When it comes to progress, the small cities and towns in Lafayette Parish are building success from the ground up. New businesses are moving in, native businesses are expanding, and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. However, to call these cities and towns “small” is a bit of a misnomer. According to U.S. Census population estimates, Youngsville and Broussard are among the fastest growing cities in Louisiana. With a growing population comes an inevitable influx of businesses and services to these communities. This surge combined with an overwhelming response from local government is supporting low unemployment and high growth throughout the parish. With big ideas and big projects in the works, there’s not much that’s small about Lafayette Parish’s outlying municipalities.
Lafayette Parish’s population has grown just over 7 percent since the 2000 Census, outpacing statewide growth and holding close to national numbers. Our growing population means more customers for existing companies and more opportunities for new businesses to offer additional services and options. Population growth is necessary for our business community to thrive and grow. Here are just a few of the projects helping to meet the demands of a growing population in Lafayette Parish’s five municipalities.
Business is booming in Broussard. With the opening of Home Depot earlier this year and, more recently, Broussard Commons on Albertsons Parkway, the city broke the $1 million mark in monthly retail sales revenue for the first time this March. More growth, both commercial and residential, is expected when Wal-Mart opens later this year and once the Ambassador Caffery extension (Stuller Parkway) is completed.
With 744 new residential lots either permitted or in the preliminary permitting stage, Carencro expects to see a population boost as growth in Lafayette Parish moves north. Commercial projects in the works include a medical facility for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Ballisticks Park (former Evangeline Downs), Evangeline Court Shopping Center, and Melancon Pharmacy, among others. The City of Carencro is working on a growth management plan/land use ordinance that will be adopted by the end of the year.
Duson is also preparing for potential residential developments. Infrastructure undertakings such as the recently completed sewer and drainage projects and the new water tower have brought the modern idea of small-town living one step closer to reality in Duson.
The city of Scott, just coming off of its centennial celebration, is looking ahead to the next 100 years with several new road projects. New frontage roads for I-10 are in the works to increase accessibility to new businesses along the interstate. Last year the city formed the Apollo Economic Development District, a TIF district designed to generate funds to extend Apollo Road to Rue de Belier to provide an alternate route to the Mall of Acadiana. The project will benefit developers with interests in Scott, as well as its residents.
With more than a 40 percent population increase since 2000, “growth” has been the buzzword around Youngsville for several years. Residential developments with more than 1,700 lots have gone before the city council since 2003. Many of those developments such as Sugar Mill Pond and Copper Meadow are quickly filling with residents looking for affordable homes loaded with the latest amenities. In an effort to provide services locally, several retail and service businesses have opened — Ciao Bella Italian Bistro, Village Café coffee shop, and Nunu’s Fresh Market. Projects currently under construction or soon to start construction are Rouse’s Supermarket, a private high school in Sugar Mill Pond, and the E. Broussard extension.
Population growth is one economic indicator that has an effect on many levels of the region’s economy. Population numbers affect the region’s ability to attract national businesses and retailers. Population affects the level of state and federal funding the parish may be eligible to receive for infrastructure and other projects. Increases in population result in an increased need for housing, which is reflected in the residential developments mentioned above as well as those in Lafayette’s city limits.
A larger population also has greater buying power, resulting in increased retail sales for the area. With two years of double digit increases (2005 and 2006), Lafayette Parish broke the $5 billion mark for the first time in 2006, and again in 2007. A combination of low unemployment and a larger population base are contributing factors to the continued growth of Lafayette Parish’s retail marketplace. Year to date, total retail sales are 5 percent higher than this time last year.
With the nation’s economy in flux, it’s hard to tell how the economies of Lafayette and all of Acadiana will be impacted in the long run. With a booming oil and gas industry and limited fallout from the mortgage crisis, we appear to be in a good position to support continued development throughout the region, while increasing the quality and scope of services available to our growing populations.
Gregg Gothreaux is president and chief executive officer of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.