Adam Daigle, Business Editor of the Acadiana Advocate, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss the biggest business news of 2023.
The #1 story of the year is the incredible strides made in 2023 insofar as job creation is concerned. Iberia Parish is on fire with the recent announcement of First Solar’s $1.1 Billion investment to take place on thirty acres at the Acadiana Regional Airport. First Solar will produce high-performance photovoltaic (PV) solar modules. The project is expected to be complete in the first half of 2026 and up to 700 high-paying jobs are anticipated to be created. This enterprise is unique in Louisiana in that it is tied to a new solar training program at UL-Lafayette where students will be educated on designing solar panels. First Solar was founded in 1999 and is among the top 10 solar panel manufacturers in the world. Along with this major announcement, other large regional employers include Amazon at 1300 employees and Stuller at 1500 employees, who have both exceeded projections for local employees.
The #2 business story of the year is the large number of local restaurants which closed in early 2023, including the iconic Cafe Vermilionville, Lotus Garden, Grub Burger, The Point Seafood and Steakhouse, BJ’s Pizza, and Luna Bar & Grill. By July 2023, the number of closings had settled down.
The #3 story of the year is the shake-up at the news desk at KATC, seeing the departure of longtime and popular news anchors Marcelle Fontenot and Jim Hummel who will be joining KADN in January 2024. The move is one being conducted nationally by KATC’s owner, E. W. Scripps Co., as a cost-cutting measure. While there will no longer be live news read by anchors at the 5 pm, 6 pm or 10 pm news slots, the company will invest in more reporters to cover breaking news stories throughout the day.
The #4 story is the recently announced departure of Anita Begnaud, CEO of the Lafayette Downtown Development Authority, whose last day will be on December 20, 2023. Anita will be moving on to work with her former boss at One Acadiana, Jason El Koubi, as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Under Anita’s leadership, the DDA was instrumental in seeing the completion of a myriad of commercial projects in Downtown Lafayette which had languished for years. She brought energy and excitement to her role as CEO and will be sorely missed.
The #5 business story is the explosive growth occuring in the corridor at Kaliste Saloom Road and Ambassador Caffery Parkway, including the opening this year of Topgolf on December 15 and Dave & Busters which opened November 27. Adam says attracting these type of entertainment venues “brings Lafayette up a class, akin to going from a Double-A to a Triple-A baseball club” as it causes investors to take a closer look at our market and reexamine what is possible in the commercial realm. Other important commercial additions include the recently opened Chimes Restaurant and the development of the Camellia Blvd corridor near Verot School Road which is filling in with medical offices and a new Rouse’s, expected to open in early winter. This whole corridor is now serving as the commercial core of Lafayette Parish, is easily accessible by other towns in the parish, and is the economic powerhouse of the Lafayette community generating tax dollars that would have seemed impossible just a few short years ago. As Adam says, “Costco is a sales tax machine!”
Discover Lafayette is proud to name attorney Chris Granger as the recipient of our third annual Business Catalyst of the Year award. The owner of Maison Title real estate closing company and Seven Oak Grand Coteau, his property investment company, Granger has invested heavily in over 300 rental homes and has also been buying up properties for repurpose such as the former Jefferson Street Pub downtown and the old Petro House in Freetown which now houses Maison Title. Straw Cover Baking Co. recently opened up their wholesale bakery and flour mill in a former warehouse Granger purchased in Freetown at 111 Monroe Street. As a young man in his 30’s, Granger is making quite a business name for himself while revitalizing downtown properties which are prime for repurposing.
Discover Lafayette would like to express our deep appreciation of Adam Daigle and the entire team at the Acadiana Advocate for the ongoing support they have given our podcast over the past few years.
Adam publishes a business article each Monday which highlights our latest podcast guest. You can subscribe online at theadvocate.com/newsletters to receive the latest business news from the ADVOCATE each weekday.