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COLUMN: It’s time for Lafayette to take its housing crisis seriously

Lafayette is facing a severe housing crisis, with thousands of people at risk of losing their homes. This crisis started before the pandemic, but the coronavirus and its impact on our economy has just added fuel to a fire that’s now threatening to rage through our community.

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Take a (laundry) load off a Lafayette healthcare worker

Lafayette General Foundation is raising money to pay for laundry for hospital employees, giving a boost to a local startup

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Some local retailers are not ready to ‘Safe Shop’

Despite a surge of re-openings under the local “Safe Shop” policy, some Lafayette retailers are opting to keep their doors closed for now

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Lafayette is bracing for the budget impact of coronavirus

The gist: Retail sales are plummeting nationwide, while plunged oil prices remain bottomed out. That means local governments face the possibility of massive deficits. Citing “unprecedented fiscal challenges,” Lafayette’s mayor-president is setting expectations for deep cuts. 

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Freelancers of Lafayette: Don’t fear coronavirus loans

For a lot of freelancers, applying for a loan is brand new — and scary — territory. Here’s a high level guide to how it works.

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Coronavirus stimulus not enough to save Lafayette’s oil and gas industry

The gist: The purpose of the recently passed federal stimulus is to counterbalance the hit that’s happening from stay-in-place orders crippling economic activity. While this stimulus will help a number of businesses weather this storm, it’s not near enough to protect Lafayette’s oil and gas industry, which faces existential threats that require more than short-term subsidies.

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Survey highlights initial impact of COVID-19 on Acadiana businesses

The gist: Acadiana’s businesses already feel widespread economic pain, according to a survey conducted by a coalition of local economic development and community organizations, including LEDA, One Acadiana and more. Of roughly 1,000 local businesses surveyed between March 19 and March 25, 91% expected revenue to decline. 

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91% of respondents expect revenue to be down. 72% of all respondents say they expect revenue to be down significantly.

The majority of respondents have already seen their businesses hurt, with order cancellations and decreased demand. As a result, a majority of respondents are watching spending closely and adjusting work schedules.

35% have already reduced staff or expect to. Another 32.7% are unsure if they’ll need to do that. An average of 64% have already reduced operational hours, shifts, work days, and/or wages, with that number increasing to 88% for those businesses who responded on the last day the survey was live.

More than 20% said they couldn’t make it a month given current economic conditions. Some couldn’t make it another week. Nearly half of businesses were unsure how long they could hold out. Here’s a breakdown based on how much longer they felt they could stay open given current conditions:

  • 7% one week
  • 22.2% one month
  • 8.8% six months
  • 2.3% other
  • 45.1% unsure how long
  • 14.5% other 

Respondents encompassed a variety of types, industries, and sizes of businesses, with more than half having 1-10 employees, more than 70% being located in Lafayette Parish.

The federal stimulus could help local businesses navigate these choppy waters. This survey was conducted before the federal stimulus package was passed, part of which is designed to keep small businesses afloat for a couple of months. Some of the responses to this survey referenced their hope this would keep them alive. The forgivable loans available to small businesses to retain staff are starting to take applications today. 

This coalition plans on conducting another survey in mid-April to track the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Full results of this first survey can be seen here.

Link: Banks urge patience as PPP rollout gets off to a rocky start

The ambitious $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program passed by Congress one week ago to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis rolls out this morning amid confusion and mixed signals.

Updated federal guidelines for the program were not issued until late Thursday night in a 31-page “interim final rules” document, just hours before the PPP was supposed to begin accepting applications, and most banks are still not ready.

Source: Banks urge patience as PPP rollout gets off to a rocky start

How you can help Lafayette’s economy

The challenges facing Lafayette’s economy may seem overwhelming but you can help right the ship by spending money or making it, and that means more than just shopping local.

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COLUMN: Fiber’s fragile finances

Since launching 2008, LUS Fiber has missed its financial projections by $70 million. That puts it in a vulnerable position.

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Column: If we want to fix Lafayette’s roads, we must stop building new ones

Lafayette’s roads suck and both our city and parish budgets are in disarray. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about this problem. We just need to reprioritize maintaining the infrastructure we already have.

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Hold the phone: Is Lafayette actually seeing a brain gain?

The gist: There’s been a lot of talk about brain drain lately, the exodus of educated talent. It’s become a meme-level concern among young professionals. But oddly, the data doesn’t necessarily back up the anxiety. 

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Metro Lafayette actually leads the state in brain gain. That’s a term I just made up. While Louisiana overall has shed its college educated workforce out of state, Lafayette has added 3,600 new residents in that cohort between 2005 and 2017, according to UL economist Gary Wagner. Lafayette appears to be sucking up that talent from other Louisiana metros. 

Pause the celebration. Lafayette is doing better than a state that lags behind the rest of the country. And jobs are coming back slowly, relative to the losses. It’s possible, Wagner told a Downtown luncheon Wednesday, that Lafayette won’t ever recover the job losses. 

Healthcare is poised to be Lafayette’s main economic driver. Oil and gas, the regional fuel for decades, has slipped to fourth among sectors in terms of wage share. But Lafayette’s healthcare industry has trended up and is just about to take its perch as the top sector. “Eds and meds” are often cited as the desirable white collar jobs to attract in economic development. To the extent that’s true, Wagner says, Lafayette is relatively well positioned to pounce.

Some obstacles are out of our control. Wagner argued that “bad state policies” in taxation and regulation are holding the state back. He characterized the raft of policies broadly, noting that the policies are longstanding thorns.