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Webster police jurors discuss economic growth

The Webster Parish Police Jury has several options to help boost economic development in the parish.

Angie White, senior vice president of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, gave several ways jurors could network to bring business and industry to the parish.

“The best way to get industry to your parish is to have sites available,” she said. She commended Britt Herren with the North Webster Parish Industrial Development Park and James Graham with the City of Minden for keeping their lists of available property updated with NLEP. However, those are finite sources, she said. If jurors know property owners that would be interested in leasing or selling property, she told them to direct them to NLEP and they can match someone with the property owner to get their property listed.

She talked about an upcoming economic development and economic resiliency training set to take place in May in Ruston, sponsored by the International Economic Development Council and Delta Regional Authority.

“What they mean by resiliency training is communities that were hit by either natural disasters or manmade disasters,” she said. “For instance, a major employer in small town shuts down. That’s a disaster for a community. They will have people speaking who have been through these things, and honestly after the floods you’ve been dealing with, you might be able to teach other people.”

It is designed for smaller community leadership, she said.

Another program area is workforce development. She has met with chamber of commerce leaders from Minden, Bossier and Shreveport to talk about Jumpstart, a model for career and technical education, requiring students to attain an industry-endorsed, industry-based credential in order to graduate high school.

“What I’m trying to do is make sure the business community leadership knows what the schools plan for training students in their schools for industry credentials,” she said. “The school systems have challenges with this, getting equipment, getting teachers trained and certified, and I think this is where the business community has a vested interest in helping the school system to do that. We’ve had some conversations about this, and they’ve been really fruitful so far.”

She highlighted the CNA pilot program at North Webster High School, saying the students are partnering with a nursing home to allow the students to intern there, and it’s a perfect example of how it should work.

“There are so many avenues the NLEP has that we all need to try to take advantage of,” Juror Bruce Blanton said. “We can get some industry here, there’s no doubt, it’s just going to take some work.”

The police jury created the economic development committee in January to explore different ways to make a difference in economic growth. White’s visit to
the police jury’s meeting this week was part of that effort.

Juror Nick Cox, one of the driving forces behind the formation of the committee, said the jury needs the assistance of organizations such as the NLEP to provide resources to better market Webster Parish.

“I believe now is a great time for growth,” he said. “In order to market our parish in the best light possible, we need help from the NLEP. It takes a lot of resources to make sure that we are positioned right for economic growth, such as an educated workforce, available properties for manufacturers or other businesses, and training for local elected officials. These are the kinds of relationships the NLEP is equipped to help us develop.”