A new economic development masterplan touts St. Tammany Parish’s quality of life as being a factor in attracting business.

By Bob Warren, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

St. Tammany Corp. has unveiled a five-year strategic plan, a major component of the public economic development agency’s rebranding and new focus.

Called “Thrive St. Tammany 2023,’’ the document is roadmap of sorts to help guide the agency’s efforts to attract and retain business, St. Tammany Corp. CEO Chris Masingill said.

He said Wednesday (Feb. 27) that the Board of Commissioners signed off on the plan this week.

“This is a big step,’’ Masingill said. “They want to be proactive. They want to be bold. They want to compete.’’

Masingill noted a couple of surprises in the report.

For instance, nearly half of the parish’s workers, 47 percent, make less than $15 per hour, which he said is lower than many people likely think.

And while 46,020 St. Tammany residents have jobs in the parish, each day nearly 45,700 St. Tammany residents commute to jobs in other parishes or Mississippi.

“I knew we had significant out-migration, but that surprised me,’’ Masingill said.

St. Tammany Corp. needs to do a better job of reframing that out-migration to prospective businesses as talented parish residents who would rather have jobs in St. Tammany, he said.

While the parish depends on the greater region, Masingill said, it doesn’t have to settle for always being a bedroom community.

“This place really can be positioned to drive economic development for the state,’’ he said.

Two consulting companies, Vision First Advisors and Economic Leadership, teamed up to crunch data and gather input from community members during focus groups and town hall meetings. Those findings are the basis of the masterplan.

Masingill had announced the creation of the masterplan last September at the time the agency announced it was changing its from the St. Tammany Parish Economic Development District. Masingill was named CEO of the agency last May.

Masingill said St. Tammany Corp.’s board has allocated up to $150,000 on creating the plan and moving forward on it. The effort will include a new website launching in April, an economic development summit in the summer and a new marketing push.

St. Tammany Corp.’s main funding, around $1 million annually, comes from state hotel-motel taxes, Masingill said. Fully implementing the plan will require ramping that up by an additional $300,000-$400,000 over the next five years, possibly from the private sector, he said.

  • Here are some other findings in the report:
  • St. Tammany has a median household of nearly $64,000, which is above the national average and among highest in Louisiana.
  • St. Tammany among the top five most educated parishes in Louisiana.
  • The parish is regarded as having a high quality of life and being a great place to raise a family.
  • As regional companies look to locate near where their management lives, St. Tammany can position itself as “an emerging regional hub for business services.’’
  • Proximity to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East is a strength that St. Tammany Corp. should exploit.
  • St. Tammany Corp. should recruit technology start-ups or regional offices that are seeking to leverage federal procurement opportunities at Michoud and Stennis.
  • Other targets should be legacy industries such as oil and gas production and emerging technology businesses.