Beyond 2020: Experts talk on future of Acadiana’s economy

Moving Acadiana Forward

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Acadiana’s economy was hit hard in 2020. When the pandemic hit and people were sent home from work, we all knew life won’t be the same.

Friends and family members were getting sick and we were told to stay home- which led to a massive drop in demand and in turn prices of oil and gas.

“We will make it through this. It’s just gonna take us a little while longer and we have to be patient,” says Troy Wayman with One Acadiana. He says the largest hit to our economy throughout all of this is the impact on the oil and gas industry. At one point oil was -38$ a barrel.

We have rebounded and gas is now back to $40 a barrel. Economist Dr. Loren Scott says if oil gets up to $55 a barrel, it would be a great thing for Acadiana.

“Recovery will be much longer than what we’ve seen in the past. A lot of the times when we see economic downturns that are strictly based on oil and gas, as Dr. Scott said it’s more of a V recovery,” says Wayman. “You drop then you go right back up this, as he points out will be more of a Nike swoosh. You had a pretty significant drop at the beginning and it’s gonna be a gradual climb back up.”

The last time we saw an economic crisis like this it was over a six-year period, this downfall played out over a six-month period. “We had 50,000 people or so unemployed right off the bat. And 10,000 or so of those were highly paid oil field workers,” Gregg Gothreaux, President and CEO Lafayette Economic Development Authority, said.

When you look at local sales tax revenues, Acadiana has actually seen an increase in the past few months. Dr. Scott points out that’s because of federal aid and extra unemployment benefits, giving some more disposable income than they were used to.

“The only issue with that is, it’s not sustainable,” Wayman says. “Now that that federal aid has expired these people are going out to work or are trying to go back to work, but the jobs just aren’t there like they were pre-COVID.”

Gothreaux said eyes are definitely turned to 2021 in hopes that it is a pivotal year.

“In 2021 I feel like there is an opportunity for us to gain ground in terms of diversification and re-shoring of industries that need to come back home,” he said. “It will take a lot of cooperation from state and federal government, this is a bigger issue than just Lafayette. We are going to hopefully bear fruit from those things, now how quickly that comes into play more people are thinking 2022/2023. 2021 is really the year that most of us are most concerned about.”

Dr. Scott says he’s cautiously optimistic as the economy continues to recover from a global pandemic that has yet to end.

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