In my thirty-some odd years covering local news, I’ve witnessed several failed efforts to unite core Acadiana parishes in pursuit of thoughtful, successful regional development. Exactly one year ago in this column, I offered up the case for working together as The Parish of Acadiana, citing burgeoning regional efforts to our east (The 10/12 Corridor Initiative) and west (The Alliance in greater Calcasieu) as well as the long-established track record of success for the Caddo-Bossier and Jefferson-Orleans regions. Those communities have figured it out, and it’s a pity that we live in one of the most progressive areas of the state yet find ourselves in reactive mode. But, finally, I can report some progress, and given the new economic realities, it’s never been more critical.
Our legislative delegation is working together across traditional boundaries, recognizing the strength that comes in numbers. Concurrently, chambers of commerce and economic development groups in eight parishes (Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Mary, Vermilion, Acadia and Jeff Davis) have teamed up to form The Acadiana Regional Alliance, which has met monthly for a year now and is making some progress toward an important growth partnership. To be sure, the ARA is still in its formative stages but, acknowledging that mega-issues like workforce and infrastructure development are being addressed elsewhere, the group has identified other topics of shared importance. They will be presented at the second-annual Acadiana Regionalism Summit, slated Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Cajundome Convention Center. The program offers a stellar line-up but, more important, the event is an opportunity to show support for this significant change of mindset in Acadiana. Details are available from your local chamber or on the Web site www.AcadianaRegionalAlliance.com. It’s important for you to be there.
In fairness, The 10/12 Corridor Initiative is not defined as a competing interest. Although it was launched with a major investment from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, it includes much of Acadiana. BRAF hired the Austin-based marketing firm of GSDM Idea City to develop a proposal that, after impressive research, brands the linear region along interstates 10 and 12 as “The Creative Corridor.” The work is brilliant, and I’m sure it will be successful — after all, these are the folks who made Southwest Airlines cool — but I’m concerned about the timing for the $30 million campaign. It targets educated, entrepreneurial young adults in hopes of luring them to south Louisiana. Shouldn’t we keep our powder dry until the price of oil and natural gas rebounds and these desirables find a robust job market in this strange new land? BRAF Executive Vice-President John Spain contends that a down-cycle is exactly the time to bring in new talent, but we may only get one shot at this. It should be our best one.