Last Modified: Thursday, February 07, 2013 10:29 AM
Issues like workforce development and transportation may arise with the anticipated high-dollar industrial projects in Southwest Louisiana, but a group of local officials have come up with a plan they believe will address those challenges before they occur.
The Southwest Louisiana Task Force for Growth and Opportunity, or GO Group, announced its strategic plan on Wednesday, including a steering committee made up of several organizations and appointed subcommittees. The group formed shortly after Sasol announced in December that it planned to spend nearly $21 billion on expansion projects at its facility in Westlake.
The steering committee includes several municipalities within Calcasieu Parish, the Police Jury, the Sheriff’s Office, the School Board, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the West Calcasieu Chamber, IMCAL and the Port of Lake Charles. The Police Jury will lead the committee, and District 14 Police Juror Hal McMillin is the chairman.
Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said the steering committee will appoint 10 subcommittees that will “do the nuts and bolts of the work.” The subcommittee will focus on workforce development, education, transportation, housing, utilities, environment, health, public safety, small-business development and community relations.
“The real work starts soon,” Beam said. “Workforce development is probably the big issue out of all of them.”
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said the magnitude of the economic development projects could bring challenges similar to the ones that arose after Hurricane Rita in 2005.
“The solution ... is identical, and that is by working together,” he said. “It allows us to redefine this parish and remake this parish in such a way that future generations of children ... will have the same opportunities that we had.”
McMillin said the process is expected to go through plenty of changes over the next several months.
“Will there be growing moments? Absolutely,” he said. “Involvement and communication is the key.”
Roach said residents “can’t expect for life to stay exactly the same” once the projects begin.
“With changes will come some inconvenience, and we need to anticipate that,” he said.
Sulphur Mayor Chris Duncan said the city is already seeing the challenge of providing adequate housing.
“Sasol has brought some people in already,” he said. “The phone calls are coming for RV parks. We’ve been working with a firm out of New York that’s been looking for rental property. We don’t have that many three- and four-bedroom homes to rent in west Calcasieu.”
The group’s next meeting is tentatively set for March 6.
Posted By: Speak Up On: 2/7/2013
Title: The Bigger Question
Please answer the bigger question: Will this committee be made up of the same old group of people who have been "in charge" of things for years? What about bringing some new people with newer--and fresher ideas on board. Like common people in the area who have a WHOLE lot to bring to the table.
Point and case here. Let's start with the ever lingering issue with the I-10 bridge and underpass for Westlake. then let's move on to the traffic situation in Westlake. I beleive that Hal McMillin has--or had a lot to do with these issues; or lack thereof. Same with the Parish Administrator (Mr. Beam) and Lake Charles Mayor (Randy Roach). These are the people who are going to the "nuts and bolts" as Mr. Beam puts it. Perhaps you should have started with the nuts and bolts issue pertaining to the I-10 bridge project, as well as the traffic issues in and around Westlake. But now, this group is going to bring "big" ideas to the table to improve the economy? The only one doing anyting--or that has done anything positive to commit to improving anything in the community, is the Mayor of Sulphur. Perhaps he should lead the borad as Chair, and not someone like hometown boy Hal who spends more time trying to get in the spotlight than actually working to resolve issues.