Specht: Cooperation is key for economic development

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Did you know that an automotive manufacturer once looked at Webster Parish to locate a plant? The details are sketchy, but not uncommon in the realm of economic development. It happened during the administration of then-Governor Bobby Jindal.

As the story goes, Jindal desperately wanted to land such a “big fish” and began the process. Louisiana Economic Development was tasked to make it happen, and they contracted to do some environmental and engineering work to find a location.

Lo and behold, they found the perfect location — the north side of Interstate 20 from Goodwill Road, almost to Haughton, including the former rest area. It had almost everything; interstate access to the south, and a railroad to the north. Bossier Parish would be tasked to extended a sewer district to service the site, while the often-mentioned water plant at Camp Minden would provide the water.

The potential manufacturer, from Europe, toured the site and things appeared to be moving forward. The deal fell through, however, due to property acquisition issues. LED still considers the location the best possible place to locate such a manufacturer, according to sources close to the project. However, water and sewer still must be handled.

I hate to sound like the movie “Field of Dreams,” and I cannot promise that if we “build it, they will come,” but we are on the cusp of a few things that could positively impact the possibility of bringing something of that magnitude to our area.

As mentioned previously, water is a key component to economic development. The Webster Parish Police Jury is moving forward with a parish water study and plan. This is key to understanding the needs, both now and in the future, for water.

In addition, there will be a public meeting from the Sparta Aquifer Groundwater District at the Minden Civic Center on June 20 at 6 p.m. This meeting will address the ongoing need to replenish the aquifer and the plan to do so.

Both of these plans will make us more attractive to a prospective industry such as an auto manufacturer. If we could provide water and sewer to the previously noted location, and market it as such, imagine the possibilities for our parish — and our neighbors.

As with any economic development initiative, a process like this will take time, money, and cooperation. Studies take time. All of it takes money. However, cooperation may be the thing that it is the most important.

From cooperation between governmental entities, to the cooperation of those affected by the changes that will most certainly take place, it is a machine with many moving parts. We all have a role in this.

We need a win. Landing something of this magnitude would be epic. Is there something like this on the horizon for us? No one ever really knows for sure until the ball starts rolling. We just need to be ready to “play ball.”

We lost an opportunity years ago. But lightning struck once, who’s to say it could not happen again?

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at dspecht@press-herald.com.


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