Brent Baumbach's Letter to the Editor on Economic Development Session
Not originally a native of Tangipahoa parish, I realize that I have a lot to learn about the people, culture and businesses that make up the area I now call home. Having graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in the city where I was born and raised, I was fortunate enough to take a job with a Hammond architecture firm. For the past seven years, downtown Hammond has been a wonderful home. When the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Tangipahoa 2011 class was made available to me I jumped at the opportunity. Our most recent session again showcased the benefits that this program has to offer.
We began our day, as become custom, at the Tangipahoa Parish Tourist Commission building where we boarded a bus to unknown locations. Today we were lucky enough to have Mr. Bob Basford as our guest rider and tour guide. Being the Executive Director of the Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation, Mr. Basford was a wealth of knowledge about the towns and areas that we were to visit this day. Our first stop was Kentwood town hall where we were greeted with refreshments and great stories provided by Mayor Harold Smith. Mayor Smith and Parish Councilman Tom Tolar introduced us to the current state of industry and future development occurring in the town of Kentwood. It was interesting to learn that the trucking industry is beginning to take the place of the dairy industry as Kentwood's main producer.
From town hall, Mr. Tolar accompanied us to the Kentwood Water bottling facility. Here we were met by Mr John Anzalone and Ms. Jessica Hebert and were quickly briefed about the history and inner workings of the establishment. Of note, right next door to the bottling plant, Kentwood Water has a facility where they produce their own plastic bottles. This unique adjacency allows for the production to continue unhampered in any time of need that would cause other companies delay. This is an advantage that we all can appreciate when water is needed after hurricanes or other natural disasters. All in all, it was amazing to see the way in which the production line so quickly packaged this great resource that we have right below our feet in Tangipahoa Parish.
After leaving Kentwood we preceded to Roseland where we were introduced to a business that few of us fully understood its sheer immensity. As production manager at Smitty's Supply Incorporated, Mr. Raymond Cutrer, was an excellent tour guide of the enormous facility. Here we were able to observe the entire process of bottling of lubricating oil products from the actual blow mold creation of bottles to packaging of the final product. It was eye opening to see the sheer size and amount of product that comes through this ever growing business.
Bradken Foundry was our next stop. Here we were led on a tour of the
facility by David Brandon and Mr. Junior Shavers. After gearing up
in hard hats, safety glasses and ear protection we proceeded onto
the foundry floor. Large pieces of steel were being transported and
lifted over head while Mr. Brandon educated the group on the
machining work that was being performed. Smitty's definitely
impressed with the quantity of product that moved in and out, while
Bradken impressed with the physical size of the pieces with which
they worked. If I walked away with only one piece of information
from Bradken that I feel is significant it is that all of the steel
that they work with is from 100% recycled stock.
Mr. Bill Joubert, Director of Southeastern's Louisiana Small Business Development Center, closed out our lunch with a description of all of the services that they offer. Anyone considering starting a business in this area should definitely take advantage of the services that they have developed.
Perhaps a bit sluggish after lunch, we boarded the bus and soon arrived at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the Hammond Airport. There we were welcomed by Jason Ball of the Hammond Airport and Mark Helton of Customs and Border Protection. After an informative slide presentation outlining the function and technology of the unit presented by Mr. “Chi Chi” Rodriguez we split into three groups and toured the operation. From here we were fortunate enough to see up close the equipment used to protect our air space and water ways. These individuals stay busier than you would expect flying out to intercept suspicious aircraft and marine vessels. For this we were all thankful.
Just when we all thought the day was over, we returned to the Tangipahoa Tourism Center to debrief what we had learned as well as participate in a short business development exercise. From what was presented to me by my fellow classmates I would have to say that looks it like Tangipahoa could soon see some new businesses develop.
While we are only just beginning our Leadership Tangipahoa experience, I realize that our parish will continue to surprise and educate me with all that it has to offer. I would like to extends thanks to everyone that helps to make Leadership Tangipahoa such an excellent experience.