OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish political and business leaders need to forget the days of lost economic opportunities and focus on promoting the area’s attributes, parish economic director Bill Rodier said Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference at the St. Landry Economic Industrial Development District office, Rodier announced the launch of a combined effort of parish officials to promote what he said are the “good things” happening in St. Landry.
Rodier said the parish needs to promote more openly the many positive things about the parish, which is the purpose of a campaign labeled “We’re Moving Forward.”
He said the slogan will be placed on signs at businesses, residences and highway billboards as the parish advertising brand, which also will be prominently featured on the Internet at SLPForward.com and on phone apps.
Rodier said he was struck by the defeatist attitude among some business leaders when he became the parish’s economic development director about two years ago.
He said they lamented that the parish usually had been ignored and lost out when it came to securing advantageous financial opportunities.
“All I heard when I first got here was about the way this parish had lost its chance to get the (Lafayette) Oil Center and the university in Lafayette,” Rodier said.
“It occurred to me then that we didn’t really know then how to go forward. Economically, there are so many good things happening in the parish that are not getting brought to light.”
Rodier said the promotional effort includes a number of articles available online featuring good-news events involving parishwide business, government and education.
Because he is not a native of St. Landry, Rodier said, he brought a different perspective to the economic and development director’s position.
“I had no ties to St. Landry Parish, and I was able to look at it with eyes wide open,” he said. “What I saw then is that this parish has a lot of room for growth and opportunity.”
Rodier said most of the parish’s recent economic growth originates from its southern end.
The recent drop in oil prices and subsequent industry layoffs have hurt the parish somewhat, he said, and “is affecting us but not like it did during the 1980s.”
Parish President Bill Fontenot, who attended Thursday’s event, said St. Landry covers about 1,000 square miles.
There are about 89,000 people living in just over 30,000 households, Fontenot said.
Fontenot told those at the news conference that parish government’s road maintenance program, funded by a 2-cent sales tax collected in the unincorporated areas, is helping spark economic development.
“During the past several months, we have been able to pave 100 miles of (parish) roads, and we are in the process of completing another 100 more miles,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot said the “We’re Moving Forward” campaign will enable the parish to promote itself and let people know “we are alive and well and that we are making progress.”