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Monday, Nov. 5, 2018

Economic Report


Not so good for Northwest Louisiana

LSU professor Dr. Loren Scott is renowned for his economic outlook reports on the Louisiana economy. To many, Scott is “the bible” for economic planners.

And guess what? The recent report was not particularly favorable for Shreveport-Bossier. Actually, Caddo, Bossier, Webster and DeSoto parishes are in the Shreveport-Bossier Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Except for slight growth of shale, the number of jobs in Shreveport-Bossier MSA has been declining since 2008, losing 13,500 jobs.

This is the fourth-largest MSA in the state based on non-farm employment. The top three MSAs are New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

Scott predicts that starting this year Shreveport-Bossier will begin two years of moderate growth. Job growth in this MSA should be 1,300 this year and 1,500 next year.

If achieved, this would only rank Shreveport-Bossier as the fifth fastestgrowing MSA in the state and the fourth in absolute jobs gained. The addition of Webster Parish to the MSA is part of the projected job growth.

Scott identifies several areas that will boost the local economy.

The first is an ongoing rebound in Haynesville Shale drilling. The completion of the CNG terminals in south Louisiana and the state’s extensive pipeline system are key factors.

Much like Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the high-tech sector is growing here. The establishment of CSRA and its growth is a good example. Another is the first Tier II data center in Louisiana that is housed in the old Selber Bros. department store – Eatel/Venyu.

The Port is also a key economic engine.

Benteler Steel opened in 2017, and it has recently expanded its operations with the rebound in drilling. Steel producer Ternium has added employees and has recently announced a $14.7 million expansion.

Barksdale Air Force Base is a constant major employer with both military personnel and civilian employees. Gains in both areas are expected along with large on-base construction projects. The now-funded entrance from I-20 near the racetrack will further economic development in the area.

Shreveport-Bossier MSA has the highest concentration of durable goods manufacturing in the state. This MSA area is more susceptible to national economics, including recessions, than the state’s other eight MSAs.

Closures that have hurt this area include AT&T, Beaird Industries, General Motors, Georgia Pacific plywood plant, Verizon call center and Capital One Bank call center and branch closings.

Shreveport-Bossier is the home of the state’s largest and most successful casino markets. The casinos and casino hotels are labor intensive, which is a positive and a negative.

Increased competition from the Indian casinos has tapped into the Dallas-Fort Worth market and hurt the local market. Over the last two years this sector has lost over 1,000 jobs from 2014-2017. This MSA will get a little extra boost from the state road lettings over 2018-19. Total letting will be $182.4 million, a $29.6 million increase over last year’s report.

Four of the bigger projects include $24 million for LA 531 overpass bridge replacement; a new $19 million rest area at Ida; $15.1 million to widen Swan Lake Road from I-20 to Flat River; and $14.7 million to overlay I-20 from the Texas state line to near Monkhouse Drive.

Shreveport-Bossier has long been the health-care center for the northern half of the state.

With the partnership of Ochsner Health Care System and LSU Health Shreveport, there will be expansion in health-care employment. Ochsner has announced that there will also be extensions of services and renovations of facilities.

Additionally, a health-care provider is negotiating with the city of Bossier to purchase city-owned property in old downtown Bossier. The expansion of Medicare and Medicaid has increased the pool of persons eligible for health-care services.

Although not part of Scott’s report, a recent WalletHub study confirms much of Scott’s findings. The study ranked Shreveport second-to-last in the nation for economic growth this year — 514 out of 515 cities that were scored. The breakdown of mid-sized cities listed Shreveport as dead last at 249.

WalletHub utilized 15 metrics. These included overall lowest income growth, population growth, working-age population growth and job growth.

WalletHub is often criticized by economic development gurus. However, it ranked Shreveport number one out of 150 cities to start a business in 2015. And in 2016, Shreveport was ranked 18th.

Leaving all the numbers behind, it’s hard to find many in this area that are excited about job growth and the local economy. Many are concerned that the four-parish MSA does not really reflect the Shreveport economy, since many of the jobs are added in Bossier, Webster and DeSoto parishes.

John Settle’s articles appear in local publications and on his blog Settletalk.com. His email is john@jesettle.com.


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