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|Efforts to establish regional economic development organization pick up steam|
Representatives of the two consulting firms that were hired to help establish a new economic development organization in five northeastern Louisiana parishes delivered an update Thursday on the progress of those efforts.
Local business leaders and board members of the soon-to-be disbanded Ouachita Economic Development Corp. met with representatives from Jorgenson Consulting and Resource Development Group. Meeting at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce's offices, they heard reports on the progress those companies have made in searching for a chief executive officer to lead the new regional economic development endeavor. Fundraising efforts to pay for the new economic development organization also were discussed.
That's according Toddy Perry, a Ouachita Parish businessman who is involved in efforts to create the new regional economic development entity. It would serve Jackson, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita and Union parishes.
Besides Perry, five other men are spearheading efforts to establish the new regional organization. They are Ouachita Parish businessman James Moore; James Davison of Ruston; former Senate President Randy Ewing of Quitman; Elton Kennedy of Mer Rouge; and CenturyTel CEO Glen Post.
Perry said he was impressed with the level of interest representatives of the consulting firms encountered during the three days they spent in the region this week.
"There is overwhelming excitement and expectation," said Perry, an environmental consultant and owner Calvert Crossing and Pine Hills golf clubs.
"Electricity is in the air," Perry said.
Perry believes momentum exists to create a regional economic development organization, which, in theory, would replace OEDC. OEDC officials recently announced OEDC would disband, donating its assets and some $180,000 to the new regional economic development group.
"I think the region is very excited and onboard and looking forward to this thing coming together," Perry said.
Mary Ann Newton, president of West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce, shares Perry's optimism. She said she looked forward to working with Jorgenson to find the right person to lead the regional economic development organization.
"The gentleman that was there outlined the executive search procedures," said Newton, who attended the private meeting on Thursday. "He also asked ups what we would like to see and what we would expect to see in a CEO or president."
By providing honest, thorough answers to those questions, Newton said the group would locate the right person for the job.
Fundraising efforts to finance the new regional economic organization will kick off in earnest in August, with a big public push in September, Perry said.
Perry, though, said efforts are underway already to raise money for the new regional entity. So far, some $40,000 has been raised, not counting the $180,000 OEDC says it will turn over the new regional group.
"I anticipate we should be halfway through our fundraising goal by mid-September," Perry said.
Though no timetable has been set to hire a CEO for the regional concern, Perry said he expected Jorgenson would begin fielding candidates in mid-September.
Though it has not been named and does not have a specific revenue source, the new regional economic development organization is responsible for paying Jorgenson Consulting and Resource Development Group, according to Pat Regan, president of OEDC.
Sam Hanna Jr., publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, contributed to this report.