6:45 – 8:15 p.m.
Wednesday, September 15,2004
Southeastern Louisiana University
Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts
North Shore Chambers of Commerce
Southeastern Louisiana University
"A rising tide lifts all boats."
--- John F. Kennedy
he 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 a senatorial 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, the three parish governments, 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 2004 Senatorial 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 15, so that candidates seeking the position of U.S. Senator 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.
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,” 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. 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 of 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. Our newest senator 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.
ISSUES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
A Senatorial Forum
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Louisiana needs leaders who are 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 and transferring the fruits of that investment to other states’ economies. We are increasingly competing in a knowledge-based economy and as the knowledge of our educated citizenry leaves the state, we are weakened and placed at an economic disadvantage. Not only are educational investments and economic clout leaving the state resulting in a weakening economy, the dispersion of families seeking economic opportunities undermines the close family relationships for which our culture is known and on which the structure of our communities and civic life depend.
In recent years, other southern states have aggressively sought outside investment. Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee have all acquired automobile plants. For example, Alabama acquired four plants, employing 11,000 workers with average wages and benefits totaling $50,000. Suppliers servicing these plants are responsible for hiring as many as 14,000 others. This is just one example. On the other hand, petrochemical and other 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.
Recent gubernatorial administrations increased the state’s investment in education and continue a mandate 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, Louisiana 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, and it goes without saying that forward thinking and support from Washington are critical.
The recent establishment of the Southeast Louisiana Business Center (SLBC) on the North Shore is an example of the synergistic relationships that should be supported and replicated. The SLBC contains units of:
· Southeastern Louisiana University including its College of Business and Technology
· 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 to one end – to increase the economic viability of the region. Still, much needs to be done.
The North Shore
The three parishes on our Senatorial 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 political leaders will recognize and support the region’s identity and desire to stake out its future.
The three parishes have a total population of 355,281. As a whole, Louisiana lost 18,004 people in a recent year due to net out-migration to other states. In stark contrast, all three of the North Shore parishes registered increases in population between 1990-2003. Indeed, St. Tammany’s population increased 43.2% during that time; bettering Tangipahoa’s impressive 20.8% increase and Washington’s 1.83%.
Counter to the state’s brain drain exodus, St. Tammany Parish, the states fifth largest parish, added 6,281 residents in 2003, reaching a total population of 207,743. Tangipahoa’s population grew by 998 residents last year and now has a total population of 103,591. Washington Parish has 43,947 residents, an increase over the previous year as well.
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. It is a list that the Forum sponsors agreed represent issues of importance to those living in the region.
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. Lack of adequate roads is especially troublesome for the North Shore area but in case of a major emergency, could prove vital in an evacuation of the whole 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 and has rail and water access. St. Tammany is the fastest growing area 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. Indeed, quality roads and rail would serve the region’s economic interests in a major way.
A trip into Covington is all that is needed to convince even die-hards that the North Shore area 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. As we continue to move into an “information society,” access to high-speed, broadband Internet connections will increasingly separate the haves from the have-nots. Those with access will possess an economic advantage over those with no or limited access.
Other states are taking the initiative to seek and 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 the state’s rural areas. Louisiana’s rural areas could benefit from such access as well. Clearly, North Shore residents need access to ramp-up to the “information superhighway.”
e-Initiatives that would improve competitiveness in technology in the region include:
· promoting broadband access throughout the North Shore
· promoting wireless internet access, especially in rural areas
· encouraging partnerships that provide rural broadband and wireless access to the Internet
· encouraging partnerships that result in the competitive use of the Internet by those on the North Shore
· supporting educational proposals to provide wireless access to the region through the FCC Rural Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) grant program
Washington 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.
On the North Shore, Tangipahoa, Washington, and St. Tammany possess commonalities that define the region. The North Shore has its own strengths, its own culture, its own economy, its own needs, and ambitions and desires unique to the North Shore area. Failure to recognize the North Shore as a unique region relegates its 228,445 registered 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 own needs, 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, the College of Business and Technology’s Business Research 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 St. Helena
o St. Tammany
Issue 4 – State incentives and policies are antiquated and minimally address economic development needs. Support from Washington is needed.
The state has targeted economic development as a major initiative. Lacking aggressive support from Washington, 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.
Support for a coordinated development effort within the regional areas should be provided. Major incentives to attract businesses and promote economic development which are impacted include the:
· Enterprise Zone Program
· Quality Jobs Program
· Economic Development Awards Program
· Small Business Assistance Investment Programs
· Small Business Assistance Loans Programs
· Workforce Training and Assistance Programs
· The Rural Community Initiative
· Restoration Tax Abatement
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 region, with its cultural attractions, golf and leisure activities, festivals, state parks and historical sites, depends on tourism as a major economic engine. The ability of the region to be a major provider of location 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 130 jobs with a payroll of $2 million.
· Additional support for arts and culture entities, film production, and educational outreach are needed.
· Incentives to support food commercialization and expansion would provide tourists with additional opportunities to savor the region’s quality upon returning home.
· Support for transportation infrastructure and development is needed. Airport, rail and port security can assure increased tourism.
Issue 6 – The North Shore 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 playing a role in the state’s efforts to improve economic conditions and quality of life for all citizens.
· 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.
· Total personal income of the residents of the Florida Parishes accounts for more than 10% of the state’s total personal income.
Issue 7 – Washington should assist each parish/region develop its own strengths.
Individual parishes and regions pursue economic development based on their unique resources and locations. Washington should provide incentives that would support regional strengths such as the commercialization of the region’s 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 its 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 business and future expansion
5. adequate infrastructure for businesses, including the Internet trunk line
Tangipahoa Parish is quickly growing. It is known for:
· clean water and environment
· transportation and distribution
· quality health care
· educational institutions and advancement
· great restaurants
Located at the intersection of two interstate highways, with passenger and freight rail capacity, a port and a recently improved airport capable of handling jet traffic, Tangipahoa offers those in transportation and supply chain management unparalled 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. The U.S. Customs Office’s recent location to the Hammond Airport is a sign not only of the quality of air facilities in Tangipahoa, but of the cooperative effort among economic development agencies, Southeastern Louisiana University and local governments. 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 the 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. Already home to three hospitals, and with a fourth under construction, Tangipahoa provides outstanding healthcare 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 known for:
· clean, rural living
· retirement haven
· largest free fair in the state
· industrial parks boasting such high-tech firms as Service Zone – a provider of customer service support to Gateway Computers
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 that possess significant wealth and 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 economic development, while recognizing the unique aspects of each parish in the region. Washington 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 business enterprises.
· increase support of the Small Business Development Center programs of the SBA
Issue 8 – 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 is a result of small and micro-enterprise 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. Adequate coverage is difficult to obtain for small business. 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 10,000 jobs and the creation of some 300 firms.
Despite creating numerous jobs in the aggregate, small business owners often do not meet criteria to access support 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. In many cases, they lack the resources to seek support programs. As a consequence, little has been done to advance micro-enterprises through programs that target their needs.
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 9 – 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 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.
· Both Tangipahoa’s unemployment rate (9.2%) and Washington’s rate (8.8%) exceeded the state’s 6.9% rate. Efforts to stimulate job creation will address the high unemployment rate in these two North Shore parishes.
· At its core, economic development centers on raising the standard of living of the people in the region. Job and career opportunities drive economic development improvements.
· There is a strong need to provide incentives and support that will spur food service operations and speculative commercial building efforts.
Issue 10 – Quality housing is needed throughout the region.
Maintaining a health housing market raises household wealth and promotes the local and state economy.
· Washington Parish, Tangipahoa Parish, and St. Tammany Parish have home ownership rates that significantly exceed the state average rate.
· Residential construction is strong. On the North Shore, construction is booming. The three parishes issued 4,108 building permits in 2003, which was 18.2% of the state’s total 22,607 permits. Residential construction played a major economic role on the North Shore, representing an investment of $515.1 million dollars in 2003. This $515.1 million in residential construction value is approximately 21% of the state’s total. Again, 21% of Louisiana’s total residential construction is accounted for by only 7.9% of the state’s population.
Issue 11 – State universities and technical colleges need support to accomplish their missions and economic mandates.
Supporting state universities, community colleges and trade and technical colleges financially promotes regional economic well-being. Employers seek locations with quality educational offerings. Supporting regional educational institutions will allow regional impact.
· With over 15,400 students and 1,800 employees, Southeastern Louisiana University is a major economic force. 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. Historically, 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. Despite significant contributions to the region, Southeastern Louisiana University’s relatively low level of state support constrains its 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 area.
· The campuses of the 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 400 students. In Slidell, the LTC employs 35, while educating 275 students. The LTC is a vital educational institution that prides itself 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.
Issue 12 – Washington should play a role in improving public, K-12 education, especially those schools that are identified as under performing.
Supporting 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.
· St. Tammany had a higher percentage of residents receiving bachelor degrees (28.3%) than the national average of 24.4%, which in turn, is higher than the state average of 18.7%. 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. Opportunities too, abound for graduates seeking advanced degrees, as Southeastern’s graduate programs are among the most sought-after in Louisiana.
· The estimated salary for new teachers in Louisiana in 2003-2004 was $30,225, which is close to the national average of $30,496. Average salaries for all teachers in St. Tammany ($39,476) and Tangipahoa ($38,528) were higher than the state average whereas Washington Parish’s average salary for teachers ($33,220) lags behind the others. The three parishes’ schools pay salaries below the national average for all teachers.
· The state has shown support for local education and provided the three parishes a total of $235.9 million in Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funds in FY 2003-2004. In the region, Tangipahoa received $3,953 state MFP per pupil, which was less than the $4,095 received by St. Tammany and the $4,920 allocated to Washington. The MFP helps equitably allocate funds to school systems. 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 13 – Health 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 quality health care facilities and providers. Fair reimbursement for services must be of concern to those in the Senate.
· 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 quality health care to area residents.
· Reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid constitute significant proportions of hospital revenues. Reimbursements for these services, especially for Medicaid, often are lower than 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.
· 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 care 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 14 - Louisiana ranks among the bottom of southern states in job growth. Per capita income ranks Louisiana 43rd 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 Tangipahoa ($21,067) and in Washington ($19,297).
· 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 (9.2%) and Washington’s unemployment rate (8.8%) are both higher than the state’s unemployment rate of 6.9%.
Issue 15 – 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 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 further 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.
· 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 and commercial parks.
Issue 16 – 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 market place.
· Much of the region’s 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.
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 Community and Technical College System, and public school systems need support to maximize their impact. Taxes and red tape that discourage economic development need to be eliminated. Tax incentives that will spur the creation of retirement communities, speculative building, and small business development 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 and developing existing firms needs to be recognized. Economic development needs to take center stage, and Washington can play a major role in such efforts.
In short, the North Shore is important to the state of Louisiana. Its educated workforce and its potent voter pool expects that Louisiana’s next Senator will take the lead in moving the state and this region forward.
White Paper Committee
(composed September 2003; updated September 2004)
Dr. Michael Budden, Chair
Dr. Yu Hsing, Chief Economist
Ms. Erin Garic
Mr. Don Hays
Dr. Roman Heleniak
Dr. Yu Hsing
Mr. Bill Joubert
Ms. Kathy Stuart
Ms. Lacey Toledano
Dr. David Wyld
Mr. Rene Abadie
The committee expresses its appreciation to Dr. Mike Asoodeh for information regarding broadband, wireless access.