DONALDSONVILLE — While recent traffic delays due to construction on the Sunshine Bridge and expansions at a Donaldsonville industrial site sparked jokes and comments from many attending a recent chamber business banquet, Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré quipped that the area should be grateful to have the business surrounding the two job-creating projects.
Honoré, the guest speaker Nov. 6 at the Donaldsonville Area Chamber of Commerce banquet held at the Columns on the River, said if the world’s population continues to grow, “you’re going to need a bigger bridge.”
The retired general, who served as commander of a task force responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast, shared his no-nonsense approach to leadership and thoughts from his latest book, “Leadership in the New Normal.”
Honoré said a population boom from 7 billion to 10 billion people in the next 15 to 20 years will result in a demand on “business to produce more stuff.”
He said the needs of that growing population will mean businesses will have to figure out how to do things differently.
“What will keep us safe and secure are solid business practices that produce goods used around the world,” he said.
He called the pending population growth an opportunity for U.S. businesses.
But, he said, to fulfill that demand for the world’s economy, today’s business leaders must prepare future leaders to do things differently.
He outlined three leadership musts to prepare for the world’s growing economy.
He said we must teach the workforce how to do the routine things well, encourage innovators “not to be afraid to take on the impossible” and teach leaders not to be afraid to “act even when we’re being criticized.”
Honoré said the ability to provide clean water around the globe, come up with energy innovations and improve food safety are keys to meeting the needs of future generations.
“We don’t have a choice to slow down on innovation,” he said.
He also encouraged businesses to hire veterans.
“Put a sign out that says, ‘We hire veterans,’ ” he said.
The bridge jokes continued when CF Industries plant manger Lou Frey accepted the chamber’s Business of the Year Award.
CF Industries’ nitrogen complex at Donaldsonville, North America’s largest, is in the middle of three plant expansion projects, Frey said.
He said traffic woes from construction on the Sunshine Bridge are made worse by his company’s projects, and for that, he gets calls just about every day from unhappy folks. He joked about putting someone else in charge of those phone calls throughout the expansion.
He apologized for the traffic mess met by many trying to cross the bridge every day but warned that it won’t get much better until his company’s last project is complete in 2016.