The City of Central's State of Affairs and the Importance of Economic Development and Investment
The City of Central is fast approaching it’s 11th anniversary. Since becoming a City, Central has gone through many phases of growth and development. Quite a few plans and studies have been done throughout the city’s infancy to project growth and develop a strategy for moving forward. Central is made up of people who are passionate about the city in which they live. Unfortunately, not all of those passions are the same. There is a group of residents in Central who believe that Central should have never incorporated. They foresaw that becoming a city would inevitably bring growth and change to an area that they wanted to keep rural and quaint. There is another group of people who would like to see the City grow into a municipality on the same level as a Zachary or Denham Springs, with plenty of successful businesses and retail options. There’s also the section of the population who really doesn’t have an opinion one way or the other. Who is right? What is the right plan for the city? There may not be definitive answer.
At times, it has also appeared that perhaps the school system and city administration were not always on the same track in planning for any future growth of the city. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” The people of Central came together 11 years ago to form this great city. They have somehow managed to stay together and move some aspects of the city forward. However, there has never really been a time where the people have truly come together and worked with each other on both sides of the growth discussion, to continue to keep Central successful.
In order to know how to come together, it is important to take a hard, realistic look at the actual state of affairs of the city. This document will look to the past to understand where Central has come from, it will look at the present to understand where Central currently stands, and it will look to future projections to determine the path from here.
PREVIOUS PLANS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
In 2007, Central had the first plan for growth and development completed. This plan was called the Central SDAT. It was the predecessor to the Master Plan and was extremely forward thinking. It incorporated ideas of “Smart Growth” and “Sustainable Development”. Strategies that were not widely accepted as a nation until 2012. The following are excerpts taken directly from the SDAT Plan:
Sustainable Development Strategies
• Smart growth is not "no growth"; rather it is the principal of land development that emphasizes mixing land uses, increases the availability of a range of housing types in neighborhoods, takes advantage of compact design, and fosters distinctive and attractive communities
• Many tools can be used to implement a smart-growth plan, including:
o Traditional neighborhood design (TND), also known as "new urbanism", "neo-traditional", or village style development, includes a variety of housing types, a mix of land uses, an active center, a walkable design and often a transit option with in a compact neighborhood scale area, either as infill in an existing developed area or as a district scale project
o Inclusionary Zoning: requires a portion of the housing units in certain real estate developments to be reserved as affordable to low and moderate income level housing.
o Open Space residential - promotes open space preservation based on environmental and social priorities. It features partnership in development design between municipal officials and developers that provide innovative flexible incentives for highest marketability a, mixed housing types and land uses, and minimal disturbance to the natural terrain.
The growing desire for the benefits of economic sustainability around the country has created a shift in thinking in many communities, which most developers can support.
Any growth should continually balance the need for fiscal solvency with the need for a strong civic center and vibrant neighborhoods.
• Solid zoning and comprehensive land use planning and design guidelines that support Central's vision and provide developers with a clear road map to project approval
• Private sector involvement in public - private partnerships. This includes partnership developments and market-based tax incentives.
• Economic incentives that encourage growth and development that is consistent with the city's overall sustainable vision for its future.
• Local commerce is supported through mixed- use zoning and design guidelines. Village centers and downtown business districts are conducive to small locally owned businesses.
• Creation of an eco-industrial park as an opportunity zone with in a city. This could be coupled with a model vocational program for area students and craftsmen.
In 2010, the Master Plan for the City of Central was completed. There is a common misconception that the Master Plan only consists of a map. There was actually a very detailed plan for growth that was written along with the map, to direct the future path of growth for the city. The following are excerpts taken directly from the Master Plan:
• The overwhelming majority who responded to the survey list two complaints: limited shopping, services, and entertainment and congested roads and infrastructure
• The top three goals expressed in the survey in order of importance
1. Attract new business services and retail
2. Improve or expand education and education infrastructure
3. Improve roads and other infrastructure
• When asked why people visit central, 25% of people did not know or stated that nothing attracted people to Central
• To effectively offer full range of services consumers now demand, the City will need to coordinate with private developers to fuse public and private spaces. The initial consideration could be a town center at Hooper and Sullivan, where the City intends to locate it's public offices
• The city can offer incentives to potential developers to direct growth. Incentives can include infrastructure investment, economic incentives, or simplified permitting processes. Incentive programs can be packaged with state and local incentive programs
• To streamline the process of development and to increase interest in Central among developers, market available commercial land through the city's website, provide technical assistance to landowners and potential developers to streamline estate transactions
• Develop recreation spaces in proximity to commercial areas to leverage additional spending
• Encourage new building and design trends through financial incentives and collaboration with cutting edge builders. Embracing energy efficiency and green design that will create a buzz about the City and act as a marketing tool for bringing in business.
• Focus on small enterprises as a part of the city's economic development initiatives. The competition to attract large firms is stiff and incentives can be expensive for the jurisdiction. Smaller business and start ups are more interested in a healthy business climate and adequate space. The concentration of small firms will ultimately lead to a diverse business environment
• Community Perception
o The city is a bedroom community that lacks diversity in business
o There is a need for additional service businesses such as restaurants and entertainment venues
o There is a need to grow the economic base in a manner that will provide employment opportunities to residents
o The preference is to attract research, technology, medical and education service industries to the city.
• Reality Response
o The city has a shared vision that will create a community that focuses on education, sustainability and high quality of life as a guiding principal for community development.
o These factors become tools that the city can use to attract services and professional business to the city.
o To establish a diverse and sustained employment base including a wide range of retail, restaurant and entertainment business as well as research, technology, medical and other professional business incorporated into village and neighborhood centers
o To provide opportunities for residents to access a wide range of employment opportunity in close proximity to their residence through the development of mixed-
use villages and neighborhood centers. This approach to community development fosters coordination between the city and economic development
• Relevant Assessment Recommendations
o Recruit retail establishments
o Consolidate zip codes
o Grant opportunities
o Establish a town center
o Extend Hooper road
o Recruit Louisiana business
o Use creative marketing
o Promote business/ technology parks
o Sponsor annual realtor event
o Recruit a corporate headquarters
o Promote women owned business
o Transportation network that provides walking and bike paths
o Develop recreational/ park space in close proximity to commercial zones
o Coordinate with public and private developers to fuse a town center at Hooper and Sullivan
o Provide employment opportunities in close proximity to residential areas
o Provide housing affordability for all housing types and age groups
In 2011, Central’s administration put together committee of individuals who worked with Louisiana’s State Department of Economic Development to write the Louisiana Community Readiness 5 Year Strategic Plan. This was an important exercise for the City officials to understand the process of economic development. As of today, the goals of the plan have either been addressed, successfully completed, or the needs of the community has changed. Arguably the most important realizations that came out of the plan was the recognition of the need for increased infrastructure. The following are excerpts taken directly from the Community Readiness 5 Year Strategic Plan:
Goal 1: Central has safe, adequate arterial roadways that handle current traffic and anticipated increase in traffic within and through the City as the City grows.
1. Improvements to Sullivan Road
a. Widening all the way to Hooper
b. Source of funding
i. City of Central - $3 million
ii. State of Louisiana - $13.3 million
2. Improvements to Hooper Road
a. Widening of Hopper Road
b. Source of funding
i. City of central -$2million
ii. State of Louisiana - $14.2 million
Goal 2: The City of Central facilitates usage of public sewerage system by all new developments
1. Expansions to sewerage system through increased treatment capacity and replacement of sewerage lines for expected sewer growth
a. Increased sewerage capacity
b. Source of funding
i. East Baton Rouge Parish
In 2013, The Transportation Plan was completed and implemented. This plan gave tremendous insight to the traffic issues and concerns Central has faced and continues to face. The following are excerpts taken directly from the Transportation Plan:
Approximately 89% of workers from the City of Central commute to work by single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) use. (In comparison to: Alexandria – 84%; Baton Rouge – 77.2%; Lafayette – 82.4%;
Lake Charles – 80.5%; New Orleans – 69%; Shreveport – 82.7%)
Almost 80% of working residents commute out of the city for employment. (In comparison to: Alexandria – 48%; Baton Rouge – 45%; Lafayette – 44%; Lake Charles – 43%; New Orleans – 43%; Shreveport – 36%)
Average one-way commute time to jobs in the City of Central is 29.3 minutes which is 29.3% higher than East Baton Rouge Parish. (In comparison to: Alexandria – 15.9; Baton Rouge – 20.1; Lafayette – 20.5; Lake Charles – 16.6; New Orleans – 22.9; Shreveport – 18.4)
City of Central has significant amount of congestion-induced travel-time delays during peak periods of the day due to the traffic coming from Livingston Parish. The city’s congested roadway segments during peak periods are found along Hooper Rd, Joor Rd, Wax Rd and Greenwell Springs Rd.
City of Central has a very limited number of dedicated bicycle facilities and most of the major city roadways have no sidewalks.
The plans and studies identified in this document are indicative that the actions and direction of the current administration are not any different from the plans of growth that have been set in place from the inception of the city. To say that the current administration is deviating from what Central was always intended to be is a complete falsehood.
PAST PROJECTIONS FOR EXPONENTIAL GROWTH
In the past, Central was projected to experience exponential growth. A 2008 Demographic and Economic Analysis by GCR & Associates Inc. included the following table:
A year later in 2009, the same company projected similar growth in the Market Feasibility for Retail, Commercial, and Residential:
Another study, the Transportation Plan, was completed in 2013. This study showed a more significant growth projection than the previous plans.
The question is why were we projected to have such massive growth? As a newly formed city, with a school system simultaneously becoming better and more popular, and the available land mass, Central was expected to see an increase in the amount of people who would move into the area.
However, the previous administrations had set ordinances and processes in place to slow down that growth. It was a very successful endeavor, almost too successful, because what Central is now experiencing is a decline in the population and economy. It’s hard for people to understand this decline when they see increased traffic and hear reports of schools being over capacity. The rest of this document will take an in depth look at the current state of affairs of the City of Central.
TAKING A LOOK AT BROADER TRENDS
Central is not an island. It is not a city immune to broader trends of the region and nation. To understand Central’s current and projected growth, an external look must be taken at broader trends. (The following information is taken from the BREC Strategic Plan for 2015-2025 and www.opportunitylouisiana.com)
National trends indicate the following:
Five trends in the United States are changing the way communities are planned and designed, and how people choose where they live:
1. The Aging of America: By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be over age 65.
2. The Increasing Diversity of America: By 2050, there will be no majority race.
3. The Rise of Single-Person Households: By the mid-2020s, single-person households will be the predominant household type.
4. The Stagnation of Household Income: Median household income has stagnated for the longest period since the government began collecting such data in 1967. Adjusted for inflation, the typical US household had 9% less income in 2012 than it did 13 years earlier.
5. The Widening Income Gap: Income gaps are seen across the entire population, within each racial/ethnic group, and by age. Households headed by those 65 and older are faring relatively better since the recession, while younger households are not.
As a state, Louisiana is indicating the following trends:
The South and West regions of the United States (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau) grew much more quickly (about 14% each) than the Midwest and Northeast (under 4% each) from 2000 to 2010, following a pattern from recent decades. Despite the overall regional growth of the South, Louisiana’s growth rate was less than 2% during the same period (Figure 1), among the slowest growing states in the country. Thousands of residents who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2006 did not return to the state.
Louisiana is also the fifth poorest state in the US based on per capita income. Over 18% of Louisianans live in poverty. Louisiana’s history of being among the poorest states is a pattern that has continued for decades.
However, there are many positives that keep Louisiana an attractive business climate:
Narrowing the focus a little further, we can look at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA):
The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes nine parishes, has grown at a faster pace than projected. The MSA’s population was 705,973 in 2000. While the MSA’s population was not expected to surpass 800,000 until sometime in 2013, the 2010 U.S. Census showed a population of just over 800,000.
During the past three decades, the portion of the region’s population living in East Baton Rouge Parish has declined steadily. The parish’s population has grown, but its share of the region’s population has declined from 62 to 55%.
The parish is experiencing out-migration to neighboring parishes. Data show that when residents leave the city-parish, they most often remain in the area and relocate to another parish in the MSA—typically retaining employment in East Baton Rouge while establishing residence in the other parish.
Since 2001, East Baton Rouge Parish has experienced both in-
migration and outmigration, but an overall net loss of 2,700 residents per year on average. This was offset by a significant population increase in 2005 and 2006 due to relocation from Hurricane Katrina. The parishes with the highest growth in the Baton Rouge MSA are Livingston and Ascension Parishes to the southeast.
Taking it even a step further and bringing the focus down to the parish level:
East Baton Rouge Parish is the most populous parish in Louisiana and includes the cities of Baton Rouge (the state capital and parish seat), Baker, Central, and Zachary. In the last decade, the population of East Baton Rouge Parish has grown 7.2%, from 412,852 to 442,698.
According to the US Census Bureau, the parish’s population is not growing significantly. Population growth in East Baton Rouge Parish is expected to slow significantly over the next decade to less than 2%. The highest population densities in East Baton Rouge Parish are found within the City of Baton Rouge and the southern portion of the parish.
Median age provides a quick way of establishing target age groups for which to plan. The median age in East Baton Rouge Parish was 32.7 in 2011, up from 31.5 in 2000.
Currently, slightly more than half of the population of East Baton Rouge Parish is under the age of 35, and the largest single age group in the parish is the 20–34 generation known as millennials (Figure
4). Millennials represent a significantly higher percentage of the parish population compared to the rest of Louisiana. This is due, in part, to the presence of Louisiana State University (LSU), Southern University, and Baton Rouge Community College, whose combined enrollment is approximately 43,000.
****In terms of distribution, the elderly represents a higher percentage of the population in the northcentral part of the parish, while 20- to 44-year-olds make up a large proportion of the population in the southern part of the parish and around LSU and Southern Universities. Age distribution is a great indicator for housing preferences of various demographic groups. Statistics indicate that young starter families prefer the southern part of the parish within and outside the city limits of Baton Rouge.****
According to state forecasts prepared in 2005, the percentage of the parish’s population over the age of 60 is expected to grow to 25 percent in 2030. This shift reflects national trends as one of the nation’s largest demographic groups (baby boomers born between 1946 and 1966) continues to age and retire in greater numbers.
There remain a number of challenges to East Baton Rouge Parish’s economic future, including:
• quality-of-life factors, such as concerns about public safety
• quality of the public K-12 school system
• air and water quality
• a continuing population shift outside of the parish
• acute economic and racial disparity within the parish
These factors have broader effects, both direct and indirect, on the local economy. For instance, local university graduates continue to seek employment opportunities and a better quality of life in other southern cities, such as Houston, Charlotte, and Atlanta, rather than staying in the parish.
Employers report difficulty in recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce, which affects the parish’s ability to keep existing businesses and recruit new employers.
According to a New York Times Report, young educated workers will change jobs numerous times over their careers, which make living in a large, diverse labor market more appealing. The same force leads an increasing number of educated two-earner couples to these same sorts of metro areas. Living in a highly educated metro area boosts one’s own acquisition of human capital and earning power and leads to better employment outcomes for workers across the education spectrum.
In addition, Louisiana’s economic growth is projected to be somewhat limited between 2010 and 2020 because of the state’s “relatively low level of education demand,” according to a study by The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Louisiana ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to jobs that demand college graduates, which reflects a lower share of high-wage, high-growth occupations and industries, according to the study.
Louisiana and East Baton Rouge Parish continue to lose both young educated adults and experienced workers, creating a more difficult challenge for stronger economic growth. In general, less educated mature workers are more likely to leave the Southern states, according to the study. In Louisiana and West Virginia, more educated workers leave.
From 2000 to 2010, Louisiana lost 3,238 workers with at least a bachelor’s degree who were between 35 and 64. The other Southern states, with the exception of West Virginia, saw an influx of those workers. On the plus side, Louisiana is expected to add 400,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020. Louisiana is also rapidly expanding younger industries. According to Tech America’s 12th annual Cyberstates report, Louisiana is one of the ten fastest-growing states for high-tech industries, due in part to the expansion of digital media, aerospace, and advanced materials.
CENTRALS CURRENT DEMOGRAPHIC OUTLOOK
The Louisiana State Department of Economic Development has played a pivotal role in helping to collect current data information for Central. The following information was pulled from the ESRI Data system:
What this chart demonstrates is an annual projected growth rate of 0.67%. Essentially, the only growth Central is even anticipated to have is from a few residential subdivisions and the new TND development.
Also, the 2016 Land Use Assessment Report completed by CSRS,Inc for the School Boards assessment of the new city center showed the same exact projections.
At the same time, Central is experiencing an outward migration of population. The following is taken from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey:
Central’s Migration Challenges:
In total, 1,341 moved from Central to a different parish
• 631 are in the 18-34 year old age range
• 86 are in the 5-17 year old age range
Only 12 people holding a Bachelor’s degree migrated into Central while 274 left.
Additionally, 127 moved from Central to a different State.
• 56 are in the 18-34 Year old age range
Upon analyzing the migration trend, LED’s Business Intelligence Economist says " The median age of most movers is generally in the mid to late 20’s. But it does show that this is the prime demographic that will be moving and they are the ones you have to keep."
Central also has an aging population. Currently, more than 10,000 of the 27,497 residents are over the age of 50.
With no projected growth, a migration challenge, and an aging population. In as little as 20 years, Central’s demographics will look like the following:
48% of the population will be from the ages of 60-99 years old
31% of the population will be from the ages of 35-59 years old
18% of the population will be from the ages of 20-34 years old
It is critical to the future vitality and sustainability of Central’s economy, to understand what this demographic outlook means. A future economic crisis could be seen if action is not taken to address these numbers.
Central also faces workforce and business development challenges. Currently, there are 12,361 people living in Central who are reported to be employed. 11, 206 of those employed individuals living with in Central are actually employed outside of the city. Meaning, nearly half of all of Central’s residents leave the city every day to go to work. There are also a reported 4591 jobs located with in Central. The largest employment is represented the school system and the larger industrial employers. Only 1,155 central residents fill those internal job positions. 3,436 individuals currently live outside the city but work inside the city limits. These numbers are extremely important in understanding why business development in Central has lacked up until this point and why we have experienced such a massive tax leakage.
CITY OF CENTRAL REVENUE
The City of Central’s general discretionary funds come from a 2% sales tax.
The top 10 sales tax revenue providers for the city in no particular order are Walmart, Sammy’s, Central Drugstore, McDonalds, Pat’s Hardware, David’s Tiger Express, Winn Dixie, Oak Point, CVS, and Walgreens. These businesses make up 54% of the overall tax revenue for the City.
SALES TAX LEAKAGE
In 2009, A Market Feasibility for Retail, Commercial, and Residential Growth plan was completed. The following images reflect the sales tax leakage found at that time:
From the previous images, you can see that Central indicates a pull factor of .51. This is extraordinary when comparing to neighboring communities who are all indicated at above 1.
This means that people are not shopping in Central and we are not drawing in shoppers from outside of the city either.
In 2015 JBS Companies, had an analysis completed for the property located on Wax Rd across from the High School.
From this chart, you can see a leakage in every category. In the same study completed by CSRS that was mentioned previously in the document, it is indicated that we have a leakage in every category with the exception of Food and Beverage and Elec& Appliance Stores.
The leakage that Central is experiencing is due to several different factors. The first factor being that Central simply does not have the retail or services available with in the city. Shoppers must go outside of the city to procure those items or services. The second factor is that the vast majority of Central’s employed population leaves the city every day to go to work. They are simply shopping and procuring services in close proximity to their workplaces instead of their residences. An additional factor, is that Central simply lacks the density in population to support businesses such as retail, restaurants, and services.
As you can see in the comparison chart below, Central’s density plays a huge role in attracting and sustaining business with in the city.
Central’s business development has been extremely slow over the last 11 years.
- Number of Occupancy Permits issued in Central:
* 2006 - 282
* 2007 - 64
* 2008 - 42
* 2009 - 36
* 2010 - 49
* 2011 - 49
* 2012 - 70
* 2013 - 49
* 2014 - 77
* 2015 - 65
The permits represented above are permits that were renewed in January of 2016. The year next to the number of permits represents the origination date of the permit. These numbers can be deceiving because Central was incorporated with already existing businesses in 2005. Many of the permitted numbers through out the years are businesses that have previously existed, but became legally permitted with the city. To some, these numbers may seem like we have had healthy, steady growth. But in fact, what we are seeing is no growth at all. For example, the number of business permits issued in 2015 alone in the City of Baton Rouge was 2621. Granted, although Central is similar in size and land mass to Baton Rouge, it is no where near the population density. However, the 2621 number serves an overall benchmark.
A CLOSER LOOK AT RESIDENTIAL GROWTH
Residential growth is one of the clearest indicators of a healthy economy. When looking at housing stats and trends, it is good to see availability of diverse housing in size and affordability.
Housing represents the overall demographic trends of a community, and often times can be the driving force behind demographic challenges. For instance, the current demographic trends for Central show that we are losing our prime demographic of 20-34 years of age to Livingston and Ascension parish due to housing prices in Central.
Having only 124 homes available for sale in a 66 square mile land mass is extremely low. Only 32 of those homes available being under the price of $200,000 indicates a lack of affordability in the housing prices.
The information provided in the following chart represents the subdivisions that have been approved since 2005.
As can be seen in the previous chart, over the last 11 years Central has only approved 1527 residential lots. Only 75% of those lots has been completed at this time. 1150 New homes have been built, leaving an additional 377 lots remaining to be built upon. Preliminary approval has been given to an additional 744 lots.
This is important to realize that Central has not had massive growth in terms of new developments.
As indicated in the chart, only 4 subdivisions were approved in 2015 with 3 of those being additional filings of already existing subdivisions.
You can easily compare this number to other areas and see that Central has indeed been very slow growing:
In summary, Central’s housing availability shows a bleak outlook of future projected growth and sustainability for the City.
A CLOSER LOOK AT SCHOOL CAPACITY
The biggest proponents of “anti-growth” with in Central, base their arguments on the fact that Central Schools are over capacity and cannot handle any more children coming into the school system. They also claim that the capacity issues stem from the “mass residential growth”. Taking a closer look at School Enrollment Figures, it is clear that Central has actually experienced a slow and steady growth, with the exception of 2009 when an influx of students from a closing private school entered the Central Community School System.
Since 2008, the School System reports that 1465 students have been added to the School System. Again, this is over an 8-year period of time. But as can be seen from the chart below, majority of the students added have come from older, existing subdivisions.
In the last 11 years, an average of 48.6 kids have been added from NEWER subdivisions per year.
Also, take into account the previous migration numbers that 86 of the school aged children actually left the city.
A point that needs to be made in resolving the misperception that schools are overcrowded is addressing that the school system has explored options to purchase new pods to replace the existing T-Buildings. However, the school board is looking into replacing the T-building due to the fact that these are indeed temporary facilities and either must be replaced or have significant maintenance over time. Majority of the T-buildings have been on campuses since 2004 with a few additional coming in around 2009. So it’s easily understood that the need for T-buildings have existed way before any developments from the time the city became a city. The new pods will update the current facilities and offer a more permanent, secure environment than what is currently in place.
Taking it a step further, and once again looking externally to the broader picture, successful schools in other neighboring cities take on a much higher percentage of student to population ratio than what Central does currently. In looking at these other school systems, they have addressed growing numbers by continuing to build more schools. The Central School System is still housed in some buildings that are 30 plus years old. Those buildings were built for the population expectations at that time. It is to be expected, that with breaking away from a failing school district, and becoming #2 with in the state, that the student population would naturally increase.
Again, the idea that Central Schools are over capacity and all future developments must be stopped is unsubstantiated political rhetoric and fear mongering.
“CENTRAL’S” TRAFFIC CONCERNS
Another misconception among the Central Community is that Central has experienced mass growth causing traffic problems and delays with in the city. When looking at the impact of a development on the traffic of an area, DOTD and traffic study comparisons use the following chart: