The focus on Minden’s economic development will shift in the next 90 days, Economic Development Director James Graham said, as he begins to implement the city’s economic development strategy.
In his first 90 days on the job, Graham and Mayor Tommy Davis have spent several weeks meeting with businesses, local leaders and education leaders to find out where the challenges and successes are in Minden and South Webster Parish. In the coming 90 days, Graham says his focus will shift to promoting Minden to attract new businesses while still addressing the challenges that lay ahead.
“What I’ve been doing is working with various organizations that are responsible for workforce development,” he said. “I am seeking to create partnerships with them because they need our support, and that includes the public school system. They need our support, and we need to let people know about the innovative programs that our school system has been engaged in.”
Graham will spend a great deal of time promoting Minden which will include a website to be launched after the first of the year. The website will promote Minden as a package, including a place where developers can find available properties to develop as well as offering initiatives and incentives for existing businesses to invest and reinvest.
“While doing so, we’re going to be engaging property owners who have fairly large lots of land,” he said. “One of the things I think is important to recognize is property owners are holding on to land because they think oil and gas will increase in price, and that’s not true.”
He has been working with property owners who he says understand the price of gas and oil not only has decreased but also may stay that way for some time.
Graham said they are working toward a promotion piece for Minden to show businesses that Minden is a good investment.
While he has begun to implement Minden’s economic strategic plan, it’s been tweaked, he said. There were some elements missing, including a focus on healthcare, transportation, security and housing.
While he says housing is not necessarily a direct part of economic development, he says it compliments it in that Minden is in need of more middle-income families living here.
Meetings are still ongoing, he says, and the ones so far have given him a bird’s eye view of the development challenges, opportunities and the next generation of business owners.
“Workforce development is extremely important to our industry base here,” Graham said. “They are concerned about the quality of the workforce that is coming out of the education system. Some of these businesses have created their own schools, because they’re not getting what they want from the education system. That should be a signal to the education system that businesses are willing to go so far as to actually replace them. That’s a dangerous trend.”
He says the last 90 days have been busy and productive.
“If the last 90 days have been busy, the next 90 days will be nothing less than eventful, because we will be presenting a whole array of new initiatives and programs in a package to the city council for review and approval,” he said. “These programs are primarily incentives to encourage the development community to build or redevelop within the community.”