Small businesses are the lifeblood of Louisiana's workforce. They account for 97 percent of all businesses in the state and employ more than half of all private sector workers. We depend on them to keep local communities thriving, but in the current fiscal climate, many small business owners are having a hard time turning a profit. Now is a better time than ever to help them get back on their feet, and new scientific opinion polling reveals Louisiana entrepreneurs believe protecting their state's natural assets is one way we can help small businesses and local communities thrive.
There's a reason why Louisiana is nicknamed the "Sportsman's Paradise:" the state is home to 2.1 million acres of public lands, and wildlife tourism contributes $2 billion in revenues annually and supports 82,000 jobs. From swamp tour businesses to local hotels and restaurants, Louisiana's public lands are important to the success of small businesses.
It should come as no surprise then that Small Business Majority's latest poll found a vast nine in 10 Louisiana small business owners believe the state's parks, waterways, forests and public lands are an important part of the economy, and 94 percent of respondents agree public lands draw visitors and have a positive impact on small local businesses. What's more, they want Congressional leadership to renew funding that protects the state's forests and parks.
One such business owner who feels this way is Matt Glassman, co-owner of SPROUT NOLA , LLC in New Orleans, a sustainable produce company.
"Louisiana's parks, waterways, forests and swamps are an important part of our heritage and are an essential part of our economy," Glassman said. "I believe many people who visit or move to Louisiana choose this state because of its outdoor recreation and natural beauty. Many of them end up starting businesses because they quickly realize they don't want to live anywhere else, and down here we just have that entrepreneurial spirit. In New Orleans, we rely heavily on tourism to sustain the local economy and create jobs. But if we don't protect our public lands, Louisiana could lose its appeal for many potential visitors, and small businesses would suffer the consequences."
Unfortunately, small business owners don't think policymakers are doing enough to safeguard these lands. More than 6 in 10 Louisiana entrepreneurs believe policymakers should be doing more to protect the water, air, parks and wildlife habitat in their state.
Specifically, they want Congressional leadership to extend the life of the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which receives its funding from fees paid by oil and gas companies that do offshore drilling, and that is used to protect national forests and parks. Small business owners believe the Conservation Fund can create and protect outdoor recreation opportunities, which supports local jobs and small businesses in the state. In the last 40 years, Louisiana has received about $205 million to protect various public lands throughout the state, but the Fund will expire next year if Congress doesn't act.
"We want our government to protect these areas and others like them for future generations," Glassman said. "Other than special interests, I can't imagine anyone wanting to see the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund expire."
Louisiana's parks and public lands matter to the state's economy and small businesses. When one considers that Louisiana tourism generated a whopping $10.8 billion in revenue last year, it's time for lawmakers to sit up and take notice of how important wildlife recreation is to the state's economy.
We need our leaders to take steps now to protect Louisiana's natural assets in order to support the state's public lands, its small business community and the economy.