Jason El Koubi’s greatest contributions to Acadiana were to build a structured organization for regional progress and to leave a road map for us to get there. The rest is up to us.
The departing president and CEO of One Acadiana, a nine-parish “super chamber” of regional leadership, serves his last day in that role this week. On July 31, he assumes the No. 2 position at Virginia Economic Development Partnership, that state’s rough equivalent to Louisiana Economic Development.
El Koubi told The Daily Advertiser’s editorial board Wednesday this good news: Acadiana holds in its hands a reputation for cultural vibrancy and authenticity and “pride of place” that other regions “cannot buy.” We are “cooler,” “funkier.” But we already knew that.
Nonetheless, challenges persist. Here’s what we need to know:
“We are behind on many things,” El Koubi said, ticking off a list that Acadiana leaders should keep handy. Those include substandard infrastructure — damaged roads, poor drainage, weak flood control, crumbling parks and schools — but they also pose challenges we can meet as a region, if we can only muster the needed will.
So what has changed for the almost four years of El Koubi’s leadership?
- The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has transformed itself into a regional leadership group that can benefit more people across more parish lines. The leadership has a shared, unified vision of what success means.
- Acadiana has certified sites for business and industrial development. These include 700-plus acres to develop in Jefferson Davis Parish. There’s a certified business site in Carencro.
- Acadiana’s positives multiplied under the regional concept. Lafayette and its neighbors can recognize and tout the pluses of having access to ports in St. Mary and Iberia parishes, available land in Acadia and St. Landry parishes, an enhanced airport in Lafayette Parish, interstate highways throughout the region. All of Acadiana — it includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes — can use those pooled strengths.
- One Acadiana has an accomplished and vigorous staff in place, a “concierge service” to market the unified region to prospective business and industrial investors.
There’s this, too: El Koubi fostered and promoted the common cause of this region, reminding us that people in the next parishes need not be rivals but partners for shared success.
What’s next? One Acadiana’s permanent leadership ought to pursue another educated, competent, experienced professional who appreciates regional strengths and challenges, who looks at the future with optimism. The region needs another collaborative force who recognizes that among diverse people across many parish lines there can be a shared identity and common mission. We need a collaborative consensus builder.
We’ve had that leader and prospered. Let’s find the next one.