Ruston, Research Park Linked
Louisiana Tech’s head of research said Ruston has to continue adapting to truly capitalize on a wave of changes in northern Louisiana.
Real estate brokers, businessmen and investors have to be prepared to leverage their talents and resources, Les Guice said, to mesh with the Air Force Cyber Command in Bossier City and Tech’s Research Campus. Both endeavors are planned to mature in 2009 — Tech will have a building in Research Campus constructed, and the Air Force will be finalizing the cyber command, with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier taking flight.
The two ventures intertwine at a fundamental level, he said, and will drive forces in north Louisiana’s economy, possibly providing jobs in the $75,000-per-year range.
The Air Force expects to draw the workforce for its cyber endeavors in Bossier City from an area encompassing Tyler, Texas, in the west and Monroe in the east, and as far south as Alexandria and north into mid-Arkansas, he said.
“And what’s the only research university in that map?” he said Wednesday to an ERA Lincoln Realty forum at Tech’s Lomax Hall. The implied answer was Tech.
“It’s important to get more community involvement,” he said. “It’s a great time for Tech, north Louisiana and the whole region. There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in both the Cyber Command and Research Campus.”
Success will require the community to work with the university, he said. Ruston has to be an attractive place for technology companies to do business.
Chamber of Commerce President Scott Terry pointed at the demographic change that Guice said is coming — technology-centered workers will typically be 25-40 years old with a young child or two and an eye for buying a home.
“The community will be developing around that future demographic,” Terry said.
He did, however, address that high housing costs that the community absorbs right now might be a point of concern. Dicky Nealy, owner and president of ERA Lincoln Realty, said his concern is the possibility of demand swelling to the point houses become prohibitively expensive.
“We need to tune in and help move this along,” Nealy said. “We can get prepared now and anticipate what’s coming down the pipe.
“It could devastate the housing market if we’re not prepared.”
He doesn’t expect that to happen, however, but he said the thought should be kept in mind.
For builder and research park enthusiast Beulah Laster, school preparedness is an integral part of the equation, and Guice spoke to it. It is a detail that can’t be overlooked, he said, and Lincoln Parish holds the responsibility of making its schools into platforms for learning that leads to high technology.
Incoming professionals, or those trained at Tech looking to stay here after graduation, need a place to work, send their children to school, shop and enjoy life, he said.
“Amenities are so important,” Guice said. “When I was serving as dean of the College of Engineering and Science, so many graduates, including my own sons, had to move out of state to find jobs.
“We have to be special. It’s what we have to have to compete for companies looking at Austin (Texas) and Silicon Valley.”