St. John bringing meaning to ‘taking care of business’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2011



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said a focal point of her second term in office will include an expanded emphasis on growing local business and industry in the parish.

Robottom said she is working to get her office more involved in fostering new businesses that are looking to set up shop in the parish.

“We have helped with site selection, but we are not satisfied with our role,” Robottom said. “Our Planning and Zoning Department signs off on zoning issues and the Sheriff’s Office issues occupational licenses, but their needs to be some interaction with the main government offices. We want to get to a point where new businesses start with us.”

Robottom said it comes down to positioning. She said administrators in the Economic Development Office have an understanding of where certain businesses would work and where they might falter, and they could contribute to where a new business should be located.

“The small business is an important element of our economy, which is why we so heavily push ‘Shop Local’ initiatives,” Robottom said. “We don’t want business owners to open a new place and close within six months. That doesn’t help anybody.”

According to the parish’s occupational license listings, the parish has had 34 businesses open or reopen in the past year, including restaurants, healthcare centers and auto repair outlets. Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said that number did not include the large amount of “home office-style” businesses opened within a home or residential area.

“The number is comparable to figures from previous years, but we want to further improve it,” Robottom said.

One indirect way the parish is working to improve the small business economy is by working with residents to get them involved with land use plans and code enforcement issues.

“We are working with neighborhood associations and resident groups, and we want to see more involvement,” Robottom said. “We are working to get rid of blight and assess code enforcement concerns, but we need advice from residents too because they see it everyday.

Robottom said her administration is also close with the big industry in the parish, which also plays an important role in economic development. She said plant managers are in communication with the parish to convey what they need from the community.

“We need to know what our residents need to have in order to be eligible for employment at these plants,” Robottom said. “We want our community to have access to these jobs and we want the facilities to consider our residents first.”