Executive Summary

"A rising tide lifts all boats."
--- John F. Kennedy

The North Shore.   Less than a decade ago that term defined only the bedroom communities at the opposite end of the Causeway from New Orleans.  The sense of place came from proximity to that great city, and its destiny seemed linked to that city’s destiny. The Causeway, and its shorter cousin to the East, the Highway 11 Bridge, seemed to be the axis around which future development would occur.  Now the axis of development has rotated; now it is I-12, and the term “North Shore” has a meaning of its own without regard to New Orleans. 

  Since the last time there was an “open seat” in the Governor’s race, the separate communities of the North Shore have heard each other’s voices, have found them to be in harmony, and have become a choir.  The North Shore is now a finite region in the State, with a self-identity, a sense of place, and a unified desire to enhance the economic circumstances of its citizens.  Evidence of unity is the fact that a new partnership has come into existence for the first time to pursue these goals, the partners being the three largest Chambers of Commerce [1] , the three parish governments [2] , and Southeastern Louisiana University  — Louisiana’s university of the North Shore.  Each within its locale has been pursuing economic development; now they are extending their spheres of influence by blending their voices in chorus with each other.

  In sponsoring this 2003 Gubernatorial Forum on Economic Development, this partnership is asserting this new region’s needs by 1) cataloging the essential economic facts of life in this White Paper, and by 2) hosting a televised forum on September 10, so that candidates seeking the state’s highest office can showcase their ideas on economic development for the North Shore.

  A rising tide lifts all boats.  But economic tides rise on the willful exercise of economic leadership, just as they can fall from complacent and laissez faire leadership.  The partners hosting this forum see it as their function to focus the attention of the candidates and the public on these issues.  It is the one way to make the tides rise in our time. 

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The North Shore, comprised of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes, has many attributes that make it a great place to live. Known as “bedroom communities,” the towns from Slidell to Kentwood and from Ponchatoula to Bogalusa are seeking to foster a business climate that will provide good-paying jobs, a stable tax base, and a future for the next generation. Civic, business, and educational leaders in the region recognize that only a balanced, cooperative, strategic and regional approach to economic development can help us to maintain and improve the quality of life enjoyed by the citizenry.

There are many positive qualities that the North Shore region has to offer in the realm of economic development, both to retain and grow existing businesses and to attract new facilities and the jobs they will create. The region is recognized for having:

· a high quality of life
· outstanding educational opportunities and institutions
· abundant recreational and tourism outlets
· high quality health care
· clean water
· outstanding interstate highways and rail transportation hubs
· three airports and a water port
· a quality, educated workforce
· a location close to both Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The region currently has a booming construction industry, particularly in the area of residential construction. The North Shore has high rates of home ownership, and it is fast becoming a choice retirement destination for seniors. These positive attributes combine to give the region the reputation for being “a great place to live” and a locale in which companies can be proud to locate.

The North Shore shares challenges in economic development, while also facing circumstances unique to the area. At the state level, all involved in economic development face the common challenges of:

· improving educational performance
· reducing taxes, policies and other disincentives for business expansion and investment
· providing accessible and affordable health care
· assuring reliable and economical sources energy
· securing leadership, coordination and cooperation to recognize and advance the region
· developing transportation arteries and secondary roads.

The North Shore has its own idiosyncratic concerns for development. These center around upgrading an infrastructure put in place when the region was far less populous and balancing the needs of a uniquely diverse population, combining suburban and rural residents into a new, North Shore identity.  The North Shore is a unique region.  While having excellent institutions of higher education and health care, the North Shore is continually challenged to “do more with less” through the under-funding of these economic engines. 

This forum on economic development is focused on issues critical to uplifting the future of all Louisianans through promoting the state and the North Shore region as a great place to live and to do business.  The next governor will play a crucial role in leading the way in terms of the economic future of the state, which impacts all of our lives. It is hoped that this forum will provide the citizens of Louisiana and the residents of the North Shore with the opportunity to learn more about how these candidates plan to help foster a “rising tide” for the state and the region.
 
 

Introduction

Louisiana needs leaders committed to fostering economic development.  The state is at a crossroads.  While it can be argued that Louisiana has improved its educational system and has produced quality graduates at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, too many of our best and brightest are leaving, seeking economic opportunities unavailable here.  This “brain drain” is robbing Louisiana of a substantial part of its investment in education, thereby losing the fruits of that investment to other states’ economies.  We are increasingly competing in a “knowledge economy;” no one can dispute that when we see our knowledge investments migrate to other states, the state’s economy is weakened and the challenge to make Louisiana competitive is made even more difficult. In addition, citizens seeking economic opportunities elsewhere undermine the close family relationships for which our culture is known and which support the structure of our communities and civic life.

In recent years, other Southern states have aggressively sought outside investment.  Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee have all acquired automobile plants. They will reap benefits from these investments for years.  For example, Alabama acquired four plants, employing 11,000 workers with average individual wages and benefits totaling $50,000 for these quality jobs.  Suppliers servicing these plants are responsible for as many as 14,000 additional jobs.  That is just one example.  On the other hand, petrochemical and large employers in Louisiana are announcing cutbacks and even closing plants and relocating offices.  Such closings have a negative economic impact that extends beyond the immediate firm’s geographic location, furthering the decline of Louisiana’s economic stature.

Louisiana’s current administration increased the state’s investment in education and mandated that educational institutions drive economic development.  Educational institutions, including high schools, vocational technical schools, community colleges and the state’s university systems, are addressing needs.  Chambers of commerce, economic development foundations, the Department of Economic Development, and other agencies are working to address the economic needs of the state.  Appropriate support must be given to allow these efforts to demonstrate impact, but no one disputes that forward thinking is needed.

The recent establishment of the Southeast Louisiana Business Center (SLBC) on the North Shore is an example of the kind of synergistic relationships that should be supported and replicated.  The SLBC contains units of: 

· Southeastern Louisiana University
· Southeastern Small Business Development Center
· Hammond Industrial Development Board
· Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation 
· Florida Parishes Economic Development Association.

All parties involved in the SLBC are working together toward one end – to increase the economic viability of the North Shore.  Still, much needs to be done.
 

The North Shore

The three parishes on our Gubernatorial Forum organizing committee (Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington) represent approximately 8% of the state’s population.  However, the North Shore accounts for approximately 10.4% of the state’s voters.  This high voter registration rate indicates that the North Shore takes seriously its responsibilities and expects that state leaders will recognize and support the region’s identity and desire to stake out its future.

The three parishes have a total of 241,711 residents, aged 18 or older. As a whole, Louisiana lost 18,004 people in one year due to net out-migration to other states.  In stark contrast, the North Shore is actually growing, with people moving here in large numbers.  Counter to the state’s brain drain exodus, St. Tammany Parish, the state’s fifth largest and one of the fastest growing parishes, added 5,470 residents last year, reaching a total population of 201,462. Tangipahoa’s growing population reached 102,593, while Washington Parish has 43,882 residents. Growth does come with costs, and the North Shore’s growth is straining basic services and economic infrastructures developed when the area’s population was far smaller.

There are over 218,000 registered voters in the three parishes that comprise the North Shore.  In fact, the North Shore’s three parishes have approximately 96,000 more voters than Lafayette Parish and just 26,000 less than East Baton Rouge. The Florida Parishes, including Livingston and St. Helena, have a total of 287,219 registered voters.  At present, the Florida Parishes have more voters than Jefferson Parish, and looking ahead, the area is expected to surpass Orleans Parish in the number of registered voters within one year.
 

The North Shore’s Economic Development Agenda

On the following pages is a series of issues based on current economic data for the three parishes.  The list here is not all-inclusive.  However, it is a list that the forum sponsors agree represents issues of importance to those living in the North Shore area.
 

Issues of Economic Development

ISSUE 1 - The North Shore is known for its state-leading, fast growth.  This growth has placed strains on basic services.  Quality highways are absolutely essential for economic growth.  Transportation is a high priority for the area.

According to one study of state highways, Louisiana’s roads were ranked second worst in the nation.  The North Shore has obviously outgrown its antiquated secondary road system.  Today and for the future, the area needs a quality, secondary artery system that facilitates the flow of traffic throughout the region. 

The transportation industry provides employment for one of every eight jobs in Louisiana.  The North Shore is no exception.  Tangipahoa Parish is at the intersection of two interstate highways, along with having rail and water access.  St. Tammany is among the fastest growing parishes in the state.  Washington Parish business firms, especially those in the agricultural and forest products industry, need quality roads to sustain their growth.  The interstate highways are great for what they do.  However, they do not facilitate economic development and growth within the North Shore – only a quality, planned secondary artery system can do that.

A trip into Covington is all that is needed to convince anyone that the North Shore has outgrown its transportation infrastructure.   Daily traffic congestion and long waits coming into town are indicative of a need for more and better highways.  Transportation needs are high on every economic developer’s wish list.  Quality roads and transportation access are needed to sustain the population and economic growth of the North Shore.
 

ISSUE 2 - Active participation in the new economy requires high-speed, broadband access to information.

Rural residents comprise almost one-fourth of the U.S. population.  The North Shore is largely rural.   Yet, effective access to the Internet requires more than a computer.  It requires broadband (high capacity) access that is generally lacking on the North Shore.

Other states are taking the initiative to provide broadband and in many cases, wireless access to the Internet.  For instance, North Carolina has a statewide initiative to provide broadband and wireless networks across the state.  Such coverage is seen as a necessary economic development tool to counter reductions in tobacco crops in that state’s rural areas.  Louisiana’s rural areas could benefit from such access as well.  Clearly, North Shore residents need such access to ramp-up to the “Information Superhighway.”

e-Initiatives that would improve competitiveness in technology on the North Shore include:
· promote broadband access on the North Shore
· promote wireless Internet access, especially in rural areas.
· encourage partnerships that provide rural broadband and wireless access to the internet.
· encourage partnerships that result in the competitive use of the Internet by those on the North Shore.
· support educational proposals to provide wireless access for the North Shore through the FCC Rural Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) grant program.

The state can encourage technical innovation that would be beneficial to the North Shore.  Wireless networks accessible to the public would encourage use of the Internet and provide a competitive mechanism that would provide entry into the New Economy.
 

ISSUE 3 - A regional approach to economic development is working in several areas of the state.  Yet, the North Shore region is not even recognized as a formal region by the state.

The state government needs to define and recognize the North Shore parishes as a region.  Failure to do so impedes the North Shore and relegates its more than 218,000 educated voters to a second-class level of support.  The North Shore region is NOT Baton Rouge and NOT New Orleans.  These urban areas have little in common with the North Shore.  The North Shore has its owns strengths, its own culture, its own economy, its own needs, and ambitions and desires unique to the region.

· In an effort to meet the needs of regionalism, the Florida Parishes Economic Development Association (FPEDA) was formed several years ago.  It was one of the first, if not the first regional economic development efforts in the state.  To further this effort, the Southeast Louisiana Business Center in Hammond was recently established, under the auspices of Southeastern Louisiana University. It houses the Florida Parish Economic Development Association, the Hammond Industrial Development Board, the Small Business Development Center, and other agencies and offices that promote regional economic growth.  The Center coordinates economic development efforts and the sharing of information and resources among the five Florida Parishes: 

o Livingston
o St. Helena
o St. Tammany 
o Tangipahoa
o Washington.
 

ISSUE 4 - State incentives and policies are antiquated and minimally address economic development needs.

The state needs to aggressively target economic development as a major initiative.  Lacking aggressive tactics, the state and the region cannot compete with neighboring states.  While current incentive programs have helped offset an antiquated state tax program, they minimally address the needs for the actual incentives needed to successfully stimulate economic development and growth.  A modern, regional approach to economic development is needed.

The regionalism of the North Shore should be recognized by Louisiana Economic Development (LED). and support for a coordinated development effort should be provided.  Major incentives to attract businesses and promote economic development which are impacted include the:

· Enterprise Zone Program
· Industrial Property Tax Exemption
· Quality Jobs Program
· Restoration Tax Abatement
· Economic Development Awards Program
· Small Business Assistance Loans Programs
· Small Business Assistance Investment Programs
· Workforce Training and Development Programs
· The Rural Community Initiative
 
 

Efforts to support regional development would include the following:
· providing funding to regional economic development organizations for their operations.  The former Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA) was a case in point.  The Florida Parish Economic Development Association was recognized as a model concept when REDA was instituted.
· providing incentives to stimulate the development of speculative commercial and industrial buildings.
· providing incentives that would support regional strengths such as the commercialization of the region’s expanding food industry.
· Specifying and developing industrial site evaluation standards so that evaluations of sites for economic development are accurate and not misrepresented.
· Enhancing funding of infrastructure for industrial parks and providing funds to finalize and realize economic development projects.
 

ISSUE 5 – Despite increased tourism, its apparent value as a contributor to a coordinated economic development plan has not been fulfilled.  Tourism is a leading economic contributor for Louisiana bringing in $8.6 billion annually.

The North Shore area, with its cultural attractions, golf and leisure activities, festivals, state parks and historical sites, depends on tourism as a major economic engine.  The ability gpt the region to be a major provider of location and talent for the film industry is closely related to the tourism issue.

· Direct domestic spending by tourists in St. Tammany totaled $142 million, creating 1,300 jobs with an annual payroll of $21 million.
· Tangipahoa’s tourism spending totaled $104 million.  That spending supported 650 jobs with a payroll of $11 million.
· Washington Parish’s tourism spending totaled $18 million.  Tourism accounted for more than 130 jobs with a payroll of $2 million.
· Supporting incentives for entertainment companies provides opportunities to showcase talent and locations.  The North Shore has hosted numerous television and movie film companies.  This past year two movies, one produced by Nicholas Cage and another on the life of Ray Charles, used North Shore locations and talent in their production.
· Incentives in the form of reduced or eliminated taxes are needed to encourage retirees to visit and to move to the North Shore.
· Additional support for state parks, the Tammany Trace, arts and cultural entities on the North Shore, educational outreach, and film production is needed.
· Incentives to support food commercialization and expansion would provide tourists with additional opportunities to savor the region’s quality upon returning home.
 

ISSUE 6 – The North Shore region plays a major role in developing the state’s economy.

The region is fast growing, clean and possesses an educated populace.  The region has needs but at the same time is capable of playing a role in the state’s efforts to improve the economic conditions for all.

· The North Shore is a fast growing area of the state and one of only three areas that experienced a net increase in population.
· Louisiana citizens want to live on the North Shore.
· Home ownership in the region is significantly above the state’s average.
· Educational quality and attainment on the North Shore is high relative to other areas of the state. 
· The quality of life on the North Shore places the region in an enviable position.
· Total personal income of the residents of the Florida Parishes accounts for more than 10% of the state’s total personal income.
 

ISSUE 7 – The state should assist each parish/region develop its own strengths.

Individual parishes and regions pursue economic development based on their unique resources and locations.  The state should provide incentives that would support regional strengths such as the commercialization of the region’s outstanding food industry.

St. Tammany Parish is one of the fastest growing parishes in Louisiana.  Its chief assets include: 

· an outstanding small business environment
· a great quality of life
· a school system recognized for quality. 

The chambers of commerce, the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, the Economic and Industrial Development District, the Regional Planning Commission, and other agencies work with St. Tammany government to promote economic growth and job opportunities. The parish has established five major goals:

1.  provision of ample capacity and avoidance of traffic congestion for local residents
2. diversified business
3. adequate funding for the government 
4.  availability of land for new businesses and future expansion
5.  adequate infrastructure for businesses, including the Internet trunk fiber lines. 

Tangipahoa Parish is known for: 

· clean water
· transportation and distribution
· great food 
· health care providers.

Located at the intersection of two interstate highways, with passenger and freight rail capacity and a port, Tangipahoa offers those in transportation and supply chain management unparalleled opportunities for growth.  Wal-Mart’s selection of Tangipahoa Parish as its regional distribution center is but one indication of the potential for growth.  The Port of Manchac has approximately 50,000 square feet of warehouse space and is serviced by water, rail, and truck.  Home to Southeastern Louisiana University, the Hammond campus of the Louisiana Technical College System, and a quality public educational system, Tangipahoa is a leader in developing quality educational programs that contribute to a high quality of life. While the impact of the transportation sector on Tangipahoa is significant, so too is the impact of its quality health care providers.  Home to three hospitals, Tangipahoa provides outstanding health care options for its residents.  The parish is also home to some of the best restaurants in the state. 

The impacts of health care providers, educational institutions, food service providers and transportation on the parish’s economy are significant. Southeastern’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Chambers of Commerce, the Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation, the Hammond Industrial Development Board, Hammond Downtown Development District, Florida Parishes Economic Development Association, local governments, and other agencies have been working together to revitalize existing businesses, provide start-up support for incubators, and attract new businesses.

Washington Parish is well known for providing its residents a quality, low-cost living environment and outstanding recreational and leisure activities. Its East Florida Retirement District provides incentives for retirees to reside in Washington Parish. The potential to attract retirees who possess significant wealth and who are capable of adding to the economy cannot be overstated.  Additionally, fairs and festivals add a unique flavor to the parish and contribute to the economy.  The annual Free Fair is the largest such fair in the state, attracting thousands of tourists. The Chambers of Commerce, the Downtown Development District, the parish Industrial Development Foundation, and local and parish governments approach economic development in an organized, collegial manner.  The parish has four large industrial parks, comprising over 200 acres. Currently, seven firms are operating in the parks. Despite a well-earned reputation for possessing an outstanding rural living and recreational environment, Washington boasts high-tech operations that are the envy of many developers.  An outstanding example, Service Zone, began operations two years ago. It currently employs 300 individuals who provide customer support service to Gateway Computer customers worldwide.

The following are potential paths of support that could spur regional development, while recognizing the unique aspects of each parish on the North Shore. The state should:

· provide funding opportunities for regional economic development organizations for their operations.  The former Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA) was a model concept that has since been abandoned.
· conduct or support a national marketing campaign aimed at promoting the region as a commercial and industrial site.
· provide for the regional collection of business data allowing for the development of a business retention database to facilitate the support of existing enterprises.
 

ISSUE 8 – Louisiana discourages economic investment through its franchise tax on debt and sales taxes on machinery and equipment.

The corporate franchise tax system in Louisiana places a tax on corporate debt.  Firms needing funds to acquire new plant and equipment, to buy land, or otherwise improve competitiveness are taxed on debt incurred.  Taxing debt tends to discourage entrepreneurship and risk-taking, since new ventures typically require significant levels of debt to support start-up and growth.  Between 1998 and 2001, the revenue generated through this tax decreased by approximately $50 million.  Taxing debt discourages investment and encourages risk takers to seek opportunities elsewhere, rather than paying taxes to take on risk and provide jobs.

Firms wishing to improve competitiveness often do so by investing in machinery and equipment.  Purchases of machinery and equipments generally indicates continued business operations, and hopefully, profitability.  Taxing such purchases places Louisiana firms in a less competitive, more costly position and encourages the export of jobs and investment.  For instance, Tennessee has no sales tax on manufacturing equipment for qualified manufacturers, no state property tax, and no sales tax on raw materials.
 

ISSUE 9 – Small business owners drive new job creation and economic development.

Small business is big business on the North Shore. In fact, most businesses on the North Shore are small businesses.   Small business drives much of the economic activity in the region, as the majority of new job creation comes as a result of small and micro-business initiatives.  In fact, small business accounts for 75% of all new job creation. Small business owners support chambers of commerce, civic and business associations – they are active, contributing citizens. 

Some of the critical issues facing small business owners at present include:

· Small business owners have difficulty affording quality health insurance plans, both for themselves and their employees.  Too often, the ability to offer health insurance as a benefit of employment is beyond the reach of entrepreneurs.
· Property and casualty insurance and liability insurance are expensive, and adequate coverage is difficult to obtain for small businesses.  Thus, tort reform is a concern for all in the small business arena.
· Tax structures and processes need to be streamlined, and the tax burden on small business needs to be eased.
· Incumbent worker training (IWT) programs need to provide workforce development support accessible to micro-enterprises.  Assess the impact of the IWT program on micro-enterprises and adjust it as needed to better serve the small businesses for which it was created.
· Provide and support regional efforts to create incubators.  Since 1980, Louisiana incubators have been responsible for the creation of more than 10,000 jobs and the creation of some 300 firms.

Despite creating numerous jobs in the aggregate, small businesses often do not meet state criteria to access state programs on an individual basis.  These micro-enterprises that are so valuable to the economy are individually too small to garner the support they need.  As a consequence, the state has done little to advance micro-enterprises through programs that target their needs.

The state has not acknowledged and appears not to understand the needs and problems that impact micro-enterprises.  Red tape and paper work preclude many from seeking assistance; they are primarily focused on trying to make a living.  Economic development on a regional basis and appropriate policy changes can facilitate the growth of small firms and is sorely needed. 
 

ISSUE 10 – Attraction and retention incentives are needed that can stimulate new job creation and expansion of existing businesses.

Attracting new companies and helping existing firms to expand creates job opportunities and reduces unemployment. Yet, a differentiation needs to be made between attracting new firms and retaining existing firms.  Incentives that address the needs of both recruiting of new firms and the retention and growth of existing firms need to be offered.  The majority of new jobs come from small firms, and it is easier to keep an existing firm than to attract new ones.

· Tangipahoa’s unemployment rate (6.8%) and Washington’s unemployment rate (6.9%) were both higher than the state average.  Efforts to stimulate job creation will address the high unemployment rate.
· At its core, economic development centers on raising the standard of living of the people in the region.  Job and career opportunities drive economic improvements.
· There is a strong need to provide incentives and support that will spur food service operations and speculative commercial building efforts.
 

ISSUE 11 – Quality housing is needed throughout the region.  The homestead exemption helps reduce the overall costs of home ownership.

Maintaining a healthy housing market raises household wealth and promotes the local and state economy.

· All three parishes have higher home ownership rates than the state average of 67.9% and the national average of 66.2%. This suggests that people regard these parishes as good places to reside and raise families.  The desire to live and stay in the region is the strength of the region.  In short, people want to live here.
· Residential construction on the North Shore is booming.  The three parishes issued a total of 3,514 building permits in 2002, which was approximately 18.9% of the state total of 18,606 permits. Residential construction played a major role in both St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes, as it represented an investment of $407 million dollars in 2002.  Again, almost 19% of Louisiana’s total residential construction is accounted for by slightly less than 8% of the state’s population.  Construction therefore accounts for much economic activity in the region.
· Low property tax millage rates in Washington and Tangipahoa parishes suggest that property tax burdens are relatively small and that long-term investment in housing is desirable.
 

ISSUE 12 – Most state universities are funded by the state at a level less than recommended by the state’s own formula funding criteria.  Universities and technical colleges need additional funding to accomplish their economic development mandates, as stipulated by the State’s Vision 2020.

Supporting state universities, community colleges, and trade and technical colleges financially promotes regional economic well-being.  Employers seek locations with quality educational offerings.  Formula funding criteria need to be simplified, and the formula needs to be adequately funded.
 

· With over 15,000 students and more than 1,800 employees, Southeastern Louisiana University is a major economic force on the North Shore. In 2001, its total economic impact was estimated to be $343.5 million.  It is actively involved in economic development activities to leverage its knowledge and expertise assets in support of the region as a whole. Historically however, Southeastern is at or near the bottom when it comes to state support of universities.  Southeastern Louisiana University purchases and contracts with a variety of firms, many of which are located in the region.  Positive impacts on the region also result from spending by students, employees and retirees of the university.

· The campuses of Louisiana Technical College (LTC) in Hammond, Bogalusa and Slidell supply training and education for students pursuing technical careers for a variety of regional firms.  The LTC in Hammond has approximately 25 employees and 200 students.  The Sullivan campus of the LTC in Bogalusa has 55 employees and some 400 students.  In Slidell, the LTC employs 35, while educating 275 students.  The LTC is a vital educational institution that takes pride in recognizing individual student strengths and needs and developing focused career paths that serve the needs of students and employers, while enhancing the economy of the region.  Like other pivotal players in the region’s economy, the LTC needs a level of support sufficient to accomplish its mission to the fullest.

Special Concern:  When compared to national and regional averages, Southeastern Louisiana University’s state support is 23% below the average state support for institutions of higher learning in Louisiana.  Despite significant contributions to the region by Southeastern Louisiana University, its low level of state support constrains Southeastern’s ability to maximally impact the region’s economy, standard of living, business growth, educational and health needs, and its ability to address specific employer and employee needs in the region.  Southeastern and the LTC need sufficient support to have the utmost impact on both the needs of students and the needs of employers in the area.
 

ISSUE 13 – The state needs to improve public K-12 education, especially in those schools identified as under-performing.

Supporting local education helps produce a qualified, productive labor force.  Employers seek site locations that have quality schools.

· The region had a total of 64,444 children enrolled in public and private schools in 2000-2001.
· Students in Washington, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany are learning.  They had lower rates of unsatisfactory performance on the LEAP test than did the average state student.
· St. Tammany Parish had a higher percentage of residents receiving bachelor degrees (28.3%) than the national average of 24.4%. Southeastern Louisiana University’s location and programs, the availability of the TOPS, state and federal student aid, and scholarships provide outstanding baccalaureate opportunities for high school graduates to pursue higher education on the North Shore.
· The average salary for new teachers in Louisiana in 2001-2002 was $28,229, which was below the national average of $30,719. Needless to say, average salaries for teachers in the three parishes are also below the national average. Indeed, Washington Parish’s salary ($26,791) is significantly below even the state average.
· The state supports local education, providing the three parishes a total of $218.4 million in Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funds in FY 2002-2003.  The MFP purports to equitably allocate funds to school systems. However, it does not assure that a specific level of quality will be attained. Rather, the MFP merely determines the cost of a minimum program of education in public elementary and secondary schools and attempts to fund that minimal level.
 

ISSUE 14 – Heath care is a major concern for all.  Health care providers on the North Shore contribute to the economy.  Adequate compensation for services rendered is a must if improvements are to continue.

Local hospitals, health care providers, and Southeastern Louisiana University promote community well-being and contribute to the region’s economy.  Hospitals in parishes designated as rural receive significantly less reimbursement for Medicare services than do hospitals in more densely populated areas. Employers seek locations with high quality health care facilities and providers. Fair reimbursement for services will take a combined effort on behalf of state legislators, Congress, and the governor. Southeastern’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences is actively addressing the shortage of health care workers in the region and state.

· Hospitals in the three parishes are major employers and contribute to both the physical and economic health of the region.  Combined, the region’s hospitals employ approximately 7,300 full-time equivalent workers and provide high quality health care to area residents. 

· Reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid constitute significant proportions of hospital revenues. However, reimbursements for these services, especially for Medicaid, are often lower than the level needed just to cover the provider hospitals’ operating costs. Hospitals in Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes receive an even smaller percentage of reimbursement through Medicare for the same services than do hospitals in more densely populated centers. This low level of reimbursement places a greater burden both on health care providers in Tangipahoa and Washington and on local taxpayers who support public hospitals than elsewhere in the state where reimbursement rates are higher.

· Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences has long played a role in preparing quality nurses to enter the profession.  Indeed, the high success rates of Southeastern’s nursing graduates on state licensing exams are indicative of the high quality of the program and the commitment of the university to serve the needs of the region.  The College is also an avenue for those seeking careers in communication sciences and disorders and in health and kinesiology studies.  Recently, the school’s curriculum in gerontologic nursing was commended for its excellence.

· Southeastern’s College of Business and Technology offers an executive MBA program with an emphasis in health care management.  This Internet and classroom-based, non-traditional program aims to improve the ability of practicing health care managers to lead their organizations.  This graduate program’s accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) assures its quality.

· The technical college system is also busy addressing the health needs of the region.  Their strategic locations on the North Shore allow them to contribute to the shortage of health care workers in a significant manner.  Programs in practical nursing, nursing assistant, paramedic, and emergency medical technician (EMT) basic contribute to the high quality of health care on the North Shore and helps mitigate the shortage of quality health care employees in the state.
 

ISSUE 15 – Louisiana ranks among the bottom of southern states in job growth.  Per capita income ranks Louisiana 44th in the nation.

Raising household income and reducing poverty will improve the standard of living, will aid community businesses, and mitigate social ills caused by poverty.

· Per capita personal income is significantly below the state average in both Tangipahoa ($19,348) and in Washington ($18,735).
· The relatively high poverty rate of 22.7% for Tangipahoa and 24.7% for Washington suggests that other economic development programs and efforts are needed to create more job opportunities.
· Tangipahoa’s unemployment rate (6.8%) and Washington’s unemployment rate (6.9%) are both higher than the state’s unemployment rate of 6.3%.
 

ISSUE 16 – Most new job creation is the result of the entrepreneurial efforts of small firms.  However, “mega development” projects are needed in the region to contribute to the growth of the area.

While most new job creation is a result of small business initiatives, mega projects – with their potential for immense impact – can add needed vitality and diversification to the region.  Automobile manufacturing, aircraft manufacturing and repair, and high tech firms are potential targets for local development. However, in addition to seeking the “big fish” of such mega projects, the ongoing economic development activities of the North Shore area also need funding. 

One successful mega project is capable of sustaining and growing numerous small businesses that would serve its needs, and through its economic impact, all businesses and citizens would benefit from the increased funds flowing into the region. The fact that firms have not chosen to locate such mega projects in Louisiana in recent years is cause for concern.
 

· The North Shore, with its transportation infrastructure, is a prime locale for companies seeking a site capable of multi-modal shipment of large products.  Airports on the North Shore are capable of growth and development.

· The educational institutions on the North Shore are capable of serving the educational and training needs of large employers.

· Economic development activities in the state need adequate financial support and organizational assistance at the state level. 

· A mechanism is needed that would facilitate the acquisition or assembling of large tracts of land for economic development activities involving mega projects.

· Incentives are needed to develop business parks, provide for speculative building and warehousing operations, and research parks.
 

ISSUE 17 – An adequate, affordable supply of natural gas and energy needs to be available to sustain economic activity and our quality of life.

The upward trend in the cost of natural gas is expected to continue.  This will raise the cost of electricity, transportation, and raw materials, negatively impacting all firms.  Small businesses must be assured of affordable, reliable energy to meet their needs.

· Additional exploration is needed.  Policies that increase the flow of natural gas will assist in holding down future increases in fuel costs. 
· Lacking a cohesive energy plan, businesses in the region will find it increasingly difficult to compete in the marketplace.
· Much of the region’s economic activities, including recreational activities, require the consumption of fuel.  Affordable fuel drives economic development in the region.
· Rising fuel costs will be especially troublesome for lower income residents.
 

SUMMARY

The North Shore region is a vibrant, educated area of the state that has been experiencing unprecedented growth.  This fast growth strains an economic and physical infrastructure that was created prior to the growth of the past decade.  The North Shore region needs to be recognized as a unique region of the state.  Secondary transportation arteries are sorely needed to facilitate traffic and economic development.  The North Shore's educational institutions, including Southeastern Louisiana University, the colleges of the Louisiana Technical College System, and public school systems need additional state support to maximize their impact.  Taxes that discourage economic development need to be eliminated.  Tax incentives that will spur movie
making and the creation of retirement communities need to be emphasized and enhanced. Health care providers need to be compensated justly for their efforts.  The importance of both recruiting new industry and retaining existing firms needs to be recognized.  Economic development needs to take center stage.

In short, the North Shore is important to the state of Louisiana.  Its educated workforce and its potent voter pool expect that Louisiana's leaders will take the lead in moving the state and this region forward.

White Paper Committee
Dr. Michael Budden, Chairman
Ms. Erin Garic
Mr. Don Hays
Dr. Roman Heleniak
Dr. Yu Hsing
Mr. Bill Joubert
Ms. Kathy Stuart
Ms. Lacey Toledano
Dr. David Wyld

The committee expresses its appreciation to Dr. Mike Asoodeh for information regarding broadband, wireless access.
 

EXHIBITS

Page     Title
18 Exhibit 1: Population by Parish, July 2002 
18 Exhibit 2: Population Growth Rate, 1990-2002
19 Exhibit 3: Registered Voters, August 2003
19 Exhibit 4: Change in Births, Deaths and Migration in Louisiana during 2001-2002
20 Exhibit 5: Labor Force, May 2003
20 Exhibit 6: Employment, May 2003
21 Exhibit 7: Employment Trends, 1990-2002
21 Exhibit 8: Unemployment Rate, May 2003
22 Exhibit 9: Unemployment Rate Trends, 1990-2002
22 Exhibit 10: Per Capita Personal Income, 2001
23 Exhibit 11: Home Ownership Rates, 2000
23 Exhibit 12: Estimate of Southeastern Louisiana University’s Economic Impact in 2001
24 Exhibit 13: Bachelor's Degree or Higher, % of Persons 25+, 2000
24 Exhibit 14: Total K-12 School Enrollment, 2000-2001
25 Exhibit 15: Salaries for New Teachers, 2001-2002
25  Exhibit 16: Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) Allocation
      from the State (in millions), 2002-2003
26 Exhibit 17: State MFP per Pupil, 2002-2003
26 Exhibit 18: % Unsatisfactory in Leap English Test Results – Grade 8, Spring 2003
27 Exhibit 19: % Unsatisfactory in Leap Math Test Results – Grade 8, Spring 2003
27 Exhibit 20: Residential Building Permits, 2002
28 Exhibit 21: State Retail Sales Tax Collections (in millions), 2000-2001
28 Exhibit 22: Parish Property Tax Millage Rates
29 Exhibit 23: Total Employment at Hospitals
29 Exhibit 24: State Motor Fuel Tax Collections (in millions), 2002

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 5

Exhibit 6

Exhibit 7

Exhibit 8

Exhibit 9

Exhibit 10

Exhibit 11

Exhibit 12

Exhibit 13

Exhibit 14

Exhibit 15

Exhibit 16

Exhibit 17

Exhibit 18

Exhibit 19

Exhibit 20

Exhibit 21

Exhibit 22

Exhibit 23

Exhibit 24




[1] Greater Slidell Chamber of Commerce, St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, and Hammond Chamber of Commerce.
[2] St. Tammany Parish, Washington Parish, and Tangipahoa Parish.