I grew up in Hathaway, Louisiana, on a rice and soybean farm. If you have driven through Hathaway, you know it isn’t a large place and you probably didn’t even have to stop for long since we don’t have a red light. But, to someone in China, in Russia or even in Jackson, Mississippi, Hathaway is Jennings and Jennings is Lake Charles and Lake Charles is part of that corner of the state on your way to Baton Rouge or Houston.
While we may all be rivals on the football fields at high schools around the region, in business we are all partners in our economy. Today the world is shifting. It has been for some time. Our customers are down the road, in the next town and across the world. We have to take into account while we are all vying for the next deal that we are not only competition with each other, but with everyone else in the world that does what we do. We just need to prove that we can do it better – together.
For the past 16 years, I have been on the Jefferson Davis Parish School Board. I have realized over this time that what I knew when I graduated high school is now what they are learning in 5th grade. With instant messaging, kids type better with their thumbs then I do with both hands. The quote "It's a small world" has never meant more than it does now.
We need to think of ourselves as a mega-region. We have to work with our counterparts in Southeast Texas and on over to Acadiana on the issues we face as Gulf Coast Communities. We need to work together to improve our roadways and waterways. We need to work together to improve the education and training we are providing for our children. We need to cross-promote our regional strengths and resources. When someone across the world is interested in opening a new facility they are looking at our resources, how we are going to get their goods in and out to the world and our pool of workers and their level of education and skills. To them, we are Beaumont, Sulphur, Lake Charles, Jennings and DeRidder. And, we are in good company.
The world is getting smaller and we need to step up – as a region – and take advantage of everything we have to offer and to build upon this great foundation for a stronger Gulf Coast.
For the past five years, the Alliance has been working towards these goals. We have been aligning with Southeast Texas on the issues which face our communities. We have gone with them to Washington, D.C. and met with our delegations about Gulf Coast issues and Hurricane related concerns.
In January, the Alliance signed an International Trade Partnership Agreement with Acadiana. Lafayette Mayor Joey Durel and Phillippe Gustin of the Centre International de Lafayette met with Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam and members of the Alliance’s Boards and staff in Jennings at Jeff Davis’ Economic Development Offices. Together, we will cross-promote our two regions internationally and go on cooperative global trade missions to draw interest and jobs to our region.
The foundation is already there. We just need to build upon it.
Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative