General Dynamics’ decision a boost to local economy

Published 3:23 pm Friday, April 4, 2014

When General Dynamics Information Technology announced in February it would be closing its Bogalusa call center on April 25, city and parish officials tried to put a positive spin on the news.

But really, there was not much positive about the loss of 600-plus jobs.

Just six months prior, General Dynamics had become operational in Bogalusa. City, parish and state officials touted the opening as a huge, positive economic boom for the area.

The call center was contracted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and it was opened to provide answers and support to people across the country who were enrolling in new coverage programs through the health insurance marketplace. CMMS said because enrollment lasts for a limited time, hiring under contracts was seasonal, in this case from October 2013 through March 2014. And while some call centers received new contracts for other products, some, including Bogalusa and a center in Houston, received closure notices.

Despite the news, Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell and Washington Economic Development Foundation Director Ryan Seal held out a slight am-ount of hope General Dynamics would remain. And so did federal leaders in Washington, D.C., who went to work trying to convince the company to stay.

U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu, as well as Congressman Vance McAllister, who represents the 5th Congressional District that includes Washington Parish, spoke with General Dynamics representatives, urging them to remain after reports of the successful work done at the center.

“This is excellent news for the city of Bogalusa and the hundreds of high-quality workers employed by General Dynamics whose jobs are now saved,” McAllister said. “I’m pleased that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services saw how important this is to my district and the state of Louisiana.”

Obviously, we all are pleased with the decision made this week. The impact of those 600 workers who were losing their jobs was going to be significant. Now, instead of falling further into the economic doldrums, our area can continue to see growth.