Recently I watched a video of local economic development officials with genuine concerns about how to move the region forward through economic development strategies. Regionally, health care has been the fastest growing industry, offering great opportunities for some specialized medical careers. The panel spoke briefly about other Amazon-like developments requiring softer tax incentives and other incentives to attract these businesses/industries to the region. What I didn’t hear was how much we could leverage local resources to develop local businesses/industries.
A few years ago before Covid hit the area; we were working hard to get the industrial hemp industry up and running. This is what I would call an ideal local business/industry. Louisiana soil is excellent for growing this bast fiber plant, as the soil is not only high in nitrogen but also non-acidic and the soil can be designed to be well-drained, all necessary for a successful business. Processing plants can be located very close to farmers, which will reduce the cost of transporting crops. Manufacturing plants may be located near urban centers with good transportation systems for workers. Currently there are over 50,000 uses for the plant/fiber and if you have access to a research university, other uses (patents) could be developed for all kinds of consumer products.
Hemp has been used as a clothing fiber for at least 10,000 years. Hemp is one of the strongest and most durable fibers; it keeps its shape well and its production does not require herbicides or pesticides. It is also antimicrobial to better protect your skin and is ideal for medical scrubs.
Hemp-based building materials are often stronger than petroleum-based products. Building materials made from hemp fiber include plastics, fiberboard, wallboard, tiles, insulation, panels, and even bricks.
Plastics made from hemp and other organic materials are non-toxic and biodegradable. The reason virtually all European car manufacturers are adopting hemp-based door panels, columns, seat backs, trunk trim, floor consoles, dashboards and other external components is that hemp-based products are lighter, safer in the event of an accident, recyclable, and more resistant.
Another local business/industry would be the manufacture of solar powered street lights. The Umbrella Coalition, a group of neighborhood associations, worked on a proposal to manufacture (locally) solar-powered streetlights. The idea was put forward after the first proposal (public safety) of the 2021 bond proposal was passed. cameras/sensors as part of the crime prevention strategy. The main objectives of Umbrella’s proposal are to create jobs, reduce costs (electricity bills for the city) and prevent crime.
Job creation isn’t too difficult given that you have unused space in several existing facilities (GE and GM), a trainable workforce, and the ability to obtain technology to make ongoing manufacturing and research (La. Tech) to keep improving products. , such as battery life and longevity of LED lights. The lights could be installed throughout the city, thus generating significant savings on the cost of electricity. Crime prevention would become easier because the poles the streetlights are on are owned by the city and therefore any sensors/cameras the city’s crime prevention team wants to install can be done with fewer questions asked.
Since this proposal aligns with Governor John Bel Edwards’ Climate Action Plan recommendation for the clean energy transition, it should be given reasonable consideration and consideration.
Minority business development could be another local business/industry. This can be accomplished through the new Roy Griggs School of Business at SUSLA. By designing an aggressive internship/apprenticeship-based program that would involve a partnership with the Shreveport Bossier African American Chamber (SBAAC), MSI (Minority Supplier Institute), Caddo Parish Schools (Booker T. Washington HS), and the economic development of the city of Shreveport. department, it would give the program a better chance of success.
SBAAC could identify and recruit existing successful businesses that would volunteer to be the source of the internship/apprenticeship program and could seek the assistance of the Greater Shreveport Chamber to secure the necessary volunteers. MSI can achieve many of its goals by partnering with SBAAC during business development and after business establishment.
By establishing an AP business studies program at Booker T. Washington HS, the program would give prospective Griggs Business School students the opportunity to not only understand business acumen, but also gain college credits that can be applied. to an Associate’s degree in Business Administration/Business Management.
The role of the City of Shreveport’s Economic Development Department would have been made easier if the Build Back Better legislation had been passed. In the BBB Legislation, President Biden wanted to launch a special, ongoing initiative to enable Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American entrepreneurs to succeed and grow with a three-pronged Small Business Opportunity Plan. Initially, the plan was to stimulate more than $50 billion in additional public-private venture capital for black and brown entrepreneurs by funding successful national and local investment initiatives and making highly effective tax credits permanent on new markets.