Year End Review
By Shanna Perkins | Submited Photos
What makes Acadiana so wonderful is that each parish within the region is completely unique. They are each diverse, yet work together to create this curious corner of the world. As 2015 comes to an end, we’re taking a look back at the five parishes within Acadiana LifeStyle’s coverage area to see what they’ve accomplished. Each one has special strengths that allow them to prosper and receive recognition and accolades in a bevy or fields.
“This year, 2015, has been a year of challenges,” confesses an optimistic Mike Tarantino, President and CEO of the Iberia Industrial Development Foundation. “Even with the challenges within the oil and gas economy, there have been many bright spots for Iberia Parish.”
Port Of Iberia
In August, four companies announced their plans to either expand their existing operations at the Port of Iberia or relocate there. Logan Industries International Corp. and Ram Design LLC have both announced their intentions to move their operations to the port.
Chart Energy and Chemicals Inc., a major manufacturer of cryogenic equipment, announced their plans to expand their operations via a $40 million upgrade. The equipment they produce is vital in the conversion of natural gas to liquid for transportation. Bayou Companies has maintained a position at the Port of Iberia for more than 70 years and they intend to add $39 million in upgrades to their existing presence. The company applies anticorrosion coating to oil and gas pipes. Their expansions will allow them to provide specialty coating for a deepwater project. Once complete, they will add to their existing staff of 300.
In October, both Dynamic Energy Services International and RamFab announced that they were awarded parts in Sasol Ltd.’s $8 billion ethane cracker project and were poised to add hundreds of jobs at the Port of Iberia.
“The recent announcements of what’s upcoming for the Port of Iberia is certainly a positive,” says Tarantino. “It’s a positive not only for Iberia Parish, but for the Acadian region as well. If everything works out, we’re talking about well over 1,000 jobs that will be created in the process. We have to keep our fingers crossed, but as long as projects like that continue to come in, we can continue to have more positive news.”
BestLife Iberia is the community development initiative of the Iberia Development Foundation and Tarantino is excited about the success the organization has seen in the past year. In 2011, the Iberia Development Foundation was one of the recipients of a $1 million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to build a healthier community. One of the ways the funds were used was to stimulate farmers markets and hydroponic cooperatives. The grant ends in 2015 and the establishments created under the grant are thriving and ready to stand on their own.
“Each one of these groups we created has more and more capacity to bring in fresh produce,” Tarantino explains. “ Not only does it help us tell the story of why Iberia Parish is such a great place to live, but it puts us on the radar nationally. We have people from all over the country calling us asking us how we put all of this together. The last one was a group out of Hawaii who called because they wanted to immolate what we’re doing here.”
On Oct. 25, Arceneaux Ford held a ribbon cutting for their new location at 1111 Highway 90 West. Tarantiono explains why the McMath family’s investment was an investment for the entire community.
“Every time a location grows or locates out on Highway 90, it promotes more infrastructure development,” he states. “This particular dealership project brought more water, sewer and electricity capacity to sites on Highway 90 where it didn’t exist before. Because of that one investment, other locations will have access to those utilities. It’s not just a business investment, it’s an investment in the larger community.”
In January, it was announced that the Bayou Teche was added to the National Water Trail System. Bayou Teche has a total of 13 established access points for paddle trips ranging from 7-135 miles long. The Bayou Teche’s designation to the National Water Trail System makes it the first in Louisiana to join the ranks of rivers across the nation.
“We worked with community leaders to submit the bayou for this recognition because it is a great economic driver for tourism,” says project manager Kristen Kordecki. “It’s another way to celebrate the culture and the nature of South Louisiana. The TECHE Project will also be the managers of the trail, working with local communities, municipalities, parish and state governments.”
This wasn’t the only recognition the Bayou Teche received in 2015. In July, it was announced that the Bayou Teche Paddle Trail and Cultural and Historical Map was awarded the “Best Of” category in the “Recreational/Travel Map Category” in the spring’s Cartography and Geographic Information Society Map Design Competition.
The 12x30 inch map is color and waterproof. On one side, it depicts the paddle trail and showcases the significant cultural and historical aspects of the Bayou Teche on the other side.
“In 2014, Lafayette decided that it was time to make a change,” states Assistant to City-Parish President Katherine M. McCormick. “Citizens rallied around a common vision in PlanLafayette that included creating a better first impression of our community. From this vision, Project Front Yard was born.”
Project Front Yard
Project Front Yard is an initiative that was set forth by the Lafayette City-Parish President’s Office. Its mission is to create awareness and inspire the improvement of Lafayette through cleanliness, beautification and education. It does this by uniting citizens, businesses, government and the media to address the beautification of the community.
In 2015, Lafayette took the initial steps toward creating what will become a long-term cultural change. The Lafayette Consolidated Government is working to provide officials with stronger tools to combat litter and illegal dumping in compliance with updated litter ordinances. Thanks to private funding from local partners, Project Front Yard hired a fulltime employee to handle illegal signs along the streets. Collaborations with stakeholders have allowed Project Front Yard to address beautification through revitalized gateways, improved public spaces, tree planting, city murals and public art.
The community assisted in the effort by removing 6,800 pounds of litter from the streets and waterways. To help better educate the community about the effort, Acadiana’s media has provided Project Front Yard with more than $2 million of in-kind ad space. The media effort encourages everyone to take pride in their city by cleaning up and standing up for a cleaner and greener landscape.
“Our community has an outstanding and well-deserved reputation as a great place to live, work and play,” says former City-Parish President Joey Durel. “We can make it an even better place by enhancing our collective ‘front yard’ – entrances to the city, public spaces and business facades. Project Front Yard will transform South Louisiana’s appearance, so what people see when they visit Acadiana will truly reflect its culture, energy and heart.”
Project Front Yard was initially developed to be a project that could be taken on by all parishes in the Acadiana region. So far, it has been adopted and applied in Acadia, Iberia and St. Martin Parishes. “It has been exciting to see our neighboring communities coordinating efforts, offering support and sharing project ideas and collaterals,” says McCormick.
Over the summer, the Louisiana Municipal Association was awarded the “Best of Show” Community Achievement Award. This award is reserved for a municipality that excels in community development, economic development and basic services. Additionally, Project Front Yard was selected as a recipient of the Healthy Communities Grant by Keep Louisiana Beautiful. The $9,891 grant will support the creative development and printing of a school-based Project Front Yard activity book.
“The activity book is a large component of a series of school programming that is being developed for Project Front Yard over the course of 2016,” McCormick explains. “This activity book will begin a youth education program targeting issues such as litter, river pollution, recycling education and sustainability ideas for Acadiana that is reinforced by the program’s community-wide messaging.”
Downtown Action Plan
The Downtown Action Plan, created by Downtown Lafayette, establishes a vision of how to best utilizes downtown Lafayette so that it serves as an asset to the entire region. The plan’s intent is to improve the quality of life for those who live, work and play downtown. Recently, the Downtown Action Plan was presented a 2015 Downtown Merit Award by the International Downtown Association during the 61st Annual Conference and Tradeshow.
The Downtown Action Plan won in the “Planning” category. It was one of six qualified entries in the category, which recognizes planning efforts that establish a strategic position for downtown with elements of the plan having already been implemented, ratified or approved.
“This award is exciting because it recognizes the innovative work that is being done on behalf of the core of our region,” states Downtown Lafayette’s CEO Nathan Norris. “It’s a nice honor that everyone who is working hard for Downtown Lafayette is being rewarded for their efforts of moving it forward.”
“With the New Year approaching, complete with fresh ideas and input from our Parish Council, we are looking forward to new road infrastructure and public works projects,” says St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier. “These projects will include addressing water quality in the Atchafalaya Basin and improvements to existing Animal Control Shelter. All while enhancing the overall quality of life for the citizens of our parish.”
Bridge & Road Repairs
This year, 2015, was a year of transportation improvements throughout St. Martin Parish. In late 2014, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, DOTD, did bridge inspection. As a result, the parish was forced to close nine bridges along roadways. St. Martin Parish Government immediately hired an engineering firm to come in and put together plans and specifications. Based on traffic priority, the parish bid the work out in three separate phases. By the end of April more than $1 million was spent and all nine bridges were repaired and reopened for vehicular traffic.
In addition to the improvements to the bridges, St. Martin Parish Government was able to repair more that $2 million of damages to parish roads. These repairs were determined by an annual road evaluation report that was put together by an independent engineering firm. Both the bridge and the road projects were paid for using proceeds from a road sales tax that was passed by rural residents in 2002.
Bayou du Portage Dredging Project
Early in 2015, Iberia and St. Martin Parishes started a joint project to dredge Bayou de Portage. Phase 1 of the project successfully removed more than 150,000 cubic yards of material from the mouth of the Bayou du Portage at its entrance to Lake Dautrieve.
“This phase was completed in May and has already significantly improved the drainage of more than 25,000 acres,” Cormier states. “The total cost of Phase 1 was $1.75 million. Phase 2 is currently being planned and designed. It should be out to bid in early 2016. This phase will improve the rest of the channel in its entirety. “
St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meeting Tour
This year, Cormier made the innovative decision to bring the St. Martin Parish Council to the people in their communities. So, the committee took their show on the road. Between February and September meetings were held in St. Martinville, Henderson, Cecilia, Pierre Part and Breaux Bridge.
“Making the decision to take our Committee Meeting on the road allowed us to be even more engaged with the people of St. Martin Parish,” says Cormier. “We were able to hear from our constituents on issues and topics that matter most to them, making it easier to connect from all parts of the parish.”
“I’ve been at the chamber for almost 12 years,” says St. Mary Chamber of Commerce President Donna F. Meyer. “It’s interesting to see where we started and where we are now. The chamber has grown so much in the way of supporting businesses.”
Chamber Chat Radio Show & Chamber Chat Magazine
It proved to be a big year for the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce. One of the things they started was the Chamber Chat Radio Show. The idea came from Chamber Board Member Howard Castay, who owns two radio stations. The premise of the show is not only to promote the chamber, but also to showcase the chamber members.
“We’re on the air every other Saturday,” Meyer explains. “We do interviews to promote events and businesses through the radio show. It’s been a great success and because of that we’ve decided to start Chamber Chat Magazine. We turned out our first magazine that was completely done by Mr. Castay and it was awesome. Starting in 2016, he will put out the magazine quarterly.”
Leadership St. Mary
Leadership St. Mary began in 2012 and as their class project they began looking at ways to add a machine shop class to the courses offered at South Central Louisiana Technical College. According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, machinist is one of the state’s most needed positions. Through Leadership St. Mary’s hard work and the assistance and dedication of other individuals and organizations, this year the technical college began offering a machine tool program during the fall semester.
“With all of the companies here that do machine work, they needed people to be trained,” Meyer relates. “We worked with the school and the different companies and the state came up with the money to facilitate the program. It’s been very helpful for these local industries. That was a major task for Leadership St. Mary to take on as a project.”
Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel
The Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton has been undergoing renovations. This year, they welcomed a new dinning establishment to their existing repertoire of restaurants. Tsunami, the sushi restaurant with locations in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, opened a location in the space formerly occupied by RIKRAK.
“The restaurants of Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel, such as Mr. Lester’s, are some of the finest in Louisiana,” Anthony Patrone, CEO and General Manager of Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel stated in a press release. “With the addition of Tsunami, we will now be offering some of our state’s premier sushi and Asian cuisine.”
Cajun Coast Welcome And Interpretive Center
Cajun Coast Welcome and Interpretive Center unveiled their eight themed pods that are designed to educate users about the flora and fauna of South Louisiana. Each interactive pod gives a glimpse into the diversity of St. Mary Parish. The categories of the interactive facilities are Get Air, Get Water, Get Going, Get Real, Get Fed, Get Wild and Go Explore. There’s also a diorama featuring a cypress tree and all of the native vegetation that accompanies these trees in nature.
“Each one is themed,” explains Executive Director Carrie Stansbury. “We took what we thought was important to St. Mary Parish as a whole and we divided it into interest groups.”
Feb. 26-28, the Eagle Expo celebrated its 10th anniversary. This marked the 10th successful year of the tribute to the return of the American bald eagle to Louisiana. The Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau partnered with Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, LSU Museum of Natural Science, Conrad Industries, Johnny’s Propeller Shop, the Audobon Society, LUMCON, America’s Wetland Foundation, B&G Foods, Louisiana Office of Tourism and the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area to showcase not only the American bald eagle, but the numerous species of birds and wildlife found within the Atchafalaya Basin and surrounding areas.
In addition to a successful 10th year, Cajun Cost Visitors & Convention Bureau Executive Director Carrie Stansbury received the Louisiana Ornithological Presidents award for her work with the Eagle Expo.
“It’s an honor to receive the President’s Award for Eagle expo,” Stansbury says. “While I received it personally, I share it with the staff for their help. We’ll be celebrating our 11th event Feb. 26-27, 2016, but the American bald eagle never loses its wow factor. They’re still as exciting to see today, either flying or simply perched on a branch, as they were when we first started Eagle Expo. Their beauty never gets old.”
Giant Omelette Celebration
Abbeville’s Giant Omelette Celebration is one of the most unusual festivals in Louisiana, possibly even in the nation. Over the years, it has garnered attention from various organizations and media outlets. This year, The Giant Omelette Celebration was featured as one of USA Today’s Strange Festivals and VisitSouth.com’s Best Events in the South.
“We are so proud to be mentioned in VisitSouth.com and in USA Today’s Strange Festivals,” says Arlene Collee. 3rd Grand Maitre of the Confrerie d’ Abbeville. “The Giant Omelette Celebration is a truly unique family friendly event. This year we had guests from our sister cities of Dumbea, New Caldonia and Granby, Quebec, Canada. Our international festival is rooted in the celebration of our French language and culture.”
The Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission
In January, the Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission was recognized as one of Louisiana’s Outstanding Convention and Visitors Bureaus at the LOUEY Awards Luncheon. This was the second time that Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission was recognized for their efforts by winning the Outstanding CVB of the year.
“I was very surprised to hear our name called,” admits Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission Executive Director Alison Miller. “This award validates all of the hard work and efforts we have put into promoting Vermilion Parish. I feel very honored to be recognized as one of the top three tourism bureaus in the state.”
Each year, the LOUEY Awards are awarded to tourism organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Louisiana tourism industry and created innovative, results-producing marketing strategies or programs that attract visitors to Louisiana. It is so significant because it is one of the few awards in the state that recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of Louisiana’s tourism industry. The Outstanding CVB of the Year, budget up to $249,999 was awarded to Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission for their efforts to increase visitation and build local partnerships.