ABiz Columns

From the desk of Jason El Koubi

by Jason El Koubi

The Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recently received a substantial upgrade with the addition of three parishes--Acadia, Vermillion, and Iberia--to our previous two-parish MSA footprint of Lafayette and St. Martin parishes. This change echoes our transformation from an area chamber into a new, nine-parish regional business organization: One Acadiana.

The recent change in the Lafayette MSA definition significantly elevates our position relative to other metro areas. Based on the most recent Census estimates, the adjustment effectively propels our area from the 167th-largest MSA to the 108thlargest MSA in the nation, a leap of 59 places that now makes us the third-largest MSA in the state.

This change positively impacts how the Lafayette area is compared to other regions nationally. Business executives and site-selection consultants often use MSA data to evaluate market size and potential. With our recent climb in the MSA rankings, business prospects will be even more likely to look to our region as a great place to invest. The Southwest Group’s Danny Nugier, who is a resident of Acadia Parish and who serves on One Acadiana’s Board of Directors, notes that adding additional parishes to the Lafayette MSA will be beneficial to attracting businesses to our region, particularly those with specific interests related to market size such as quality-of-life amenities, workforce availability, and consumer demand.

Furthermore, the expanded MSA definition means that more jobs will be reported for our market. More than one-third of total employment in the expanded MSA is due to the addition of Acadia, Iberia, and Vermillion parishes. And we now have a bigger base from which to report job growth: the five-parish MSA saw an increase of 1,000 jobs from January 2014 to January 2015. Janet Faulk Gonzales, President & CEO of Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, observes that the change has already had an effect on how prospects view our area.

One Acadiana’s mission leverages these established connections among parishes to help guide our area’s development and optimize its economic growth. The new MSA definition reflects the increased integration of our region based on factors such as regional commuting patterns, reflecting the deep social and economic relationships across parish lines in Acadiana. We’re thrilled to see our connections to Acadia, Iberia, and Vermillion parishes officially recognized along with Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, and hope to see other parishes added to our MSA in the future as we continue to accelerate our regional economic momentum.

One Acadiana’s key strategies--cultivating our regional economic development assets, marketing and promoting the region, and revitalizing the regional core--provide the focus for creating the economic future we desire for our businesses and families. Major challenges and opportunities that will define our region’s economic trajectory are being proactively addressed, making Acadiana more attractive to a new generation of global talent and emerging growth sectors.

As we build a stronger region, local economic developers recognize our efforts will help take their business recruitment efforts to the next level. Anne Falgout, the new Executive Director of the Vermilion Economic Development Alliance, is excited about being included in the new MSA definition because the recognition will automatically generate more attention for Vermilion Parish. She also notes that greater awareness for all of the parishes served by One Acadiana means they will have a better chance of breaking through at a national level.

In addition to the increased recognition that comes our way, a larger MSA also enables us to tell Acadiana’s sory in a more compelling way. We are a region bound by culture, history, and opportunities for substantial new growth. It is timely that official statistics recognize the increased economic and social connectivity of our region. A five-parish MSA will enable us to compete more effectively for future business investment and talent attraction. We’re tremendously excited about our momentum and the opportunities the lie ahead for One Acadiana.