LEXINGTON, Ky. — Acadiana business and community leaders pledged to work together on issues to improve the region Wednesday as they wrapped up a three-day trip to Lexington, Kentucky.
Some of the issues attendees said they want to see One Acadiana address are improving public education, promoting the area nationally, working to strengthen the urban core of Lafayette and reducing litter.
The likelihood of follow-through is promising.
“This was the strongest group of leaders from our region to travel anywhere together to learn together,” said Jason El Koubi, president and chief executive officer of One Acadiana, which organized the leadership trip to Kentucky.
About 75 people attended the trip, including Lafayette City-Parish Mayor Joel Robideaux, St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot, Iberia Parish President Larry Richard, and economic development and business leaders from all nine parishes in One Acadiana.
This is the second trip One Acadiana has made, coming 18 months after a visit to Charleston, South Carolina. “If you look at where we are today, so much we have done in the last 18 months or so was informed by what we learned on that trip,” El Koubi said.
“There needs to be a commitment to education,” said Don Broussard, chief financial officer of the Lemoine Co. and chairman-elect of One Acadiana. “We need to be unrelenting about it. Without that good base, we’re going to continue to struggle.”
El Koubi urged One Acadiana members to back a half-cent sales tax increase that will be on the ballot in Lafayette Parish Saturday.
Some Lafayette Parish public schools are in such bad condition that it “scares away families and jobs that might otherwise choose our region,” he said. “We need to do everything we can … to get as many people to the polls and vote yes.”
Promoting the Acadiana brand nationally is also an issue that One Acadiana plans to tackle. On Wednesday, the tour heard from Mary Quinn Ramer, the head of VisitLEX, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
There was resistance at first to the logo, Ramer said. The former mayor of Lexington thought he was in “a Saturday Night Live sketch” when the idea was first shown to him, but Big Lex has taken off, she said. The distinctive blue horse crops up all over the city, on everything from police cars to city letterhead, and parks and recreation signs.
“The key is to keep the brand simple, make it authentic and wear it with pride,” Ramer said.
Lafayette City Council Member Pat Lewis said just like Kentucky bourbon and thoroughbreds, Acadiana has its own elements that are nationally and internationally known. “You go anywhere in the world, people love our food, Zydeco and Cajun music,” he said. “It’s what we are.”