After the sun has risen and established itself over the landscape of Vermilion Parish on a given day, Anne Falgout notices vehicle after vehicle heading north on Highway 167.
Falgout is heading in the opposite direction, to her new office in Abbeville.
“Every day I drive to Vermilion from Lafayette,” Falgout said. “It takes me 17 to 22 minutes to get from my house in Lafayette to my office. All the traffic is going the other way.
“My job is to reverse that traffic flow.” Falgout has been on that job since Nov. 10, when she signed on to become the first director of the newly formed Vermilion Parish Economic Development District. Falgout, an Abbeville native and 1999 graduate of Vermilion Catholic, brings with her 13 years of experience with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.
“My 13 years there helped prepare me for what is going to come in Vermilion,” Falgout said.
Falgout met last week with the Abbeville Kiwanis Club to share her vision for the parish.
“I am here to work for the people of Vermilion Parish,” Falgout said. “Our key mission is to grow and develop the economy of Vermilion Parish.”
Falgout explained to the Kiwanians the plan for that will happen in various ways.
“The first is business retention,” she said. “That is arguably the most important thing you can do for any local economy. Retain the businesses that you have.”
That can be done by simply educating businesses.
“We can provide access to local resources that maybe businesses don’t know about,” Falgout said. “Just 20 miles up the road, there are companies getting money from the state to train their employees. That money is available to businesses in Vermilion Parish.
“It’s my job to know that, share that information and get the local business community connected to those state and federal resources.”
Bringing in new businesses plays another part of growing Vermilion’s economy.
“Business recruitment is probably the most glamorous thing about economic development,” Falgout said. “That’s what makes the headlines.”
Falgout admitted that is not the driving focus in the near future.
“As attractive as business recruitment is,” Falgout said, “it’s just not practical if you don’t have your ducks in a row.
“Right now, we want to line up the resources that it is going to take to make us successful.”
Local people with vested interests in the business community play an extremely important role in growing and sustaining any economy.
“What’s pretty unique to Acadiana is entrepreneurship,” Falgout said. “Over 90 percent of businesses in Acadiana are locally owned and operated. Without that drive and activity from the entrepreneurs, you don’t have a sustainable economy. You constantly have to have those people who are willing to take risks.
“We have to promote and encourage entrepreneurship and once those businesses are established, we have to make sure they are successful.”
Falgout said she will work tirelessly to make sure that it all happens.
“I will constantly keep in touch with people,” Falgout said. “I want to let them know that they have a resource available.
“I have an open-door policy.”
That door is located on her office at the Vermilion Parish Government Office Complex (the old Hibernia building) on Charity Street in Abbeville. Falgout can be reached at (337) 740-0433.
“I have also purchased a website address,” Falgout said. “We quickly decided onwww.developvermilion.org.
“I think that really says who we are and what we plan to do.”
When that plan works, traffic heading into Vermilion will be much busier.
“I want people from Lafayette, Iberia and Acadia Parishes coming here for jobs,” Falgout said. “I want people who live here to be able to work here, doing the things that they love to do. That’s what I am looking for.”
SHAUN HEAREN, ABBEVILLE MERIDIONAL