Acadiana Business

Lafayette's economy on upswing

by Leslie Turk

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, LEDA's Gregg Gothreaux said it again: "best year, ever."

"Best year, ever." At the risk of sounding like a broken record, LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux said it again this year.

Speaking at ABiz's second annual State of the Economy event May 9 at the Cajundome Convention Center, Gothreaux started his discussion by running through the "best" lists Lafayette has been appearing on recently, including FDI Magazine's Top 10 American Cities of the future and the MSA's No. 24 ranking among 200 largest metro areas in the Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities Index (Lafayette was one of the biggest climbers this year, moving up 69 spots).

"This one is so new it hasn't even hit the newsstands," Gothreaux said before revealing that Southern Business and Development magazine had just named Lafayette one of the top 10 energy rich markets with plenty to offer a non-energy business. "Lafayette's position as a medical, transportation, entertainment, education and retail hub was cited, in addition to the region's diversification efforts with energy, not away from it," he noted.

Gothreaux also said that LEDA's  Economic Performance Index, which tracks the local economy based on 15 individual statistics, totaled 122.54 in 2012, 5.1 percent higher than the 116.61 total in 2011, which was then the highest point since 2008. The upward trend began in 2009, and over the past decade the index has increased 17 percent. In September 2012, it reached an all-time high of 126.02, besting the previous high of 125.98 in 2006.

"The index was above the 12-month moving average for 16 of the past 17 months, signaling a very vibrant economy," Gothreaux said.
The EPI tracks leading, current and lagging indicators, Gothreaux explained, with the Lafayette Stock Index a leading indicator because changes in stock prices reflect investors' expectations for the future of the economy. Gothreaux gave a shout-out the eight publicly traded companies headquartered here, saying that in the past 10 years the stock index has increased from 141 to 238. "That's 70 percent growth," he remarked, noting that the increase has continued into the first quarter of 2013.

Gothreaux called retail sales the "stand-out" economic indicator of both 2011 and 2012. Taxable sales totaled $5.71 billion in 2012, exceeding the previous record of $5.43 billion set in 2008. December 2012 was the highest single sales month ever.

After he ran through his "best" lists in the beginning of his presentation, Gothreaux hinted that there would be more good news for Lafayette later in the month: "Let's just say Lafayette is No. 1 on a very impressive list."

Gothreaux ended by formally announcing Plains Exploration & Production's new $20 million deepwater facility under construction in Broussard.

That project, which is creating 600 high-paying jobs over a five-year period, says a lot about the future of deepwater exploration.

And even more about the role Lafayette will play.

View the full report [here]( of the Economy 2013 final slides.pdf).