The St. Tammany Corporation Board of Commissioners announced recently its unanimous approval of an economic development plan that it hopes will be a road map to greater prosperity in the parish.
“Thrive St. Tammany 2023” is a five-year blueprint that is the result of work that began in earnest in September 2018. A team of economic development leaders gathered input from across the parish during Town Hall-style meetings, focus groups and a public survey to determine the wants and needs of the parish’s citizens and the directions to take to achieve their goals.
The findings were presented to the board of commissioners in December and a plan was drafted.
“Thrive 2023,” as the plan is referred to in short, is a four-pronged approach. It includes:
• Conducting economic analysis that identifies the parish’s strengths and opportunities, as well as industries to target for relocation or expansion.
• An audit of St. Tammany Corporation’s own organizational infrastructure, to better ensure optimum efficiency within the group and in its public functions to work for parish citizens.
• Identifying core economic development activities, such as programs and initiatives to begin and/or support, serve and fund.
• Creating a proactive marketing strategy with both internal and external messaging to engage multiple audiences.
Thrive 2023 will begin with, among other items, the launch of a marketing and communications plan to bring St. Tammany Parish into the sight lines of companies that might be good business fits for the parish. Retention of existing business is key, as is sensitivity to the way of life of St. Tammany residents.
Talent retention and creation of job opportunities is key to the plan’s success, and an educational economic summit is in the works to keep the right people talking about how to grow St. Tammany in the right way, said St. Tammany Corporation CEO Chris Masingill.
“We are redefining economic development in St. Tammany so we can be more competitive, dynamic and transformational,” he said. “We want our businesses, people and communities to thrive. Our Board of Commissioners supporting and approving this strategic plan is pivotal for how we implement our program of work in every effort to promote St. Tammany Parish as a business destination and to enhance the quality of life for its residents and communities.”
The St. Tammany Parish Development District, a political subdivision of the state, itself was created in 1992 to foster business development and advance sustainable commerce. From 1992-2017, its board of commissioners’ chief function was to issue bonds to business development projects.
The St. Tammany Corporation was created in 2017 by the Louisiana Legislature. Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, introduced Senate Bill 99 in April 2017, and the bill that created the corporation was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in June of the same year.
According to a spokesperson for parish government, the bill was drafted in consultation with St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, members of the Parish Council, the former parish Economic Development Foundation and others. The EDF was dissolved in December 2017 and St. Tammany Corporation began Jan. 1, 2018 and assumed the role of the lead economic development organization for the parish.
The corporation, which works independently of parish government, currently has a staff of six people and an annual budget of about $1.2 million that is supplied by a state tax on hotel/motel occupants in St. Tammany Parish.
Masingill, who was hired as CEO in May 2018 after a five-month long search, previously served as federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, whose mission was to create jobs and be a community builder throughout an eight-state region of the Mississippi River Delta.
In his seven years as co-chair, the DRA leveraged more than $90 million in DRA funds into nearly $1.6 billion in total private- and public-sector investments in the communities it served. More than 5,700 jobs were created in that time and nearly 3,000 workers received training that readied them for 21st Century employment.
To learn more about the St. Tammany Corporation and to download the Thrive St. Tammany 2023 economic development strategic plan, executive summary and accompanying economic analysis, go online to www.sttammanycorp.org.