Brand – Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase and was founded by the French in 1714. Natchitoches is home to Northwestern State University, the Cane River National Heritage Area, a National Historic Landmark District, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and the Northwest Louisiana History Museum. Natchitoches is well known for the filming of Steel Magnolias, the world-famous Christmas Festival, and other events attract many annual visitors to the area.
Education – Natchitoches Parish has three public and two private high schools, plus seven schools that serve elementary and middle school students. Northwestern State University of Louisiana is in Natchitoches and there are seven other colleges and universities each with more than 2,000 students within driving distance. High school attainment is 88.4% and about 19% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Industry Sectors – The top industries in Natchitoches Parish for employment are Manufacturing (21.6%), Health Care and Social Assistance (16.5%), Retail (15%), and Accommodation and Food Service (12.7%). The Natchitoches Economic Development Alliance is actively working to attract, expand, and retain employers.
Labor Market – Natchitoches Parish has a labor force of just over 14,000 and the unemployment level is 5%, which is higher than the state average of 3.8% and lower than the national average of 6%.
Population – The population of Natchitoches Parish in 2020 was about 37,000 with over 14,000 households, according to the US Census Bureau. The median age of residents is 33.5 years old, which is slightly younger than the state average of 37.7.
Proximity and Transportation – Natchitoches Parish is strategically located in north-central Louisiana and accessed via Interstate 49, which also connects the community to Shreveport and Interstate 20 just 72 miles to the north, and Alexandria about 50 miles south. State Highways 1, 6, 478 and 494 provide ease of access for Natchitoches. In addition, U.S. Highways 71 and 84 are reachable just north of the city of Natchitoches, and State Highways 9, 117 and 120 provide access to all points of the parish. Natchitoches is within five hours travel time from five major metropolitan areas. Commercial and international air service is just an hour away at the Alexandria-Esler Regional Airport and the Shreveport Regional Airport.
Quality of Life – Residents enjoy historical sites, museums, festivals, access to the Cane River and parks in the area, and a unique and vibrant culture with activities for all ages. The cost-of-living index is 80.5, which is lower than the state average of 86.9. The median home cost is about $171,000, which is lower than the state average of about $188,000 and considerably lower than the national average of about $292,000. Access to quality health care and an average commute to work time of 24 minutes makes Natchitoches Parish a desirable place to live.
Natchitoches Parish has challenges, both real and perceived, which must be addressed to ensure a strong economic future. These include:
Brand – Although Natchitoches Parish has a historic presence and attracts students and visitors from across the country, it still has a long way to go attract major employers and retain young professionals to work and raise a family. Natchitoches Parish has successfully transformed from a turn-of-the-century historic area to innovative and progressive communities. Changing perceptions and attitudes takes time and continued investment by leaders and organizations.
Business Climate – Attracting and retaining employers is key to provide quality jobs for residents and to drive the economic prosperity of the region. Although Natchitoches Parish has longtime and emerging employers, there is fierce competition across communities in the U.S. for employers and higher-wage jobs. To attract new and retain existing employers, Natchitoches Parish will need to have pro-business policies, access to skilled talent, and communities their employees enjoy living in.
Education and Labor Market – With unemployment rates currently at 3.8%, it can be difficult for employers to fill job openings across the entire spectrum of lower, midlevel and upper-level skilled positions. Despite a constant flow of students through the parish’s high school and secondary education institutions, the “talent war” lures many young professionals to metro cities that offer more diverse opportunities and amenities.
Housing – Although housing costs are lower than neighboring metropolitan cities, the inventory is limited for new or modern housing and development has not kept up with demand. Attracting and retaining young professionals with families is challenging without appropriate housing diversity.
Infrastructure – Existing and aging roads and bridges require investments to accommodate anticipated growth in Natchitoches Parish and the region.
Public Safety – Crime and public safety are concerns. Existing public safety agencies, crime-prevention programs and workforce pipelines will need the full support of all businesses and residents in the parish to effectively address concerns. New programs developed with input from all stakeholders should also be prioritized.
Quality of Life – About 44% of Natchitoches Parish residents live below the poverty line and an enhanced lifestyle would require school-to-career initiatives, on-the-job training, and higher salary jobs. The median household income is about $28,500, which is lower than the state average of $50,800 and the national average of $53,482. The sales tax rate is 9.5% and the income tax rate is 6% which is higher than the national average sales tax of 7.3% and income tax rate of 4.6%.
Natchitoches Parish has collective assets which can be leveraged to develop a sustainable and prosperous future for employers and residents, including:
Community and Economic Development Collaborations – Natchitoches Parish leaders and organizations are working together to enhance the quality of life in the area and invest in community and economic development initiatives. The initiatives led through the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce and the Natchitoches Economic Development Alliance will influence the future of Natchitoches Parish.
Education and Workforce Development – Natchitoches Parish public and private schools and Northwestern State University can build a future workforce pipeline for employers. Collaborations through education-business partnerships could retain young professionals in the area through apprenticeships, internships, and heightened awareness of job opportunities in the parish.
Industry Sectors – Education, Manufacturing, Health Care and Social Services, Retail, and Tourism will continue to be growing sectors of the regional economy. New investments in developing hydrogen fuel cells for power production for oil and gas transmission are new opportunities for the area. The Air National Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing strategically located in the Mansfield Industrial District and focus on cybersecurity will also attract new investments and talent over the next several years.
Infrastructure – New investments to replace aging roads, bridges, and water systems and high-speed broadband access across the parish will stimulate growth in the region.
Proximity and Transportation – Natchitoches Parish’s strategic location in northwest Louisiana between Alexandria and Shreveport will continue to stimulate economic and population growth in the area. This places the parish in a positive position that could be leveraged to influence its future.
Quality of Life –Natchitoches Parish offers a lower cost of living, wonderful community and cultural amenities, and a “home-town” feel with access to major cities. Communicating all that the parish offers, engaging young professionals in high schools and higher-education institutions, and providing good jobs and affordable housing options will help to retain and attract the next generation of residents and employees.
The Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 – 2025 #GoNatchitoches strategic plan provides a blueprint to leverage our strengths, overcome our challenges and capitalize on the opportunities ahead of us. The Chamber leadership and staff have been tasked with facilitating and accomplishing this plan
OUR CHALLENGES ARE NOT UNSURMOUNTABLE. WE HAVE A PLAN.