How you can help Lafayette’s economy

Illustration by makemade

  •   A series exploring the highs and lows of Lafayette’s economy, providing critical commentary about what’s working and what’s not.

The oil price collapse is delivering another blow to the Lafayette economy, which is already bracing for a global recession brought on by COVID-19. Thousands have lost their job in recent weeks, with thousands more layoffs expected. Hundreds of businesses are shuttered or operating at a reduced capacity, like the 930 restaurants in the Lafayette metro area that are either closed or only able to offer takeout/delivery. And this is only the beginning.

The scale of what we’re facing is so large it can feel overwhelming, leaving some of us to think there’s nothing we can do to make a difference. 

But we can make a difference. Economies are powered by two simple things: people spending money and people making money. Something many can still do to help Lafayette’s economy is to keep spending money locally. Of course, not everyone can do this when money is tight and unemployment is high, but it’s the only proven strategy to keep an economy moving. 

If you’re fortunate to be someone who has additional money to spend, there are a variety of ways you can make a difference.

There’s obviously a ton of needs related to responding to the coronavirus and subsequent economic downturn. You can help support fundraising for local musicians who have lost gigs, or housing the homeless to help flatten the curve, or feeding the hungry now that so many more are becoming unemployed.

If you already have a list of nonprofits you support, you could consider increasing your commitment since fundraising will get tougher in the months to come as our economy endures a recession.

If you love our local arts and culture scene, buy some pieces from your favorite artists. Not only would that likely be a good distraction, it will also help our creative class stay solvent as they fight to survive shuttered galleries and non-existent tourism.

If you have any friends who are hurting financially and looking for work, you could hire them to help with projects around your house or your business. Or you could just give them money. At this point, every dollar helps — not just your friend’s livelihood and sanity but also by keeping money flowing in our economy.

If you’re someone who happens to have a lot of additional money you could spend, now would be a great time to think about ways to deploy it to help support our community through these tough times.

Make foundational investments in your favorite nonprofits to help protect their operations from the funding shortfalls that are coming. If nothing else, if you donate to nonprofits, keep giving. They’re going to need our support now more than ever, even if they’re not directly involved in the COVID-19 response.

Get engaged in any one of the many efforts to respond to the coronavirus and see where the greatest needs are to make significant impacts on the lives of people who are hurting.

There are also ways you can help that aren’t just giving your money away. Our economy is going to be in desperate need of having money invested into growing profitable businesses that create and sustain jobs — whether that means investing in growing your existing businesses or putting up risk capital to invest in the next generation of startup companies. 

Government stimulus checks and philanthropic giving aren’t able to right our economy’s ship alone, especially not when we’re facing potentially permanent downsizing of major local industries like oil and gas. Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Gifford Briggs says a recent survey of his members reveals a 60%-70% planned reduction in employment in that industry, which would mean the loss of almost 9,000 jobs in the Lafayette metro area alone.

What we need is to see even more success in starting and expanding businesses that further efforts to not just diversify our economy but grow it to replace the ground we’re losing.

And this is also where all of the people who don’t have additional money to spend come into play. There are thousands of people stuck at home in Lafayette right now who are unemployed or underemployed. But just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you can’t be helping our economy.

That’s because we live in an age where there are all sorts of ways to make money from home. You can start a YouTube channel, or try to become an Instagram or TikTok star. You can develop the next great game or killer app. You can channel all the emotions you’re feeling to create amazing works of art. Or write the next great American novel or screenplay. Or develop new research or new ideas that revolutionize some part of society.

Even if you’re not the creative type, there are a host of remote working opportunities available through sites like Upwork.com. Whatever your skills, there could be jobs for you online that you can do while working from home. 

Every dollar that someone makes from home is a dollar that will help our economy. That means more money to do the more routine things business leaders are telling us to do — like ordering takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurants. Shopping at local stores that are still open and offer delivery or curbside pickup options — many are still taking orders through their websites. Pre-purchasing services for your next haircut, massage or tattoo. 

If we’re lucky, these extraordinary circumstances will inspire some of our extraordinary people to create extraordinary things. Maybe we’ll even look back on these down times as the moment when Lafayette’s economy finally hit bottom and set the stage for a whole new generation of growth and prosperity. 

All of this is possible, and we can all play a role in making them happen, whether that be by spending money locally, investing money locally, or finding new ways to make money while we’re stuck at home.

About the Author

Geoff Daily created FiberCorps and helped launch the Lafayette General Foundation. He now works as a launch strategist.

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