SW La. prepares for industry expansions

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LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Two major studies have been launched to assess how community leaders can best prepare Southwest Louisiana for the multibillion-dollar industry expansions planned for the next decade.

The American Press reports (http://bit.ly/1eOXZNb ) more than 70 business and community leaders met at the SEED Center on Wednesday to learn about the Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study and the Southwest Louisiana Regional Housing Strategic Plan.

Conducted by CSRS, an engineering, architectural and program management firm based in Baton Rouge, in partnership with the Go Group and the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the studies will seek information from business leaders, elected officials and members of the community at large to help Southwest Louisiana prepare for the many economic challenges that will come as industry expands their facilities.

"The challenges and the opportunities that Southwest Louisiana has right now are unparalleled," said Travis Woodard, a principal at CSRS. "There's nothing like it in Louisiana or in the United States."

The SWLA Regional Impact Study will focus on the impacts all of the plant expansions will have on the five-parish region. Funded by Sasol for an undisclosed seven-figure amount, the study will address how plant expansions will affect the region's workforce development, transportation, utilities, health and medical infrastructure, public safety, environment, small business development, education and community relations.

Woodard said the study will focus on assessing a baseline on those areas to determine how they are doing today and how expansion will affect them in the years ahead.

The SWLA Regional Housing Strategic Plan will focus on how expansion will affect housing in Southwest Louisiana. The plan, which is funded in part by a $380,000 grant from the state's Office of Community Development's Disaster Recovery Unit, will consist of a resiliency study that will examine how the region builds its homes, the kinds of codes that are in place, best practices and its land development ordinances.

The plan will also have a housing market study that will examine what kind of demand is coming, the number and types of homes that will be needed, and when the peak demand is going to occur.

Both studies are expected to be completed by June.

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Information from: American Press, http://www.americanpress.com

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