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Kyle Bacon, head of Jones Walkers’ Lafayette office, joined Jan Swift of Discover Lafayette to discuss developments in downtown Lafayette, as well as today’s commercial business climate.
A Lafayette native and graduate of Lafayette High, UL-Lafayette, and LSU Law School where he was on the Louisiana Law Review, Bacon is a co-leader of Jones Walker’s commercial transactions team. His clients’ interests include oil and gas, banking, real estate, healthcare, and manufacturing.
The Lafayette office of Jones Walker is one of 13 offices the firm has across the country and is the largest law firm situated in downtown Lafayette with 17 lawyers on site. Jones Walker began in New Orleans and has had a presence in Lafayette for over 30 years; the Lafayette group was its first office outside of the New Orleans market. Situated at the top of Chase Tower on Jefferson Street, Bacon’s office offers a bird’s-eye view of downtown activities.
The firm’s typical clients are midsize to large and most are in need of business defense matters. Bacon’s work focuses on the transactional side of law and he explained that one of the benefits of hiring a large law firm is that they can offer specialized counsel in complex issues that may involve out-of-state matters.
Bacon is a proponent of seeing the continued growth of downtown and says, “It is the front porch of our community. Downtown is the epicenter of our cultural identity here in Lafayette and Acadiana. It’s an important connector to the university and it’s critical that we keep downtown vibrant. Festival International is such a symbol of what Downtown is all about. It’s the center of our community where everyone feels welcome. We can all come together and feel as one.”
“Downtown is the epicenter of our cultural identity here in Lafayette and Acadiana. It’s an important connector to the university and it’s critical that we keep downtown vibrant. Festival International is such a symbol of what Downtown is all about. It’s the center of our community where everyone feels welcome.”
Most law firms used to be located downtown which made sense as that is the locale of the Lafayette Parish courthouse and other court-related entities. Over time as South Lafayette has expanded, many lawyers have set up shop across the parish. Bacon believes that the trend could be reversed if local government officials made a concerted decision to focus efforts on downtown development. He compared this to how downtown Baton Rouge has blossomed in the past twenty years with state government’s push to concentrate its offices downtown in lieu of being scattered across the city. This focus in our State Capitol spurred more development as downtown flourished and enjoyed renewed activity after years of decline.
With the dedicated professionals of Downtown Development Authority working on attracting residential housing and more retail, and the commitment of LEDA’s Opportunity Machine and Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission to locate downtown, he’s hopeful that more may follow suit. Bacon stated that “these developments can spur additional activity. Other folks will follow. Downtown settings also allow people to interact easily; we’re social beings.”
Growing up off Johnston Street in Lafayette, Bacon remembers the times when downtown was dormant. He discussed how dead downtown similarly looked during March and April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 shutdown. When businesses were allowed to reopen in May, downtown started coming back to life but with the resurgence of the pandemic, it’s a little slow again.
Jones Walker survived the chaos in getting their offices back to work after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and remembered lessons learned from being a New Orleans-based law firm dealing with the aftermath. They never missed a beat in welcoming visitors and clients when the shutdown occurred in March 2020; they check temperatures of everyone entering their offices, have visitors and staff fill out questionnaires as to their health status and if they have had contact with anyone who tested COVID-positive, and ensure that all maintain social distancing by taping off chairs in conference rooms.
Many of Jones Walker employees have successfully worked remotely and have not returned full-time to the office. As an aside during this portion of the conversation, Bacon echoed thoughts heard from other business leaders as to the potential change in work habits as the U. S. moves forward post-COVID. Only time will tell how the ability to work remotely will affect demand for commercial space downtown and other places and how the commercial real estate market will be affected in the longterm.
Bacon gives back to the Lafayette community, and in 2017, was selected as a Top 20 under 40 honoree by the Daily Advertiser. He has participated in Leadership Louisiana and Leadership Lafayette. Bacon enjoys membership in Mardi Gras krewes and is also active with One Acadiana, the Community Foundation of Acadiana, and his church.
We thank Kyle Bacon for sharing his message and for his efforts to make our community the best it can be.