A FEW MINUTES WITH ... Kathy Stuart

POSITION: Executive director, West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce.

AGE: 52.

Stuart, in March, marked her second anniversary with the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. She has been affiliated with economic development since 2003 and says she enjoys it because she’s passionate about connecting people and creating opportunities. The chamber serves the parish by strengthening its partnerships with companies, parish government and economic development allies to showcase and enhance doing business in West Baton Rouge.

How would you describe the current economic climate for West Baton Rouge Parish?

Very strong! We are seeing more and more interest in our parish. More and more interest from prospects that are interested in our parish because of our port — Port of Greater Baton Rouge. Our logistics are very attractive, close in proximity to the interstate, the I-10/12 corridor.

Any exciting new economic developments you want to tell us about?

Can’t right now, but hope to be able to share an announcement very soon. Parish President Riley “Peewee” Berthelot and I have been working with a company for almost a year now and they are very close to having all their paperwork completed to share an announcement. The thing that most folks don’t understand about working on economic development is it’s a very long process, to develop the relationship with the prospect/site selector and all the information that is needed about a property/site.

What would you say is the strength of the parish’s economic base?

A few things: location, leadership and education. Our location along the interstate and river has us positioned within our region for growth. We have available, attractive tracts of land in our parish while some of our neighboring parishes, particularly on the east side, are running out of available land inventory. Our parish’s local leadership is strong and very accessible — necessary when I need a quick turnaround answer. Our school system’s education success story is huge. Companies want to know what your tests scores are, and ours are outstanding.

Are there any business sectors where the parish is lacking?

Not much but if I had to pick one, I would probably say retail and restaurants. While our parish population numbers are only approximately 24,000, that’s not a true number of how many folks are actually working and driving through our parish daily.

Advocate staff writer Terry L. Jones