With the recent news of the Ardagh Glass Plant’s impending closure, we are all reminded about the need for a continued focus on economic development. Businesses of all sizes are impacted by the current economic slowdown, and we can’t take any business or associated jobs for granted. The challenge of sustainable financial success is also a key issue at our local universities. With fewer young people entering four-year colleges today, the competition for students is ramping up. With costs increasing as student numbers decrease, it is becoming increasingly difficult for our universities to continue to offer a broad range of degree programs in a cost-effective manner.
So, what can we do? We can support those working on economic development for the region and student enrollment increases for our universities in the region. One way we can support this effort is by merely taking care of our community and property. Ruston is fortunate to have many rental house opportunities for students desiring to live off campus. Off-campus housing is a key component of the college experience and a key ingredient for any successful college town. The problem in Ruston is that far too many of these rental properties are neglected and give a terrible impression of the city, but particularly around the La Tech campus. Yards go un-mowed for weeks at a time. Sidewalks are not edged. Trash is continually overflowing from dumpster areas.
Far too many property owners are enjoying the “passive” income and are all too passive about their responsibility of property ownership. The same concern holds true for vacant lots and closed businesses. The grass is not being mowed and the buildings are just left without any semblance of responsibility. It’s not every piece of rental property or vacant lot, but there are far too many.
We will never know how many parents come to Ruston to take a tour of Tech, see everything I describe above, and enroll their children somewhere else. The staff at Tech may never get a fair chance to share what Tech offers because the prospective student and family are so turned off by the neglect that they see driving around the campus area of town.
This same issue holds true of companies considering Ruston for expansion or relocation. It doesn’t take too long driving around the campus area or downtown area to see the neglect. If property owners don’t care enough to take care of their property, why would a prospective business think this community will take care of their business or their customers. It matters!
I have lived in different areas of the South and have seen economic growth be successful. I have seen local universities grow enrollment. I can attest that the community played a role in all those cases. Those communities weren’t perfect. They had challenges just like our community. However, they got serious about growth and realized that appearances and first impressions matter a lot! Ruston has some great things going with downtown upgrades. We have some individuals that do a great job with their businesses and private property. There are just too many examples in prominent areas that are just so disappointing.
We can do better. We need all property owners to take responsibility for their property so Ruston and the surrounding areas can be at our best as we seek to grow jobs, grow the local economy, and grow our local universities. Just three simple words would be a good start ….mow the grass!