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Monday, June 28, 2021

Mouton Takes The Helm

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Tasked with solving city’s economic woes

Who knew being an advisor to the president of Haiti and working with the Australian Ministry of Defense were qualifications to become Shreveport’s director of economic development?

Drew Mouton. That’s who. The 49-year-old, divorced father of five (three girls, two boys) has a resume’ lined with work as an entrepreneur and in areas of government, higher education, and most recently, health care. But Mouton is confident his not-so-obvious economic experience intersects with what the city needs to grow its economy.

“There are two themes that are consistent across about 30 years of being an adult,” Mouton said. “I’ve been creating jobs one way or the other. I started out as an entrepreneurial job creator. And the other big one is that I — maybe as a matter of character — tend to look for problems that I think I can solve, then try to build solutions.”

Mouton’s solutions to solving Shreveport’s economic “problems” include creating more jobs, raising the average wage and growing the tax base. “This is what I expect to accomplish here,” Mouton said, “certainly not by myself, but as the champion for an integrated economic development approach from the city. I feel very confident that’s the mayor’s perspective as well.”

In other words, Mouton’s goal is to get various economic stakeholders moving in the same direction.

“You have to think about a way to get more done with less — and faster,” Mouton said. “Having that baked into my character and personality, and coming to a place like the city, where I’m looking at a real smorgasbord of people and resources and great things, I’m kind of giddy some days, frankly, at all of the things we have to work with here. I feel pretty optimistic that we will get some great things done.”

Mouton is not from Shreveport. That’s the easy part. The hard part is determining where he is from.

“I have about nine generations of family in Southwest Louisiana, going back to Jean Mouton, who gets credit for founding the city (of Lafayette),” Mouton said. He was “conceived” in New Orleans, born in California, and mostly grew up outside of Detroit, Mich. Mouton found his way to Tulane University in New Orleans, where he earned, among other degrees, a master’s in global management. Mouton stayed in the Crescent City for 30 years before moving to Shreveport three years ago. He worked first at LSUS, then at LSU Health Shreveport.

“We (the mayor and I) sat down,” Mouton said, “had a couple of conversations and recognized that my broad background, although not directly reflective of the typical economic development path, nonetheless touched most of the things I think the mayor felt were necessary to develop a more comprehensive economic development department.”

Mouton is a self-described person who gets things done. “That is something I embrace as part of my objective in life and a set of skills I have worked hard to develop,” Mouton said.

Angie White agrees. As chief operating officer of North Louisiana Economic Partnership, White got to know Mouton before he moved to Shreveport. As their acquaintance grows, so does her respect for Mouton’s talents.

“What I have learned about him that I think will benefit him in the job he is now is that he is very driven when he has a goal to accomplish,” White said. “He is very mission-oriented. He is very focused whenever there is something that needs to be done.”

“He’s very good about when going into a meeting and finding out what is the real issue,” White added. “What’s the thing we really need to solve, and how do we develop a plan around that? I think he will be good at breaking down some silos that may exist in city government and where city and parish governments may have some overlap. I think he has a really good skill set for breaking down silos and getting more collaboration in place.”

While Mouton is positive and upbeat, he is not blind to Shreveport’s economic challenges, including one created by many who live in Shreveport.

“I was introduced early on to this idea of Shreveport-itis,” Mouton said. “There are different characterizations of what that means. But I think it’s fair to say we have a self-esteem issue here in the community, and there’s some natural reason for it. The one that comes up most often is this comparison of the 1950s, where Shreveport and Dallas were essentially on the same level. The Dallas trajectory is certainly not on the same level as what Shreveport’s has been over the last 70 years.”

But that was then, and this is now. “We here, I think both in the city and the region, don’t have a particularly strong and visible cultural identity,” Mouton said. “These things sometimes make us forget who we are, what our purpose is and what we’re great at. I do think that maybe that’s not something the city, or here in the Office of Economic Development, I can solve. But, helping us understand what it is we are great at, and being able to promote that, is certainly something that is on my to-do list, in terms of gathering a group together that can try and address that challenge as well.”

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