U.S. Commercial Service Officers from Belgium will present a briefing at 9 a.m. Friday, March 2, at the International Center at 735 Jefferson St. on the opportunities to use Belgium as a European gateway for U.S. products. The program is free and open to companies interested in doing business not only within the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) but throughout Europe. Individual appointments with the Commercial Service Officers will be available following the briefing. Boasting a population of 25 million in an area slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina, the Benelux free trade area offers an appealing market for U.S. exporters. In 2004, U.S. exports to Benelux totaled $41 billion. Belgium is considered the "Gateway to Europe," with 70 percent of the European Union's purchasing power situated within a 400-mile radius of Brussels. With an educated, highly qualified and multilingual workforce and the Benelux infrastructure ' geared to the transportation of goods, people and electronic data ' goods transit freely and easily throughout the European Union.

Knight Manufacturing has designed an advanced level pipe basket that provides safe and secure transportation of drill stem components. The Pipe Safety Basket features integral ratchet straps, ensuring a safe and secure load. The elevated and enclosed bottom frame of the safety basket also complies with newer dock side mandates for Dropped Object Regulations. Knight's new basket is full-load tested to 55,000 pounds ' or 2.5 times the maximum weight limit of 22,000 pounds. Its rigging components are rated to 1.5 times the maximum load weight. Additionally, the baskets are post-load tested with full mag-particle inspection of all lifting points. Designed for single-line lifts on offshore locations, the pipe basket offers a significant savings in location handling expenses.

Members of Acadiana's deaf community, as well as their families and friends, gathered at First Pentecostal Church in Melville, Sunday, Feb. 11, for the "Deaf Ministry Revival" featuring the Rev. Ernie Murillo of Riverside, Calif. Murillo, who is deaf, is a friend of Luther and Gail Green of DeRidder, who for more than three months drove to Melville to teach a sign language class at the church. Because of the effort of this couple, both of whom are deaf, 10 students in the area completed the Level 1 sign language course at their final afternoon session on Friday, Feb. 9, and received a certificate. To celebrate their accomplishment, the church held this special service. Murillo, who preaches using American Sign Language, had a voice interpreter, Sandra Hester of Mississippi, for the hearing members of the audience. Church officials invited deaf people from throughout the state, as well as Arkansas and Mississippi.

Master Stylists Kelli Darbonne and Shannon Cobb have opened Apropos Salon at 4807 Johnston St., Suite E. Professionally trained in the art of hair, they offer a full range of services including haircuts, shampoo and styling for men, women, and children; coloring; highlights and lowlights; and bridal and special event styling. Additionally, Apropos Salon offers a line of hair care products from Pureology. Booth space is also available for licensed stylists; for more info, call (337) 216-0105.

Anne Falgout has been promoted to director of information services at LEDA. Falgout coordinates the activities of the department and manages the implementation and maintenance of LEDA's ISO 9001:2000 certified quality management system. The department compiles and disseminates information on business and industrial development in Lafayette Parish. It also provides market research, site selection and industry analysis to the public. Falgout is a graduate of UL Lafayette's College of Liberal Arts. She is a member of ACCRA: The Council for Community and Economic Research. She has also attended training with LSU's Community Economic Development department and the U.S. Census Bureau during her five-year tenure at LEDA.

Boone Gilbert has been named business account advisor at Centennial Wireless, where he has worked for the past five years. Gilbert's focus will be directed to business accounts, specializing in data products like the Palm Treo, Wireless Air Cards, and Internet Access on the go.

In January, the Lafayette Parish Bar Foundation hosted its annual Champions of Justice Breakfast at the City Club at River Ranch. This signature event recognizes law firms and individual attorneys who have graciously given their time or financial assistance to allow Lafayette Volunteer Lawyers to provide free legal services to the neediest in our community. Davidson, Meaux, Sonnier & McElligott was recognized for taking the most pro bono cases in 2006. John Ortego & Associates took home the award for accepting the most pro bono cases for a smaller firm during the past year, and Laborde & Neuner won the H.E.L.P (Homeless Experience Legal Protection) top volunteer award by assisting the homeless in obtaining birth certificates and legal advice. Eighteen individual attorneys ' Gay Babin, Chris Bailey, Shawn Benoit, Amy Brining, Marianna Broussard, Bianca Chretien, Jessica Clement, Dean Doherty, Olita Magee Domingue, Elizabeth Dugal, Brad Felder, David Gooch, Charley Hutchens, Janie Jackson, Judy Kennedy, Greg Koury, Steven Ramos and Michael Wooderson ' received awards for accepting an extraordinary amount of pro bono cases in 2006.

United Blood Services has named Susan Connor Begnaud executive director for the Louisiana operation. She previously served as the director of center operations. The nonprofit community blood center has locations in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Morgan City, Thibodaux and Slidell. Begnaud has been with UBS 18 years and is a graduate of UL. She is also district director of the South Central Association of Blood Banks.

Carlie Richard has been promoted to general manager and director of business development at Firefly Digital, a Lafayette-based Web site development firm. She has been employed by Firefly for two years and will be instrumental in the development and implementation of the company's new market penetration strategies, including the launch of several vertical market initiatives and geographic expansions across Louisiana and the southern U.S.

Kendal Faulk has been named conductor of the Iberia Community Band. The Kaplan resident is serving his fourth year as director of bands at Abbeville High School and was director of bands at Kaplan High School for 17 years, from 1986 to 2003. Under his direction, the bands have scored superior in marching, jazz, and concert festivals at district, state, and national festivals, in addition to receiving the coveted State Band Festival Sweepstakes Trophy seven times. His Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band were named Best in Class in their divisions at the Smoky Mountain Music Festival in Gatlinburg, Tenn., on three different occasions. His bands have also been invited to the prestigious Loyola University of New Orleans Invitational Band Festival. Faulk has a bachelor's degree in music education from UL.

Mark Tullos Jr., interim director for the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at UL Lafayette, has been awarded a scholarship to attend the American Law Institute/American Bar Association Course of Study this March in Philadelphia, Pa. The course, called Legal Issues in Museum Administration, comprises more than 17 hours of instruction and provides museum directors, administrators, trustees, legal counsel and others who are concerned with museum operations with awareness of the legal issues and problems they will encounter. This year, special emphasis is given to the legal issues and best practices in collecting and exhibiting antiquities, changing the museum legal structure and operating within a parent organization.

American Eagle Outfitters has moved to a larger space near Dillard's in the Mall of Acadiana. AE designs, markets and sells its own brand of casual clothing targeting 15- to 25-year-olds, providing high-quality merchandise to both sexes at affordable prices. AE's original collection includes standards like jeans and graphic T-shirts as well as essentials like accessories, outerwear, footwear, basics and swimwear. The new AE location also features a new collection of dormwear and intimates, "aerie by American Eagle," which includes bras, underwear, camisoles, hoodies, robes, boxers, sweats and leggings.