Nov. 14, 2014 10:30 AM

We can make Acadiana - in reality and reputation - the best place in the South for a great career in an idyllic family environment.

South Louisiana is still in the early stages of an extraordinary period of growth, largely fueled by an unprecedented manufacturing investment boom in Southwest Louisiana and along the Mississippi River corridor. Across our region and our state, we are seeing new levels of business investment and anticipated job growth, with more opportunities on the horizon.

Such significant growth presents both new opportunities and challenges for Acadiana that require focused business leadership. How can our region attract a significant share of future business investment in new growth segments? How will we attract and retain the workforce and professional talent to support the growth of new and existing businesses? Can we finally implement a strategy for completing I-49 South for the sake of America's Energy Corridor while also addressing local infrastructure needs? Is there an opportunity to take our ports and airports to the next level?

We can make Acadiana - in reality and reputation - the best place in the South for a great career in an idyllic family environment.

But it is imperative that Acadiana seize the opportunity to harness the economic momentum Louisiana is currently experiencing and translate it into progress that will make our region attractive to a new generation of global talent and emerging growth sectors.

For many years the Greater Lafayette Chamber and its regional partner organizations have aspired to leverage resources and business leadership across Acadiana in a common effort to advance our entire region. Over the past year, we have been working diligently with hundreds of business people from multiple parishes to develop a new, nationally competitive, regional vehicle for delivering major business-led initiatives across Acadiana. Our goal was to determine how we can truly live out our mission to be "the leading force in the improvement of the business environment, the economic health, and development and prosperity of the region." In short, we are building the horsepower to fulfill our mission in dramatically more effective ways.

Together, we developed The Campaign for One Acadiana - a five-year, $15 million dollar campaign designed to deliver a new, highly professional, nationally competitive regional economic development program for the businesses and families of Acadiana across the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion. This campaign will fuel a new regional organization in order to fulfill our vision to be one of the most high quality, sought-after regions in the entire South.

To achieve this vision, we have designed three strategic elements that will work together to drive economic development in Acadiana. What will the campaign help us do?

Develop and implement strategies to improve regional assets, infrastructure and policy

Launch a national marketing and sales effort to secure new business investment and professional talent

Revitalize our regional core, leveraging the UL Master Plan, Downtown Master Plan and Lafayette Comprehensive Plan for strategic direction

This regional model will provide significant benefits for chamber members and partners across Acadiana, including stronger regional economic development, accelerated progress on top business priorities and stronger regional business relationships. In addition, it will put Acadiana in a better position to establish meaningful super-regional relationships and initiatives with other areas of our state, including Southwest Louisiana.

We know there is strength in numbers. For example, shifting from a "Lafayette only" focus to a "One Acadiana" focus means about two times as many legislators, three times as many people, six times as many interstate miles, 23 times as much land, and infinitely more coastal ports and other assets.

We have made significant progress toward our campaign-funding goal, with business leaders across Acadiana already committing more than $2 million per year to this unprecedented initiative. Under their leadership, this regional business organization will be a significant catalyst for addressing the issues most critical to our region's quality of life, competitiveness and prosperity by leveraging resources across nine parishes.

The Campaign for One Acadiana could not be more timely or important. What has worked for us in the past will not work amid the economic competition of the 21st century. We must realize that our regional voice will be much more powerful than the voices of our individual parishes. We must boldly and aggressively plan for the future now, when times are good.

We cannot let this historic opportunity pass us by. Economic development is everyone's business. This is our home. Together we can make Acadiana one of the most desirable places for business and talent in America. We are asking every business in Acadiana to join us in supporting this exciting new initiative.

Will you join us?

Jason El Koubi became the president & CEO of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce in September 2013. He previously served as assistant secretary of Louisiana Economic Development.

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