The Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development District (IMCAL) has released it's report of our area and, in it, they came up with a list of strengths and weaknesses in SWLA.

According to Jerry Jones, interim executive director of IMCAL, said Southwest Louisiana's strengths are obvious. We are all aware of the Cheniere, Cameron LNG expansions and according to Jones:

"all those plants getting ready and doing it now. Almost $40 billion worth of infrastructure already in the ground."

Jones added that LNG, along with the Port of Lake Charles, have been identified as positives in the area. As we said, all obvious strengths in our area, but that leads us to weaknesses. Well, the good news is that our weaknesses are something we can easily do something about.

It seems that, according to the IMCAL report, our main weakness is access to information. The answer to that problem, the report says, is our public access channels. Jones points out that "All public meetings should occur on the public access channel."

Another weak point is not quite as easy to control and that has to do with the rest of the country's perception of this area. The report points out that many so-called "reality" shows have painted a false image of the area leading viewers to see us as something far less than we really are.

Once again, to the up side of the report, our property values are going to increase and the report stresses that

"Price of property is going to continue to increase and it's going to cause a lot of restaurants to come in too late and they are going to have to pay the price for not coming in when they should have,"

One area of development in the area that should excite everyone is our lakefront and the report says that

The lakefront is just a for sure development piece, the mayor and council of Lake Charles have been working extremely hard on trying to give that a go."That'll show a very strong piece of the puzzle for what we have to move forward on."

Now, IMCAL and all of Southwest Louisiana can use the guide for grant opportunities.

While this is all very good news, I can't help but feel that the quality of our schools would certainly come under the heading of "weaknesses" and it's going to take someone very serious about education to change that. Better education has been a campaign promise for everyone seeking public office and we have yet to see any real positive action in that direction.

Just as people are upset on a national level, I know several teachers who want to see some real progress made when it comes to the schools of the area. I don't understand why this vital part of our entire future seems to be a great running platform, but not a priority once the elected officials get the job.

Families who may be considering relocating to the area are certainly going to consider the quality of the schools and, when it comes to that, it seems to be a very black-eye for the community.

My take away on the report is that our strong points are very strong and our weaknesses can certainly be overcome with community involvement. All in all an excellent report for us. We should all be very proud of the exciting future of the area!