Chamber official explains many ways group is helping business

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Henry Friloux probably knows that he doesn’t chair the most exciting committee in the ever-growing River Region Chamber of Commerce.

But listening to the local businessman tell just what his group does makes it clear that the work of his Public Policy Committee is more vital to local business than many people may think.

&#8220I believe the Public Policy Committee is one of the most important things the Chamber does, since it makes sure we are involved in state and federal legislation that affects business right here,” he said.

In a nutshell, he said, the group does things like the following:

** Monitors state and federal legislation.

** Takes a position on legislation so lawmakers know where local business stands on an issue.

** Endorses issues since some businesses may not be comfortable taking a position on particular matters.

** Lobbies in Baton Rouge for local business.

** Holds local political or legislative forums before elections.

** Meets with area parish presidents.

&#8220We become the voice for the entire business community,” he told the LaPlace Rotary Club at their recent meeting. &#8220We want the public bodies to know that the business community here is watching and listening to what they do.”

Friloux said he is confident that an important issue will soon be addressed after the election of Bobby Jindal as the new Louisiana governor.

&#8220He has already said his first priority is to call a special session on ethics,” he said. &#8220There are four pieces of legislation that are being proposed, with two of them likely to pass, and I think Jindal is the guy who will help bring ethics back to our state.”

Through Friloux’s committee, the local Chamber in recent months has worked with four or five national insurance companies, trying to encourage them to try and come back to Louisiana to help lower insurance rates.

They have fought against allowing the state minimum wage to rise, since &#8220there is always someone every year who wants to bump it up.”

The committee has addressed various forms of tax increases, or tried to get certain parties to pay taxes when they currently don’t, all to reduce the tax burden on business.

Friloux also talked about a similar issue top industry leaders have discussed which is the lack of a good work force locally, especially for what is expected to be many industry jobs that will be coming open.

&#8220We have heard there could be as many as 5,000 industry jobs coming open in the next three to five years, both from a lot of people retiring and expansions,” he said. &#8220We want to work with the local schools so they begin to train kids to come out of school ready to take some of these jobs.

&#8220Not every kid needs to go to college. These industry jobs are high paying, quality jobs with great benefits. And statistics say that only 25 percent of kids who start college will ever finish. We need some legislation to help expand our local technical college, where students can go to earn the degrees they need to take some of these jobs,” he explained.

Friloux also said that if the huge steel mill, which considered St. James Parish for its mega plant, would have come to this area, &#8220I don’t even know if we could have provided the workers they needed.”

He said the Chamber is working with high schools and the technical college to try and get more local students to get the training needed to take some of the local industry jobs that are coming open,.