New ideas could come from within

Published 7:11 am Friday, August 19, 2016

Bogalusa has got a plenty going for it. Most obviously, we have a manufacturing facility, we have rail access, safe communities, a community college and we’re within a stone’s throw of New Orleans. We are not as without resources like a small town located miles from anywhere. We’re not as without resources like the thousands of dying farm communities across the country.

But our city is facing some of the same problems as every other city in rural America. Our population is declining. Our taxpayer base is shrinking. There is a lack of quality, middle-class jobs.

Some of these problems compound on themselves. The declining population leads to a more empty, forgotten homes and all this leads to a shrinking tax base, which leads to worsening streets and a decline in public amenities.

What we need now are creative solutions. The uncomfortable fact is that traditional paths of community growth will not work. We cannot sit still and wait for outsiders to discover and invest in Bogalusa, when thousands of communities across the country are working hard to make their towns stand out and appeal to businessmen, investors and families.

Some of these solutions could come from the Louisiana Municipal Association, the group that is helping Bogalusa clean up some of the weedy, overgrown lots in the city with new ordinances. We should develop a close relationship with the LMA, because the association has experts who know what can work in Louisiana communities, and they know what cannot work. In addition, the city’s agreement with CivicSource is already paying off and could provide young, first-time homeowners with affordable options for a home within arm’s reach of a good-sized city.

But in addition, our city leadership needs to think about what the city needs to offer and what it needs to look like to attract new residents and new industry. Across the river, Picayune has targeted retirees in a bid to market themselves as a retirement community. As such, the city has worked to provide amenities attractive to that demographic. Memphis, a city with a bad decline in population, is trying to attract younger residents and so the city has made an effort to provide bike lanes in streets, farmer’s markets, and they’ve developed a significant “rails to trails” park along an old railroad easement.

Not every solution requires costly investments. Again, bike lanes are inexpensive and studies have shown they lead to safer streets. Roundabouts, too, improve safety and traffic flow and reduce the need for traffic lights and traffic officers.

But beyond that, our city leaders need to be open to any and all possibilities. Our city won’t stand out by merely adopting popular ideas from other cities — though we should still adopt those ideas. No, we need our own ideas.

Several weeks ago, the Franklinton Chamber of Commerce hosted a business after hours event. The idea is that a different business will host a small gathering once a month. Usually light refreshments are served, along with wine, beer and tea, and members of the community come together and talk for an hour or two. The chamber will usually kick off the event, introduce a speaker for the month (a new business owner or a city council person who has an announcement), this person will chat for maybe 10 minutes and then a group of typically younger professionals will just mingle.

These events are usually aimed at younger professionals, as they’re the ones with the energy and free time to attend these sorts of events. These events are popular, fun and easy ways to generate new ideas and spread the word on new projects. Bogalusa should start a similar program.

If we’re serious about working together, it seems like at the very least we could socialize together.


Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can email him at or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.