Winnsboro is a “certified” Louisiana Development Ready Community (LDRC).
The certification came after Town Council members passed a resolution at their June 15 meeting in support of a proposed five-year strategic plan designed to improve vital local areas such as education, economic development and internet access.
“We are ready to move forward with strategic plans for Winnsboro,” said Carmen Sims, project manager. “This will allow us to be first on the (statewide) list with economic development packages whenever there are proposals.”
The plan was developed by a LDRC process steering committee and is comprised of concerned citizens, brainstorming ways to improve the area’s economic development, recreation, education, broadband access and marketing. The group is participating in the LDRC program through the Louisiana Economic Development office and the Louisiana Municipal Association.
With the resolution passing, the Economic Development Ready Community group will now start working on individual goals in the strategic plan, Sims said.
“This is a feather in Winnsboro’s cap,” Sims said. “There are only 42 other LDRC communities statewide.”
LDRC supports selected Louisiana communities to become development ready and “open for business” by creating and implementing a strategic five-year plan. Each community’s plan includes strategies to address education, workforce development, infrastructure, leadership and marketing / communications.
Winnsboro’s Economic Development Ready Community task force developed five strategic areas which includes education, economic development, telling our story, parks and recreation and broadband.
To establish its focus areas, the group performed a parish-wide questionnaire listing where participants ranked each subject one through 10 with one being weak and 10 being strong. More than 160 people took part in the survey.
“When we did the survey (Louisiana Economic Development) LED said if we could get a hundred (participants) that would be great because most communities get 15, 30, 40 results back,” Sims said in a Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The survey found education, trained workforce, local infrastructure, broadband availability, lack of retail and restaurants, job creation and incomplete activity center as local weaknesses.
Additionally, the survey found quality of life, Delta Community College, La. Hwy 15, available land and buildings, leadership, utilities, Main Street Historic District, law enforcement, churches and its people as local strengths.
Broadband internet access for Franklin Parish was the number one focus area after information was compiled from the survey.
Each focus area is led by a sub-committee which has established goals and priorities for their assigned areas.
Education sub-committee priority is expanding opportunities, participation, access and quality of K12 and postsecondary systems.
Public awareness and marketing of Franklin Parish and detailing positive attributes to promote local business and attract new businesses is the priority for the economic development sub-committee.
Parks and recreation sub-committee has listed two priorities. First, organize and complete improvements on high use existing parks such as Wallace, Rollins and Landis parks. Second priority was develop a comprehensive plan to expand Civitan Park walking trail as a step towards helping Winnsboro become a walking and biking friendly community.
The priority of the broadband sub-committee is to bring high speed internet service to local businesses and residents.
Telling Our Story sub-committee’s priority is to raise public awareness and market the community along with the positive attributes to promote local business while attracting new business.