By Tina Marie Macias
Now, more than ever, when Lafayette is shaping the future of the
city, young professionals need to step up and become active members of
the community, a young leaders organization and the Greater Lafayette
Chamber of Commerce said last week.
"Chambers all over the country
have to refocus their efforts to have to seek a growing segment of the
young business community," said Bruce Conque, chamber vice president.
"Those are the folks that we want to attract to Lafayette, and those are
the folks that we want to come here and not leave in the future."
was among the crowd of community leaders who attended a "Community
Connection" event Friday hosted by the705, a professional development
and networking organization geared at young professionals.
said the chamber plans to partner with the705 in the future, and the
organization asked other boards to do the same on Friday.
better community is made through better relationships. What we want is
access," said the705 President Zach Barker. "This about when you were 25
years old and you had all these great ideas. What did you want? You
wanted someone to listen to you."
Along with professional
development, the705 also includes programming, philanthropy and civic
committees. The group's goal is to connect leaders in the community and
create a better Lafayette.
"The705 is that bridge across that gap
where you take the young, ambitious, driven leader who has done a lot of
talking in their lifetime but not a lot of execution, but because of
the705 and the culture that's built here, has become a doer and is held
accountable by their peers and by the leaders that exist in this
community," Barker said.
The705 has had some success reaching out
into the community. Members serve in the leadership of Big Brothers/Big
Sisters of Acadiana, Junior Achievement, Camp Bon Couer, Festival
International de Louisiane, Junior League, 100 Black Men of Greater
Lafayette, Lafayette Young Lawyers Association, Acadiana Entrepreneur
Group, INNOV8, Social Medial Breakfast, Greater Lafayette Chamber of
Commerce, University of Louisiana Young Alumni Association, Acadiana
Dark Sky and Oil Center Association.
They would like to do more,
but they run into roadblocks and issues with access. That should not
stop them from trying, said Jan Swift, executive director of Upper
Lafayette Economic Development.
"I want to encourage you to
realize that what you bring to the table probably outshines what some of
us may see or may not see. Sometimes we just need someone to say at the
table, 'Well, what can't this be done? Why is our community still
leaving behind this group? Or how can we make our community more
enticing for business, for visitors,'" Swift said.
community and business leaders have an opportunity to learn from the705
as well as being mentors to the group, Conque said, particularly now
when the chamber and city-parish government are working on a
comprehensive plan, or master plan, that will address aspects of
Lafayette's future growth, including education, infrastructure and
"It could not come at a better time," said
Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer of Lafayette Consolidated
Government. "I've been in government for 30 years and it's a terrible
time for anger. "¦ As you try to put meaningful discussion of what you
want your community to be in the next 10 years on the table, what it's
going to cost to fund it, who's going to pay for it and how it's going
to get funded, you're instantly pulled back into that angry discussion
of government spending and taxes."
The comprehensive plan will be
for the young people, like those in the705, and other fresh initiatives,
like the chamber's innovation festival held in late April, INNOV8,
"What we're doing now in the comprehensive plan is
not for me, it's for the705 and their generation," Conque said. "They
need to be part of the present planning."
The705 began in 2007 and
has grown to become the face of young professionals in Lafayette, said
Stanley, adding that the group's clout is recognized among community
leaders. A member of the Lafayette Consolidated Government leadership
also makes a point to have a monthly lunch with a leader from the705, he
"You're the now, as it relates to the bridge that we can
build on what your community wants to be. You're the architects, you're
the designers and the older folks are kind of helping guide you in that
direction," Stanley said.