Governor comes bearing gifts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 18, 2009

JONESVILLE — Gov. Bobby Jindal presented at $2.8 million check for disaster recovery and hazard mitigation during a Town Hall meeting in Jonesville Monday.

The meeting in Jonesville was a part of the governor’s larger Louisiana working tour, and part of his reason for stopping in Jonesville was to present the check for $2,277,264 in community development block grant funds and $569,423 in hazard mitigation funds to Catahoula Parish officials.

The CDBG funds were for recovery efforts from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and Jindal said his goal was to avoid creating the bureaucratic nightmare that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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“You know how to best rebuild your communities,” he said.

The state is preparing for future major storms by doing things like equipping hospitals with generators, and Jindal said the hazard mitigation funds are for similar projects at a local level.

“We want to ensure you have those dollars as well,” he said.

The governor also addressed efforts the state has made to help foster job creation in an effort to keep graduating students from leaving Louisiana.

“We have to stop exporting our greatest assets,” Jindal said. “Our greatest exports for years have been our sons and daughters.”

To do that, he said his administration has worked to push through ethics reforms and remove certain taxes.

“Louisiana was one of the few states that would tax businesses when they bought new equipment,” he said. “Do you know how crazy that is?

“It was our greatest gift to our neighboring states.”

He also spoke of improving customized training programs, funding community and technical colleges and creating the high school career diploma as part of the solution.

“If we are honest, we will admit every student will not go to a four-year school,” he said.

“Every student needs to be exposed to technical education or job skills.”

Louisiana has an abundance of resources, from rivers to highways and more railroads than most states, but Jindal said on their own those resources aren’t good enough anymore.

“We used to compete based on our resources, now we must compete based on having the most skilled workforce,” he said. “Seventy percent of employers considering expanding or relocating to Louisiana tell us that finding skilled workers (are) their top one or two concerns.”

The ultimate goal of all workforce development is to make Louisiana a place where a family can settle and earn a living without having to leave, he said.

“My dream is to have the governors of Texas and Mississippi calling me crying about losing children to Louisiana,” he said.

After the governor’s speech, he met with constituents, and the Rev. Dave Mays said he was glad to have a chance to be able to meet the governor and ask him a question.

“I think it makes a lot of difference when someone like the governor comes,” said Violet Holly, who was also present. “We need these people to come, because a lot of them don’t even know where (Catahoula Parish) is.”

Jonesville Mayor Hiram Evans said that is exactly the point of having town hall meetings.

“The reason you have public meetings is to have public input in the government and to tell the government what we need,” he said.