A team of U.L. Lafayette students and professors from the Louisiana Entrepreneur and Economic Development (LEED) Center took a bus tour of Ville Platte and conducted several town hall meetings Friday. Professors Geoff Stewart (Ph.D. in marketing), Gwen Fontenot (Ph.D. in marketing), and Curtis Matherne (Ph.D. in Innovation and Management), led the team of graduate students.
The first two meetings were held at the Ville Platte library where Dr. Stewart surveyed citizens about the what they would like to accomplish in bringing the town of Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish back to life. Dr. Stewart asked what makes Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish a great place. Responses included festivals, food, scenery, affordability, rail access, available land, cheap, natural gas, parks, medical care, affordable housing, youth sports, and cultural aspects, including music and maintaining the Louisiana French language.
Dr. Stewart asked what aspects of the city and parish could be improved. Responses included more police, a more eco-friendly town, four-lane highways, more manufacturing, apartment complexes, bike lanes, and more recreational activities. There was talk of bringing back night clubs, in particular the Evangeline Club.
The third meeting was held at the Northside Civic Center where Dr. Stewart and the team recapped the first two meetings and surveyed a new audience about the changes they would like to see in Ville Platte, particularly Main Street. Responses included more police presence, better sidewalks and parking, attractive landscaping and green spaces, better lighting, and awnings over businesses.
Among the citizens present at the meetings were prominent members of the community which included city council members and police jury members. Some of the police jury members cooked a jambalaya for the Civic Center meeting. Dr. Stewart and his team said they will take all the suggestions made at the meetings and use it to formulate a plan to work with the city and the parish to further their development. He encouraged citizens to take this opportunity to engage, contribute, and be the change they want to see.