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Monday, April 10, 2017

PLANNING PAYS OFF, MUCH TO BE PROUD OF IN 70 YEAR HISTORY

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Bossier Chamber of Commerce shapes the community

In 1947, 19 businessmen met in Bossier City to form the new Bossier Chamber of Commerce. The group, under the leadership of names like V. V. Whittington, A. R. Teague, O. A. Teekell and Harry B. Walker, met for the first time in September of that year and formally signed its articles of incorporation on Oct. 30, 1947. Its mission statement read, “The objects and purposes of this organization shall be the advancement of the civic, commercial, industrial and agricultural interests of Bossier Parish, La.; the promotion of the general welfare and prosperity of the Parish; and the stimulation of public sentiment for these purposes.”

Seventy years later, president and CEO Lisa Johnson said the focus is still on connecting business to business, determining the best ways to present the community as a place to live and work, but also to prepare the community for the future.

Johnson said a feasibility study ordered by the chamber in 2009 provided hints to the direction the chamber and the community needed to meet future needs. “All of the models showed that we are going to continue to grow with what we have out of the National Cyber Research Park and with Barksdale Air Force Base hosting the Air Force Global Strike Command, and the technology jobs moving into the area,” Johnson said. She added that the study indicated that there will also be continued growth in technology, medical and education demands. “That’s the diversity in the Bossier community and the surrounding area that makes our community so unique,” she said. “We have been working very diligently for the last six years to make sure that we are a community that’s ready. Are we ready for the next big wave that’s coming through?” Johnson said even with high-paying technology jobs coming to the area, there will still be a need for skilled labor jobs that come with them like construction workers, machinists and other support workers.

“We’re continuing to see the neighborhoods built. We’re continuing to see the commercial side built, the banking industry. Not just in the city, but in the parish,” Johnson said. “A lot of our growth is to the north and east. We’re starting to see that growth to the south. Our leadership sees that that growth is happening outward, so what do we do? We start focusing back inward. That’s why you’re seeing so much of the rebuild within the inner city. In the reinvestment in what is a downtown, now called the East Bank. You’re seeing folks come in and purchase and repurpose buildings within the city. It’s a constant movement, inward and outward in Bossier City and Bossier Parish. That’s what makes us a progressive city and an innovative city.”

Johnson said population figures indicate Bossier City and parish are continuing to grow from outside of Louisiana as well as from inside. She said the influx is driven by the job opportunities and public education offered by the area.

The Chamber has played a role in shaping the community since its inception, Johnson said. “Back in the early ’50s, the Bossier chamber was very instrumental in helping to shape Bossier City. Like being sure that we had a post office. Being sure that we were working with the railroad to make sure that we were having commerce coming through the city. The board of directors formed a hospital task force. They met with city officials about needing an emergency room. They got the voters to pass a millage to support an emergency room. The Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in bringing the first emergency room to Bossier City. That was our first hospital that was completed in the ’70s: Bossier General Hospital.”

Johnson said it takes a lot of elements to shape a successful community. “A business is not going to move to a community if you don’t have the proper health care, if you don’t have a strong education system, if you don’t have those quality of life issues that are needed.” Johnson, who’s been with the chamber for 13 years, noted that there’s more to that mission than just business startups. “It takes all of these elements to make a successful community. The Bossier Chamber has always been instrumental in that and had a seat at the table in those discussions and in those decisions. Seventy years later, we’re still invited to have a seat at the table for those discussions, even though we don’t make those decisions.”

Johnson said the anniversary will be a yearlong celebration focusing on the Chamber’s mission of making the parish prosper.

– Joe Todaro

MORE INFORMATION:

Updates are being made available on the www.bebossier.com Web site and through a video series entitled “Like a Boss.” The main Web site is www.bossierchamber.com.

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