Shreveport skyline

While the WalletHub study puts a dark cloud over Shreveport's economy, a local economist says the picture is brighter. 

Dismal new economic growth numbers for Shreveport. It comes from the personal finance website WalletHub. But how did they come up with those numbers? And are they reason to worry, considering what other WalletHub studies have shown about Shreveport?

The study says Shreveport ranks second-to-last in the nation for economic growth this year -- 514 out of 515 cities that were scored. And in a breakdown of mid-size cities, Shreveport is dead last at 249.

From the energy sector that's struggling to come back, a gaming industry facing tough competition in Oklahoma, and challenges in health care -- Shreveport is taking economic hits.

They show up in the new WalletHub survey, which was based on 15 metrics. They include population growth, unemployment, home prices, number of new businesses, and building permit activity.

Shreveport is at or near the bottom in many of those metrics:

Lowest income growth -- 515.

Median household income growth -- 515.

Population growth -- 510.

Working age population growth -- 510.

Job growth -- 493.

Those scores led to Shreveport's next-to-lowest overall ranking of 514. While New Orleans finished slightly above average at 239, other Louisiana cities did not fare much better than Shreveport. Baton Rouge, 504. Lafayette 437.

Meantime, cities next door in Texas are doing well. The Lone Star state has four towns in the nation's top 10 fast growing cities -- Midland at 2, Pearland at 3, McKinney at 5, and College Station 6. Frisco (16) , Round Rock (17) and Austin (18) also make the top 20.

But a local economist says, don't panic, Shreveport.

"We're not dying," says Centenary economics professor Dr. David Hoaas. "We are walking forward. Other cities are running forward. So it makes us look like we're falling behind."

Hoaas says two big things need to happen for Shreveport to rev up economic growth. I-49 from Texarkana to Fort Smith, Arkansas must be funded and built to improve commerce through Shreveport; and in Louisiana, investment in technical education.

"This would have to be a statewide effort. We would have to invest more in educational training. Shreveport-Bossier by itself can't do that," Dr. Hoass says.

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler did not want to comment for this story. But her office did provide a list of rankings where Shreveport did show up in good ways, including some from WalletHub.

Just three years ago, WalletHub ranked Shreveport number one out of 150 U.S. cities as the best place to start a business. And the following year, the same study put Shreveport 18th.

That same year, national real estate company KPMG ranked Shreveport first in the nation for lowest manufacturing costs, and the most cost-friendly city to do business among 27 small-sized U.S. metros.

That leads Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce President Tim Magner to say, "I'm not sure that we necessarily need to panic."

He says WalletHub surveys are partly clickbait -- to gain views of their website, and their ads. But he says there's also useful information.

"I think they serve as an opportunity for reflection on the strategic path we need to take as a community rather than an alarm bell that the house is on fire," Magner says.

Neither side of Texarkana, nor Monroe, Louisiana were scored.

But WalletHub says the best place for economic growth in Louisiana is Lake Charles at 33 in their rankings. That city is benefitting from industrial expansion along the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

Looking only at the big city category, the top five begins with Austin, followed by Miami, Seattle, Charlotte and Denver.

Another Texas city is next on the big city list -- Fort Worth comes in at 6. San Antonio is 14th, Dallas 17th, and Houston is at 42.

In Arkansas, Little Rock comes in near the bottom at 422 overall, while Fayetteville and Springdale both rank inside the top 100.

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