BRCC evolves to meet economic opportunity

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

EAST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Lawmakers in West and East Feliciana Parishes are teaming up with Baton Rouge Community College to help attract big business to the region. The BRCC Jackson Campus held an open house to share those plans with scholars and students.

Louisiana has been known to sweeten the deal for outsiders looking to do business in the Bayou State, but given the current budget deficit, those incentives are harder to come by. State Representative Kenny Havard of St. Francisville says the state owns 18,000 acres of vacant property in East Feliciana Parish, and lawmakers are hoping this piece of land will be part of the next big thing for the state.

"We don't owe any taxes. It's just sitting there. Maybe instead of offering these big incentive tax packages, we could offer property," Havard said.

Havard says businesses have been taking advantage of land along Highway 61. The natural barrier is slowly disappearing. In the last three years, the town welcomed MidLa, an intrastate shipper and was able to secure two taps in a 19-mile pipeline that runs along the railroad to five miles past the KPAQ paper mill.

"Things are moving. If you were to ask me five years ago if the rail would be up and running, I would have told you no, but it is today," Havard said.

Havard, who has a professional background in industry, says business needs are shifting to a more vocational track. He's encouraging students to take advantage of every opportunity. "Everybody can't be a bean counter. Somebody has to make the beans," Havard said.

The BRCC Jackson campus is undergoing a transformation to help prepare students for those jobs. Chancellor Larissa Steib says that involves being flexible and investing in whatever equipment or technology it takes to start that process inside classrooms.

"We are looking at data like we've never done before. We are looking at the numbers. Where people are hiring, what are the skill sets that are needed, and we are adjusting our curriculum to meet those needs," Steib said.

The real estate is primed for development. Steib says when businesses open their doors, their students will be ready.

Rep. Havard says right now, the area is getting a lot of new leases for businesses in the oil and gas industry.

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