July 22, 2013 05:19 PM

Economic developer replaces retiring chief exec Rob Guidry.


Photo by Marie Constantin


Jason El Koubi, who has served as assistant secretary to Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret since early 2012 and has been with the department for the past five years, is the new president and chief executive officer of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. He was selected by a unanimous vote of the chamber board.

Moret calls El Koubi, 35, one of the most impressive people he has ever worked with, saying the new chamber chief is smart and committed to excellence, and has a wealth of knowledge about economic development and public policy in Louisiana.

"Jason and I have worked closely together for the last eight years, first at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and then at LED," Moret tells ABiz. "Jason's contributions played a significant role in LED being named one of the top 10 best performing state economic-development agencies in the U.S. for the last four years in a row. We will all miss him very much at LED, but I know that he will continue to make major contributions to our state, Lafayette and Acadiana in this new role."

As assistant secretary, El Koubi provided leadership and managed (through five direct reports and about 30 total staff) initiatives and programs related to state economic competitiveness/public policy, business intelligence, community development, small business development, emergency response and recovery, and entertainment industry development - such as film production, and digital media/software development. "Among other things, I coordinated the development and implementation of the strategy to position Louisiana among the leading states for job growth over the next 20 years by focusing the state's business development and public policy efforts on high-growth industry segments," El Koubi, who does not begin the chamber job until early September, says in his letter to the selection committee.

When he was promoted to the position in early 2012, El Koubi's salary increased from $120,000 to $143,500, according to LED. The chamber salary is not public record.

"As I've come to know our great state, Lafayette and the Acadiana region stands out as a place with a compelling, authentic culture and extraordinary potential owing to a tenacious, committed community of people and institutions," El Koubi writes. "It is a place that my family and I would proudly call home, and a community that has already captured my heart and imagination in many respects. As I think about the next several years of my life and career, my sense is that this opportunity offers the potential for an unusually good fit. I would relish the opportunity to help take Lafayette/Acadiana to the next level as the Chamber prepares for another chapter ... I am also very interested in better understanding the aspiration of the business community for the city and region. In particular, I would love to help establish the Chamber as a comprehensive, powerhouse regional economic development organization for Acadiana, including public policy, business development, and membership activities."

Photo by Marie Constantin
LED Secretary Stephen Moret says El Koubi has a wealth of knowledge about economic development and public policy in Louisiana.

El Koubi earned a bachelor of science degree in biological engineering from LSU in 2000 (he was named Outstanding Senior in the College of Engineering) and holds a master of public policy from the London School of Economics.

Before ascending to assistant secretary, he was LED's director of state economic competitiveness from October 2008 to February 2012.
Prior to joining LED in March 2008, he directed policy and research operations for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which he'd joined as research manager in 2005. Under El Koubi's leadership, BRAC's policy research team won the top economic development research award in the nation for two consecutive years.

Prior to graduate school, El Koubi practiced environmental engineering for two years with the Baton Rouge office of Trinity Consultants and from 2004 to 2005 was a performance auditor with the Louisiana legislative auditor's office.

Guidry announced in mid-2012 that he'd retire by the end of this year, giving the chamber ample time to conduct a search for his replacement. Guidry has been with the local business lobbying group for 35 years, 25 as its top official.

In his letter, El Koubi also says his and LED's efforts in the past five years "produced record levels of job creation and economic development, [and] dramatically improved Louisiana's position in virtually every major national ranking of state business climates."

Lafayette Economic Development Authority chief Gregg Gothreaux tells ABiz he is looking forward to working closely with a seasoned economic development professional who knows the region. "Jason has been a longtime supporter of Lafayette and the Acadiana region in his position at LED," Gothreaux says. "He has worked closely and effectively with LEDA, Acadiana Economic Development and local leadership in several projects, including the state's Blue Ocean study [an initiative to target undeveloped business sectors rather than expand through existing industries] and the Innovation Council. He understands issues close to the region; and, most importantly, he understands the opportunities we have as a community moving forward."

El Koubi and his wife, Allison, hope to find a home in Lafayette before he starts the chamber job. A former Teach for America teacher, Allison worked as a school director to train new TFA corps members during the summer of 2011. Following a three-month trip she and Jason took around the world, she became the executive director of achievement for the Recovery School District, working with all RSD schools outside of New Orleans and helping build the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone. She has a bachelor of arts degree in French and humanities from Houghton College, a master of education in school leadership from LSU, and an MBA from the Solvay Business School in Brussels, Belgium. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership at LSU while caring for the couple's 11-month-old son, Marc, works part-time with the Department of Education, and serves on TFA's regional advisory board.

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