Paul Angelone, project manager for the Urban Land Institute economic diversification study in Morgan City and Berwick, speaks Wednesday during a meeting with area leaders at the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce office in Morgan City.Also pictured are Cali Slepin, an associate with the institute, St. Mary Parish Public Schools Superintendent Leonard Armato and Morgan City Councilman Louis Tamporello. (The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald)

Economic study officials visit area

Area leaders got their first chance Wednesday to talk in person with planners of a study designed to examine ways for Morgan City and Berwick to diversify their economies beyond the oilfield.

Two representatives from Urban Land Institute met with area leaders at the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce office in Morgan City.

Community organization, St. Mary Excel, recently commissioned the institute to do a study focusing on ways the Morgan City and Berwick areas can diversify and boost the local economy.

Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit research and education organization with over 42,000 members worldwide. Members are developers, engineers, architects, urban planners, bankers, investors, economic development specialists, market analysts, land use professionals and real estate agents.

Paul Angelone, director of advisory services for Urban Land Institute, was in town to meet with local leaders. Angelone is also the project manager handling the Morgan City and Berwick area economic diversification study and has led about 15 economic advisory service panels.

Advisory Services Associate Cali Slepin also talked with area leaders during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Cali and I were wandering around a little bit of Morgan City and Berwick yesterday, and we were just kind of struck by the beauty and how wonderful this community is,” Angelone said.

“We’re really excited to kind of dig in a little bit deeper and start talking with everyone about what are some strategic advice and ways to quickly start moving toward implementation of the project,” Angelone said.

Institute personnel plan to conduct interviews with as many people in the area as possible to hear their ideas for the community, he said.

An Advisory Services Panel of eight to 10 people associated with the institute will visit the area Sept. 16-21. Panelists will focus on challenges of land use, economic development, real estate, urban planning, design, land economics and public policy.

St. Mary Excel received over $135,000 in donations from private donors and governmental agencies to fund the study. The organization presented a list of questions for Urban Land Institute pertaining to business, industry, diversification, financing and contracted partnerships along with infrastructure.

Angelone previously ran the institute’s technical assistance and community engagement programs in the Washington, D.C. area. He has an urban planning degree from Ball State University and focused his studies on environmental and international planning.

The public will be able to meet the panelists at an event at 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at the former M.D. Shannon Elementary School gym on Brashear Avenue in Morgan City.

The panel’s visit to the area will conclude with a report to stakeholders at 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at Morgan City Municipal Auditorium.

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