Opportunity Defines St. Landry Parish
31 Mar 2022
St. Landry Economic Development (SLED) exists to create opportunities that facilitate economic growth in St. Landry and today is poised to help deliver major growth in residential, commercial, and industrial development. The formation of several organizations under the SLED umbrella offers the capacity to impact and accelerate that growth in specific geographic segments of the parish. These organizations are fairly unique in Louisiana in the fact they are not political boards and therefore possess the autonomy to effect progress.
St. Landry Parish is a large, expansive area just north of Lafayette, Louisiana and is centrally located at a strategic center crossroads for the State of Louisiana. The area has long been defined as an area with huge opportunities for business development due to proximity to infrastructure such as major highways like Interstate 49, Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 190 or access to significant port and rail transportation assets.
“These organizations within SLED’s jurisdiction can be thought of as dedicated implementation teams, led by key community members and are well-funded to ensure project completion,” said Bill Rodier, CEO of SLED.
Several organizations exist within SLED to accelerate business growth within their defined boundary areas, focused on strategic transportation corridors that are ripe for future growth.
One such organization is the Central St. Landry Economic Development District (CSLEDD), CSLEDD was created in 2015 and is governed by a board of 7 appointment commissioners to proactively build capacity and target opportunities along the I-49 corridor in central St Landry Parish from just south of the Harry Guilbeau exit to just north of the Hwy.190 interchange. Boundaries of the district bulb out from the interstate both east and west of I-49 along potential high growth commerce highway connections and include property within the City of Opelousas, as well as property unincorporated as part of St Landry Parish.
CSLEDD was responsible for the creation of the Gateway to Acadiana Master Plan, designed to maximize the commercial potential of the property surrounding the Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino for retail, restaurant, and commercial space, an event center, a high-end RV park and more opportunities.
This group has also focused on the growth and development of the Harry Guilbeau interchange on I-49. This began with the construction of the south gateway development project, which includes 17 commercial lots that now house Team Honda, multiple health care facilities, the main campus of Our Saviors church and a soon-to-be Tier 1 Love’s Travel Center.
Funds from the District were recently deployed to construct a new wastewater treatment plant. This new treatment facility was critical for the development we are now seeing on the southern end of the district, which includes quality single-family residential, as well as a broad mix of business growth and development.
The establishment of CSLEDD as an economic development district was a critical move to stimulate business growth, said Bob Giles, CEO of Giles Automotive, which includes Giles Nissan of Opelousas, a state-of-the-art car dealership constructed in the Harry Guilbeau interchange area.
“The economic development district allows for improvements to beautify I-49, such as state-of-the-art LED lighting, roadway maintenance and trash collection,” he said. “That is important to attract businesses and residents to the area.”
Giles is a current member of Vision St. Landry, another economic development organization in the SLED group. Vision St. Landry is registered as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization and its board is made up of St. Landry parish business executives and senior area leaders. Vision St Landry meets on a bi-monthly basis to discuss, evaluate, and propose potential solutions to major challenges that could impact the future business growth of the parish and surrounding area. The input from this board provides valuable and forward-thinking perspectives that SLED considers in its strategy implementation of various initiatives.
While Giles brings a unique vantage point as an owner of five auto dealerships in Louisiana and Texas, he said the true value of organizations such as CSLEDD and Vision St. Landry comes from the diverse, local leadership.
“Many of the business leaders associated with CSLEDD and Vision St. Landry are totally invested in St. Landry, as they live and operate their businesses there,” he said. “They are important leaders who know improvements here will benefit everyone.
An additional organization within SLED seeks similar results in their boundaries. Louisiana Senate Bill 250 created Opelousas Downtown Development District (ODDD) in 2017, to target the artery access highways corridors coming into downtown Opelousas from all four directions through a governing authority of 7 appointed commissioners The overarching strategy within the district is that enhancing these corridors in a multitude of ways will provide a catalyst for overall investor confidence in not only the downtown core but also along gateways into downtown.
To date, examples of the enhancements already implemented by the District include things such as retrofitting all the street lights across the district into the highest available quality LED units available, spearheading an in-depth cleanup of the entire courthouse square area, as well as the parish courthouse itself. The District has also been a key advocate in getting more than nine million dollars in funding allocated for the Vine Street artery reconstruction project, implemented a business improvement construction grant program, a business of the month recognition program, a TAP Grant sidewalk improvement initiative and have partnered with issuing an RFP for redevelopment on one of the largest buildings in the downtown area.
The Downtown District recently funded a Master Plan that was completed in 2021. The plan further reinforced and prioritized a number of development and related objectives for the district that will help enhance the downtown’s historic character and strengthen it as the city’s, the parish and the region’s center of cultural, commercial, and civic activity.
Established in November 2015, the Grand Couteau Economic Development District (GCEDD) includes the business corridor area of the town along Interstate 49, which is positioned in a targeted high growth area of the parish. The purpose of the district is to utilize funding generated in the area to enhance the infrastructure availability, and to promote a future sustainable growth foundation for the town’s business district. Multiple infrastructure improvement initiatives are currently underway with the town, which include major upgrades to the water system servicing the district, plans for interchanges traffic control, and plans for enhancing the district's overall drainage capacity.
If not now, when? That is a mantra of the SLED culture, which is focused on leading positive and transformational change. Collectively, the aligned efforts and unique resources of these entities within the SLED umbrella combine to bring significant capacity in accelerating the area's current and future growth.
To learn more about economic development and opportunities in St. Landry Parish or in any of its 12 municipalities email SLED or call (337) 948-1391.