The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s effort to create a multiparish economic development organization has almost reached its five-year fundraising goal of $3 million a year, its director said Monday.
Jason El Koubi, president and chief executive of the chamber, said more than 90 companies and organizations have ponied up money for 2015 and have signed letters of intent to make payments from 2016-20 to be part of the regional organization.
“We’ve seen a very enthusiastic response,” said El Koubi, who was hired in September 2013 to succeed Rob Guidry as chamber president.
He said businesses have written checks and pledged per-year commitments “well in excess of $2.5 million.” He also said there’s still time to join and make a pledge by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (337) 408-3652.
El Koubi and other chamber officials last year kicked off the Campaign for One Acadiana, which seeks to combine the parishes of Lafayette, Acadia, Iberia, Vermilion, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, St. Martin, St. Mary and St. Landry into a regional chamber of commerce.
In promoting the effort, organizers have touted the success of regional organizations in Lake Charles, New Orleans and Baton Rouge in luring industry.
Before he was hired to take over the Lafayette chamber, El Koubi spent 10 years working for Stephen Moret both at Louisiana Economic Development and also during the years Moret ran the multiparish Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
On Jan. 13, the regional board of directors will take part in a planning retreat. On Jan. 27, the board will approve a budget and write a business plan.
For now, the name of the organization will remain the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, though “we recognize we may need to rebrand the organization,” El Koubi said.
Businesses that are members of the Lafayette chamber will remain members and are automatically part of the regional chamber. Those outside the parish must specifically join the new chamber, though they can remain members of their local chambers.
Members are stratified at differing levels according to the amount of money they give. Companies that pay $100,000 or more each year are part of the elite CEO Advisory Circle; $50,000 to $99,000 gets a business into the Chairman’s Circle; the next level, the President’s Circle, has dues ranging from $25,000 to $49,999; the Directors Circle is from $10,000 to $24,999; and the Ambassador’s Circle costs $2,500 to $9,999 a year.
There has been resistance from officials at smaller chambers in the region, who said they were wary of a big economic development organization that favored big companies and organizations over smaller ones.
“We’ve worked hard to understand the questions and concerns the outlying parishes had,” El Koubi said. “What we’re seeing is that as we continue to share this plan with additional people, and as we’ve had an opportunity to answer questions, they become increasingly enthusiastic about where we’re going.”