A dozen business owners discussed smart planning over coffee and doughnuts Saturday morning during a focus group called to gauge their views on Youngsville’s growth.

The meeting, organized by newly sitting Mayor Ken Ritter, the City Council, chamber and Patricia Lanier, Ph.D., an associate professor of management with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Executive MBA program, followed up on a December Web survey focused on the residential sector’s views on the same issue.

Both mark efforts in a collaboration between the city and students in the Executive MBA program to create a comprehensive plan for Youngsville.

“I’m tired of hearing that we’re the fastest growing city. I want to hear that we’re the smartest growing city,” Ritter said.

The discussion, led at city hall by UL-Lafayette student Margaret Trahan, who’s also president and CEO of United Way of Acadiana, revealed a shared fondness for quality of life in the city, which has an estimated population that’s more than doubled since 2000.

“A lot of small towns are dying. It’s a good problem to have,” Trahan said.

The discussion centered around three goals: supporting the rural landscape, helping existing places thrive and creating vibrant, enduring neighborhoods.

When asked why they chose to do business in Youngsville, the business representatives talked about values that pair small-town service quality with the opportunities that thrive in a budding population.

“I see Youngsville’s lifestyle as really the driving force,” said Cecil Little, a commercial agent with River Ranch in Lafayette and Sugar Mill Pond.

The mixed-used development off La. 92 is one of numerous neighborhoods constructed in Youngsville in recent years.

With thousands of residents flooding into the city over the last decade, Youngsville’s population is getting younger.

Fifty-six percent of the city’s registered voters are aged 18-44, with 34 percent of the population in the in the 18-34 range, said Ritter, the 37-year-old former councilman who ran for his position unopposed.

With that young population comes children, who become an excellent pool of potential laborers, said Steve O’Bryan, who co-owns a Lafayette restaurant and operates the concessions business at the new sports complex.

“In the restaurant industry, that’s crucial to us,” O’Bryan said.

As a Youngsville resident and avid cyclist, O’Byran said he would like to see more sidewalks and bike paths in the area as leaders plan for the future.

Blane Broussard, a third-generation owner of the NuNu’s grocery specialty meats and seasoning brands, agreed a sidewalk down the Youngsville Highway could benefit his grocery store situated on the same road.

Broussard pointed out that traffic congestion hurts business but asked that efforts to curb the congestion be planned with preserving the community feel of the area in mind.

“I’d hate to see four lanes in the middle of the city,” Broussard said.

The discussion also led to Youngsville’s need for a public high school.

The two-hour conversation ended on a high note when it shifted toward the success of the sports complex, which moves an estimated 400,000 people through its facilities each year, O’Bryan said.

On top of 40 tournaments scheduled for the complex, Youngsville also will host the International Mustang World Series baseball tournament there in August.

Discussions will continue later this month when the UL-Lafayette students present their analysis of the more than 500 responses gathered in the December survey.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825