The dismantling of the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority as we’ve known it is underway.
Some would probably argue that the end began more than a year ago, when ex-director Steve Vassallo and Parish President Michel Claudet seemingly held very differing views of the organization’s role. Rather than face that issue head on, Vassallo chased his dream of business exchanges with China, leaving many to wonder if opportunities closer to home – or even within the United States – were left on the table.
But, now, it’s over. TEDA is in its final stages, like a deflated balloon.
What awaits Terrebonne’s economic development future remains to be seen.
An 11th hour deal will keep the board – in some form – functioning. But no one seems totally certain what the board’s role or makeup will be. And any changes will require a legislative hand in Baton Rouge from one of our local lawmakers. After all, this was a board birthed by the Legislature.
What is known is that Claudet will be more involved in the group’s direction. He has to be. Funding for TEDA’s operations was nixed in his last budget.
TEDA has money for operations through this month, and next meets Feb. 11.
It’s not certain how the agency will function between now and the completion of an in-house audit. No one knows yet the employees’ future or if they will receive a severance package. What is known is state law does not permit severance pay.
TEDA currently has less than $60,000 in its coffers, according to acting director Donna Washington. The agency is working within the confines of its cash. No plans have been made yet to return its balance fund to the parish, as was requested by Claudet.
“We are working right now on that audit and want to make sure that when the doors close, we have a complete audit,” Washington told the Tri-Parish Times. The audit is expected to be complete by March 31.
With all the unknowns, there are a few things we do know. The parish’s economic duties will move in-house, with three staffers joining the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government’s Planning Department. Hiring for those slots has yet to begin.
TEDA’s directors have indicated the agency will continue and will assist the parish as able.
Claudet and Planning Department director Pat Gordon at the helm of the in-house efforts to grow the parish’s economic hub, the challenge ahead is certain. But they’re certainly achievable.
The parish has grown by leaps under Claudet’s watch. New malls and shops are sprouting up daily in Terrebonne Parish.
To whom that is attributable is of little concern. That we as a parish are continuing to see activity economically is what matters. And that conceivably more activity will follow with the predicted growth in production in the Gulf of Mexico (see the Energy Information Administration’s short-term outlook of 2015 on page A1).
We are excited about what the future brings for Terrebonne residents. Change is uncomfortable at the outset. But there is business to grow within U.S. border. Claudet and the parish council are sending a clear signal: Terrebonne is open for business.