“I like to always tell people you can’t complain if you don’t vote. One Acadiana doesn’t endorse candidates. We take the opportunity to educate people on what the candidates stand for. We take the opportunity to educate the candidates on what our robust business-led public policy agenda is. We want people to know what the business community stands for and what they see as the things that are required for them to be successful.” Troy Wayman
Troy Wayman, One Acadiana’s President and CEO, is our guest on the episode of Discover Lafayette. One Acadiana (“1A”) is a business-led, privately-funded economic development organization serving a nine-parish area in South Louisiana with over 900 member companies and individuals. Approximately 700 of the group’s members are based in Lafayette Parish, the home base of the economic development organization formerly known as the “Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.”
It’s been a busy time for 1A, between hosting candidate forums for the October 2019 elections and having Dr. Loren Scott deliver his annual Louisiana Economic Outlook. They’ve also just launched a five-year $15 million dollar strategic campaign, “IMPACT – The Campaign for One Acadiana”, designed to sharpen its ability to capture new and expanding business opportunities and propel Acadiana forward.
While 1A doesn’t endorse candidates as it has in the past, that doesn’t mean the organization is not “political.” They work to disseminate information on 1A’s positions on policy issues affecting infrastructure, workforce and education, and healthcare to all candidates to ensure a unified voice for the region’s business community.
This fall, 1A hosted three forums that showcased the candidates for Lafayette’s Mayor-President, Lafayette Parish School Board, and Lafayette City and Parish Council races. Each event gave its members and the general public the opportunity to hear the candidates in person and witness each candidate’s demeanor. Fortunately for our community, the candidate forums have been conducted in a civil and professional manner, which reflects well on the persons choosing to run as our elected servants. Troy encouraged all people to remember to vote on October 12, 2019. It is best to prepare ahead of time as the ballot is lengthy and covers everything from local and state elections to 4 Constitutional initiatives.
Compete LA was announced recently at a 1A luncheon where University of Louisiana System President and CEO Jim Henderson announced the program’s aim to re-engage the 653,000 Louisianians with some college credit but no degree. Troy explained that many adults have a significant amount of college credits but never completed their degree. With online classes, it has never been easier to earn college credits. The program is an opportunity to improve the state’s second to last ranking of those with bachelor’s degrees or higher. The program was introduced in early May and Compete LA has already engaged with more than 1100 students, 600 of whom have more than 120 course credits, the typical number of hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. 1A is supporting bills for the upcoming legislative session that will address impediments to students staying and/or returning to school: school debt racked up from parking tickets and other non-fee related charges prevent students from re-enrolling for classes or transferring to another university. Passage of a law that allows the university to work with students to develop a payment plan will allow students to move forward and universities to re-enroll students and receive tuition. “For Louisiana to be competitive in the economy of the future, we have to develop a more educated workforce,” Henderson said. “Compete LA is designed to cut through the red tape of returning to school and provide supports at every step of the student’s educational journey.”
Another important initiative of 1A is “55 by 25” with a goal of increasing the proportion of working-age adults in Acadiana with postsecondary degrees, certificates, or other high-value credentials to 55 percent by 2025. One thing that companies look for when selecting sites is the educational attainment in the region. In Acadiana, we have the cultural amenities that speak well for a wonderful quality of life, yet only 28% of our population has a 2 or 4-year degree. When you add in those who have earned a “high-value” certification in fields such as welding, we’re at 37% of our population. It is 1A’s goal to see that 55% of our workforce age population have high-value credentials by 2012. Dr. Natalie Harder, 1A’s Chair-Elect, a proponent of 55 by 25, and Chancellor of SLCC, has stated, “I’ll never have a program at our school where there will be no job available upon graduation.” 1A leadership has also met with school systems across the 9-parish area it represents to request assistance in getting students ready for advanced training, which also includes more dual enrollment programs where students can graduate from high school and be just about work-ready.
1A recently kicked off its five-year, $15 million IMPACT Campaign. Having already raised approximately $11 million to date, Troy stressed that their current directive is to focus on four key strategies: (1) creation and preservation of jobs; (2) Advocacy for infrastructure; (3) Workforce and education; and (4) Member engagement and member services. As 1A’s regional strategy has matured, it also realized that it is still the Chamber of Commerce for Lafayette and is recommitting to that work for the 700 or so members/businesses based in Lafayette, along with serving as an inclusive voice for policy initiatives affecting its 9 parish region of service.
Visit https://www.https.oneacadiana.org for more information on 1A’s policy initiatives, 55 by 25, Compete LA and member/investor opportunities.