The Lafayette-based regional business group OneAcadiana is in the early stages of identifying and qualifying multiacre sites within the organization’s nine parishes that could be used to lure business to the region.
OneAcadiana recently hired a site development manager, Zach Hager, and is actively exploring land that is available, said Jim Bourgeois, executive director of business development at OneAcadiana who supervises Hager.
“We’re not where we want to be yet,” Bourgeois said. “The program is in its infant stages.”
Developing a qualified list of available land has been a OneAcadiana priority since the organization was formed last year to replace the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Jason El Koubi said.
El Koubi said having a catalog of sites “will help take our regional economic development initiatives to the next level.”
Anita Begnaud, director of communications and marketing, said OneAcadiana is looking for sites that are compatible with heavy-industrial activities, warehousing and distribution, and manufacturing. The agency isn’t interested in sites that would be better suited for retail or residential development, she said.
At a fundraising luncheon for OneAcadiana in November, Louisiana Economic Development chief Stephen Moret told hundreds of Acadiana business people that south-central Louisiana lacked identifiable sites that state officials could shop around to businesses looking to locate here.
Using a map that showed where LED and other economic development groups were successful in luring out-of-state companies, the nine parishes represented by OneAcadiana showed little to no megadevelopments. Most of the announced projects in south Louisiana were near Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, areas with regional economic development agencies armed with details on available land.
OneAcadiana’s site selection efforts began in earnest in May when Hager was hired. So far, the largest piece of land identified is a 534-acre tract in Acadia Parish.
Bourgeois said the smallest piece of land that would be considered is 25 acres, and the preferred size is 100 to 150 acres.
Once identified, the land undergoes a series of inspections and certifications, including environmental, wetland status, map surveys and endangered species inspection. The site also is graded on how close it is to highways, railroads and ports.
The analysis costs on average $40,000, of which 75 percent is paid by LED, with the remaining costs paid in equal 8.33 percent portions by the land owner, the local economic development agency and OneAcadiana, Bourgeois said.
Landowners who put up acreage for consideration must make a commitment to keep it available for two years, Begnaud said.
Bourgeois said OneAcadiana is not in the real estate business, and that brokers and local developers will take part in the process.
“In order for Acadiana to have a comprehensive portfolio of development-ready sites, we want to work closely with local economic development professionals, landowners, real estate agents, engineering firms and other key partners,” Hager, the site development manager, said in a statement.
OneAcadiana is the lead economic development agency for nine parishes: Lafayette, St. Mary, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Landry, Acadia, Jefferson Davis, Vermilion and Evangeline. OneAcadiana works with business development groups at the local level, such as St. Mary Parish Economic Development and the Iberia Economic Development Authority.