Shared from the 2/5/2019 American Press eEdition

Taking area’s message to Washington D.C.


SW La. was in the spotlight during the recent Washington Mardi Gras in Washington, D.C. The SW La. Louisiana contingent was headed by the 2019 Chamber SW La. Board Chair, Phil Earhart. We were joined by McNeese University President Dr. Daryl Burckel; Kevin Melton, executive director at Chennault International Airpark; and Jerry Theunissen, government affairs cconsultant for Chennault; and Eric Cormier, vice president of policy and strategic development at the Alliance. Also representing our region was Marion Fox, executive director of Jeff Davis economic development and JDED board member Ronnie Petree, and Jennings Mayor Henry Guinn.

We attended the programs of the Committee of 100, which is composed of major business leaders around the state. The C-100 hosted a congressional breakfast with all members of our delegation. We then made individual calls on our congressional delegation and staff members. A briefing on governmental issues, infrastructure, international trade, and energy issues were presented to the Louisiana Chambers of Commerce who were also in DC at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The business and networking highlight of DC Mardi Gras is the annual Economic Development Luncheon, chaired this year by Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. The SW La. Economic Development Alliance hosted the luncheon which featured remarks and a Q&A session with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The Secretary highlighted last week’s jobs report which was above all projections with 304,000 jobs created.

The growing sectors are leisure and hospitality, construction, healthcare, transportation, and warehousing. These sectors are strong in our region. Governor John Bel Edwards addressed the luncheon and told of the successes that Louisiana is enjoying. He also mentioned that the Lake Charles MSA (Calcasieu and Cameron parishes) was the fastest growing MSA in GNP in figures released last week. Members of the federal delegation gave brief remarks including the Congressman from our District, Clay Higgins, who reported to the large audience that SW La. continues to lead the state and possibly the nation, in industrial projects.

Congressman Higgins announced that the Sasol Ethane Cracker Unit and the Lotte project were going into operation. An additional $65 billion in projects have been announced and in various stages of permitting and planning, for a total of $109 billion. To wrap up the luncheon, Gray Stream of Lake Charles, 2019 chair of the committee of 100, introduced the founder of WAITR, Chris Meaux. Chris told of how he was able to start his restaurant and food delivery firm in the SEED Center in Lake Charles, and grow to an $800 million dollar company. After the purchase of WAITR by Tillman Fertitta, the company went public and since acquired a similar company based in Minneapolis. In response to questions from Senator Cassidy and Gray Stream, Meaux told how he was able to attract technology workers and developers from other cities. Many of the WAITR staff are individuals who had left the state, but came back for a technology company job. This is encouraging because the WAITR success demonstrates that future technology firms can thrive in our region.

The SW La. Alliance will be working with McNeese University, SOWELA Technical Community College, and the five parish school systems to conduct a STEAM initiative. STEAM is what current and future workers will have to know. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math are the fields needed in the job market for today and for the future.

Business Leaders from around the state and our federal congressional delegation were very positive about our region. Our success is not to be taken for granted.

Support of industrial projects and new job creation are the only sustainable ways to increase the quality of life and cut our poverty rate.

George Swift is president/ CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 or

STEAM is what current and future workers will have to know. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math are the fields needed in the job market for today and for the future.

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