Channel to debut 'Northshore Business' special 'After the Gold Rush' Sept. 29
Contact: Christina Chapple
HAMMOND -- Like the 1850s when prospectors stampeded to California seeking gold, the north shore experienced a “gold rush” of sorts when Hurricane Katrina pushed thousands of south shore residents across Lake Pontchartrain in search of new homes and businesses.
Three years later, the post-storm construction and real estate booms have leveled off, leaving in their wake a number of critical issues that continue to affect the north shore’s economic development.
The issues are explored in “After the Gold Rush,” a special edition of “Northshore Business” which will debut Monday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. on the Southeastern Channel, Southeastern Louisiana University’s educational cable access channel on Charter Cable Channel 18.
The 30-minute show is a follow-up to the award-winning 2007 special “Ten Years in One Day,” which illustrated how Katrina propelled forward north shore population growth, real estate, construction, new business, and sales and property taxes roughly “ten years in one day.”
“’After the Gold Rush’ provides a clear look at the current state of the north shore economy and the future of economic development in this region,” said Rick Settoon, the show’s executive producer and general manager of the Southeastern Channel. “We’re seeing a new set of dynamics taking place, and this program pinpoints where the north shore is right now.”
Settoon said the program describes how the region is returning to some of the problems that existed pre-Katrina and presents north shore economic development in context with what is happening in other parts of the state and country.
The special includes interviews with more than 20 local and state governmental and business officials such as Stephen Moret, Louisiana’s secretary of economic development, economist Loren Scott, and Tim Barfield of the state Department of Labor. Also appearing are Joe May, president of the state’s Community and Technical College system, and Paul Rainwater, director of the Louisiana Road Home Authority.
“Now that the economic fog is lifting, assessments regarding population, education and job skills, and city and parish planning have to be made quickly,” said Southeastern communication instructor Steve Bellas, the show’s producer, writer and host. “The most positive realization is that we have to get out of that so-called ‘recovery mindset.’ Many feel that this mindset has tainted the north shore’s real potential.”
“After the Gold Rush” examines attractive elements that are driving new business to the north shore, but also looks at obstacles that might deter business and industry from locating in the region. Such concerns are the economy’s post-Katrina dependence on federal dollars, the north shore’s boom/bust economic cycle, and the availability of both a skilled workforce and adequate housing.
Bellas said that an obvious draw for new industry is the quality of existing workforce and skilled labor. Potential investors would like to find all that they need on the north shore.
“But those folks might, in the short run, have to be imported,” Bellas said. “Whichever, the population, spending habits and dynamics will change, and that leads us back to the all-important planning and zoning issues that have simmered in the cities and parishes for far too long.”
According to Bellas, many experts interviewed for the documentary said even without Katrina, population and business growth on the north shore was bound to happen because of the I-12 corridor and the potential of the Zachary Taylor Parkway project.
“The experts feel that the economic surge following Katrina and Rita was lagniappe, icing on the cake,” Bellas said. “No one was fooled into thinking that the fundamentals of realistic planning and growth had changed. But again, where are we now? And how does the north shore and Louisiana fit in or not with the current economic turmoil in the rest of the country?”
Bill Joubert, director of Southeastern’s Southeast Louisiana Business Center, was a primary consultant for the program. Southeastern Channel staff member Dave Fox videotaped and edited the show while Josh Kapusinski created the graphics.
The Southeastern Channel, which has won more than 70 national and international awards in its five years, can be seen on Charter Cable Channel 18 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Livingston parishes and on Channel 17 in Washington Parish. The channel can be viewed online at www.selu.edu/tv.