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Article: "The Silent Engine"

Home >> News >> Article: "The Silent Engine"
Author: 
Sean Green - BIZ. Magazine
Sean Green with BIZ. Magazine sat down with Executive Port Director, Eric England, to discuss how the Port of Caddo-Bossier is quietly impacting the area's economy. The story can be found here.
 
When it comes to Shreveport-Bossier’s economic generators, it’s easy to point to Barksdale Air Force Base, LSU Health Science Center, or Willis-Knighton, but there is a silent engine for NWLA that has brought in more than $1B. The Port of Caddo Bossier has been a steady producer for the local economy over the past three decades and is looking to grow over the next few.
 
The Port Commission was created in 1962 as a governmental body that runs the port as a business, which means as a hybrid organization, it has to meet both public- and profit-oriented goals. Their public goals are job creation and dollar investment. Their profit goal is simple: ROI.
 
“It means our focus cannot be lopsided on one side or the other,” said Executive Port Director Eric England. “For example, the bottom line is a constant. We’ve made the commitment to create jobs but the tax payers of Bossier and Caddo look to us to run the organization so that is profitable and yields a good investment.”
 
The citizens of Caddo and Bossier Parishes have contributed $80M since 1993 through a 2.5 mills dedicated property tax. The return has totaled more than $1.5 billion. Even the public funds ROI is still just under $200M. England notes, “That shows the commissioners have been wise stewards of the public’s investment.”
 
The land the Port sits on now was purchased in 1980 and the bulk of expansion has only occurred in the last decade. Now, only 700 acres of the 2,300 owned remains for development (with only 145 acres continuous, which limits options when it comes to employers).
 
Moving forward, the Port is looking at 18 candidate sites in both Bossier and Caddo Parishes to add another 3,000 acres over the next several decades. There is the desire to have at least two 500-acres tracts — referred to as mega-sites (i.e. Benteler Steel, General Motors, etc.) — 1,000 acres for smaller developments divided into 50 acres each. The remaining acreage will be consumed by infrastructure. The estimated price tag is $30M to $60M.
 
England said the Port’s goal for 2016 is to make significant headway on acquiring property and setting forth the next generation on the path to growth and development. “We know it will take time to develop, but we have to start the process.”
 
The search for land is underway now. England said the Commission is exploring all of its options, but the future of growth is dependent on the citizens of Caddo and Bossier, saying, “We will need the renewal of the property tax for funds to purchase and develop the property.”
 
“(The new land) isn’t solely for recruitment. There is industry in our town that have expansion opportunities and that new acreage could be viable for them. There are also expansion plans for our current tenants,” he added.
 
Throughout a longterm vision, years of investment, and patience for development, England applauded the citizens of Caddo and Bossier Parishes for their support.
 
“We’re thankful and we’re proud of what they have helped us accomplish. Our 17 tenants and customers are the lifeblood of our operation and we’re proud of their accomplishments and want them to grow. We have an eye on the future and we want to duplicate the model for the next generation.”