Economy of Monroe / Ouachita Parish

In the later 19th century, the city of Monroe looked much like other southern communities with an agricultural based economy. None the less, the community prospered and by 1882 boasted 75 commercial enterprises.

The twentieth century was a time of steady growth for Ouachita Parish. The discovery of the Monroe natural gas field in 1916 brought new industry to the region and ushered in a time of prosperity for the community. The Monroe Little Theatre, the Monroe public transit system, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, the Twin City Symphony and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce trace their beginnings to this time.

There is something about the environment in Monroe that fosters and encourages entrepreneurial development. In 1913, Coca Cola was first bottled here by Joseph A. Biedenharn, a local businessman. Later, he opened the first Coca Cola bottling plant here in Monroe, as well. In 1925, Mr. Biedenharn joined a group of enterprising gentlemen who purchased a crop dusting business and added 18 airplanes. At the time, it was the largest privately owned fleet in the world. In 1929, the company would give birth to Delta Airlines, which now has over 160 million customers throughout their global network that provides service to 350 destinations in 70 countries and 6 continents.

In 1930, William Clarke and Marie Williams purchased the Oak Ridge Telephone Company for $500. They ran the business out of their front parlor so the family could man the switch-board 24-hours a day. Today, through growth, mergers and acquisitions, that business, now called CenturyLink, has become the largest Independent Telecommunications Provider and third largest telecommunications provider in the United States with over 18 million access lines nation wide. CenturyLink has approximately 49,000 employees and operates in 37 states.

Other major employers in the Monroe area include, J. P. Morgan CHASE Mortgage Company and Bank, Graphic Packaging, Angus Chemical, St. Francis Medical Center, Con Agra Lam Weston, Berry Plastics, Bancroft Bag, Glenwood Regional Medical Center, Foster Farms, DG Foods, Vantage Health Plan, Brookshire’s and Gardner Denver Thomas.

Monroe also serves as the retail hub for the Northeast Louisiana region. The premier retail shopping destination is Pecanland Mall with over 115 shops restaurants and department stores. Other retail shopping areas are found in Midtown Monroe with boutiques, gift shops and specialty stores. Antique Alley in West Monroe offers a shopping experience for antique lovers. The area also features art studios and gift shops.

Ouachita Parish serves as the medical hub for Northeast Louisiana with three major hospitals and three specialty hospitals. The medical community provides an extensive range of services for the region’s youngest citizens to the area’s oldest citizens. In addition, there are a number of skilled nursing facilities, a cancer institute, pain center and a wound care center.

For more information on the Ouachita Parish and Northeast Louisiana Economy, see the 2010 Ouachita Fact Book located on the ULM Center for Business and Economic Research website at

ULM Center for Business and Economic Research

ULM College of Business
Admin 2-137
700 University Ave.
Monroe, LA 71209
(318) 342-1151

Major Employers (Over 150 employees)

Company Employment
JP Morgan Chase - 2,600
St. Francis Medical Center - 2,500
CenturyLink - 2,550
Graphic Packaging - 1,200
Foster Farms - 1,100
Wal-Mart (Monroe & West Monroe) - 1112
Glenwood Regional Medical Center - 900
Brookshire’s - 629
Entergy -  400
Bancroft Bag -  400
Berry Plastics Corporation - 360
Gardner Denver-Thomas -  300
Monroe Manufacturing - 300
Sears & Roebuck - 300
Vantage - 300
Con-Agra 280
Angus Chemical Company 250
James Machine Works 175
Gannett Co, Inc. 100