In 1992, Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States. He won, in part, because of a simple message, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The United States was in an economic downturn and the message resonated with many.
Today, we are faced with a similar situation. Louisiana is hurting. From Baton Rouge to Minden, our economy is not as strong as it once was, or as it could be. There are many factors that go into the strengthening of an economy. However, there is one factor that tends to outshine all the others — jobs.
When employment, as a percentage of population, is high, the economy is robust. Every dollar earned and spent in the local economy turns over several times in the form of purchases and taxes.
More employment equates a larger tax base, spreading the burden or government and community services among many, lightening the load for all. Roads are built and improved. Schools are funded. Programs are possible.
Whether industrial, retail, agribusiness, or other fields, the need for more jobs in Webster Parish is apparent. So, where do we find solutions to this need?
First and foremost, we need to recognize employment opportunities when they arise. We all have our preferred economic engines, but not all of them produce enough jobs to be viable. That being said, we cannot put all our eggs in the basket of a single industry. We must have a diverse economy.
There is an ebb and flow to every industry, and we do not want to be tossed by the waves.
Second, We should educate our kids (and even some adults) with the purpose of future employment. The reason some companies do not choose to locate in our area is a lack of an educated workforce — and that’s not just a Webster Parish problem, it’s a Louisiana problem.
Third, we need to acknowledge every attempt to bring a job producer to Webster Parish is a competition with other communities. Is it fair? No. But, that is the way of the world.
A perfect example of this is the film industry. Many of us can remember seeing parts of our community on “the big screen” thanks to the incentives offered by the state. Now that the incentives are gone, so are the filmmakers. Many of them call Georgia “home” for now. Georgia saw the opportunity and pounced on it.
Moving forward, we must look at every decision through the prism of job creation. Without jobs, there is no economic growth. As much as we would like to decide on what types of economies we want, the truth is that the market ultimately decides.
Working together, we can offer a lot. Webster Parish is an amazing place to live, work, play and worship. It really doesn’t take much to show the rest of the world how great we really are. However, a unified front is a must. No one wants to walk into an argument — and they certainly don’t want to invest millions of dollars there.
Unity brings opportunity. Opportunity brings jobs. Jobs bring a stronger economy. A stronger economy brings more opportunity. That’s the type of cycle we all need.
In 2017, let’s all realize, “It’s the jobs…”
David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers Inc. He may be reached via email at email@example.com.