Mais Oui

Looking Back at 2009

by Cherry Fisher May

Lots of good economic news was made in Lafayette this year. With the filming of Secretariat here, 2009 may well be remembered as the year Disney discovered Lafayette, but the story that’s likely to go the distance is Pixel Magic’s decision to open an office at LITE. It’s the first branch office outside California for Pixel, which provides 3D graphics and special effects to top Hollywood film studios. This is huge for Lafayette.

What else in 2009 was big news for the local economy? When I asked folks for suggestions, the response was robust and that, in and of itself, is a story. Amid the dreadful national economic landscape, Lafayette is still on the move — certainly affected but resilient. Below are some of the rest of the top stories.

IberiaBank’s acquisition of banks this year in Florida and Alabama is a tectonic shift in banking. One informed source says the decision to keep home offices here for what will now be a $10 billion bank could eventually make Lafayette the banking center of the South. The strength of our community banks in general have contributed mightily to Acadiana’s economic stability.

Both of Lafayette’s not-for-profit hospitals embarked on extensive capital investment projects, strengthening Lafayette as the medical hub of the region.

Acadiana’s largest privately held company, Stuller Inc., charted a new path in industry innovation. Founder Matt Stuller returned to the helm, announcing a new iPhone application that empowers his company to respond nimbly and quickly to its global customer base. ATC Associates, a national engineering and environmental consulting firm, is moving its corporate headquarters from Boston to Lafayette. Activity continues in the Haynesville Shale, and oil prices began to rebound. Business owners across Acadiana did just what Matt did on their own scale: hunker down and tough it out.

At least a half-dozen new hotels came on-line, boosting Lafayette’s room count to 6,420. New restaurants continue to tempt our taste buds, and local tourism earned almost $2 million in national editorial coverage this year. Our cultural economy continues to thrive.

Small residential in-fill projects sprouted around the city (a la smart growth) on Johnston near UL’s horticulture center, on University, Souvenir Gate, Congress, and South College. The Lafayette Land Revitalization Authority was created to deal with blighted, abandoned, tax delinquent properties and applied for a $20 million grant to start in the McComb-Veazay neighborhoods. Key players in the Oil Center united to develop a master plan, and the school system embarked on a professional study of facility needs within the parish.

Vehicles started driving the first leg of Ambassador Caffery South, and as drivers discover the extensions of Robley Drive, Rue de Belier and South Central Parkway next to the new southside Library, there will be additional relief for heavy traffic on the parish’s southwest side. Kaliste Saloom Road improvements were let out for bid.

The LUS fiber roll-out began, keeping pace or besting projections. Downtown, construction commenced on the performing arts theatre at the ACA, Lafayette’s beloved Borden building got new owners who spiffed it up nicely, and the old Tribune Printing facility on Vermilion was revitalized. UL’s Burke Hall renovation and expansion meant fabulous new venues for Radio Acadie KRVS and students of the performing arts.

We’re on a lot of the “good” lists (see Gregg Gothreaux’s column on Page 19) and are better positioned than most communities across the country to rebound quickly as the national economy slowly improves. Kudos to City-President Joey Durel for standing his ground on the investment to move LINC forward. At least this time, we’re going to plan for it