A year ago, it was common to start our conversations with, “When the pandemic is over…”. We grew accustomed to putting off big moments and even aspects of our daily lives in anticipation of our world returning to normal. But experts of all kinds – economic to behavioral – are all suggesting the same thing – nothing will ever be the same again.

So, now we find ourselves asking, “What now?”. For the last two years, many of us have been disengaged. We have retreated to our creature comforts, to the safety and warmth of our own homes or offices, and turned inward. We would never suggest anyone sacrifice their personal values or abandon their ideals, but instead, we would like to offer up a new one. Let’s be engaged with the community we love. 

There are a few exciting things on the horizon that we would love to share. 

Over the last several months the City of Abbeville has been working on an economic development plan through the Louisiana Development Ready Communities Program. It relied heavily on public input – which you provided – to complete. Now, as we work on the finishing touches, we need our residents more than ever. The goals are attainable, but they take work and support. We need the public to hold all the stakeholders accountable, and work with us towards a common goal of making Abbeville more attractive to investment. The plan will be accessible to the public later this month, and we cannot wait to share it! 

This week a new partnership has emerged between the Vermilion Economic Development Alliance and The Nehemiah Projects of Acadiana. These two groups have teamed up with the UL Lafayette LEED Center to offer training for those starting or growing their business. Thirty aspiring entrepreneurs have committed themselves to this intensive learning opportunity. They have taken the time work on their business instead of in it. But this series, Accelerate Vermilion, is more than just professional development. We hyper-focused on identifying those without resources, know-how, and unlimited funds. We are pulling back the curtain on how to be successful inside our own community rather than using a one-size-fits-all model. And we are thrilled to potentially jumpstart 25+ new businesses in our parish. Again, you will be asked to support these businesses as they navigate the throws of ownership. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding! 

And lastly, this March we are doing something we should have done a long time ago…honoring our farming community. Economic development in the traditional sense usually conjures up images of big industry, or big parking lots. It’s associated with big headlines and big bank accounts. But that is not exclusively what we want to be. First, it’s not representative of our identity as a parish. Vermilion Parish was born and bred on agriculture. We are rural and we are agrarian, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s more than okay. While other cities and towns are “giving up the farm” to attract dollars, we are trying to preserve ours. Secondly, our farms are businesses. They may look a little different, but they employ our residents, increase our tax base, and bring positive attention to our community. If you would like to join us in thanking these unsung heroes, we’d love to have you attend our Farmers’ Appreciation Dinner or buy a farmer their dinner through our sponsorship packages.

We hope that one of these projects inspire you to join in. We welcome you! But if not, we encourage you to tell us what you do care about. Let us help you find an organization or a cause that speaks to you. If we all stay connected and engaged in our community, we have so many more chances at growing into a place where we can all be successful. 

Find information about these initiatives and more on our website: www.developvermilion.org. And while you’re there, sign up for our newsletter. Get re-engaged with us!  

By Anne Falgout, VEDA 2/13/22