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We are all in economic development


My friend and mentor Jerry Frentress used to say, “We’re all in sales all the time, and our number one product is us.” I’m often reminded of that when I am thinking of economic development. You see, no one knows our community better than we do.

Last week, we published a story about the changing grading system for schools in Louisiana, and that many schools’ letter grades will most likely drop as a result. This was quite a blow for all of us. Here’s why:

When prospective companies look for sites for establishment or expansion, the quality of the public school system is always a high priority. At a bare minimum, Google searches are performed and reports are written based on letter grades of schools.

The flaw in that type of research is the varied methods by which these grades are established. There is no “standard” across the nation for assigning these letter grades. It is typically up to each state’s governing entity to establish their own system. Many states have adopted similar systems, but they are not universal.

If “shallow” research reveals a letter grade drop in a district (or even individual schools) the perception is there is a problem. Fair or unfair, that’s how things are perceived.

We who live here, know the upswing taking place in Webster Parish Schools. We have seen first hand the stride being made in relatively short order, and we all share in the excitement. Now it is time for us to heed Jerry’s words and recognize our role in telling the positive story of our public education system.

Many in our community run in circles that reach far beyond Webster Parish. We have relationships and influence with many decision makers in varied industries. Are we telling them the story? Are we doing our share to change the perception?

If we don’t others will, and spin it the way they choose.

A perfect example of this is found in last week’s edition of BIZ Magazine. In the same news article is a story about Louisiana ranking high for business friendliness, and another about a low ranking for business tax burden. Two different sources. Two different assessments. Both can directly affect economic development.

It is up to all of us to combat those “assessments” with personal stories of our community and its many assets.

People can scrutinize your facts. They can debate your theories. But they cannot take away your personal story. Your reasons for living and doing business here are valuable, and they can influence others.

Tell the story. Tout the success. Speak the real truth.

“We are all in economic development all the time, and our number one tool is us.” — David Specht