December 20, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Site selector: Leesville, Vernon has potential for growth
LEESVILLE–Let’s Grow Vernon took another step toward completing its goal of creating a strategic economic development plan for Leesville and Vernon Parish Wednesday, Dec. 19, by hosting a site selector consultant for most of the day.
Dr. Robert Pittman, of Janus Economics, LLC, and a nationally respected authority on community development, not only helps companies determine the best place to locate, but also helps communities discover what they need in order to attract business and industry.
Pittman was not representing an industry or business on his visit to Leesville, though members of Let’s Grow Vernon, including Leesville Mayor Robert Rose, Parish President Jim Tuck, and Chamber of Commerce Director Anne Causey, treated the visit as such, gaining valuable experience for the next time a new business or industry begins courting the area.
Pittman’s visit is one that can be replicated and fine-tuned for any site selector who is considering Leesville or Vernon Parish as a potential location. In fact, site selectors, relying heavily on confidentiality, rarely give much warning of their visits, so it’s essential for a community to have a plan in place, including representatives, documents, touring facilities and an agenda, that that can be deployed a moment’s notice.
Pittman’s visit began at 9:30 a.m., with coffee and pastries with community representatives, including Causey, Tuck, Rose and other parish and city administrators.
Also along for the ride was Skip Smart, Director of Community
Competiteveness at Louisiana Economic Development, which provided Pittman’s visit.
“The reason he visits is to give an outsider’s perspective,” said Smart. Pittman looks at the community from the perspective of a business prospect, and provides valuable information the community can use as it looks toward growth.
A two hour “windshield tour” of Leesville showed Pittman all of the city’s assets, including educational facilities, the airport, a housing development, downtown, historic homes and the area along La. 467 to Fort Polk, which recently won state funding for millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.
After the windshield tour, Pittman met with area business leaders to discuss the business climate here. Then, over lunch with committee members of Let’s Grow Vernon, Pittman discussed some of his findings.
Pittman told those gathered that often businesses are so overwhelmed with location prospects, that they look for reasons to eliminate places.
“I saw no reason to eliminate today,” he said, complementing Leesville and the parish on its great downtown, its historic homes and its educational system.
He noted that transportation and natural resources were also assets, although water systems in the area are in need of improvement. Work force development is a challenge in Leesville and Vernon as it is in most communities. It’s very important, he said that a business knows a community can match its workforce needs.
They need a community that can grow with them,” he said.
While the three industrial buildings that are available in Leesville are a good start, Pittmanrecommended that a pad-ready site would be a good addition, since not all businesses would necessarily be able to utilize the buildings that are already standing.
Pittman also noted that the unification between the city and the parish is of great value. Workforces and utilities don’t often respect jurisdictional lines, and businesses not only appreciate communities that work together but can sense tense atmospheres.
The bottom line, said Pittman, is that Leesville and Vernon Parish has many building blocks in place for development, with lots of potential.
“You will be what you decide to be,” he said, referring to Vernon Parish as a blank slate.
“Embrace the process,” of planning, he said, encouraging the city and the parish to work together. “The biggest challenge is making up your mind about what you want to be.”
Pittman will provide the city with a detailed assessment soon after his visit, which will provide parish and city leaders with information about the community’s strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of an outside expert. Pittman’s report will form the basis for future decision making concerning next steps toward economic development.