So this week I attended what I thought was to be a networking oppurtunity at best.  What I experienced was much more.  The forum was put together by the The Port Works of Caddo-Bossier and was presided over by Dr. Loren C. Scott president of Loren C. Scott & Associates and Professor Emeritus of Economics at LSU.  It was not apparent whether or not he was from Baton Rouge but he has been around long enough to pickup on some of the popular slang as evidenced by his initial greeting of “How y’all are”.  As with any good crowd pleaser he started off with a couple of jokes then right to the meat of the matter.

The first portion of his talk dealt strictly with impact of the port itself on the region.  Capital expenditures, incomes per family, so on and so forth.  As it relates to the design and construction industry the numbers are quite telling.  What you quickly begin to realize is that there is an entire of seemingly separate economic dichotomy just a little south of the Shreveport Bossier metro that most people, I would venture to guess, do not even know exists.  For you number junkies out there here are some high points: $2 billion in new business sales, $560 million in new household earnings and 7620 new jobs.  Granted these numbers stretch over a 4 year time frame(2006-2011) but given the economic climate of our country as a whole during that time this is a big deal.  What’s even more exciting is the prospectus for the coming decades.  18 new major projects over the next 10 years and a total of 38 new projects over the next 20.   The majority of these being infrastructure related aimed at increasing the curb appeal to companys looking to get cozy in our area.

Of course, it must be noted as it was by Mr. Scott that all this success would  have been considerably stymied had it not been for the Haynesville Shale.  This extreme stroke of luck or blessing or whatever reasoning your philosophical views deem fitting really helped to make the rubber meet the road and keep the momentum going with this and other major aspects of our regions economy.  The remainder of the presentation went on to touch on tax rates and similar topics that for the most part wind up being open to interpretation based on your policital slant on things.  The one chart-o-facts that was extremely hard to not get smitten with was the stats on the marginal tax rates and tax revenues collected as a percentatge of the gross domestic product(see feature image sourced via Dr. Scott’s presentation).  I would imagine that there is some voodoo at work here that has to do with the value of the dollar then and now but the chart is nonetheless stunning.  It basically says that in the 50’s the marginal tax rate was at 90% compared to present day where it’s more like 38%.  Now, when you look at how much the governement actually ends up with it’s more like 19% consistently then and now.  That’s 50 years worth of companys and individuals a like finding a way to give up a consistent portion of their earning contrary to the marginal tax rate set by the government.  Like I said, there must be some voodoo at work here because I know what my overtime checks have looked like at every job I’ve ever had and it always depressing.  At any rate, for a guy who is at heart not a numbers person at all, the whole ordeal was rather eye opening and extremely informative…and entertaining.  Did I mention that he kept the jokes coming about every 30 minutes and always enough in a row that you began to wonder and worry whether he was going to keep telling them a little too long.

As relates to our statewide economy, one of the curve balls he threw was the consideration of the BP debacle and the effect that the influx of the cleanup money is having on the coast.  More importantly the effect that the lack of the cleanup money is going to have on the balance sheets of every coastal parish and ultimately the state next year.  Point being that this influx is trumping up our statewide balance sheets and noone knows how its going to be when this particular shot to the arm isn’t around next year.

One other point he kept driving home was that in every case to be made for building a stronger economy, higher taxes should be the last thing considered and the first to go.  Now whether this is purely a political opinion or honest advice from an economist is for someone more politically charged than me to determine.  It is however, important to note that in this statement he claims to be backed by every macro economics text book in print so either he’s bluffing or he’s read a lot of boring books to make sure he can say this with certainty.  At any rate, the guy really brings some food for thought to the table and left me wondering how I might take his economics class from four hours away.

Jeff Spikes, iarchitecture