Selling North Louisiana
NLEP’s new president sees great business potential
The North Louisiana Economic Partnership has a new head cheerleader. Justyn Dixon was recently named NLEP’s new president. He comes eager to assist the partnership in recruiting jobs and investment to the 14 parishes that make up the north Louisiana region.
“One of the things that I’m going to be doing,” Dixon said, “and the reason that they brought me on, is to identify and help develop sites that are as ready as they can possibly be so that when companies or site consultants come here, we’ve mitigated a lot of the risk on the front end.”
Dixon explained that the “front end risk” was generating too many “no’s.” When company officials who are scouting for a new place to locate come to a prospective site, they’re looking for a no. “They’ve got their checklist, and when they find a no or enough no’s, they’re gone. They’re finding a reason not to pick you versus a reason to pick you.” To combat the no game, Dixon said his team is planning to control the potential property for the new company — either owning it or holding an option on it, developing the infrastructure needed to service the property — like roads, power, water and sewerage, and communication.
He’s been on the job here slightly over a month, but Dixon likes what he’s seen in the region.
“You have a lot of stuff here that you can’t replicate, or that it’s really expensive to replicate. You have multiple interstates. You have multiple Class-1 rail lines. You had a navigable waterway. You had multiple power companies. You have people. You have two MSAs [metropolitan statistical areas] on each end of this 14-parish territory. You pile that in with 11 universities to train the workforce that these new companies need, you had a lot of things that were there to win. You throw in what’s going on with the Port of Caddo-Bossier, which has really set itself up to be successful, and I felt very confident that we could be very successful in recruiting new business and industry into the area,” Dixon said. “I’m excited to be here.”
He’s coming from Mississippi, where he represented a private developer working with economic development organizations. He said that when he was being considered for the NLEP presidency, he told the board his mission was two-fold. “We’re going to identify and develop the best available sites. Whether it be a green field, open land or an existing building. Then, you go out there, and you market it.
You identify the site consultants that have projects that we’re familiar with. And then you pound the pavement.”
He’s used to pounding the pavement. In his previous job, he spent between 75 and a hundred nights a year in hotels. “We just need to go out there and tell our own message from north Louisiana. Let’s go tell these consultants, these companies, what we have to offer versus waiting for Baton Rouge or somebody else to tell our story for us.”
When he talked with 318 Forum, he was on the road selling north Louisiana. “My intent is to be in front of these site consultants and with these companies with regularity telling them all the assets and benefits of locating in north Louisiana.
“You start building a network of these people who are in the know. You start using that network to see who’s got what project. Who’s busy. Who’s not. This is what we do. We know who has the projects. We know which companies are expanding. We know which companies may be looking in the area, or you try to. Then you go, and you attack those opportunities.”
Dixon said he’s blessed with a staff at NLEP that’s “second to none. They’re going to allow me the time to go and identify these sites. Allow me to get them truly project ready and then go out there and sing them to the masses.”
Dixon admits that he got an unexpected boost as he stepped into the spotlight. “We were very fortunate to have the Amazon announcement, which I had nothing to do with — make sure you put that in there. It reinvigorates the community. We are in a good spot. We can be chosen by a big company. Once you start getting a few of those wins, success begets success.”
And he noted that the area has the potential workforce companies are looking for as employees. “I think in the entire 14-parish area, it’s something like 700,000+ people. We’ve got the people here. We’ve just got to go and tell the story about how these 11 colleges and universities can train them.
Let’s go find the well-paying jobs, the goodpaying jobs, that are going to cause these people to step up in their career.”