Chamber looking toward future for SW La.

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Southwest Louisiana needs to plan for growth, not just in the near future, but in the distant future as well, area leaders

told the crowd at Wednesday night’s Chamber Southwest Louisiana Banquet.

“Tonight we look toward to our future,” said George Swift, president of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

“What do you want for Southwest Louisiana in 2014?”

The Chamber’s 2013 chair, Ben Bourgeois, human resources and business development director at Turner Industries, passed the

position to incoming chair Glen Bertrand.

Bertrand, CEO of Louisiana Community Bancorp and City Savings Bank, has been a banker for 42 years.

The Chamber also awarded Christy Moore as volunteer of the year and Mike Reese with the civic service award.

The Chamber has reached a “milestone,” all-time high of 1,204 members, Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois reminded the packed floor of

the Civic Center of the $62 billion expected to be invested into the

area and the estimated

30,000 influx of people expected in the next five to 10 years.

“Now we’re deciding how we’re going to fuel the boom that is coming,” Bourgeois said.

“We are in the greatest period of economic growth our area has ever seen,” Bertrand said. “The people of Southwest Louisiana

are waking up to another era of opportunity.”

Keynote speaker Dr. James Canton, CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, applauded the area for planning as

far into the future as 2040.

“That’s the way you want to think about things,” said Canton, who described himself as a futurist.

He said it is possible for the U.S. to be energy independent within a decade and Southwest Louisiana could play a part.

“You‘re going to play a role in a

historic shift in the U.S. and the world,” Canton said. “How are you

going to lead differently?”

Canton stressed building world-class infrastructure and education in the area.

“You want to ask the question ‘How do we create a sustainable environment for the future,” Canton asked. “I can give you the

elements, but it’s going to take the courage of leaders like you to move forward.”