William Taylor Potter
| Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Lafayette and Acadiana’s business community had an up-and-down year for 2020, which was marked by COVID-19 restrictions. But even with COVID-19 impacting businesses and workers across the region, the area still had some significant successes this year.
From mergers to layoffs, from new companies to long-standing industries, here’s a rundown of some of the major events from Acadiana’s business community in 2020.
COVID-19 restrictions rock Acadiana businesses
The statewide COVID-19 mitigation measures — particularly those in the early days of the pandemic, which included a stay-at-home order — put pressure on some businesses across the state and the Acadiana area as they tried to adapt to «the new normal.»
Restaurants were heavily impacted, being unable to continue dine-in service. For much of 2020, bars were limited in their operations as well, prompting several Acadiana-area bar owners to sue Gov. John Bel Edwards, which was unsuccessful.
Things have improved as the year progressed and as measures were relaxed, with Lafayette Parish’s retail sales figures nearing record-levels for the year. Unemployment claims have also decreased since the peak of the pandemic. Lafayette Parish had 2,198 continued unemployment claims the week of Dec. 5, a decrease of 79.7% from 15,736 the week of May 16.
SchoolMint, Westfield Fluid Controls poised to bring hundreds of jobs
Two companies announced plans to relocate facilities from California to Lafayette, which could bring hundreds of jobs to Acadiana.
In July, SchoolMint, a company that develops software for schools, announced it would be moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Lafayette, a move that would bring an estimated 400 new jobs to Lafayette.
The region got more good news in September, when Westfield Fluid Controls, part of Westfield Hydraulics, announced it would be moving a facility from San Fernando to Lafayette. The move is expected to add around 173 jobs to Acadiana.
Oil and gas stabilizes after prices drop below $0
The oil and gas industry was hit by a one-two punch in the first half of 2020, as an international pricing war and COVID-19 led to a historic drop in prices.
Even before the U.S. began seeing widespread restrictions for COVID-19, there were concerns in the oil and gas industry about high supply. Saudi Arabia and Russia were engaged in a pricing war, flooding the market with an unprecedented glut of oil. Then, demand plummeted as millions around the worldwide slowed down their normal lives due to COVID-19 precautions.
As a result, oil prices fell drastically, even becoming negative in April. While prices have improved to around $45 recently, Louisiana’s oil and gas companies were fretting about low prices and potential layoffs for much of 2020.
Waitr bounces back as COVID-19 rages
For much of 2019, Waitr’s stock price was below $1, which threatened to have the company removed from the NASDAQ exchange. The company saw several changes in leadership over the second half of the year and saw significant losses in the third quarter.
But the story changed for 2020, as the company saw its price increase up to nearly $6 at one point. The company has also expanded into grocery delivery and dine-in service, as well as alcohol delivery in Lafayette.
Two big mergers bring changes to Lafayette
The year 2020 saw two big mergers get finalized, both of which could mean big changes coming to the Lafayette area.
Ochsner Health and Lafayette General Health officially merged in October, and Ochsner has planned $465 million in investment across the Ochsner Lafayette General system and a new tower and parking garage for the Lafayette General Medical Center.
IBERIABANK was officially acquired by the Tennessee-based First Horizon, creating one of the largest 25 banks in the United States. As a part of the merger, Lafayette will lose the IBERIABANK headquarters, as the combined company will have its headquarters in Tennessee.
Downtown Lafayette poised for growth in 2021
Downtown Lafayette hit a significant milestone in its efforts to continue its growth and add residential space in 2020 by breaking ground on a new sewage lift station.
Sewage capacity has been a barrier to further residential development for Downtown Lafayette in recent years. The new lift station will add 500 additional gallons per minute of capacity for the downtown area and the nearby LaPlace neighborhood.