10 Reasons Lafayette, LA, Is the Best Place To Start a Business
From strong infrastructure and access to capital, Lafayette has many assets that make it a great place to start a business.
Recently married and keenly aware of just how much fresh flowers can add to a wedding tab, Lauren Bercier started Something Borrowed Blooms in her home in 2015. The Lafayette, Louisiana, rent-and-return company specializes in premium silk wedding flower collections that are on-trend, look real, smell amazing and can save couples more than 70 percent on their wedding flowers.
Since launching, the company has supplied florals for more than 26,000 weddings across the country, and typically provides bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, garlands, crowns and the like to 1,200 weddings every month. Today, the growing company operates out of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and recently inked a branded partnership deal with David’s Bridal.
The success of Bercier’s business is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in Lafayette. According to U.S. Census data, 7.4 percent of adults in Lafayette are self-employed and the city outranks other Southern metros when it comes to the number of small businesses per capita. Additionally, Lafayette was ranked 13th among the 100 most populous U.S. metros with the most entrepreneurs according to Commodity.com.
So, what’s the secret to the region’s start-up savvy?
Part of it, Bercier says, is that Lafayette is committed to fostering a vibrant start-up ecosystem and offers several programs to support entrepreneurs from the idea stage all the way to running a large business.
“It’s amazing to have a network of young entrepreneurs and experienced professionals at your fingertips to connect with and learn from,” she says. “Everyone here is always willing to help — it’s the Cajun in us!”
Read on to discover more reasons why Lafayette is one of the best places for entrepreneurs to live and work.
In This Article
1. Entrepreneurs have access to support and mentors.
Those who are looking to launch a business in Lafayette will be met with an enthusiastic built-in support network with mentors and consultants eager to help your company succeed.
Opportunity Machine provides business education, guidance and risk reduction strategies to start-up founders and small business owners through training, mentorship and networking. The Builder Program is the organization’s nine-week accelerator program for idea to early-stage start-ups, teaching concepts like customer development, revenue model design, how to pitch investors and much more. Opportunity Machine also offers affordable workspace in Lafayette’s downtown.
Another community treasure for entrepreneurs is the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The award-winning center offers consulting at no cost to existing businesses as well as business training to entrepreneurs on a wide range of topics like tax and accounting, cybersecurity, digital marketing and more. The center’s economic impact is far-reaching, helping people start 630 businesses that have created more than 3,500 jobs.
“Lafayette is a close-knit community, recognized for its competitive innovation,” says Marcus Lyle Brown, partner at Digital Twin Studios, which began as a brick-and-mortar safety training company for the energy sector. Now, using real-time 3-D content development tools, the company develops multi-industry solutions in augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality.
2. Capital is readily available for serious entrepreneurs.
Need funding to launch your business?
“There is a robust pool of angel investors and even a few institutional investors here that are looking for exciting companies to invest in,” Bercier says.
Once her company started seeing significant traction, she says, she and her co-founder realized how they could accelerate that growth with more capital, and all it took was connecting with accredited investors, right in their own backyard.
Recently announced, the State of Louisiana was awarded $113 million in small business funding from U.S. Treasury, a portion of which has been awarded to the Opportunity Machine to boost access to equity capital for start-ups in the region.
3. Lafayette has a strong infrastructure in place for growing businesses.
In addition to a strong start-up culture, Lafayette is home to major corporations, too, including Halliburton, Amazon, and home health care leader LHC Group. Jewelry equipment supplier Stuller’s global headquarters is in Lafayette, Bercier points out, and because of that FedEx has a strong presence in the area and has invested in the logistics required to support a large company.
“We’ve been able to leverage this as we’ve grown our national e-comm company as we’re sending out thousands of shipments across North America from right here in Lafayette,” says Bercier.
Indeed, Lafayette came in at No. 13 on Commodity.com’s recent list of Major U.S. Metros With the Most Entrepreneurs.
4. Lafayette enjoys a central location.
Lafayette is strategically located midway between New Orleans and Houston and has positioned itself as an economic center of the South. For those who travel to meet with clients (or are looking to use some of that hard-earned PTO), the Lafayette Regional Airport is serviced by Delta, United and American. The airport recently opened a new terminal and at least 18 domestic flights leave from the airport daily, easily connecting residents to major international hubs such as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.
Also, Lafayette is at the crossroads of Interstates 10 and 49, which is an advantage for the transportation and distribution industry. Plus, cargo can be delivered via the intercoastal waterway, and the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes deliveries and exports by seas feasible.
5. Homeownership is attainable in Lafayette.
Those looking to put down roots will find an approachable housing market in Lafayette. Median home values in the city are $218,000, according to Zillow, which is less than the national average of $358,000 and also below other Louisiana cities including New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Also, Louisiana doesn’t have state property tax and Lafayette Parish offers a homestead exemption, which helps make the overall cost of living more affordable.
6. Lafayette has a mix of neighborhoods.
Whether you feel at home in a fast-paced urban environment or appreciate a quieter country setting, Lafayette has a place for you to call home. There are approximately 140 apartment complexes in Lafayette Parish with varying floor plans and price ranges. Plus, there are planned neighborhoods with built-in amenities. Developments can be found along the Vermilion River, near the university or in one of the parish’s six municipalities.
7. Lafayette has a strong talent pipeline with a highly educated workforce.
Start-ups have a strong talent pool to hire from in Lafayette. Thirteen percent of the city’s residents that are 25 or older hold advanced degrees, while another 25.5 percent have bachelor’s degrees and 24 percent have completed some college or attained an associate’s degree, exceeding national averages based upon the latest available census data.
Plus, the area is home to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a leading research university that’s classified as a Carnegie R1 school — the same as Harvard, Duke and Princeton. The university graduates about 3,000 students every year.
Lafayette is also home to South Louisiana Community College, one of the state’s most comprehensive two-year schools.
8. Lafayette’s technology sector is rapidly developing.
Lafayette is emerging as a powerhouse in the technology sector. Contributing to its reputation is the community’s internationally ranked fiber network and the university’s Carnegie R1 status.
Plus, there’s a tech-focused curriculum that ranges from academies for high schoolers interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields to a wide range of tech-focused programs at the area’s higher education institutions. Combined, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southern Louisiana Community College have produced nearly 2,400 computing graduates in the past decade, providing a strong talent pool for tech start-ups looking to hire homegrown talent.
Companies like CGI, SchoolMint and Techneaux Technology Services have set up shop in Lafayette, bringing high-paying, high-tech jobs to the area.
“Lafayette is recognized as an epicenter of economic growth and continues to champion this designation with investments that attract, cultivate, accelerate and champion entrepreneurial and start-up success,” says Brown.
9. Louisiana has a business-friendly tax climate.
State tax credits and economic development programs that provide support to businesses investing and expanding their operations and workforces in the state up the ante even more for start-up companies eyeing Lafayette.
One example is Louisiana’s Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Tax Credit, the strongest of its kind in the nation, which helps digital media and software development companies gain a competitive edge. Another is The Quality Jobs program that provides a cash rebate to companies that create well-paying jobs and promote economic development. Plus, research and development companies in the state are eligible for tax rebates and angel investors and start-ups can benefit from the state’s Angel Investor Tax Credit.
10. The quality of life is unmatched.
Lafayette was named one of the happiest cities in the United States by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The region is known for its joie de vivre (joy of life) as well as its Cajun and Creole culture. Those who put down roots in Lafayette have access to a calendar of festivals to connect with neighbors and enjoy the arts and culture scene, live music seven days a week, local museums, plus 40 parks and recreational facilities around Lafayette Parish.
This article was sponsored by Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, Lafayette Economic Development Authority and One Acadiana.