Vermilion Parish Police Juror Paul Bourgeois Jr. is in the early stages of trying to develop an office that would focus on business growth throughout the parish. The Abbeville City Council made a move Tuesday at its regular meeting to help take a step forward in that process.
The council voted 5-0 to pledge $15,000 toward the development of an economic development department. Bourgeois Jr., chairman of the economic development committee, attended Tuesday’s meeting to make a presentation to the council and make a formal request for the funds.
Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza said he is pleased with the council’s move.
“I think we need to be a strong part and leader in the economy,” Piazza said of the city. “We are the largest municipality. I know other municipalities are going to contribute and the police jury is going to put up a share.”
Bourgeois said the Abbeville council is the first to which he has made a formal request for funds. He will attend upcoming meetings for other municipalities, including Delcambre and Erath next week. Bourgeois told the council entities that contribute will be allowed to have input.
“It’s my understanding that whoever contributes will have a say,” Bourgeois told the council. “We have an economic board right now which I am the chairman of and it consists of a few people from the police jury. Once we put all of this in place, it will consist of people from all over the parish.
“Each one of the municipalities will be instrumental in having a say in that.”
Councilman Francis Touchet, District B, posed to Bourgeois the question of balance among those who do contribute.
“We looked at percentages of sales tax that are collected,” Bourgeois said. “The $15,000 is about where Abbeville will be.
“It will be a little smaller for some of the others.”
Touchet also asked about the possibility of others not taking part.
“Does that mean our amounts have to go up?” Touchet asked. “I’m in favor of this. I just want to know how that is going to work.”
Bourgeois offered an answer.
“I’m not going to come back and ask you for more,” he told the council.
The process of forming the new department will take money.
“We have looked at a budget,” Bourgeois explained. “We’ve looked at what is would cost for a good economic development person for the area. That’s around a $70,000 salary for a certified person.
“I have a big job ahead of me to raise money for this.”
Councilman Brady Broussard Jr., District C, said he feels it is worth the effort.
“I want to thank Paul for leading this charge,” Broussard said. “I think it’s important for the well-being and economic activity to our parish and I hope this is a great success.”
Councilman-at-large Francis Plaisance said the parish presents everything needed to make that happen.
“We have everything that’s needed to bring some major industry to Vermilion Parish,” Plaisance said. “We have the water, railroads, climate. We’ve got everything. What I would like to see is this particular organization focus in on getting some major industry to locate here.”
Piazza said he feels a successful venture for the economic development department is important, if not vital, to the parish’s future.
“For several years after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina,” Piazza said, “millions of federal dollars were there for rebuilding efforts throughout the Gulf coast and the coast of Louisiana. That money has dried up, it’s gone. You don’t see the growth anymore that you did in those years when we had all of this federal money.
“If we are going to survive in the future, we are going to need economic development and that needs to start now.”