Lafayette's economic position isn't the best right now, but it's not the worst, either.
Economist Loren Scott, in presenting his annual economic outlook report to the One Acadiana, the Lafayette area chamber of commerce, predicts an upturn.
"You put all the things together, and I think the next two years are going to be growth years for (Lafayette)," Scott says. "Part of that is getting your jobs back from the COVID losses."
Scott's report predicts that the Lafayette area will put back about 9,200 jobs in 2022 and another 2,100 in 2023.
"At that point you will be well above where you were before COVID hit," Scott says.
LEDA's manager of strategic analysis, Brittany Lacour Deal, told KATC that this prediction is rightfully optimistic.
"This outlook from our perspective is pretty positive and it's showing that there are increases and that we're going to continue to increase but as far as the phrase back to normal," Lacour Deal said. "I don't think it will ever be a 'back to normal,' we are looking at what our new normal will be."
A "huge win" for the area is the SafeSource Direct PPE plan that's planned for Broussard, Scott said.
"Look at these numbers. 1,021 new jobs. That's just the direct jobs, that doesn't count the multiplier effect, which could double that," Scott said. "This is a huge economic win for this community. It is rare to find an area where from one firm you're going to find more than 1000 jobs."
The Lafayette area is not doing as well as the rest of the state with two exceptions, he says: New Orleans and Lake Charles.
The reasons for the Lake Charles struggle are obvious: Laura, Delta and the ice storm, as well as recent flooding. In New Orleans, the struggle is tied to the convention business which was "creamed" by COVID, Scott says.
"The primary reason they're doing worse than Lafayette in New Orleans, is the impact of lost convention business. Last year 66 conventions canceled in NOLA. And another 48 this year canceled already," Scott says. "Here in Lafayette you don't have casino business, but they (Lake Charles and New Orleans) do. And it was completely shut down from March to May."
The industrial construction sector, which exists but on a smaller scale in Lafayette, also has suffered. All those factors are impacting New Orleans and Lake Charles, he said. The reason Lafayette lags behind the rest of the state is its dependence on the oil and gas sector, he said, but there is good diversification as well.
Interim president for Louisiana Midcontinent Oil and Gas, Lori Leblanc, told KATC that innovation is paving the way for diversification.
"I think it, you know, behooves the city of Lafayette for having oil and gas as well as the medical and all those other industries," Leblanc said. "But in the long term, I think oil and gas once again, we are seeing that cycle of, it's, we had a downturn and hopefully we're going to see another upturn and we can have a diverse economy when we have oil and gas with those other industries."
Six companies based in the Lafayette area are showing job stability or growth, Scott said: he predicts Stuller will add 75 jobs; Acadian will add 200; LHC will add 100; CGI will add 150 and SCP Health will remain stable. He said it's possible Waitr will show growth as well. Another seven also are poised for growth: Scott predicts that Metal Shark will add 25 jobs, Viemed will be stable, Aviation Exteriors will add 50, Completeful Technology will add 100 and School Mint will add 120.
Scott touched on a spike in consumer spending nation-wide, which he attributes to stimulus spending. Lafayette Parish in particular has experienced record-setting sales tax collections over the past year or so, but Scott predicts a slow-down may be on the way.
The record home sales, however, probably will last a while, he says. There are a couple of reasons for that, Scott says: very low mortgage interest rates, the work-from-home phenomena which he believes is here to stay, and Millennials buying their first homes.
If you'd like to read the report, you can purchase it from Scott by going to this link.
In last year's report, Scott's report stated "these are the most uncertain forecasts we have ever produced" because of COVID's impact on the economy.
You can read a summary of last year's predictions from Scott here.