GO Group Releases Year-End Progress Update
January 14, 2016
In mid-December, the Southwest Louisiana Task Force for Growth and Opportunity (GO Group) released a progress report to the community outlining the group’s accomplishments in 2015.
According to GO Group Director Karen Clapp, the group’s focus spans the five parishes of the region and revolves around capitalizing on the benefits of growth, while reducing any potential impacts. “Currently, economic investment in the area totals $97 billion, with over $40 billion of construction activities currently underway. As these industrial expansion projects reach the construction phase, significant population increases are expected – impacting our community in more ways than one,” says Clapp. “Transportation infrastructure, housing affordability and the development of a local, skilled workforce are only a handful of issues we’re tackling,” she says.
The GO Group also has a long-term focus; one Clapp says is where it has concentrated most of its work the past year. “We’re focused on developing our area in a way that promotes sensible and sustainable growth over the next 20-30 years,” says Clapp. “It’s about being proactive in welcoming this growth, not reactive. To accommodate growth in years’ past, we added to this system or that system rather than taking a holistic approach to change, attempting to make things better rather than expanding to the point where systems are no longer functional,” she says. “Large-scale change requires hard decisions that will drive efficiency. Right now, the GO Group is questioning everything from the structure of schools and airports to researching policies that will encourage development without affecting drainage or increasing flooding issues.”
With regard to the GO Group’s accomplishments this year, Clapp outlines several items of note. In February, the GO Group announced the addition of Clapp to its team – the first full-time hire for the organization. In her role as GO Group Director, Clapp is responsible for implementing responses to various economic, housing and employment reports, and coordinating efforts of public and community organizations. The City of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury fund the Director position for the GO Group.
In March, the GO Group announced the formation of four task forces to begin working on long-term solutions to many of the issues identified in the November 2014 release of the Sasol-funded Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study. The task forces formed include: Growth Planning, Public Service Improvements, Education and Workforce Development, and Special Community Related Initiatives. Those who serve on the task forces represent a broad subset of the general population.
As part of their work, GO Group task forces engage the leaders of local organizations to learn more about the mission and operations of each. Examples of those engaged at various levels include Sasol, Lake Charles Regional Airport, Chennault International Airport and the Calcasieu Parish School Board. According to Clapp, growing the task forces to the point of comprehensively understanding how and why things operate as they do was of critical importance – one of the most important accomplishments of the year. “We must arm our local residents and business leaders with information about why our community operates as it does so that when making recommendations about potential improvements, they consider the history behind the issues.” According to Clapp, building that educational foundation is the group’s greatest accomplishment to date. “Understanding the possibilities that exist for change in our area is exciting, but having the opportunity to share those ideas with our community and incorporate their input and feedback into the final product is even more exciting,” she says.
According to Clapp, “A large multitude of individuals are engaged in evaluating our region and providing input on needed change. What’s even more impressive is that every local city and town, along with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the leadership of other parishes, is engaged and interested in how we can emerge from this growth better and stronger – making the necessary changes to foundational establishments.”