generated by business and industry.
But, as everyone knows, there’s no quick solution to economic development and the associated revenue increases. It takes time and effort to attract the salary producing/associated liquid spending/sales tax generating base. It also takes long-term planning, beginning with a focus on what fits and what Minden can and will support.
We’ve heard our candidates say there’s a need for an economic development director. Minden has had one of those. We saw some benefit, mostly through small business openings. Those are good, but limited in the overall scope of financing a city with growing needs and expenses. We don’t need to hunt elephants, but a small one might be nice. Industries are looking for sites every day, especially in the South. We’re there.
Friends tell us one person (economic director) can’t explore every opportunity. Perhaps, but that one person can establish relationships that produce results. One example: Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Don Pierson is a north Louisiana native. Don was executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation for years. He is an excellent source, is very accessible and loves this part of the state.
Candidates also said we might be able to learn the secret to economic growth by talking with nearby towns like Ruston, Haughton and Bossier City. That’s a good idea that needs to fleshed out even while we’re in the campaign stage.
We’re sure Minden and other communities have the capacity to meet via Internet, say once each quarter, and Zoom through ideas. We believe leadership in other towns and cities are interested in seeing us prosper and would be willing to share thoughts. Public officials/employees like to talk about their accomplishments.
Economic development isn’t always about bricks and mortar, i.e. new business or industry. Economic development can be a people proposition. Our city has lost population steadily for decades. When people leave so does their money. When money exits, businesses soon follow suit and industrial interest wanes.
Solving the economic development problem could be as simple as attracting people. Where people go, business and industry follow, not vice versa. A question for those who are seeking to lead us for at least the next four years is how do we turn outflow into stayflow.
What exactly do we have that will entice people, especially young ones to (a) remain/return here, (b) come here and (c) stay here. Perhaps there are many more sophisticated answers but we think it boils down to jobs, public safety, educational and recreational considerations. There’s one more item on the “come see us, be us” list. Tourism.
What we’re talking about here is more than buying and clearing property for short-term festivals that attract good but not large crowds. It’s more than putting a new face on one business and one residence for one televised segment lasting one hour, a much-hyped project that has yet to yield the expected visitor harvest. We’re talking about tourism as a significant part of our long-range economic planning.
We need to seek more events like the McKenzie Archery Shooters Association (ASA) competition that came to Camp Minden last April. That event drew more than 1,600 people from 41 states, plus Canada and Australia. Organizers plan to be here for nine more years. Economic impact over that period is figured to be around $25 million. We’d probably like a share of that.
But first we’d have to be interested. At a meeting a couple of weeks ago (at Camp Minden) where plans were being discussed on improvements for the next ASA, a source told us not one representative from either Webster Parish or Minden was among the entities present. Someone might check their email and text files to see if notice of the meeting was overlooked or directed to the “unimportant” file.
It’s our humble opinion that solutions to above considerations can and will be attained through the subject of last week’s conversation: Unity. There’s nothing that can’t be accomplished by a team effort focused on success. It would be cool to witness achievement of goals through a united effort, especially when the end product is more important than who gets the credit.