One Acadiana highlighted its successes in 2019 in Acadiana at its annual Regional Celebration on Wednesday night. 

Most notable of these successes last year was One Acadiana's being recognized by the International Economic Development Council as an Accredited Economic Development Organization. 

Others include a strong first start to the 55 by 25 initiative to get 55% of Acadiana adults educated with an associate's degree or professional certificate or higher by 2025; the work to promote investment in Acadiana's Opportunity Zones; being named to Forbes OZ 20: Top Opportunity Zone Catalysts list; and the $203.9 million invested last year in the region by major corporations.

"Earning that AEDO accreditation exhibits our achievement and places us as one of the best-of-the-best in the industry," said Troy Wayman, president and CEO of One Acadiana. "It is a testament to the efforts of One Acadiana's passionate and dedicated staff and our commitment to providing outstanding service to our partners and our community."

The AEDO is the highest acknowledgement an economic development organization can receive, making One Acadiana one of 66 organizations in the world to earn this status. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, congratulated One Acadiana on the achievement via a prerecorded video.

"Hats off to the chamber of commerce to have the vision to put One Acadiana into place so they could achieve this award but, more importantly, to create a pro-economic development atmosphere in Acadiana because lots of people will never know the work you've done — except their lives will be better," Cassidy said.  

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Last year, companies such as Leonardo, Kopter, Bagwell Energy Services, Delek U.S. Holdings, Supreme Rice Mill, Lacassine Operating Company and Savoie's Sausage and Food Projects invested millions of dollars into expanding existing facilities or moving into the region and building new facilities. That resulted in retaining jobs 451 and gaining 360 new direct jobs with an average salary of $64,000.

The 55 By 25 initiative was also a major highlight from last year. The five-year program finished its first year with more than 100 stakeholders, including K-12 school district superintendents, higher education leaders, business leaders, nonprofit leaders and other public officials, joining the initiative.

Natalie Harder, chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, said decades of studies have shown that the more education someone has, the more money they'll make, the less likely they are to be incarcerated, use drugs or have health issues.

"The only way we change our economic trajectory, the only way we fill the pipeline One Acadiana is so good at with aiming companies and site selectors towards is with a workforce," Harder said. "I just hate seeing the poverty and I'm sick of every generation saying, 'Well, that's how I lived.' It's not good enough anymore."

Harder will serve as chair of One Acadiana in 2020, following Iva Lee Clement, who served as chair in 2019.

Acadiana Business Today: One Acadiana celebrates 2019 accomplishments at regional celebration; Ranch Outlet in Carencro closes


Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.