Baton Rouge Area chamber announces five-year regional growth plan

The Advocate

The past two years have been the best for the Baton Rouge economy in terms of new job growth for at least 20 years. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber unveiled a new five-year strategic plan that aims to build upon that growth.

The “Think Bigger” campaign, which was a result of several months of interviews and surveys with local business leaders, has four distinct goals: to grow and diversity the Baton Rouge metro economy, to cultivate the region’s talent, to transform the Baton Rouge area’s quality of life and to elevate the region’s image.

Adam Knapp, BRAC president and CEO, said the idea is to raise expectations.

“One of the comments we got from one of our stakeholders was they had not seen so many well-meaning, very good people working so hard at mediocrity,” Knapp said. The idea of accepting so many things as they are today instead of pushing for greater and higher expectations “is a horrible indictment of where we are as a region.”

This is BRAC’s third five-year plan. In the first plan, which went from 2006 to 2010, the nine-parish region posted 144 economic development wins, according to Site Selection magazine, which accounted for 7,600 new jobs. The second plan, which ran from 2011 to 2015, was even better. The region had 185 economic development wins that created 9,100 jobs.

The idea with “Think Bigger” is to have a stronger sense of urgency and impatience, along with a shorter list of goals and clear metrics that can be measured.

“We want to focus more on diversification,” Knapp said. “But we also want to make sure that our core industries expand to take advantage of the low natural gas prices during the foreseeable future.”

In addition to the four goals, the campaign identified eight initiatives that are cornerstones of the strategic plan:

Develop a permanent solution to the I-10 problem and other regional transportation challenges.

Aggressively pursue education reforms that offer the best public prekindergarten to 12th grade choices to students.

Create a world-class existing business program to grow the region’s firms.

Aggressively promote the Water Campus to fulfill its highest and best use related to economic diversification.

Execute a formal talent development program that rivals those of the nation’s top metros.

Pursue the development of a full medical school in the region.

Permanently establish a unified, comprehensive external image strategy for the region.

Improve the region’s physical attractiveness.

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