The Baton Rouge Area Chamber plans this year to focus efforts on transportation funding; business development in targeted growth sectors such as health care, agricultural technology and manufacturing; ensuring incentives provide return on investments; and quality of place.
The plan was released Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club by Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC.
“BRAC had a big year in 2017 through persistence of following a long-range plan,” Knapp said. “We are pushing ourselves and the region’s business community to set higher expectations for the Baton Rouge area in the pursuit of excellence. Together, through the combination of our exceptional team at BRAC, our business community, and our parish partners, our region is poised for an even bigger year in 2018,” he said.
Knapp noted that Baton Rouge has been dealing with many of these issues for decades, a fact that was hammered home when BRAC temporarily decamped from its offices on Laurel Street last year to make way for a $3.5 million remodel of the building that will be completed in late summer. During the move, staffers found boxes of newspaper articles that Knapp joked “hadn’t seen sunlight since the Reagan administration.”
“The news clippings were about stuff that plagues us today: transportation, education, beautification,” he said. This frustration about the lack of progress has made it more important than ever to elevate expectations about the Baton Rouge business community.
During 2017, Knapp said the Baton Rouge metro area had 12 economic development project wins, nine of which came from expansions of existing businesses. Those projects added 683 jobs to the local economy, boosted payrolls by almost $30 million and represented almost $600 million in capital expenditures.
The uptick in activity has continued into early 2018, aided by the tax cut package passed by Congress at the end of last year.
BRAC’s goals for 2018 are to grow and diversify the Baton Rouge economy, cultivate the region’s talent, transform the area’s quality of life and elevate the region’s external image. All of these goals are interconnected, Knapp said, for example, improving the quality of life will help the image of Baton Rouge and make it easier to keep talented workers here.
“The upgrades and improvement to the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the new BREC bike plan, the Government Street work, these are all great examples of changes in the quality of life that will help sell Baton Rouge and retain talent in the community,” he said.
The full plan may be accessed at brac.org/strategicplan.