The job of selling Vermilion Parish didn’t allow Anne Falgout much downtime in 2016.

Falgout has served as executive director of the Vermilion Parish Economic Alliance since being hired two years ago. The past year featured several efforts to spread the word on the parish. “We started a billboard campaign and launched a Vermilion Parish commercial with One Acadiana,” Falgout said, “Both were aimed to coordinate with our Abbeville Meridional column and monthly newsletters. We were able to increase awareness of the organization and connect with more business owners and residents.” With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, Falgout worked with other groups to help businesses connect with residents looking for work. “We partnered with the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce and the Louisiana Workforce Commission to host the first parish-wide job fair held in Vermilion in over 10 years,” Falgout said. “Fifty businesses and 700 job seekers were connected and the Vermilion at Work effort was created to keep lines of communication open between events.” Falgout helped to orchestrate another event aimed at bringing people together with businesses. We launched the Vermilion Parish Business Walks and held the first event in Erath,” Falgout said. “We were able to have intimate conversations with 20 businesses and look for common issues and opportunities. “The event will be replicated across the parish in the coming months.”

The alliance also started a network of professional women aimed to share successes and create more leadership opportunities in Vermilion. The Vermilion Chapter is part of the larger Acadiana Women’s Network and uses newsletters, social and training events to stay in touch. Another initiative is focused on vacant properties. “We saw a need to draw positive attention to vacant properties in the parish,” Falgout said, “so we launched the perfect Fit initiative. These street-level billboards were put up in empty store fronts with information connecting prospective businesses to available real estate.” The Alliance increased connectivity to other agencies in the
region to secure funding and programs for Vermilion Parish businesses, assisting Erath and the Twin Parish Port Commission in evaluating increased utility capacity that resulted in more project-ready property for the town.

“And we were a part of the team that landed a $1 million Economic Development Administration grant to assist in entrepreneurial development for Acadiana,” Falgout said. “We promoted Vermilion across the country with the help of Louisiana Regional Leadership Council and connected good ideas to start-up capital with South Central Planning.” These efforts are placing Vermilion Parish on a better foundation to succeed.

“We evaluated our community’s ‘competitiveness’ with Louisiana Economic Development and presented our findings to local stakeholders,” Falgout said. “We learned that in two years we had moved the needle in several areas from marketing to site development, to regional coordination. It was a great chance to make sure what we were doing was having a positive impact on Vermilion Parish. Our LED rep, Patrick Witty, commended the parish on their investment in economic development and our out-of-the-box thinking that was sure to materialize into new wins for Vermilion.”

The new year will have a renewed focus on existing businesses. Recruitment efforts will stay intact, but more time will be spent helping Vermilion Parish businesses grow and diversify, Falgout said. Another Vermilion Parish Job Jair with even more businesses -to match local jobseekers with local opportunities will likely be held in
mid-April. “We plan to engage more with local leadership to shape what we do,” Falgout said. “We have three committees that were formed over the course of 2016, and in 2017 we’ll ask those groups to come together and evaluate what we do and how we do it. Business people and community leaders have a pulse on what’s happening or needs to happen, who better to help guide us into prosperity?!”

by Shaun Hearen, Abbeville Meridional, published 1/3/17