Stonecipher: Bad Economic News Hurts Shreveport and Bossier City Together
Shreveport-Bossier had been named the fastest shrinking metropolitan area in the nation in terms of economic growth based on data provided by the United States Conference of Mayors.
The Huffington Post reported that Shreveport-Bossier shrunk by 11% since 2011.
Shreveport demographer Elliott Stonecipher told 710 KEEL these numbers provide a bleaker picture of our region, "I believe Shreveport is in much worse shape than it shows up there because Bossier is provided positive ballast."
"Shreveport has taken hits that make it very clear that something is not right," continued Stonecipher. "I think what's worrying me is we think that's also a reflection of the Haynesville Shale more or less on the drilling side finishing up... that means Shreveport has a much much more challenging next few years than we ever knew."
And despite what may be popularly believed to be a Shreveport issue, whatever happens on the west side of the Red River will affect the east side.
"Bossier, I think, is in much better shape," noted Stonecipher. "But as much as they would like to think they are completely decoupled from Shreveport, they're not. This is a metro economic product consideration."
The most obvious question to ask upon learning about these figures is trying to understand how the metropolitan area, especially the City of Shreveport, got into this position.
"Shreveport is relatively leaderless at this point," the demographer explained. "The mayor is totally disengaged. The city council has been pretty much dominated by the mayor for almost eight years. That kind of leaderlessness is not a good thing when you are facing these problems."
A major issue is that the public doesn't get a lot of this crucial information about the health and welfare of Louisiana's third largest city. What is more important is that the city's resources needs to help figure out what has gone wrong with Shreveport and what needs to be done to correct it.
"What we need is for LSUS, Centenary [College], Southern [University], the Chamber of Commerce, or those we pay, the city government," Stonecipher told 710 KEEL. "We need them to take these numbers and tell us what they mean. Certainly, something on the Shreveport side is a real problem."
One place to start looking what direction will go in and who will lead that charge.
"There is no plan," stated Stonecipher. "We don't get this information. People in Shreveport never know these things happen. And when we do find out they happen there is no response from the people that we elect to do something about it."
The numbers showed a mostly strong trend of metropolitan areas across the country. Lafayette was also on the list of fastest shrinking economies at number four, but Stonecipher says that is likely due to a contraction after rapid expansion.
"I think Shreveport stands out and has for a very long time," Stonecipher noted. "Shreveport has a population that does not engage. If Shreveport has a problem, there is not some community response to that issue and the lack of community response is in fact tied to the fact that our elected officials act like these things never happened."
The Shreveport demographer offered an example of municipal sloppiness and lack of concern.
"We learned in the last two years that a sales tax renewal for fire and police salaries in Shreveport that our city hall forgot to put that on the ballot to renew that sales tax," shared Stonecipher. "For those of us that know about municipal government, we know that when something like that happens that is a canary in the coal mine, something is wrong, and that means the government is not doing its job."
Let's play compare and contrast with our neighbors to the west. While both smaller than Shreveport economically and in terms of population, both Longview and Tyler saw solid growth over the analysis period, with Longview seeing notably and consistently solid growth in that time frame.
"I know a lot about Tyler and Longview," said Stonecipher. "I know quite a bit about these other Louisiana cities as well. But, they are vibrant communities with various kinds of cobbled together in some cases, vibrant news media. The people can not be expected to respond to even a crisis if they don't know it's happening."
Stonecipher continued, "In Shreveport, we don't have the coverage, generally, for people to know, but we also have people who don't want to know. That is not, of course, a vibrant community and I think it is unique. I think it is a particular anchor for Shreveport-Bossier and, frankly, I think it does not bode well for the future."
And residents living in Bossier City that are thinking everything is perfect, like butterflies, rainbows and unicorns, Stonecipher told 710 KEEL that they need to keep an eye out for their bigger neighbor.
"Shreveport's paying a heck of a price for that and it's going to take Bossier with it the way the numbers are coming out," said Stonecipher.
Shreveport is doubly, triply troubled with these numbers. Bossier needs to understand that they are not protected. These things can easily spread across the river."
Additional notes: Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover attended this year's U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., last month. The mayor's office has been contacted for comment and 710 KEEL has not heard back from the office for comment or response.