Quality of life improvements, traffic solutions top BRAC’s new five-year strategic plan

Business Report

With an ever-present eye toward its regional competitors, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber unveiled today its new five-year regional strategic plan, which calls for drastically improving transportation in the region while retaining top talent to move the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area forward.

The plan, dubbed the “Think Bigger” campaign, will guide the agency’s efforts at strengthening the business community in the metro area through the end of 2020. It is the culmination of months of meetings between several dozen BRAC employees and stakeholders, as well as hundred of questionnaires and research on peer cities and regions.

The four main goals identified as the pillars of the strategic plan are to grow and diversify the Baton Rouge region’s economy, to cultivate the region’s talent, to transform the region’s quality of life and to elevate the region’s external image.

“Our vision is that these things are possible,” Adam Knapp, BRAC’s president and CEO, said during a 30-minute presentation at BRAC’s monthly luncheon today.

Improving the quality of life in the region is paramount in the effort to elevate the Capital Region to be on par with and surpass its peer cities, Knapp said. Quality of life issues are frequently brought up when comparing Baton Rouge to cities such as Memphis, Little Rock and Columbia, South Carolina.

“Now, we have made enormous progress in the last decade … but to be frank, the regions that we compete with have been moving very fast as well,” Knapp said. “Many of them continue to kick our butts in quality of life, and it’s evident every day when we are working projects and we hear this over and over from the projects we lose, we lose them more often than not on quality of life issues that have to be addressed.”

Under each goal, Knapp highlighted multiple ways they could be achieved:

  • To grow and diversify the region’s economy, it must expand its targeted business retention, attraction and small business approaches; promote assets for diversification and competitiveness; accelerate entrepreneurship, high-growth firms and business innovation; and continually enhance the region’s business climate.
  • To cultivate the region’s talent, officials must expand STEM learning and partnerships in all levels of public education; fit workforce development systems to meet business needs; attract and retain top talent in targeted business sectors; and promote the business case for diversity and inclusion.
  • To transform the region’s quality of life, major initiatives and policy reforms that enhance quality of life and economic growth must be championed; transportation and traffic solutions must be at the forefront; access to high quality school choices for all families in the Baton Rouge area must be expanded; and officials need to advocate for transformational quality of place initiatives.
  • To elevate the region’s external image, BRAC needs to highlight the Baton Rouge area’s value to businesses and talent; execute a sustained media relations strategy; and advance formal super-regional efforts.

Knapp said out of all those items, the need to find a solution to Interstate 10 congestion is the top priority. Other high priorities include promoting The Water Campus, getting a medical school in the region and improving the area’s physical attractiveness. Building high expectations for the region is also a must, he added.

“One of the comments we got from one of our stakeholders is they had not seen so many well-meaning, very good people work so hard at mediocrity,” Knapp said to scattered chuckling. “And that is a horrible indictment of where we are as a region is that we accept too little as it is today, rather than pushing for greater and higher expectations.”

See the presentation delivered by Knapp today on the new five-year plan. Also today, BRAC released a comprehensive strategic plan for 2016.

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