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|Officials in Washington for marathon 'party'|
Local officials are in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Louisiana's congressional delegation to lobby for federal funding for local projects.
The annual lobbying trip coincides with Washington Mardi Gras. It is an annual event hosted by the state's congressional delegation and the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians. Congressman Rodney Alexander is chairman of the 2009 Washington Mardi Gras ball.
Washington Mardi Gras features a host of parties on Capitol Hill, which span some three days. The parties are largely funded by corporations that lobby Congress on tax and trade issues.
Attending Washington Mardi Gras from Monroe are Red Stevens, president of the Monroe City Council; Arthur Gilmore, Monroe City Council member; Ouachita Parish police juror Pat Moore; Isaac White, Isaac White Realty and chairman of the Monroe chamber; Doug Salter, ANGUS Chemical and vice president of the chamber's governmental division; Terry Baugh and James Jones, Ouachita Terminals; Sue Nicholson, president and CEO for the Monroe chamber; and Lori Reneau, Monroe chamber executive vice president.
Nicholson said projects that will be discussed with the state's congressional delegation include the new terminal at the Monroe Regional Airport, infrastructure enhancements at the Ouachita Parish port, sewer and wastewater improvements for the city of Monroe and various projects concerning the University of Louisiana-Monroe. She said the projects in question would provide support to many local businesses throughout the region.
The chamber also supports the addition of the advanced manufacturing center at Louisiana Delta Community College.
"As we meet with our delegates, we will be discussing the importance of these projects to our existing employers and how they can help us attract new business to the area," Nicholson said.
Last week, the Monroe chamber helped facilitate a meeting of the Regional Workforce Development Planning Task Force. The task force is charged with developing a plan to improve the workforce of northeast Louisiana.
"While at times the task seems daunting, the members are committed towards working together to make needed changes," Nicholson said. "The task force understands that just as infrastructure is critical to getting goods and services to market, a skilled workforce is critical to helping our businesses become more efficient and productive so that they can create new jobs."
"The group also understands that a great workforce is rooted in a strong education system," Nicholson continued. "Obviously, with an average 47 percent drop out rate (of high school students) for the northeast Louisiana region, we have a lot of work to do to bring our education up to the level that we need it to be.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are to create the globally competitive community that we want to be. That work will be made more difficult with the current state of the economy. But, our community has weathered many storms and we will weather this one, too. The good news is that there are always new opportunities even in difficult times. Together we can identify them and together we can improve our community."
The Washington Mardi Gras lobbying trip is one of two the Monroe chamber makes every year to discuss long- term community projects with elected officials and members of their staff.
The group from Monroe was scheduled to meet with members of the state's congressional delegation and their staffs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The Monroe delegation also was scheduled to meet with Rodney Slater, former Secretary of Transportation. Slater is a lobbyist who works for the lobbying firm Patton Boggs.
The Monroe chamber pays Patton Boggs thousands of dollars each year to represent the chamber in Washington. Patton Boggs also represents the city of Monroe.
Norma Krayem and Matthew Ford of Patton Boggs were scheduled to meet with the Monroe group to review several area projects, including the Monroe Regional Airport terminal, the Ouachita Parish Port and the new vivarium at ULM.
"This visit and the one we make in June are important to keep the entire Louisiana congressional delegation updated and informed about projects in Ouachita Parish," said chamber chairman White. "We have to work in concert with the elected officials and their staffs in order to see progress," White said. "The discussions we have with the congressional delegation will be about finding long- term solutions for the development of our community."
The group will return to Monroe Friday, following an economic development luncheon, which was scheduled to be hosted by chambers of commerce from throughout the state, including the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. Louisiana Economic Development Corp. also hosted the luncheon.