Located at the crossroads of I-10 and I-49, Lafayette is 35 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, 230 miles east of Houston, 130 miles west of New Orleans, and only 50 miles west of the state capital of Baton Rouge.
With a population of over 94,000, Lafayette is the seat for the Parish (County) of Lafayette. In addition, Lafayette is considered "The Heart of Acadiana". Acadiana derives its name from the Cajuns who settled along the bayous of south Louisiana after being expelled by the British in 1755 from an area along the shores of Canada called Acadiana. Acadiana is usually described as the area contained within the parishes of Lafayette, St. Martin, Iberia, Vermilion, Acadia, St. Mary, St. Landry, and Evangeline.
Although known as a primary oil and gas producing economy, Lafayette has recently become more diversified. Major economic sectors influencing the Lafayette area include retail trade, distribution, medical services, educational facilities, agriculture, tourism, and service industries related to oil and gas exploration and production.
Since Lafayette is over 50 miles away from the nearest community of comparable size, it serves a consumer base estimated to be well over 600,000 people. Estimates are that Lafayette has over 3,500,000 square feet of retail space housing such national tenants as Maison Blanche, Dillards, Sears, JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, Target, Walmart, K-Mart, Delchamps, Albertson's, and many others. Due to its ideal location, Lafayette is expected to develop into a leading retail distribution center for the southeastern United States.
Lafayette has seven hospitals with over 1100 beds serving Acadiana. Acadian Ambulance Service is now the largest private rural ambulance service in the nation, utilizing ambulances and Air Med helicopters to cover a 22 parish area containing over 14,000 square miles. Lafayette's central location offers a good position from which to medically treat all of Southern Louisiana, and it is quickly becoming a major medical hub.
Over 15,000 students attend the University of Southwestern Louisiana campus in the heart of Lafayette, making UL the second largest university in the state. UL is nationally known for its research centers and under the guidance of its president, Dr. Ray Authement, UL continues to receive federal and private grants to develop these programs.
The federally funded Wetland's Research Center was constructed on university property, and works in conjunction with UL. The UL Marine Survival Training Center can train up to 200 participants per week in safety and survival techniques for offshore workers. UL's aquaculture research had developed methods for producing a greater quantity, and better quality crawfish, crabs, and catfish. Recent visits by representatives of the apparel industry looking at computer-aided clothing manufacturing and Russians seeking information on our oil production technology show a strong confidence in the university.
With the unprecedented growth of Lafayette Parish in the late 1970s and early 1980s came a demand for land. And as the rapid development comsumed the farm land, agriculture became less an important part of Lafayette's economy. Nonetheless, annual farm proceeds still contribute significantly to the economy. For example: soybeans, rice, sugar cane, and cattle.
Louisiana produces 98 percent of the crawfish in the world and Lafayette is the heart of crawfish country. This industry represents a more than fifty million dollar industry to this state, and primarily to the Acadiana area.
South Louisiana is blessed with some of the finest food in the world. Whether it be raw oysters on the half shell, boiled crawfish or crabs, seafood gumbo, fried shrimp, boudin, cracklins, or any other delicious food common to Acadiana, tourists come to this area to enjoy the feast and festival. Lafayette's Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is second only to New Orleans and attracts more than 300,000 people each year in late winter. The Festivals International in April each year brings over 200,000 visitors to hear the music of artists from Africa and the Caribbean combined with the blues, Cajun, and Zydeco. The Festivals Acadien in the fall provides a 'party in the park', Girard Park. Local music, crafts and culinary treats. The big name concerts held in the Cajundome are drawing fans from as far away as New Orleans. And UL football fans pack the stands at Cajun field throughout the season.
In April 1990, Vermilionville, a replica of a Cajun Village opened near the Lafayette Regional Airport, is host to over 150,000 visitors each year. The late actor, Joseph Jefferson, lived on Jefferson Island and tours through his home and famous gardens are available to all. The nearby Avery Island is home of the world famous Tabasco sauce and the factory and 200 acre tropical garden are open to the public. The stairways of the beautiful Cretien Point served as the model for the staircase in Gone with the Wind. One of the world's most photographed live oak trees, the 500 year old St. John Oak stands next to the magnificent St. John's Cathedral in downtown Lafayette. The Achafalaya Basin is one of America's most beautiful swamp areas and boat tours are available out of Henderson, LA., only 20 minutes from Lafayette. Evangeline Downs offers thoroughbred racing from April through Labor Day.
Lafayette plays host to many conventions, including LAGCOE (Louisiana Gulf
Coast Oil Exposition) which is held in October in the odd number years and brings in thousands of oil related participants to view the latest in technology.
With an increase in demand for homes coupled with the interest rates dropping dramatically, home sales have increased annually and the market is at a high it has not seen in many years. Apartments are experiencing impressive occupancy levels, and most complexes now maintain waiting lists.
In 1991 USA Today chose Lafayette as a "New Boom Town", predicting a population increase of 22.19 percent by the year 2000. Sales and Marketing Management magazine ranked Lafayette in the top 30 nationally in retail sales per household. In the state of Louisiana, Lafayette had the largest per capita increase in retail sales.
Unemployment is down. Housing, retail sales, apartment occupancy, airport boardings, and population are up. Study after study is predicting a great future for this city. We have a sounder base, a stronger footing, and a diversification that will enable us to attain a bright future.
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Some of the information contained in this report was obtained from
The Daily Advertiser - an article by Dewitt David.
Oil and Gas History
In the late 1950s, local businessman Maurice Heymann, saw the need to bring together the offices of the many oil companies beginning to show an interest in offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico. The result was what is known today the Heymann Oil Center, location for over 450 oil companies and allied services.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the search for oil and natural gas brought in more oil and service companies and Lafayette experienced a tremendous boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Being written up in the New York Times as having more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country brought in more and more companies and fortune seekers.
The area began to experience the effects of over building at about the same time the price of oil began to drop. The net effect was that during the mid to late 1980s, south Louisiana experienced a severe crunch, creating bankruptcies, bank failures, tremendous job losses, and a plunge in real estate values. Although many were reluctantly forced to leave, those who could manage stayed and fought their way through those tough times.
The Lafayette area economy, through diversification, and coupled with an increase in oil prices over the past few years has begun a slow but steady comeback. Although the diversification has helped keep the economy going, the oil and gas industry is still a very important part of south Louisiana's future.
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The Buyer's Realty
Shelly F. Deshotels
337-261-9090 / Fax 337-235-7999