GO Group announces strategic plan

By By John Guidroz / American Press

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.