Goodbye 2014, with all of your politics, economics and varied events. Personally, it was a year that I will never forget; all for the wrong reasons. But, from it sprang “hope” for the future; a new beginning that starts with the New Year of 2015.
2015 promises to be the beginning of economic boom and major political change for Southwest Louisiana. It should impact Calcasieu and the five surrounding parishes. The Chamber SWLA has been advising us about the economics of the next five to ten years and the 80+ billion of capital dollars ready to be spent here. Count the zero’s, that’s $ 80,000,000,000.00.
There will be upward of 5,000 to 20,000 new construction workers descending upon Southwest Louisiana, depending upon when each project is approved and construction begins. Estimates range from 1,200 to 2,000 permanent new jobs to be created at an average salary of $60-70,000 each. The sheer volume of new arrivals will strain all our facilities: highways, streets, housing, hotels, stores, parking spaces, and, even our schools, churches, hospitals and doctors’ offices. And 2015 is just the “advanced party”, the main army of workers will soon follow.
On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced the return of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. That also signals the end of the Cuban “trade embargo” and the possibility of renewing trade to Cuba. This has re-stirred an interest within the South Louisiana rice growing community. Cubans eat a lot of rice and could be valuable “new” market. This “idea” was kicked-around in 2006-2007, when Louisiana rice farmers asked Congress to look into the possibility of trade with Cuba. 3rd District Congressman Charlie Melancon and 7th District Congressman Charles Boustany approached the possibility. But the initiative quietly disappeared after Boustany resigned his seat on the House Agriculture Committee. Maybe, 2015 will yield a better outcome for Louisiana rice farmers.
Politically, 2015 will be a banner year. In November, all State-wide offices are up for election. That includes the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, State Secretaries, and all members of the Legislature. This provides an excellent opportunity for the people to again “speak” all across Louisiana. The Governor’s race has already become crowded with Senator David Vitter and Lt. Governor Jay Darden, both Republicans, and Democrat John Bel Edwards announcing. Others are waiting in the wings; there could be some surprises. With Governor Jindal ineligible for re-election, 2015 will definitely be a year for a change in direction for Louisiana.
In Southwest Louisiana, several legislators are term limited; others will face opposition. House Speaker Chuck Kleckley and Moss Bluff Representative Brett Geymann cannot seek re-election. Both will be sorely missed, as they have served SWLA well and leave great records of achievement. North Lake Charles Legislator A. B. Franklin already has opposition as (former Representative) retired Judge Wilfred Carter has begun placing political signs all over town. The Senate races are still taking shape. It’s possible that Leesville Senator John Smith could face the same opponents from 2011, should he decide to run again. We will just have to wait to see what unfolds.
Yes, 2015, will be an interesting year. Don’t blink; you may miss something.