St. Tammany Parish Development District hired Chris Masingill in May 2018 to be the CEO of St. Tammany Corp. St. Tammany Corp. was developed to create partnerships and opportunities to help the parish prosper. The company is the lead economic development organization in St. Tammany Parish.
When Masingill began his position as CEO, St. Tammany was on an uphill path with a great local economy, many prospects and partnerships in the works that could bring the parish additional jobs and the parish’s performance was well above standards. Today, the parish’s prosperity has taken a hit by the stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines the novel coronavirus has brought on.
Masingill is being proactive and has a plan in place to hopefully return to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity and keep on a positive track for the future. Masingill is focusing on what can be done in the future to best ensure the parish remains a place of choice to work, live and play for decades to come.
St. Tammany’s unemployment rate dramatically rose in 2020 because of COVID-19. During the height of COVID-19, 50,000 St. Tammany residents sought unemployment benefits. Many of the parish’s industry sectors were hit very hard. Those that were hit the hardest were hospitality, tourism and restaurants. The Ceo explains that the parish’s revenue has been reduced but some of it is slowly returning. The parish might not see as much motel/hotel sales tax nowadays but taxes from grocery stores and hardware stores have spiked.
Masingill reports that there are some companies that are busier than ever because of the change in spending habits due to the novel coronavirus. In St. Tammany, the logistics, transportation, warehousing and distribution sectors have boomed. The parish has thrived in this industry because of its geographic positioning and the talented workforce it has living among it. Masingill believes this shift is because the global supply chain has changed. “Even with the vaccine coming online and the economy getting energy behind it, there’s little doubt that some things about the way we do business have fundamentally changed forever,” he relays.
People are currently hiring and job postings for the month of November 2020 were at 7,000 unique postings. St. Tammany residents are still spending money and there is a rebound in consumer confidence but the recovery will be slow. We should understand that there will be ups and downs to the long-term recovery. “There is no quick fix. We’re talking several more months, and some people predict several years, before we see the same level of economic activity we saw in 2019,” Masingill states.
St. Tammany is very lucky that it is home of some of the most educated people in the area. It is reported that 40% of the residence in St. Tammany hold a college degree. Masingill wants to focus on keeping its residence local to work and not go out of the parish for employment.
It is in the perfect location and the parish has access to things people want. The parish is in the top 10% of the most populous counties/parishes in the United States. Masingill continues to keep the area in the top 10% and believes that quality of life is just as important as sustainable growth, job creation and business development. “You want a nimble and resilient community. If you have that, you can rebound that much more quickly when things like a pandemic happens, when a hurricane happens.”
Overall Masingill feels that balance will be the success of St. Tammany’s robust economy. “There’s a balance. (You have to be in the middle.) That’s the sustainable and smart approach. We want our kids and grandkids to either stay here or have a place to come back to where they can reap the benefits and enjoyment of a place where they can have access to the things they want. That’s educational opportunities, job growth and expansion, a place to enjoy all the things our community has to offer,” says Masingill.