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Ellis optimistic about Monroe leading the future for the region

Mayor Friday Ellis is excited about the upcoming additions to Monroe, Louisiana and the region as a whole.

Ellis was born in Rayville, Louisiana. He decided to settle and get married in Monroe while also enlisting in the United States Marine Corps to serve his country in 2001.

He is a 2019 graduate of Louisiana Leadership, a 2022 graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute and was elected to office in July 2020.

"We are stronger regionally. We can work together."

On exciting things happening in Monroe

The announcement for Amtrak coming through the city which will connect Atlanta, Georgia to Dallas, Texas is very exciting. It will transform the community the same as air travel did. This could do wonderful things for workforce development, traction and mobility. Parks and recreation masterplans have been envisioned by citizens as well. Overall optimism from residents or even people in the region has increased. People are noticing the collaboration between the universities, cities and between mayors with their delegations.

"I grew up in Rayville, I had parents who drove to Monroe to work so I understand the importance of Monroe to our region and what a strong Monroe means." Some of our largest infrastructure issues are South of us, so when you make the case that you are working together with others you can justify spending public dollars outside of your jurisdiction to help the region as a whole.

"Our smaller regional health facilities feed our larger healthcare facilities."

On current economic initiatives

The growth in health sciences, the addition of Vcom and Ochsner LSU Health and St. Francis Medical Center attacking the rural health crisis are all exciting. The Biomedical Research and Innovation Park helps incubate ideas that come out of research from the pharmacy department. There are small business round table discussions happening with the chamber to listen to what the challenges are and how we can help grow a business to CEO round tables being led through Louisiana economic development. On a larger scale, the I-20 board is starting to look at inventory when it comes to certified and development-ready sites. "We continually hear that we got interstate, we got rail, we got all these things. Well I can tell you about 30 other communities along I-20 that have the same thing, but they are further along in the game with developed sites." Right now speed to market is the key. We are putting the processes together to be able to acquire, develop and market these sites to suit potential companies.

On opportunities seen for Monroe

Our economic development sites. We are working with Louisiana Economic Development to become a certified shovel-ready community when it comes to development. It is a process to go through the touring business industry. Ultimately, the opportunities seen are with our historic downtown strategy plan. It is aligning public dollars to create beautiful spaces. The private sector responds to public investment. When we bought the old historic candy company, Ouachita Candy Co, to put out a request for proposal to attract suitors the real estate market responded. Historic buildings that were once for sale are not anymore. Driving through you will see people with pelican property now flipping these buildings.

"Public and community health is something that concerns me, because that is our future."

On current challenges

"Apathy has sunk into our community." The belief that we can achieve and have nice things in Monroe I thought was going to be a bigger challenge when I came into it. Hearing from young professionals who are staying here did not take long. Crime and youth violence is another challenge since we are seeing a rise, especially after COVID. Threat assessments with our children that are in schools are sometimes 3-4 times higher than in the past. We are trying to draw down dollars to help support wrap-around services. We work with The Children's Coalition to figure out ways to expand seats in early childcare through our recreational centers. We do whatever we can to help this next generation of kids and support their families.

"What I hope community doesn't lose is perspective and lose the fact that our communities are still recovering. Teachers and administrators are working very hard."

On working with school systems

K-12 teachers in school systems are the experts. These are people who are on the ground and we do what we can to support them. We have worked with Monroe City schools to provide transportation to rec centers and there is a plan to have open-access Wi-Fi in all of our rec centers. We all understood the challenges with broadband, COVID and human interaction. There was a lack of support within human interaction because usually, it is your educators, coaches or somebody that notices signs of abuse or that a child is struggling.

On advice to young people that want to make a difference in Monroe

You don't need anyone's permission to get connected in your community or to serve for an office. If you are going to stay and live here make it the best you can. It does not cost anything to go to your neighbor and get to know them. Get out and involved.