The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is getting ready to unroll its next five-year initiative, the third in a series of long-term economic development plans for the nine-parish area, but this time it has enlisted help from third party firm Market Street Research.
BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp says the planning process with Market Street began in May. The research firm will look over the last five years to assess the Baton Rouge area and compare it to similar markets. BRAC will work to develop a draft for the new plan early this fall.
“This is the first time we’ve brought in an outside planning firm,” Knapp says. “We wanted to vary the process to keep it fresh, and Market Street presented a way for us to gauge the work of markets our size or larger and compare us to other organizations and how they are.”
The current five-year economic development plan, which began being implemented in 2011 and will conclude at the end of this year, is titled the “Creative Capital Agenda.” It outlines six strategies for improving economic development in the Capital Region, including job creation, international development, entrepreneurship and innovation, global branding of the Baton Rouge Area, talent development and regional competitiveness.
One of the most successful initiatives of the current agenda came in talent development, where BRAC assisted companies by providing community tours to give potential Baton Rouge area executives a feel for living in Baton Rouge.
Knapp says 55 companies have invested in the area since 2011, and more than 5,000 jobs have been created. BRAC also conducted more than 600 company visits over the course of the last four years aimed at supporting businesses.
However, BRAC still wants to hit some areas harder in the next go-round, including improving the region’s skilled workforce.
“The workforce challenge we saw in 2011 has totally shifted and changed because of the growth the manufacturing sector has enjoyed, and now the challenge we identify is there is just this massive gap on the skilled workforce side,” Knapp says. “That has shifted our priorities that we’ve done more and more with community colleges with a lot of organizations to try to influence change there.”
Knapp says that looking forward, BRAC is working toward hitting harder in the areas where the region is still weak, like in diversifying the economy, for example.
“The level of expectation of what has to be done on some of the issues will change,” Knapp says of the new economic development plan. “Ten years later the things that are still holding us back, we’ve got to really move the needle on this next time, while also continuing to do the things that work well.”