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Adam Daigle, Business Editor of the Acadiana Advocate, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss the biggest news stories of 2022.
The top five stories give our community great hope for the future, even with inflation dampening the economy.
The #1 story of the year is the phenomenal growth in South Lafayette led by the developments in the second phase of the Ambassador Town Center near Costco in South Lafayette at the corner of Creek Farm Road and Ambassador Caffery Parkway. Expectations are that Dave & Busters and the popular Topgolf are on the way. Also in the works are Jet Coffee, luxury apartments, and a discount tire retailer.
The #2 story of the year is the opening of the Lofts at the Municipal in Downtown Lafayette. Offering 68 units, the site is at the former federal courthouse, police station, and library. Adam says, “The successful completion of this project showed everyone that Lafayette can do hard things.” The project required a new sewer lift station installed with the help of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority and historic tax credits which made the numbers work for the developers.
The #3 story is the sale of LHG Group to UnitedHealth’s Optum health service business for $5.4 Billion. LHG was started by Ginger and Keith Myers who are originally from Palmetto. Ginger saw the dearth of options for home health care and the couple built LHC into a powerhouse in 37 states, with 700 employed here in Lafayette. Adam shared that UnitedHealth has plans to invest considerable resources into LHC to further prop up the company’s success in the home health arena.
The #4 story of 2022 is the local real estate market. For some time, interest rates were so low people could get a loan for next to nothing while sellers got top dollar for their listing. With interest rates being raised frequently by the Federal Reserve as a means to tamp inflation, there has been a dramatic cool down in home sales. We’re now seeing fewer buyers and fewer pending sales as we close out 2022. Adam reports that there are more and more single-family rentals coming onto the market, some in nice gated communities with their lawns being maintained.
The #5 story is the opening of the new Lafayette Regional Airport Terminal. This project is a shining example of how a community can come together to fund and build a much-needed facility as our new, modern and spacious terminal. Lafayette parish taxpayers passed an 8-month, 1 cent sales tax with helped the community match state and federal dollars. With no debt, the new airport terminal will serve our community’s need for years to come.
Stories to watch out for include the explosive growth of SafeSource Direct in Broussard. The pandemic brought to light the dependence of the U. S. on Chinese imports such as masks and other PPE items. SafeSource responded to the need to provide American-made products and in partnership with Ochsner Health and Trax Development has grown beyond expectations. With its newly FDA-approved gloves, up to 2200 employees are projected to be on board when the current expansion is underway, a huge jump from the originally estimated 1200 employees. The company’s success is tied to other industries such as chicken plants and others who have a need for masks, aprons, gloves, etc.
Another emerging story is the site selection for a new Performing Arts Center in Lafayette. Everyone knows the old Heymann Performing Arts Center needs to be replaced, but the question is where does it go? One study recently concluded that it be located across from the Cajundome next to the Hilton Garden Inn. A group of downtown civic leaders, including Sam Oliver and the Acadiana Center for the Arts, are pushing for an additional study to determine the best location based on return on investment. Other towns such as Greensboro, North Carolina, made the decision to relocate their PCA downtown and it has spurred immense economic activity.
Discover Lafayette is proud to name developer Ravi Daggula as the recipient of our second annual Business Catalyst of the Year award. Ravi has invested in restoring and bringing back properties such as The Nickerson House, the Charles Mouton Plantation, and Esprit de Coeur into commerce, offering beautiful venues for events and special occasions. He recently bought the old Dat Dog building downtown and is working on making the old Travelodge on Pinhook into the most unique place in Lafayette, with the look of an old Motor Inn and a place where people can hang out and have fun. Several other projects are in the works with a group of investors who want to inject life into Lafayette’s venues. 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. Ravi Daggula, thank you for your unique eye. You see what should be done and continually serve as the driving force to make it happen.