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|Speakers say appearances vital in economic development|
Community leaders and public officials must work daily to keep their areas clean and attractive as they actively try to promote their regions to potential business and industry.
Del Boyette, an economic development consultant from Atlanta, Ga., made those remarks Thursday during the annual state conference of Keep Louisiana Beautiful. The event is being held through Friday, Aug. 22, at the West Monroe Convention Center.
Boyette said communities which are successful in economic development are ones that "create clean, sustainable, environmentally friendly areas."
Businesses and industry representatives also look for places where their employees would want to live, raise their families and eventually call home when they retire, according to Boyette.
Those are the communities that land $50-million investments from a new auto manufacturer or steel mill, Boyette said.
Typically, when businesses and industry look for a new community in which to locate, they narrow their options to two or three locations. Those are the communities that already possess good educational systems, skilled workers, a perfect site and an environment where their businesses will succeed.
Boyette said business representatives that are in the hunt for a community to locate in look for anything remotely negative that would eliminate an area to investment in as those representatives narrow their list of candidates.
That is when something as simple as intersections that appear less than desirable or overgrown grass along highways eliminates a community from consideration.
"You have the responsibility of getting your house in order on a daily basis, to make sure that you can be the most competitive," Boyette explained. "When you're selling your house, you mow your lawn, plant flowers, remove the clutter, weed-eat, edge, paint. It's the same thing with economic development.
"You can't be successful unless your community and your state are prepared to be sold. You are competing with others, just like when your house is on the market, it's competing with the one down the street. But, unfortunately today, with economic development, you're competing globally."
Boyette said local leaders must consider what their communities look like, and must be ready to show off the community at a moment's notice.
"If you're an elected official and you want to be in the economic development business, then you've got to think of your community and your state being an open house every day," he said.
Boyette said companies will not make millions of dollars in investments in a community that they consider trashy and unkempt.
Former Senate President Randy Ewing, who introduced Boyette at the conference, agreed beautification efforts were closely associated with success in economic development.
"It's all about the things that create an environment that is attractive to the people who make decisions on where they place a company," Ewing said. "The things that contribute to that are education, what kind of opportunities you have in recreation, what care you take for your parks and your neighborhoods, if you keep your streets clean, and have pride about yourself."
"Those things don't just happen like that," Ewing continued. "You have to work diligently and constantly to keep them in place. We've got to create a culture of cleanliness that is based on a culture of care."
"That's what economic development grows from," Ewing added.
Ewing worked with Keep Louisiana Beautiful to pass legislation, which is known today as the litter law.
"What that did was let us address effectively those who do not want to be responsible, who do not want to join us in retaining the beauty of this state and protect it," Ewing explained. "That's a good law, and it's starting to take effect. People are getting ticketed for throwing trash, letting it blow out of their pickup, and that's a good thing. You have to have a penalty on people who won't be good citizens, who won't be responsible."
The annual conference will continue Friday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with welcome announcements from Ouachita Parish police juror Mack Calhoun.
Robert Barham, secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is keynote speaker on Friday.