Monday, July 30, 2007

So whatcha gonna do about it?

I read Joel’s story today about Shreveport losing it’s young professional population and I wasn’t surprised at all. Saddened a little, but not surprised. I also read the comments and everyone has their opinions about why the city is losing, well, us. But at the end of the day, I’m anxious to see what the city is going to do about it.

When I left for college in New Orleans, I thought I’d never come back. Period. A combination of chance and circumstance blew that plan out of the water. Yet, during this time back, I’ve discovered there are some good things about this city. However, it’s always seemed like a city of potential – unfulfilled. There’s so much more left to be desired and in my opinion, it starts with career opportunities.

As a native who reluctantly returned home six years ago, I remember hearing about a campaign at the time to bring the younguns home, but I don’t remember ever hearing or even seeing much beyond the talk. Even as my high school class plans our 10-year reunion, I’ve skimmed through the names and pics of former classmates and saw that a good chunk of the folks in the list, now reside in other cities across the country.

I feel like the guy in Joel’s story (and fellow Dillard University grad) Franklin Whitaker stated the problem best:
"I would have loved to come back home," said Whitaker, 27, a personal banker for JP Morgan Chase who lives in the Dallas suburb Lancaster. "But I never got that chance. Shreveport has jobs, but it does not have career opportunities, which is a big difference."

This problem is nothing new to us. So what is Shreveport going to do about it? Actually make substantial, significant changes and improvements to make Shreveport the next great city of the South? Or just sit here in denial and watch the population erosion worsen for another decade?

Folks have talked and talked and talked and talked about it ad nauseum, but what are the city’s leaders going to DO about it? For those who have left what would it take to get you to come back? And for those of us still here, what would it take for you to stay?

12 comments:

Kathryn Usher said...

There's another take to this story.

It seems young professionals are actually moving to SB Land because of the opportunities... Trudeau has an interesting post dated July 31 on this matter about young professional Juliana Hoffpauir.

Donecia Pea said...

Thanks Kathryn. Yes that is an interesting perspective on someone who actually moved here from a bigger city.

But I guess I'm wondering what could be done to keep people like Hoffpauir here? Or better yet, what WILL be done to try to keep them here.

Her dog park idea is a good one,(even though everyone isn't a dog person, myself included.) But what if her petition doesn't work? What else can be done?

John said...

We have to get high tech industry into the area and we also have to push professional wages up. We can't live with the "old oil money" anymore if we want to move up in the world.

I moved here from Northwest Arkansas and saw that area grow by almost 300% while I was there. How did they do it? First, by bringing in good jobs. Second, by opening up an interstate that conected the area to I-40. Thirdly, they used their university and community colleges as work force development centers and these students got good jobs out of school with the companies that were brought in to blossom the city. Lastly, the city raised sales tax to 10-11 percent to make sure the city was well taken care of; road, building codes, parks, police and fire, gov't buildings, etc. These are just some ideas that I have.

Maybe I need to run for office??? Any backers?

Donecia Pea said...

Hey john, that definitely sounds like a platform to me, lol.

No but for real, that's a pretty interesting anecdote and you seem to point to the same solution that everyone keeps saying: We need more career opportunities here.

But how do you get major corporations to come here? Also john, how long did it take for this growth to take place in the Arkansas town that you mentioned?

I'm just curious as to how long it takes to turn a city around like that, population-wise. Does it HAVE to take a decade or is it a way to do this where we can begin seeing results within the next couple of years?

I wonder what can we as young professionals living here can do.

John said...

Donecia,

It took about 10 years for it to happen and it is still happening today.

It takes local government to take steps in a direction that is off the beaten path. You have to have people in the local government that think outside the box. Around here the same people are running for offices year after year. If not the exact same person, the same ideas. Local government is the one who brings in these new businesses to the areas, and I'm not taking about manual labor jobs, I'm talking about jobs that pay big bucks to young people.

Once you get the young people back to the community, the begin to put their money and ideas into the community and the community begins to grow in a "young and fresh" way, instead of the "old oil man" way.

It will take time for this change to come about in this area. There will always be the bad parts of town, but we need to make sure there are more good parts than bad.

As young professional we need to push the limits. Don't do what our parents and grandparents did. Though they did great things, those things are outdated. We have to get involved in the local politics by going to City Council meetings and making are opinion known the the public.

I am 27 and married and I feel like my wife and I are the only 27 and married couple in the city. Until this changes, no changes will take place.

These are just basic steps. I sure I could ramble on and on about this area. Getting involved is the first step.

Donecia Pea said...

Wow, john, I think you hit it on the head: We can't do things the same old way we've always done it.

Hopefully, the mayor and his new administration will keep their promise in bringing that kinda change to this area.

In the meantime, I agree, we do need to get more involved as young adults. I mean our age group is the one that's gonna be left trying to fix the problems that exist today.

Kathryn Usher said...

Oil money is good... it's what's pouring in from Texas every weekend year around.

I think when we realize we've become the tourist destination of Louisiana more folks will venture out with tourist attractions and events. That's why my daughter and I started Tour de Shreveport and the Shreveport Spirit Tours.

Shreveport... it's where Dallas, Houston, Austin, Waco and all points in between come to play.

And please don't say when Texas gets gambling. Won't ever happen... you can't even get a drink in some parts of that state. Plus their legislature only meets every two years and when things get hairy parts of them run off to Oklahoma. And Vegas has too strong of a lobby to allow that to happen.

Matiel said...

I am among the young people from Shreveport who wanted, and did come back home after pursuing a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree from 2 different states. I had also heard about the "Bring the Kids Home" campaign so I just knew that I was coming home to a better and changed place with more opportunities for young folks like myself. But, to my surprise I was wrong. The only jobs that I could secure were temporary jobs through grant dollars. I finally accepted a job with a well known and respected non-profit who wanted an executive assistant. I was like, "Did you read my resume?" I accepted the job anyway with a different title in hopes that it would lead to something greater, which was promised to me by the boss. Well, the opportunity for a higher position presented itself, but I was not considered. By the way, I am a city planner and I felt like I could do great things for my hometown, therefore, I worked our new mayor's campaign. Again I was overlooked and lied to. So finally, I was tired of it, so I moved to Texas, where I accepted a job as city planner (and this was just 1 month ago). I feel that its Shreveport's loss and another city's gain. I don't think I will be giving Shreveport a second change. I gave them close to three years to use my skills to the advantage of Shreveport.

John said...

I believe this is the way alot of young people are feeling right now in this area.

When I move out of this area, and hopefully within the next two years I will be moved, I will not ever think about coming back here.

There is no sustained middle class in the town. You are either a rich professional (doctor, lawyer, busineess owneer) or below middle class. You don't see alot of 25-35 year old people who are making any money here and without that in our society here there will be NO positive changes.

Anonymous said...

There are just no jobs here for professionals. You can work in the medical field or do something business-related, but that's it. Shreveport is made up of blue-collar working class people, wealthy people, and poor people. Literally everyone I know growing that went to college has moved away. I'm alone here! I can't wait to move, I'm just biding my time and saving up.

In my profession, there is a huge wage gap when you compare average salary here to anywhere else. We're talking at least 10k. Why would I waste time here being underpaid?

Let's not even get into how dangerous this city is. Don't give me the crap about how all cities have bad areas. I'm fully aware of that. However, Shreveport is like one huge bad area, with gated suburbs surrounding it. On the way home from work one day I saw a huge fight errupt on a street corner. A beat down. I thought I was going to get shot. Each time I see something like that it's a reminder I have to get out of here. I've witnessed so many violent acts.

I really hope this city can change, but I don't have any more time to wait. I'm 24.

Graham Powell said...

I'm not quite young anymore, but I love Shreveport and never wanted to move away. I did for two reasons: schools and opportunity.

Five years I moved my family to Fort Worth because my oldest child was going to be starting kindergarten and I couldn't afford private school. If you can afford it, Shreveport is a good place to raise kids. If not... not.

As for opportunity, I am a computer systems engineer. I build servers and make sure they keep running. The company where I work has about 300 servers in our data center. I am not sure that there is a single company anyhwere in Shreveport that has 300 servers.

As I said, I love Shreveport, I have family and friends there, but I felt like I would not be taking care of my family if I stayed.

Anonymous said...

Similar experience for me. Got my Masters Degree from a big ten university up north and made the stupid, stupid mistake of coming back to Shreveport and trying to find a job. Was told by the City's current Personnel Director that I had "nothing to offer". And you wonder why young professionals don't want to live here?