NEW IBERIA — The executive director of Acadiana Regional Airport believes the vast air transport facility in Iberia Parish can be a hub of international commerce within a year.
“Everything is in place. We’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the facility. We’re ready to go,” said Jason Devillier, who concedes he’s a “hopeless optimist.”
Devillier and Iberia Industrial Development Foundation Executive Director Mike Tarantino traveled to Washington, D.C., in late June, where they met with U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, Sen. David Vitter and an aide for Sen. Bill Cassidy.
The pair’s mission was to build support for an international import-export hub at the airport, and to seek guidance in how to get a U.S. rule governing aircraft noise waived.
U.S. flight rules require jets that travel in the United States to be fitted with expensive muffling systems that hold down noise. Many of the world’s aircraft do not have such systems — such as carriers in Central and South America and the Caribbean — and cannot travel in United States air space.
Acadian Regional Airport officials want to make the case that the land between New Iberia and the Gulf Coast is thinly populated and that disruptions from noisy aircraft flying in from the Gulf of Mexico would be minimal.
Tarantino said the congressional delegation also could help set up a foreign trade zone around Acadiana Regional and a customs office on airport grounds.
He said Iberia Parish wants to be ready to take advantage of existing free trade policies the U.S. has with foreign countries, such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada NAFTA pact and CAFTA-DR, a 2006 treaty which set favorable trade policies between the U.S. and El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
“Most of the news is about how these free trade agreements will allow the United States access to their markets,” Tarantino said. “But the flip side is these agreements also allow them access to our markets.”
Tarantino said the noise waiver also could be implemented at other U.S. airports. “We need to be open to the idea that other states in the nation might be open to this,” he said.
The noise rules were written into the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, which forced airlines to retire older aircraft by 1999. Many of those planes are still in operation in other parts of the world, such as South and Central America.
Devillier said a waiver could be written into the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill due to come to the House floor for debate and passage in September.
Jack Pandol, communications director for Boustany, said a committee is close to releasing a draft of the reauthorization bill. “But we have not seen it,” Pandol said in an email Friday.
Acadiana Regional Airport officials might seek help in getting the waiver enshrined into U.S. law from lobbyist Jeff Brooks, with the Washington D.C. firm Adams and Reese, Devillier said.
Brooks and his firm were the longtime Washington lobbyists for the Lafayette Regional Airport until last month, when the Lafayette Airport Commission awarded a lobbying contract to The Picard Group of Lafayette.
Devillier also has consulted with Philippe Gustin, international trade manager at Le Centre International de Lafayette. Devillier said Gustin helped identify freight carriers in Central and South America and in the Caribbean.
“Once we get the green light, that’s who we’ll hit,” Devillier said.