Better Together: A Lesson in Thinking like a Team

Anne Falgout Vermilion Parish Economic Development Director
This has been one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life. Being a part of a fledgling organization that means so much to so many is both overwhelming and rewarding. It's difficult for one person to set all the things in motion required for success. In fact, that sort of isolationism can cause the opposite. In an effort to bring the most opportunity to our parish, I've been spending the past few months seeking out advice, counsel and assistance from our people from across the region. The result? The team approach is a powerful force and I think we're going to have a winning season!
When I assumed the role as "economic development representative" for Vermilion, it came with a position on the Acadiana Economic Development Council board. Well, it actually didn't. But, because of the foresight of Chamber of Commerce executive Lynn Guillory and her then Chairman Ben Rivera (my current chairman), I was granted access to this elite circle. My counterparts from seven Acadiana parishes - Lafayette and the six that touch it - meet to discuss best practices, national marketing efforts, and issues affecting our whole region. These are some of the smartest and most talented people I know. They have all been in my shoes, with a skeleton staff, trying to set their respective parishes on a path to a brighter future. In the past year we have launched a traditional photography and aerial photography effort to capture what makes our parishes special. With the images we capture, we'll be able to better share our story with the rest of the world. This group has also sent me on a fact-finding mission to Charleston to explore new avenues and will be sending me to trade shows next year to market these new-found avenues to businesses and site selectors. If this was a football game, they would be the players on my side, sharing the field through each success and failure.
My team grew quite a bit bigger when I was invited to the Acadiana Regional Alliance. Not only were the economic development professionals represented, but I also got to meet and mingle with tourism directors and chamber officials throughout Acadiana. The passion that fills the room during those meetings is unreal. Can you imagine a room full of cheerleaders (like our own Ali Miller with the Vermilion Tourism Commission) who each represented a different interest all coming together to celebrate with one another? gets pretty exciting. And if that wasn't enough, these fine individuals elected me as their 2016 Chair. I want to take their infectious energy and keep it going in the hopes we can collectively propel Acadiana and our respective parishes forward.
And then there's One Acadiana. If there's one thing that I learned from all my training and experience, is that you always want to be the dumbest person in the room. Now, don't let that scare you, I'm not dumb. But, in a small economic development entity, directors like me have to be a "jack of all trades" instead of "master of one". We're the marketer, communications practitioner, event planner, HR manager, errand runner, file clerk, info finder and number cruncher all in one. But, because of the Acadiana business community, and their financial and supportive backing of One Acadiana I get to surround myself with people who do each of these things 100% of their time and with 100% of their effort. If we're being honest we can say that this hasn't always been the easiest of relationships. Having an organization with so much clout and financial wherewithal as a part of the team can be intimidating. It's easy to get defensive, worrying about who will do what and how. But after spending the last few months with this group - first evaluating our potential through their sites development program, then exploring the coastal parishes during the Building the Region event, and finally trapped on a bus with them absorbing as much knowledge as possible during our Leadership Exchange trip to Charleston, it became evident that this part of the team would be crucial to our success. I already have my fellow players and my cheerleaders, so it's only natural for the One Acadiana staff and board to fall in alongside my own board to serve as my coaches. If I have issues regarding downtown development, I have an expert. Recruiting talent? Got that. Exploring policies that affect our businesses? Yep. Even business engagement, outreach and funding are all covered. It's like having my very own living encyclopedia - except this one will come over when I need help and give me access to really cool tools and data!
I guess my point is this. Together we are better. It's simple as that. You know, I count my lucky stars that I'm promoting a place I love and that already has such an amazing history and foundation. But even if I was new here, or not as connected as I am, I think I'd be okay. Because with the right players, cheerleaders and coaches any team can be successful if they do the work together. We are doing the work; we are developing Vermilion.
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