In The News › St. Tammany poised for growth, officials say

St. Tammany poised for growth, officials say

Friday, October 2, 2009
By Autumn C. Giusti, North Shore Report Editor
City Business

COVINGTON. Despite a few recession-induced hiccups, St. Tammany Parish is poised for horizontal growth along Interstates 10 and 12.

That was the message from Ivan Miestchovich, director of the University of New Orleans Center for Economic Development, and parish Chief Administrative Officer Bill Oiler at a Bureau of Governmental Research breakfast today in Covington addressing growth in St. Tammany. It was the first such event the New Orleans-based watchdog group has held on the North Shore.

“Economic development is not brain surgery,” Miestchovich said. “You do the right things, and the right things are going to happen. St. Tammany Parish has done the right things.”

Among them, the parish’s transportation infrastructure ? namely Causeway bridge, the convergence of interstates 10, 12 and 59 and access to Interstate 55 ? has opened doors to growth.
“I can’t think of any area in the state that has that kind of infrastructure access other than us.”

St. Tammany benefits from being at the center of the I-10/I-12 corridor, linking business and industry in Baton Rouge to Mississippi, he said.

“That will become the major corridor in Louisiana for economic development,” Oiler said. “There are just too many drivers for it not to be.”

Oiler cited a report predicting the parish’s population is on track to double by 2030 and could gain 125,000 residents just in the next decade.

Miestchovich, himself a St. Tammany resident, touted quality of life, a strong education system, a business friendly environment and being out of harm’s way during hurricane season as other assets driving the parish’s growth.

Employment has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the unemployment rate consistently falls below regional, state and national levels, he said.
Not all the news is rosy for St. Tammany, though.

Construction has fallen sharply now that the post-Katrina building boom has tapered off and the housing recession has kicked in.

Building permits in the parish fell below 1,000 units in 2008, Miestchovich said.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen since the 1980s,” he said. “There’s still a lot of price pressure and not a lot of incentives to put new construction in the ground.”

Projects funded by federal stimulus money could help jump-start momentum, with $38 million in road and infrastructure projects in the works for St. Tammany, Oiler said.

Also planned are $26 million in drainage projects between Bayou Chinchuba to Bayou Liberty.

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