Adam Daigle, Business Editor of The Acadiana Advocate, Looks Back on 2021

Adam Daigle, Business Editor of The Acadiana Advocate, joined Discover Lafayette to look back at the biggest news of 2021.

While we have all continued to deal with the effects of COVID in our workplaces and schools this year, the economy has done remarkedly well. Sales tax collections in the City and Parish of Lafayette have been the highest on record as people spend monies left over from the PPE funding as we emerge from the lockdown. While employers may still be having trouble finding enough employees, the demand for services and goods has skyrocketed.

One of the biggest stories this year is the announcement of SafeSource Direct, a partnership between Ochsner Health with Trax Development to manufacture and distribute personal protection equipment. The joint venture is investing $150 million to retrofit an 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Lafayette Parish and a new 400,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in St. Martin Parish. The projects are expected to create over 1200 total new jobs between the facilities, a huge win for our region and a big step to decreasing U. S. dependence on foreign countries supplying our healthcare needs.

SafeSource Direct, a partnership between Ochsner Health and Trax Development, is investing to create two manufacturing facilities to create PPE, expected to create 1200 new jobs.

A big win for travelers is the upcoming completion of the Lafayette Airport nears substantial completion. Setting the standard on how to fund construction with a combination of federal and state dollars, coupled with a short-term (eight month) sales tax imposed locally, the project is moving along on pace to open in January 2022.

The new Lafayette Airport is expected to open in January 2022, setting the standard for how to accomplish funding and construction in the way officials promised taxpayers.

Adam shared that when he moved here in 2018, much of the business reporting centered on developments in the corridor surrounding River Ranch in South Lafayette, but not so much now. While there is buzz about Chick Fil-A moving over to the old Red Robin building near CostCo as well as the German-owned Aldi Supermarket chain coming to Lafayette (one just about completed on Ambassador Caffery, with another two stores planned on Ambassador and near Louisiana Avenue), there hasn’t been big news in that South Lafayette region.

Sneaker Politics’ Derek Curry recently announced that he and two partners will be developing a $50 million mixed-use, retail, residential, and entertainment project on Johnston Street near the corner of Mount Vernon Road. This is important news for one of the older areas of Lafayette which has lay dormant for years. Curry has been extremely successful with Sneaker Politics and announced his excitement about redeveloping this abandoned shopping center as a way to bring commerce back to the heart of Lafayette.

Pictured are Jim Keaty, Derek Curry, Alex Luna, and Terry Crochet at the announcement of The Forum, a mixed-use development planned on Johnston Street at Mount Vernon. Photo by Leslie Westbrook of the Advocate.

Lafayette Economic Development Authority announced big news with the hiring of Mandi Mitchell who replaced longtime CEO Gregg Gothreaux. Mandi has worked for years with Louisiana Economic Development, all while commuting from her hometown of Lafayette. We welcome Mandi and look forward to watching her use her talents and business acumen to continue to promote new development while taking care of existing businesses who keep our economy going.

The Amazon Fulfillment Center in Carencro seems to be a reality! While Adam said there has not been an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, the 1.1 million square facility seems to be bustling with activity. An online search for jobs at Amazon at the facility cites high paying wages and a potential $3,000 bonus for new employees.

Laurel Hess has been making the news the last couple of years for his business acumen, first for launching Hampr, an on-demand laundry service, and then Presto Health, a delivery service for prescription medications. Her companies have grown rapidly even during COVID and she recently announced expansion into its latest market in the Northern Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Hampr, an on-demand laundry service developed by Laurel Hess, has been successful beyond our market, recently expanding into the Northern Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area.

The big news of 2021 has centered on the developments brewing in Downtown Lafayette. Long-awaited residential options are coming to fruition, as well as a plethora of locally-owned retail shops offering furniture, retail, grocery, and other options supporting a diverse environment to draw people downtown outside of the workplace.

Developers such as Ravi Daggula have invested in bringing properties such as The Nickerson House, the Charles Mouton Plantation, and Esprit de Coeur back into commerce, offering beautiful venues for events and special occasions. While people might say the government can make some revitalization projects a reality, it’s the private energy and funding that provide the means to make it happen.

One person who has served as a business catalyst in 2021 rose to the forefront of our conversation: Anita Begnaud, the CEO of Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited. Anita has worked tirelessly in her position since October 2018 to promote the opportunities Downtown Lafayette presents as a place to live, work, and play. Under her direction, much of this vision is coming to fruition. We applaud Anita Begnaud and look forward to seeing continuing economic expansion and growth of downtown, including the possible addition of a new performing arts facility.

Discover Lafayette is proud to name Anita Begnaud, CEO of Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, as its first person to be named “Business Catalyst of the Year.” Anita’s efforts to develop business and residential opportunities for downtown have resulted in private investments that have changed the landscape of Lafayette’s core. Congratulations Anita!

We thank Adam Daigle and The Acadiana Advocate for all they do to support Discover Lafayette! May you all enjoy a wonderful holiday as you look forward to a prosperous New Year!