BRAC reflects on Katrina five years after

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE - The Baton Rouge Area Chamber  provided its perspective today on the impact of Hurricane Katrina as the five year mark passes since storm hit New Orleans and a levee breach flooded 80 percent of the city.

Data points in the first two years after the storm illustrated a striking escalation across a number of economic indicators initially,the organization said.

Since that period, the market has had a consistent, and higher, level of economic activity, as shown across multiple indicators. BRAC analysis suggests this reflects an increased confidence in the level of competitiveness of the Baton Rouge region.

The economic development organization also stated that while the area is still feeling some pressure, the post-Katrina effects shielded it from the most damaging aspects of the recession and continues to expect 1-2% job growth for the Capital Region in 2010.

“These data match our own anecdotal experience that the market’s confidence in investing in the nine-parish Baton Rouge area was improved post-storm,” said Adam Knapp, BRAC’s President and CEO.  “This has been further evidenced by our business development activity that has been at a higher level following the hurricane, while project quality has increased.”

BRAC’s analysis shows positive momentum across many different indicators.[1]

• Since July 2005, the metro area has gained 24,400 jobs, or 7.2%.

• Since July 2000, the metro has gained 27,100 jobs, 8.1%.

• The region’s population has grown from 706,909 in 2005 to 786,947 in 2009, an increase of roughly 56,000 people, an 11.3% increase.

• Average wages have increased since Katrina, rising from $630 in the first quarter of 2005 to $787 in the first quarter of 2009, an increase of 25%.

• Since 2005, the Capital Region has seen an increase of 21,372 total businesses, or 33.9%, through January 2010.

• Since 2002, there has been an increase of 32,932 firms in the region.

• The nine-parish area’s sales tax collections from 2005 through 2009 have increased 19.1%.

• The average home sale price has increased 16.2% since 2005.

The Capital Region’s economic strength has been identified by a number of third-party sources.  Southern Business & Development magazine named the Baton Rouge area mid-market of the year in terms of economic development project wins for third time in four years.  Forbes magazine honored the region as the second-best mid-sized place for jobs. 

The Brookings Institution has said that the area has one of the top twenty-one strongest regional economies during the recession.