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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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South Louisiana Economic Council CEO Optimistic about 2017

South Louisiana Economic Council CEO Optimistic about 2017

Recently, members of the Lafourche Parish Council (LPC) and the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC) heard some encouraging news from the South Louisiana Economic Council’s (SLEC) CEO Vic Lafont.

Visiting their January public meetings and procuring annual dues to his organization, Lafont told LPC and GLPC that 2017 will be a better year in terms of economic growth and jobs.

Lafont’s organization focuses on the region of St. Mary, Assumption, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, with a goal of increasing development and economic activities within the region and giving advice to businesses.

Touting his “4th Quarter Barometer” and the 2016 job growth, which he said occurred in professional and technical services, utilities, education and IT, Lafont told members of both organizations that he thinks recovery is in sight.

For example, the Louisiana rotary rig count in January 2017 was 50, up 8 from last year’s second half numbers, he said.

“Something’s happening, and it’s not bad,” he said at Tuesday’s council meeting in Mathews.

Lafont called recent changes in Washington part of a “comeback” for our region.

“Garret Graves’ appointment (to the chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment) is huge,” said Lafont.

The committee oversees water resources development and regulatory programs administered by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

U. S. Representative Graves’ official website says his appointment will play a role in shaping legislation to limit the scope and economic damages of agency regulations, shorten the time it takes for projects to be completed and bring efficiency to government.

Such influence has already changed the Corp’s 404 permit process.

That process stalled the Larose Floodwall Project along the Intracoastal Waterway, costing the local levee district (and taxpayers) thousands of dollars in wasted time and contractor mobilization costs when the project was shut down last year.

Also, Republican Congressman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s close ties to newly elected president Donald Trump will go far in helping south Louisiana, said Lafont.

As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Scalise is a leader in pushing for a strong national energy strategy that he says will increase the supply of American oil and natural gas thereby lowering dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Trump’s decision to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines will help the area as well.

“We were counting on a comeback; we didn’t know how fast it might come back,” Lafont concluded.

On Tuesday, the parish council approved SLEC membership dues of $25,000 for 2017. Earlier this month, the Port Commission agreed to membership dues of $10,000.