Supreme Rice Invests in New Crowley and Mermentau Facilities

One of the leading processors of rice in the state of Louisiana, Supreme Rice, recently announced that they are investing $16.2 million in the development of new parboil facilities in the towns of Crowley and Mermentau, according to The Advocate and a statement from the Governor’s office.

Supreme Rice, known for being one of the largest rice-milling operations in the state of Louisiana, plans to begin the construction of the new two facilities by the fourth quarter of 2022. The plan is to develop a new parboil mill inside of Crowley’s existing facility and to build a new greenfield facility in Mermentau for the company’s parboil operations and to partially cook rice for a new product line. Both facilities are projected to create 20 direct new jobs in addition to the company retaining the 181 jobs present at its current locations. Additionally, the Louisiana Economic Development estimates that the expansion project will create 79 indirect jobs, resulting in a total of nearly 100 new jobs for the citizens of Acadia Parish.

Supreme Rice CEO Bobby Hanks commented on the imminent project by saying, “our new parboil facility in Mermentau will allow us to market this product line to customers. The new parboil rice products will create another value-added milled rice offering that further supports the stability of Louisiana-grown rice.”

In order to properly secure the project in Acadia Parish, Supreme Rice was awarded a competitive incentive package of $750,000 from the state’s Economic Development Award Program. The incentive package was awarded by the state of Louisiana, and Supreme Rice is also expected to utilize both the state’s Enterprise Zone and Quality Jobs programs throughout the project’s completion.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards spoke of the $16.2 million project by saying, “as a processor of one of Louisiana’s key crops, Supreme Rice is both a cultural ambassador and an agribusiness leader for our state. This expansion and the new jobs it will generate in Acadiana will help to sustain the growing momentum of our rural revitalization efforts.”

Also commenting on their appreciation of Supreme Rice’s expansion into their towns was Crowley Mayor Tim Monceaux who said, “Supreme Rice Mill is a very important economic engine for Crowley, Acadia Parish, and the State of Louisiana. We are pleased and excited to have this expansion realized and look forward to the continued success and growth of this business. Under Bobby Hanks’ leadership, the rice mill has grown substantially, and we wish him the very best in his endeavors.” Similarly, Mermentau Mayor Darla Istre was also appreciative in speaking of her anticipation of the project’s completion and the economic boost that will accompany it.

Previously, in a 2019 statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Supreme Rice President and CEO Bobby Hanksannounced the $20 million expansion of 25,000 square feet that was added to the Crowley facility. Ideally, it was a no-brainer for Supreme Rice to adapt the manufacturing space for these new parboil operations. Governor Edwardsspoke in that 2019 announcement with words that are still resonant today, given the news of Supreme Rice’s new project; he said, “Louisiana’s natural resources and geographic position have blessed us with an agricultural bounty that is the envy of the world.” The Governor proceeded to thank the “landmark Crowley company” which was celebrating 85 years in business at the time. In conclusion, he said, “I congratulate the Supreme Rice team on this expansion and on the securing of great jobs in Acadiana,” and as stated above, Governor Edwards’ statement and sentiment still ring true as Supreme Rice continues to invest in Louisiana, its citizens, and its resources.

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Inaugural STEM Fest Allows Acadiana Students to Explore Big Concepts

Approximately 600 elementary and middle school students from Acadiana got to learn about complex science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts in a fun, interactive, and fully immersive way at the inaugural Acadiana STEM Fest, according to The Acadiana Advocate.

The event, Acadiana STEM Fest, was held in the University of Louisiana Student Union and was the result of a partnership between Peter Sheppard, the executive director for UL Lafayette’s Center for Excellence in Education,and STEM NOLA, a nonprofit focused on exposing communities to STEM learning opportunities.

In total, 40 activities, which were provided by STEM NOLA, were installed inside and around UL Lafayette’s student union and manned by UL Lafayette STEM and education students as well as volunteers from industry partners such as CGI and Fenstermaker. These 40 activities allowed 600 students from Acadia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, and Vermilion parishes to explore STEM concepts in ways that were much more inviting than traditional lecture and research-based methods.

The event allowed students to learn in nontraditional ways that were enhanced by technology. For instance, they could learn about how radio waves controlled drones by actually operating drones in a controlled environment or even learn about structural engineering by crafting sturdy, resilient structures made out of uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows. The director of the event, Peter Sheppard, was reported as saying that he wanted the students to realize that opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge exist far beyond traditional classrooms.

Sheppard spoke on the value of Acadiana STEM Fest’s approach to nontraditional learning by saying, “I think curriculums are restricted. Schools are restricted in what they can do. Those restrictions aren’t there in the real world. Exposure to STEM activities gives them the space to think and to do it and to be curious without having to be evaluated or judged. It can be fun. It can be useful. It can be practical. It can be intellectual.”

Other than having the methods by which the students learn be different from their traditional classrooms, Sheppard also strived to remove any barriers to access for students who otherwise wouldn’t have frequent and free exposure to STEM programing, activities, and learning opportunities such as girls, minority students, and those students from underserved or under-resourced communities.

Speaking on the benefits of the set of skills that one can gain through STEM-based learning, David Hawkins, the director of operations for STEM NOLA, emphasized that the world is becoming more and more STEM-focused by the day, citing the “growing ubiquity of artificial intelligence and computer-controlled equipment and machinery.”

Hawkins stressed the importance of students developing themselves from a root center by challenging their minds; he said, “When we expose our kids to the possibility of being a tennis star or golf star, they put in the time, work, and effort for it. If we expose our kids to the possibilities of being teachers, engineers, doctors, scientists – we train them to move in that direction. Early exposure gives them encouragement and the motivation to move in the direction of STEM. The skillset you learn in the STEM fields transcends throughout your life. Regardless of what you do, you’re going to have to be analytical, solve problems and you’re going to be faced with challenges.”

According to Sheppard, Acadiana STEM Fest is the first of seven planned camp-style events that the Center for Excellence and Education and its Region 4 STEM Network Center are hosting at UL Lafayette in the next few months, which is branded as “STEMulating Summer 2.0.” These upcoming events as well as the inaugural Acadiana STEM Fest were made possible by grant funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents and its LaSTEM Initiative.

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Acadiana Recently Celebrated French Language Month

Taking great pride in their heritage, an estimated 250,000 French speakers today call Louisiana their home, but according to this in-depth article detailing the importance of French Language Month from The Daily Advertiser, that number has dwindled from the over 1 million Francophones calling Louisiana their home just a couple of generations ago.

As per a Lafayette Consolidated Government release, “celebrating the French language and culture is hugely important for a state with such a rich history and connection to the French-speaking world.” This in addition to the fact that French is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, as spoken by some 369 million people, makes it obvious that Louisiana holds on tight to its Francophone roots in light of a decrease in use.

Warren Perrin, a 75-year old attorney and founder of Erath’s Musée Acadien, is a passionate advocate for the French Language, especially its history and usage in Louisiana. Perrin both practices law and teaches museum patrons of Acadiana’s history in an effortless switching between the English and French languages in a bilingual effort and display of linguistic pride. In speaking on the diminishment of French-speaking Louisianans, Perrin said, “our language is imploding as we don’t use it enough. We’re not expanding it in Louisiana. We have a very precious commodity. We’ve got to save it.”

This alarming decrease in popularity of one of the main points of pride for Louisiana citizens is the reason why it has become increasingly more important for leaders in Acadiana and Louisiana as a whole to signify March as Le Mois de la Francophonie,” or French Language Month. This isn’t simply an event in nomenclature, but instead, it’s an opportunity for our state to participate in an ongoing global tradition of celebrating not only the French language but also Francophone culture and the diversity of those who speak it often.

One way in which both government officials and educators in Louisiana have been able to contribute towards the effort of growing the number of Francophones (french-speaking citizens) was through the Council for Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), a state agency that was created in 1968 to supplement Louisiana’s history of suppressing of the Cajun French Language and culture.

This suppression was most commonly seen in French not being no being allowed to be spoken in the public school system or even in public places. But today, approximately 5,500 students are enrolled in French immersion programsacross the state with many of the French immersion teachers coming to Louisiana from French-speaking countries worldwide. For just the 2021-2022 school year alone, teachers came to teach in Louisiana public schools’ French and Spanish immersion programs from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Cameroon, France, Mexico, Madagascar, Senegal, Spain, and Tunisia.

Peggy Feehan, CODOFIL Executive Director, praised these teachers’ dedication in saying, “these teachers have a remarkable impact. Thanks to their work in our schools, young Louisianans are gaining not only a second language but also learning about our state’s unique place in the world. Immersion education opens countless doors for these students and exposes them to cultures from around the world, all while shedding light on Louisiana’s own rich culture, heritage, and history.”

While the amount of Francophones in Louisiana is decreasing, the effort to celebrate the culture and language continues in the form of not just museums and French Immersion programs but most notably, the annual festivals. The Louisiana community regularly celebrates its French heritage and love of the language at the two Acadiana staples:Festivals Acadiens et Créoles and Festival International de Louisiane.

As long as these events remain and the French-speaking history of our citizens continues to be passed down to the next generation and celebrated throughout “Le Mois de la Francophonie,” then our history will be retained for years to come.

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2021 Christmas Events Across Acadiana

The Holiday and Christmas season in Louisiana is always such a magical time. From festive parades and extravagant light shows to concerts and performances, there’s always plenty going on in the state, particularly in the Acadiana region. So, if you’re looking for a holiday experience in the region, then this curated list from KATC will lead you in the right direction.

Christmas in the Park | Lafayette, Louisiana

At long last, one of the most-anticipated locations in Lafayette Parish, Moncus Park, is set to officially open to the public at the turn of the new year on January 1, 2022. Residents of Lafayette have been awaiting this massive, innovative public park for years, but locals can secure a chance to enter the park before it’s “officially open” by purchasing a ticket to Christmas in the Park, a 12-night seasonal event kicking off its opening session by way of a festive holiday celebration.

The event will feature a wide variety of family-friendly activities “including six separate kid’s activities per night, a visit from Santa, a Christmas Market and General Store, selfie stations, a live art installation, local food vendors,” and so much more.” Additionally, Moncus Park will host live music each night of the event with performances ranging from local school and church choirs to regional performers.

The Christmas in the Park event at Lafayette’s Moncus Park is presented by Iberia Bank, a division of First Horizonand Laborde Earls Injury Lawyers. It will take place from December 16 to December 29 (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), tickets can be purchased here, and the event lineup is below:

  • Thurs, 12/16, 7:00 PM Comeaux High School Choir, 8:00 PM Walter Wolfman Washington
  • Fri, 12/17, 7:00 PM North Vermilion High School Choir, 8:00 PM Souled Out
  • Sat, 12/18, 7:00 PM Choir, 8:00 PM Wayne Toups
  • Sun, 12/19, 7:00 PM ELF (movie night)
  • Mon, 12/20, 7:00 PM Corale Des Amis, 8:00 PM Blue Monday Allstars w/ Roddie Romero & Michael Juan Nunez
  • Tues, 12/21, 7:00 PM Local Choir, 8:00 PM Dyer Country
  • Wed, 12/22, 7:00 PM Local Choir, 8:00 PM Josh Leblanc + Nicki Needham
  • Thurs, 12/23, 7:00 PM Caroling w/Dave Trainer, 8:00 PM The Good Dudes
  • Sun, 12/26, 7:30 PM Chubby Carrier
  • Mon, 12/27, 7:30 PM Kelli Jones + The Lindas
  • Tue, 12/28, 7:30 PM Ray Boudreaux
  • Wed, 12/29, 7:30 PM Rebirth Brass Band

Christmas at West Village | Scott, Louisiana

The new 143-acre mixed-use development off of Apollo Road Extension in Scott, Louisiana is welcoming residents to its first Christmas event on Saturday, December 18th from 6 pm to 9 pm. Christmas at West Village presented by Robbie Breaux & Team is set to be a free, family-friendly event with live music by Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band, a photo opportunity with Santa Claus, local pop-up shops, and the official Coca-Cola Christmas Truck available on site. The event is open to the public.

Evangeline Parish Events | Turkey Creek and Vidrine, Louisiana

  • The 19th Annual Turkey Creek Christmas Parade will be held on December 18th and start at 11 am.
  • The Vidrine Fire Department will be holding a Santa Run on December 24, Christmas Eve. They’ll start at the Vidrine Fire Station at 1:30 pm and arrive at Vidrine Elementary around 3:30 pm where participants can take photos with Santa.

Jefferson Davis Parish | Jennings, Louisiana

The Jennings Christmas Festival will be held on December 17th from 5 pm to 8 pm in Founder’s Park and offer such experiences as Hot Chocolate with Santa, a Hayride, the Jennings Hall of Trees, a Christmas Fireworks presentation, and much more.

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Acadiana’s Silicon Bayou Gains New Tech Firm

Over the past decade, Acadiana’s tech industry, Silicon Bayou, has caught the eye of many interested parties nationwide as “Acadiana’s Silicon Valley” has became only more prevalent and successful with time. As detailed by an Advocate article, the educational technology company, SchoolMint Inc, will move its headquarters and other U.S. operations from California to Acadiana.

SchoolMint Inc, which has previously acquired a Lafayette-based company in 2019, will asl o consolidate their offices in New York and Miami, as CEO Bryan MacDonald and Governor John Bel Edwards announced in Lafayette. The firm develops enrollment, application and behavioral management software for schools. The firm develops enrollment, application and behavioral management software for schools.

This monumental deal already has roots in Acadiana, as the history of this Lafayette success story traces back to a sophomore at Carencro High School in 2004, Casey Bienvenu. Bienvenu’s company was eventually purchased and ended up being known as Smart Choice Technologies when it was bought by School Mint in 2019.

Total, the moving of offices and the company will involve a $515,000 investment in new office spaces, and it will create 178 new direct jobs in Lafayette, with an average salary of more than $74,000 plus benefits, according to the governor’s office.

The success of the move to Silicon Bayou was rightly applauded by the governor in the announcement. “From Lafayette to Baton Rouge and New Orleans and across north Louisiana’s I-20 Cyber Corridor, Louisiana is leading the way with cutting-edge tech firms creating quality jobs for our digital future,” he declared.

Taxpayers will help out with $1 million for the company’s relocation assistance, and a healthy tax credit for development of software products, among other benefits. These are seen as valuable, especially for smaller companies, but MacDonald put an emphasis on other avenues the state and community can take to contribute to growth in the technology-based economy.

Once such avenue is to keep the “pipeline of talent” full of students from universities who can provide the educated workforce that such a tech company requires. What is seen by some to be underrated in the previous announcements is the state’s award-winning program, Fast Start, which is used to recruit qualified people to work in relocated businesses, be they blue-collar jobs in a factory or white-collar positions in a software firm.

While leaders across Louisiana applaud SchoolMint as a new, well quasi-new, star in the local Acadiana technology scene, Louisiana as a whole cannot guarantee success in any national, much less international market for digital products or services. Though, SchoolMint is seen as a massive contributor of new talents as well as old to Louisiana’s tech scene, and talent is what our state will need to be more competitive in the 21st century.

“Acadiana’s Silicon Valley” has only grown in prosperity and size over the past decades, and with the addition of SchoolMint, it’s hoped that these successes will inspire lawmakers to invest more in community colleges and universities that make Louisiana more talent-competitive.

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