On the level of culture and identity, there are probably few regions of the United States that are more cohesive than Acadiana. It is the heritage of the Acadian exiles of 250 years ago in this country and also the legacy of the generations of newcomers — a phrase that is purely relative, since statehood was more than 200 years ago — who have discovered the beauty and productivity of the Acadian lands.
A culture of French language and joie de vivre has survived, even if there were for years misguided attempts to suppress the patois of the original settlers.
At the level of political clout, there seems to be little cause for complaint since Edwin W. Edwards’ first election in 1972. The majority of governor’s races since have been won by candidates from the region, and Acadiana is seen as a significant player in the State Capitol, even if the top spots — governor, Senate president and House speaker — are not currently from the Lafayette area.
Despite all that, the sprawling region that is centered in Lafayette is only going to strengthened by the vision of common purpose of One Acadiana, the region’s newly rechristened chamber of commerce. The rebranding reflects a greater emphasis on regional cooperation in economic development, a principle that’s been much discussed throughout south Louisiana in recent years, including among business strategists in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Under the leadership of Jason El-Koubi, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has been renamed, and a coalition of business leadership groups will focus on the growth of the region. Current Chamber members became members of the new regional group, and a five-year, $15 million campaign will fund One Acadiana’s efforts.
Local business organizations and economic development efforts continue, but the ideal is that the communities across the region can benefit from the new talent recruited for long-term planning and economic development.
We think this model is a good one. For one thing, businesses seeking to come to a town aren’t concerned only about a particular political subdivision but a region’s workforce and intellectual strengths. One Acadiana can speak for the business community across the region on a variety of fronts, including political issues such as university funding.
The regional model is particularly vital in the growth of high-tech industries, the wave of the future of two decades ago that Louisiana is only now tapping into with new businesses in Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. A computer science graduate of LSU is part of the labor pool for high-tech companies in any of the three cities, as are graduates from Tulane or the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
While there are differences between the regional leadership organizations in the three cities, Greater New Orleans Inc. and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber provide the same overarching function — and they are ripe for mutual collaboration as a super-region. The three cities share similar challenges, after all.
One Acadiana’s regional focus is particularly welcome because of the nature of the future that is upon us. The ups and downs of the energy industry are well-known, but the downs have been recently emphasized by a sudden drop in oil prices, with repercussions for the oilfield service industry centered in Lafayette and Acadiana.
Diversifying the regional economy is in progress but more remains to be done, and One Acadiana is a positive development toward that long-term goal.