The Advocate’s recent commentary by Lanny Keller on One Acadiana’s “Priorities for a Better Acadiana” missed several important points, with respect to the first of those priorities: accelerating our economic development momentum.
1. It suggests that One Acadiana is focusing entirely on incentives. While incentive programs are an important tool in securing competitive, job-creating projects, the main point of this priority is ensuring that our state continues to make economic development a top priority under the next governor and Legislature. To be successful, we need strong executive leadership over state economic development activities, with a team capable of instilling credibility with business prospects; we need to continue to proactively pursue diversified economic development in every region of our state; and we need to seize major new opportunities that exist, for example, in international commerce.
2. The piece doesn’t mention that One Acadiana is calling for review and reform of incentive programs to ensure our state gets a stronger return going forward. Here’s what else we said: “There are real opportunities to enhance the return on investment from economic development incentives, but we must take a strategic approach that does not damage incentive programs that are creating high-paying jobs and attracting companies to our state and region.”
3. It indicates that “slashing across the board with little consideration for impact on job creation and investment” is the best our state could have done this past session. What’s the alternative? One Acadiana suggests a comprehensive approach including strategically reforming the revenue side of the budget, including tax exemptions; better controlling government spending, including growth in public pension costs; and creating greater flexibility within the budget process.
4. The piece fails to consider what happens if our state loses its focus on economic development. During the 25 years from 1980 through just before Hurricane Katrina, our state’s economy underperformed the South and United States. More than 600,000 people left Louisiana in search of better job opportunities elsewhere, which The Advocate profiled in a series of news reports called “Leaving Louisiana.”
Let’s not go back to the bad old days. Instead, we invite you to join One Acadiana in pursuing a vision to make our region — and our state — one of the most high quality, sought after places in the South for business and talent. And check out the Priorities for a Better Acadiana for yourself, including advancing public education, unlocking our workforce development potential, and completing I-49 South while accelerating future transportation infrastructure: oneacadiana.org.
Jason El Koubi
president and CEO, One Acadiana