Our Views: Data shows peril, promise

Two recent sets of data show the perils as well as the promise of economic development in south Louisiana.

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show anemic population growth for the city of Baton Rouge, which added only 563 people from 2010 to 2012, for a total of 230,058.

There was significant growth in Baton Rouge’s suburbs, but during the same two-year period, East Baton Rouge Parish grew by only 1 percent, adding 4,348 people.

Between 2010 and 2012, Livingston Parish’s population grew 3 percent, and the population in Ascension Parish grew 5 percent. The city of Lafayette posted a 1.7 percent population gain in the same time period.

New Orleans continued to post sizeable population gains as it rebounds from Hurricane Katrina, growing by 7.4 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Troy Blanchard, an LSU sociology professor and demographer, said the city of Baton Rouge’s slow population growth appears to be connected with concerns about crime and public education, factors that are driving people to outlying suburban communities.

Those challenges are common in many cities centers across the country, but urban centers can also be powerful magnets for innovation, as demonstrated by another set of figures complied by Forbes magazine.

In Forbes’ recent magazine list of “Cities Winning the Battle for Information Jobs,” Baton Rouge and New Orleans ranked among the top cities in their size categories. Baton Rouge ranked No. 7 on the list of medium-size cities attracting information jobs. New Orleans ranked No. 3 on the list of 10 big cities.

The strong showings by both Baton Rouge and New Orleans in the Forbes ranking also point to south Louisiana’s potential for a strong regional tech sector.

Both Michael Hecht, who heads Greater New Orleans Inc., and Adam Knapp, who heads the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, reacted to the Forbes ranking by underscoring the importance of regional cooperation in advancing south Louisiana as a technology hub.

We hope that spirit continues. It’s the best way to promote the growth of an economy that will allow more of Louisiana’s best and brightest to find their fortunes here, rather than out of state.