Executive Director and CEO of St. Landry Economic Development Group, Bill Rodier, joins Discover Lafayette to share news of the growth of St. Landry Parish as well as the current boom in growth along the I-49 corridor.
In his previous position, Bill served as Deputy Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission and had recruitment roles with Louisiana Economic Development. He also had experience in sales: “In a different lifetime I used to run a large car dealership,” Rodier said.
Rodier began his work with the group in 2013 when the need to focus on the development of the region became a top priority in St. Landry Parish. “As an economic developer, one of the first things that I looked at when the position became available is how many opportunities St. Landry Parish had,” Rodier said. The parish has both LSU-Eunice and South La. Community College, transportation access via the I-49 corridor (north/south) and Hwy. 190 (east/west), and a booming culture and historical background.
St. Landry Parish is one of the larger parishes within Louisiana, encompassing 940 square miles, and has 12 incorporated communities, the most of any in Louisiana. It is bordered by the Parishes of Avoyelles, Point Coupee, St. Martin, Lafayette, Acadia, and Evangeline.
As Rodier speaks about the work of his group throughout Acadiana, interestingly he hears over and over about the direct ties people have with the parish, such as family, school, and business connections. Statistics bear this out, as many jobs in St. Landry Parish are filled with Lafayette Parish residents, many Lafayette families send their children to St. Landry Parish private schools, and St. Landry Parish residents look to Lafayette for amenities.
The Parish is uniquely known for its trail rides, making it one of the top equine regions in America. The Academy of the Sacred Heart is well-known for its equestrian program offered to its students. It is also home to Evangeline Downs, the area’s premier horse racetrack. In 2021, the Louisiana State Senate passed SR215 commending the equine industry for its cultural and economic impact to the state of Louisiana.
“If I were to describe our job, we’re almost like puzzlers…we put pieces together to make things work,” Rodier said. He strives to stimulate investment within St. Landry Parish and to attract investment from outside of the Parish borders.
Commercial developments along the I-49 corridor are of utmost importance to St. Landry Parish’s growth. Locals have taken the initiative to keep up the appearance of interchanges such as in grass cutting, a task formerly done by the state only four times a year, so as to present the best face to people traveling through the region. Rodier commended other mayors for their guidance in these issues, such as former Mayor of Scott, Purvis Morrison, and Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux.
The I-49 Midway corridor, situated between Shreveport and New Orleans, has seen incredible growth over the past 10 years. St. Landry Economic Development, Acadiana Planning Commission, and the cities of Washington, Opelousas, Sunset, Grand Coteau, Carencro, and Lafayette have joined together to create a vision for the Corridor, and to promote investment and economic development within the region. This is the first major plan to organize the growth of the region north of I-10 so as to optimize the use of interchanges, attract new business, evaluate frontage roads, and address blighted properties. The I-49 Midway Corridor Strategic Growth Plan may be reviewed here.
Rodier mentioned that the new Amazon location and the Walmart Distribution Center are both massive wins for the region. He explained that frontage roads are a major factor in the success of I-49. “We don’t have infrastructure resources along I-10 in Acadiana as we have along I-49, and by resources, I mean frontage roads,” Rodier said.
Ultimately, Rodier and his fellow economic developers want to develop the corridor to maximize the resources on it, without creating an eyesore. The interchanges on the corridor can’t keep up with its increasing growth rate. “When I-49 was constructed, they didn’t make these interchanges like they’ve made interstates in Texas, they were made as more rural interchanges.” Rodier said, “We’ve outgrown the capacity with it.”
“Everyone has to come together to make transformational progress…I’m just a part of that.” Rodier said, “Without people coming together that really care, it’s really difficult to make progress.”
Rodier mentioned that the Hwy. 93 corridor, which includes St. Martin Parish, Arnaudville and St. Landry Parish, is a huge area for residential growth. Sunset Terrace is St. Landry’s largest and newest subdivision. “As economic developers, getting more accessibility and transportation is a huge piece of what we do,” Rodier said.
There is also a burgeoning French Immersion educational effort underway with Ecole St. Landry elementary school to open in Sunset this fall, and the Saint-Luc French Immersion and Cultural Campus in Arnaudville which caters to adult learning opportunities.
Rodier noted how important it is to visit St. Landry Parish to experience all that it has to offer, firsthand. “Take a drive to NuNu Arts and Culture Collective, go to Little Big Cup in Arnaudville, go up and look at the shops in Sunset and the chargrilled oysters in St. Josephine’s Cafe…the food, the culture, the music, the shopping…every single one of these communities has its own niche,” Rodier said.
For more information on St. Landry Economic Development Group, visit https://www.opportunitystlandry.com