Acadiana economic development officials, bankers, business executives, political leaders and others will fly to Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday for a three-day look-and-learn at what is described as one of America’s most dynamic cities.
The trip — called the 2015 Leadership Exchange — is spearheaded by One Acadiana, an economic development agency that covers nine parishes, including the organization’s base in Lafayette.
One Acadiana CEO and President Jason El Koubi told some attendees at a meeting this week that the trip will illustrate what can be accomplished with a regional approach to economic development.
“Charleston’s been doing the regional thing for a while,” El Koubi said.
One of the late additions to the trip’s itinerary as a speaker is Mayor Joe Riley, who has been at Charleston’s helm since 1975. Riley is set to retire in December when he completes his 40th year.
El Koubi said Riley was at the forefront of the city’s growth, as were the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.
Two of the 53 scheduled travelers are the candidates in the Oct. 24 election for Lafayette city-parish president, Joel Robideaux and Dee Stanley.
“It’s a very diverse group,” Stanley said of the One Acadiana members who are scheduled to take the trip. “All the sectors are represented.”
The itinerary is full, with three days of conferences: how Charleston uses a regional approach; strengthening workforce development programs; building up neighborhoods; placemaking, which is creating public spaces to enrich a neighborhood or city; and a conference on building up a region’s infrastructure that will be held during a boat tour of Charleston Harbor.
Among those who are going are Lenny Lemoine, president and CEO of The Lemoine Company LLC; Troy Cloutier, Lafayette market president for MidSouth Bank; Anne Falgout, executive director of the Vermilion Economic Development Alliance; Kevin Blanchard, public works director for Lafayette Consolidated Government; and Terry Huval, CEO of LUS Fiber.
“The reason I’m going is because it’s important to look at a community that’s been uber-successful in getting things right,” said Stanley, current chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government.
Charleston ranks well among cities regarded as progressive and economically robust — a group that includes Seattle, Salt Lake City and Nashville, Tennessee — in terms of business growth, business startups, access to health care, quality of life and crime rates, according to economic rankings compiled by area agencies.
El Koubi became head of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce in 2013. The chamber officially morphed into One Acadiana at the beginning of 2015, after a successful fund drive that sought $15 million to operate the agency for five years.
El Koubi has stressed a regional approach to economic development, calling on the collaborative strength — political, economic, banking, industrial and educational — of the nine parishes that make up One Acadiana: Jefferson Davis; Evangeline; Acadia; St. Landry; Lafayette; Vermilion; Iberia; St. Martin; and St. Mary.
One Acadiana officials spent months zeroing in on a city the agency’s members could learn best from, El Koubi said last week.
“We looked at eight to 10 cities,” he said, “… and Charleston was our choice.”