Finkle: St. John Parish working in unison for economic development

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 5, 2018

National Economic Development Week, May 7-12 this year, presents an opportunity to reflect upon the combined efforts of public, private and government entities and individuals to facilitate a more inclusive and prosperous economic environment for all, whether that be on the local, state or national level.

Championed and founded by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in 2016, this has become an important week for communities to share the economic progress they are making. IEDC is the national (international) membership organization for those individuals who work for city, county and state economic development agencies, along with public-private partnerships, Chambers of Commerce, and other service providers who are trying to attract, create, retain and expand jobs, further developing the local tax base and enhance wealth.

Through its diverse and extensive resources, the Economic Development Department within St. John the Baptist Parish acts as a convener, connecting key constituents within the local and the greater state economy in order to work towards community-oriented strategic goals. I can tell you that St. John the Baptist Parish has much to celebrate this week.

Your Economic Development Department works with a diverse range of existing, new, small and international businesses in order to leverage opportunities within the area, which include efforts to expand the local technical workforce.

A recent example includes this from just last month:

Local leaders within government, education and business — including Parish President Natalie Robottom, Economic Development Department Director Jerry W. Jones Jr. and GNO, Inc. President & CEO Michael Hecht — collaborate often on ways to contribute to the growth of St. John the Baptist Parish.

Chassity McComack, executive director of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, also continuously work with the leadership aforementioned. The Chamber has leveraged a relationship with Louisiana Calling, a non-profit service that connects job seekers with local industries, providing opportunities to acquire correlating job training.

These two recent initiatives demonstrate how enhancing communication and collaboration among key actors within an area can strengthen a community through effective and tailored economic development agendas.

The International Economic Development Council, or IEDC, which is proud to have the Economic Development Department of St. John the Baptist Parish as a member, has continuously worked to advocate for federal economic development programs that have local, regional and national impacts.

On the federal level, 2018 saw several funding milestones for economic development programs, notably, the Economic Development Administration received nearly $1 billion, including a $587 million for a disaster recovery grant program.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a new Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. This program will target seriously damaged housing, businesses, and infrastructure resulting from major disasters since 2013. Louisiana is one of the top four recipients, with total of $1.2 billion set aside for the state. The federal government continues to be an important partner in locally-driven economic development.

National Economic Development Week is about celebrating the profession and the professional in communities across the country and around the world. St. John the Baptist Parish has much to be proud of, thanks to their local leaders and economic development professionals.

Jeff Finkle is president and CEO of the International Economic Development Council.