For too long we’ve watched our best and brightest get college degrees in Louisiana and then pack up for greener pastures in places like Dallas and Houston. I was one of those myself — I graduated high school as valedictorian, college cum laude and then left my beloved home state to find a good, middle-class job in Texas. I did return to Louisiana after a few years, but only after reconciling my family and career goals.
We need change, and we need it now. We shouldn’t put our best and brightest in the predicament of weighing their career aspirations against their desire to stay home in Louisiana.
While Louisiana’s economy seems to be doing OK right now, it’s not so much to do with anything special about our economic development capacity. It’s the result of macroeconomic forces outside our control, forces driving the price of oil high and the price of natural gas low. We’re just lucky right now, thumbing along for a ride.
While these forces are currently good for Louisiana and I welcome them (I work in the chemicals sector), let’s not forget our hard lessons from the ’80s bust, when we saw our fellow Louisianians leave the state in droves. The same forces affected Houston, and Houston appeared to learn the value of diversifying its economy, while Louisiana defaulted to gimmicks like “gaming.”
I have three young children, and have aspirations for them to find good, rewarding careers right here in Louisiana. Careers suitable for top-notch students, suitable for students of engineering and technology, of business; not low-wage jobs dealing cards and serving drinks at some casino table.
We owe it to the future generation to leave them a Louisiana in better shape than was available to us. No more excuses. No more whining about Louisiana being a “poor state.” No more trying slight variations of the same old thing and expecting different results. I’m writing to express my support for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to transform the Louisiana tax code.
Let’s be the generation that stands in the gap, that changes the course in Louisiana. Let’s implement radical change to transform and diversify our economy. And let’s do it now.
Michael S. Womack