- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

OPELOUSAS, La. (AP) - A movement is underway to create a regional approach to economic development in Acadiana.

Jason El Koubi, president the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, said plans are underway to create a “super” chamber of commerce for the Acadiana region.

The Daily World reported (https://bit.ly/1maVE7i) he told business and political leaders recently that such super-chambers exist elsewhere in Louisiana, including Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.

“In those regions the private sector led the effort to connect the dots to pull the region together,” El Koubi said. “Acadiana has not taken those steps to be competitive. Regionally we are behind in a big way.”

El Koubi proposed forming a super-chamber incorporating nine Acadiana parishes - St. Landry, Evangeline, Acadia, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion.

He argued a regional group would give the area’s 700,000 people a greater voice in state and national affairs.

“We are the only region without a full-time lobbyist working on our behalf in the Capitol,” El Koubi said.

Lafayette has a population of about 230,000. He said that isn’t enough by itself to appear on the radar of most large national and international companies. But the nine-parish region would.

“It can’t just be a Lafayette region. It has to be all of us together,” El Koubi said.

He said the idea for One Acadiana, the proposed group, emerged earlier this year. “It is being led by the private sector. Business people don’t see parish lines,” El Koubi said.

“It is a pretty big deal,” said El Koubi, who estimated One Acadiana would need a budget of about $3 million a year for at least five years.

He said the group could be operating by early 2015.

He said Acadiana already has a strong presence in tourism, but job growth in other sectors is needed.

“It is hard to achieve job growth unless we change the way we are perceived,” El Koubi said. “It is all about making Acadiana a more prosperous place to have a great career.”

A major stumbling block is what he called a “parochial attitude.”

“Just because we are doing something regionally doesn’t mean the local chambers are going away,” El Koubi said.

He said a regional approach would succeed if local chambers in the area help out. “The stronger the local chambers are, the stronger the regional effort will be,” El Koubi said.

St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot expressed support for the idea.

“By working together we will come up with a better product and people will recognize us in a different way,” Fontenot said.

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Information from: The Daily World, https://www.dailyworld.com


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