There’s no doubt that Lafayette is in an economic transition. Changes in energy are driving changes in the world. And Lafayette has, since the 20th century, been an American energy hub.
You don’t have to look far locally to see the changes. The infamous oil bust of the 1980s nearly bankrupted the entire city. Banks closed. Bumper stickers read, “Last one out turn off the lights.”
Fast forward: the 2014 bust hurt a lot. The metro area lost some 20,000 jobs — a nation-leading number. But here we are. The lights are still on. Why? Well, the top employment sector in Lafayette isn’t energy any more. 17% of Lafayette’s workforce work is in healthcare. It’s by far the largest employer in the market. Direct mining jobs? 10%. And that’s ⅓ of all mining oil and gas jobs in the state.
So how did that happen? Well, Adam Smith would credit his invisible hand. Others might credit the work of economic development organizations like the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, helmed by Mandi Mitchell.
LEDA is a tax-funded agency that’s a bit like the economic gardener for the parish. It’s responsible for workforce development, business recruitment and is frequently tasked with analyzing economic impacts of big community projects or initiatives.
Mandi served for years as an assistant secretary in the state’s counterpart to LEDA – Louisiana Economic Development – and was instrumental in landing the deal that brought an Amazon fulfillment center and hundreds of jobs to Lafayette Parish. Mandi is a Lafayette native, a certified economic developer and the first woman and person of color to run LEDA.
So if you’re doing economic development well, that means you’ve got a lot of ribbons to cut. Traditionally, that’s the role of your chamber of commerce, but Lafayette’s chamber of commerce is a different kind of animal. First, it’s not local — it’s regional, serving nine parishes — and second, it’s proactive. It shapes local and state public policy and advocates for business and free enterprise throughout the region.
Troy Wayman is President and CEO of One Acadiana and has shaped the organizations’ second act since its founding in 2015. Troy has spearheaded initiatives emphasizing the need for a better quality of life to attract business and talent — a program called Vibrant Acadiana — and an initiative called 55 by 25, which aims to improve educational attainment across.
Troy is also a certified economic developer, and his organization serves as the voice of some 600 employers in the Acadiana region.
Out to Lunch Acadiana is recorded live over lunch at Tula Tacos and Amigos in downtown Lafayette. Photos by Astor Morgan . You can also check out more lunchtime conversation about Acadiana economic development.