I penned this little letter to Rolfe McCollister, Jr., the editor of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report after seeing him come out editorially on his daily updated website (www.daily-report.com) against the proposed location of the Bass Pro Shop in my hometown of Denham Springs, Louisiana. What do you guys think? ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mr. McCollister, I am a Denham Springs resident. I'll say it first thing. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I must admit that I've enjoyed and read with regular, consistent interest your reports and stories on both your businessreport.com and daily-report.com websites. I really enjoy them. I am looking forward to seeing what changes are made on both sites as a result of the survey you recently put online to improve them. Having said that, I must also say that almost unequivocally, I've never disagreed with a single comment made on either of your sites. Even Mr. Ball's interesting views on LSU Athletics (which, as a 25 year old former LSU student, I am an avid fan of). That is, never until Tuesday night. While at work (in Baton Rouge), I perused the daily-report.com site and its daily smorgasbord of local information (which I wish was greatly expanded in its volume, depth, and breadth from a coverage standpoint). I found your own opinion interspersed, which has been happening a little lately, regarding the proposed Bass Pro Shop location in Denham Springs, Louisiana. It was with great shock I read about your actual disapproval with the venture. It was with even greater shock that I continued to read, and found little to no substance beyond your disagreement with the venture. Mr. McCollister, you've never been one to strike me as a cynic. Most all of your suggestions/shots/observations/points are well thought out, clear, and erudite. The lack of a suggestion in response to the type of economic development that my home Parish has attracted was very telling in reading your opinion. In this humble consumer of your product's opinion, your own opinion on this subject was as brief as the thought it seems went into the formulation of the opinion itself. Base economic development on our schools? Rolfe, how did we get such good schools? Let's face it, it has as much to do with the influx of suburban type non minority families who made the "White flight" to the relative "country suburbia" blend provided by Livingston Parish (and really, the Denham Springs/Walker/Live Oak/Watson area in specific) as it has to do with your backwards and bungling handling of a school desegragation case that went on longer than any other in our nation's history! It also doesn't hurt to have the current MFP formula conjured up in such a way that an industry lacking parish such as Livingston's can have a school system which can thrive as opposed to a system like West Baton Rouge or Iberville, both of whom benefit from large industry and local large scale employers. But, enough of what your suggestion was. We both know that you don't have too many bright ideas for Livingston Parish on your own, and your little missive regarding Bass Pro proves me right. Why oppose the Bass Pro Shop? Seriously? Why oppose its location there? I would say much more than a simple majority of the residents of Livingston Parish earn their living in East Baton Rouge or elsewhere. I think you would agree. I think most any rational observer of the local economic scene would agree as well. It's not as if Bass Pro would take away a huge swath of skilled workforce labor for Baton Rouge, is it? The simple fact is that Livingston Parish has almost ZERO in the way of industry and economic development. Almost nil. Any way you look at this snowglobe, Livingston Parish shines, but shines in the same manner as the moon on a clear night. It's reflected light, Rolfe. People come here because Baton Rouge is a hop, skip and a jump away. They come here because our school system isn't mired in mediocrity (which has more to do with the average socioeconomic profile of our students than race or the teachers, etc). They come here because they can work in Baton Rouge, and live in the country. They live here because the concrete jungles doesn't appeal like the suburban sprawl. But, they come here with their money safely deposited in banks in Baton Rouge. They spend their money in malls off Bluebonnet and 190 and Airline. They go out to eat off Bennington and they go to the show off Corporate. Their discretionary income spends elsewhere. Their tax dollars work for you. Their salaries are made where you live. They go on their lunch break, buy their gas, and hit the gym after work in your city. Not mine. It's like the grown kid who lives at home, and treats it like a dorm: Just a place to stash your stuff, crash on the couch, and then jet out when it's time for class. Now, here come bold Livingston Parish leaders, community organizations, and even local School Boards. They woo a big company like Bass Pro to come. The state promises millions. Blanco promises a THIRD interstate exit (you'll have to excuse my enthusiasm over that, since we've been on "the DOTD list" since I was five for the 2nd exit). Three hundred jobs, and even Baton Rouge Big Boys like TJ Moran ponder putting a TJ Ribs in little ole Denham Springs. The school board of this effective and results oriented schools sytem comes out unanimously in favor of this project. You remember them, right Rolfe? The ones you said we should build our economic development around? Seems like they would probably be in a better situation to know what's good for their school system (judging from the results they produce on a perennial basis, I hardly think you'd have the audacity to lecture them on the proper way to comport themselves in this instance) than you would. A huge economic development center that generates traffic easing ancillary benefits and long time coming and desperately needed infrastructure enhancements (via two new interstate exits), property value increases, a higher public profile for the area, a larger tax base for the city, parish, and even the state to draw from, a local bedrock retailer that will attract not only out of town consumers but local retailers and merchants to feed off of its own success and business, and last but certainly not least, HUNDREDS OF NEW LOCAL JOBS FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS! It's going to make citizens of our city and parish get to work in Baton Rouge faster. It's going to ease traffic from Airline to O'Neal in the afternoons on the interstates. It's going to get people off the roads from Livingston to Baton Rouge (They'll now be working at Bass Pro), and it's going to give our parish a much needed boost in sales tax. Lastly, Rolfe, your assumption that with stores in Shreveport, Jackson, and Biloxi, this location won't draw enough people from a five state area, I submit to you simple logic, sir. What other state in the Union has more outdoorsmen than our hallowed home? The "Gret Stet Of Looziana" isn't called the Sportsman's Paradise for 'nothin. When's the last time you thought about snagging some bass in Jackson? How about going offshore near Biloxi? I'm guessing the Tarpon Rodeo wouldn't quite be as popular if it was located in Shreveport as compared to Grand Isle, don't you think? But...If you're on your way down to Grand Isle on 12, coming from Arkansas or North Louisiana, or from Texas or even Natchez or somewhere else, you'd drive right past the Denham Springs exit, and see the big sign for Bass Pro Shop. You'd think about that old reel, or the need to respool it with new string. You might even make up your mind to just hook up the trailer and go buy a new boat on your way down... It's very logical to assume that a Bass Pro Shop that's literally 20 minutes from Lake Maurepas and the extensive tributary system of the Amite, Tickfaw, and Blind Rivers, along with the Amite Diversion Canal, nevermind no less than 2 hours from the coast and five minutes outside of the 2nd most populous area in the state (away from a cumbersome traffic situation and easy to get into and out of thanks to easy interstate exit and entrace ramps built specially and specifically for it) would seem to be a welcoming thought to most who travel to our state to take advantage of the wonderful outdoors adventures that appeal to Bass Pro's core customer. It's pretty logical to me. Matter of fact, it's pretty logical to Denham Springs city leaders. It's pretty logical to Livingston Parish community and political leaders. It's pretty logical to the Livingston Parish School Board. It's even pretty logical to our new and ethically challenged Governor. Why isn't it logical to you? Could you stand in the way of hundreds of jobs, infrastructure improvements, easing traffic conditions in your city, increasing the tax base of a school system already striving for excellence, and something other than slot machines that can get out of state dollars into this one? I didn't think you could. At least, I didn't think you could until Tuesday night.