UL Lafayette Geosciences Team named Top Oil Prospectors

Recently, a group of geosciences students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette competed in the 2023 North American Region Competition, where they were named the best team of students in North America who can determine where to drill for oil, according to this feature article from the University.

UL Lafayette’s team of competing geosciences students included Savana Anderson, Peyton Dardeau, Margaret Dittman and Abigail Watson, also known collectively as the University’s Imperial Barrel team. The team’s faculty advisor was Dr. David Oppo, an assistant professor in the School of Geosciences. This four-student team, which consisted of both undergraduate and graduate students,  placed first for the Imperial Barrel Award for the 2023 North American Region Competition, which is a competition for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Dr. Carl Richter, Associated Dean of Ray P. Authement College of Sciences and Professor at the School of Geosciences, spoke about the team saying, “this doesn’t place the School’s teams in exclusive company. It’s more like a private club. Over the years, the teams achieved a level of preeminence that’s not likely to be equaled anytime soon. It reflects the quality of students the School of Geosciences attracts and the strength of our graduate program.”

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ competition functions as a competitive showcase for students to collaborate as they analyze industry data, make key determinations about energy resources, and make vital decisions about sustainable extraction methods. Because the University’s Imperial Barrel team won the North American Region competition after winning the Gulf Coast sectional, they will be coming on to the world competition.

Last year, the ULL’s Imperial Barrel team placed second in the world and have won the overall event three times in the past: in 2012, 2014, and 2018. It should be noted that they are the only team to claim the title of “world’s best” three times in the history of the award.

The competition involved the students analyzing real datasets including information on basin’s geology, petroleum system elements, geophysics, and production infrastructures over the course of eight weeks. Throughout the competition, the four team members used state-of-the-art technology, received feedback from industry advisors, and networked with potential employers. The competition’s main goal includes identifying a prospective oil reservoir and determining its overall viability. The team then reports its verdict during a 25 minute presentation to industry experts, who then select a winner based on technical quality, clarity, and the originality of the presentation.

Joey Grimball was a previous winner for UL Lafayette during the 2012 competition, and he had the following to say about his involvement in the competition and the impact it has had on his career: “the IBA experience has been the culmination of my coursework at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. By using the knowledge we attained from previous courses we as a team were able to put together a prospect evaluation starting at the Basin analysis level with the understanding of regional geology, paleogeography, maturation of the source rocks, trapping mechanisms, reservoirs and seals in our area.

These past three months we have grown as individuals and gained insight into how real world petroleum prospectsare put together. Through our interaction with Industry professionals and advice given to us through our Advisor we have a better understanding of how Industry operates. Also the presentation skills along with the networking that we have been able to do through this process have added up to be the best experience of my academic career. I hope to be a part of the IBA experience for years to come.”

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Study Names Some Louisiana Cities Among Best in the Nation for Remote Work

It was recently announced that two Louisiana cities were named among the top five small cities in the country for remote work, according to this article from The Daily Advertiser. The study, which comes from Forage, named Lafayette, Louisiana as the fourth-best city for remote work and Metairie, Louisiana as the fifth-best city for remote work.

The study that placed Lafayette and Metairie as the fourth and fifth best small cities in the nation for remote work was from Forage, the virtual platform website that has been connecting over 1.7 million students with potential careers at over 100 companies since 2017. Forage was able to determine a city’s placement for the remote work rankings by looking at a town’s actress to high-speed internet, library funding, and a variety of other lifestyle factors.

For its rankings, the Forage study analyzed data from over 130 metropolitan statistical areas of a certain size. All of the metro areas looked at for the study had populations between 100,000 and 200,000 people. The factors analyzed for the study included the combined aircraft and road noise levels that are perceived within the city’s limits, a city’s percentage of residences that had high-speed internet access, the city’s public library funding, the percentage of residents spending 30% or more of their income on housing, and the unemployment rate. Additionally, the study also took into account the median listing price of homes on the market, real estate price levels compared to the national price level, the number of arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses per 10,000 residents, and the amount of non-alcoholic beverage bars or coffee shops per 10,000 residents.

With these factors considered, the cities of Lafayette and Metairie topped the list as the fourth and fifth best small cities for remote work. According to the study’s data and findings, approximately 94.9% of Lafayette’s residences have access to high-speed internet, its noise level was registered at a grade of 40.85, which is higher than 68% of the cities analyzed for the study. Meanwhile, Metairie’s noise level was graded at 14.2% and its registered access to high-speed internet was at an impressive 99.4%, which was the highest percentage of all cities in the study. The study had named Davenport, Iowa as its top small city for remote work; Carmel, Indiana was ranked as 2nd in the nation, and Topeka, Kansas was 3rd in the nation.

In its simplest form, remote work is the ability to do your job from anywhere. This can mean working from home, a coffee shop, or even another country. As long as you have an internet connection, you can be a digital nomad and work from wherever you want. The rise of remote work has been made possible by advances in technology, particularly the internet and cloud-based applications. With these tools, it’s possible for businesses to have a fully distributed workforce with employees working from different locations. There are many benefits of remote work for both employers and employees. For businesses, it can lead to increased productivity and creativity, as well as lower overhead costs. For employees, it offers greater flexibility and freedom when it comes to where and how they work.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has been on a steady increase in popularity, but it was already gaining traction prior to the pandemic. There are a few reasons why remote work has become more popular in recent years. First, the internet has made it easier for people to connect and communicate from anywhere in the world. Second, advances in technology have made it possible for people to do their work from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. Third, the global economy has made it easier for companies to hire employees from different parts of the world. Finally, the rise of the gig economy has made it easier for people to find short-term or freelance work that can be done remotely.

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Unveiling Ceremony Held at Lafayette’s Moncus Park Veterans Memorial

Lafayette’s newest park, Moncus Park, recently held a ceremony to unveil its Veterans Memorial, according to this article from The Daily Advertiser. The unveiling featured an opening ceremony, ribbon cutting, and several guest speakers who commemorated the Veteran’s Memorial, a project that has been 6 years in the making.

The Moncus Park Veterans Memorial, which was unveiled at a September ceremony that had over 200 people in attendance, is located in front of the park in close proximity to Johnson Street. The memorial itself consists of several large tablets that commemorate United States military involvement in 13 major conflicts. Each tablet is designed with a 400-word history of each war, thus giving contextual perspective to those observing the memorial. Nearby the tablets are brick pavers and seat walls that recognize local veterans and their families.

The founder and Director of Growth and Strategy of the Acadiana Veteran Alliance, Andrew Ward, commented on the memorial at the unveiling by saying, “every city, every town, every parish should have something dedicated to the men and women that gave their lives and their selfless service to our country. This is just a welcome addition; to have this here in central Moncus Park as kind of a shining light is remarkable.”

Moncus Park’s Veterans Memorial Unveiling Ceremony had over 200 people in attendance, and among the honored guests were Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who served as a captain in the U.S. Army, Louisiana Secretary of Veterans Affairs Ret. U.S. Army Col. Joey Strickland and Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Josh Guillory, who served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

In speaking about the ceremony, Governor Edwards said, “we need to make sure that we appreciate and thank our veterans every day and not just wait until Veterans Day. What a tremendous asset this park is, that this memorial is to Lafayette and to Acadiana.”

According to Co-Chairman of the Veterans Memorial Founding Committee Dr. Jon “Skip” Palmintier, it took a total of six years’ worth of planning to bring the memorial to light. Dr. Jon “Skip” Palmintier, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Medical Corps, explained that the memorial was designed to be able to fit in the park, be independently beautiful as well, be accompanied by a spirit of peace, and to recognize the sacrifices made by military veterans.

Outside of the unveiling, the ceremony served as a way to honor and recognize those who worked on the landmark from its initial concept to bring it fully to fruition, and it also honored the service members the landmark is designed to appreciate.

In his remarks, Dr. Jon “Skip” Palmintier said, “We are here and this is our veterans’ park, which celebrates anybody that signed their name and joined the armed forces. I can’t tell you how much it means, not only now, but because it’s going to be here for many, many more years to come and we’re hoping that this is just the beginning of programs that we’ll have here for teaching.”

Dr. Palmintier also revealed that the Moncus Park Veterans Memorial will be added as a location on the Veterans Memorial Trail. Additionally, a phone app will be released soon so that those who visit the memorial may learn more about the history of those honored.

Closing the ceremony was the founder of the Acadiana Veteran Alliance Andrew Ward, who served in the U.S. Armyduring Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ward said, “It’s not just to learn about the different pieces of war that make up our history in America. But what you’re supposed to do is really reflect and take in and understand the meaning and the passion and the sacrifice that folks like us gave.”

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Ash Industries to Expand and Bring New Jobs to Lafayette

A molding company in north Lafayette will soon be expanding the size of its manufacturing facility to be twice the size that it is currently, and with the new space will be a need for 85 additional jobs, according to this article from The Acadiana Advocate.

Currently, Ash Industries employs 67 people at its West Willow Street facility where the company specializes in making customized injection molds for a variety of industries. Some examples of the type of industries that these specialized molds are made for include both military and electronics firms.

According to Louisiana Economic Development, the expansion of the Ash Industries facility’s manufacturing floor by an additional 20,000 square feet will create 85 new jobs, each with an average salary of $40,600, plus benefits. Additionally, according to LED, the expansion of the facility will also result in the creation of 120 indirect jobs inAcadiana. Expanding the manufacturing floor by 20,000 square feet will also involve the installation and adding of a chiller, expanse crane, and water cooling equipment, all of which will make day-to-day processes more streamlined and efficient.

Company President Hartie Spence said of the expansion, “Ash Industries is optimistic about the future of manufacturing in Louisiana and so far has launched phase one of a three-phase program to invest in jobs in our community. The ingredients of economic development in our industry are manufacturing space, a solid employee base, and the latest in cutting-edge manufacturing equipment. ASH’s current expansion will directly support and increase the services that we can provide customers who appreciate the benefits of having their products manufactured in our state.”

The state of Louisiana initially offered an incentive package that included the services of LED FastStart, a workforce development program. LED FastStart is noted as being the top workforce development program in the state of Louisiana, as it’s been recognized for its “innovation, effectiveness, flexibility and efficiency” by Business Facilitiesmagazine.

LED FastStart is a program that provides customized employee recruitment, screening, training, development, and training delivery for eligible, new, or expanding companies all at no cost. In fact, The Economist has described the program in the following manner: “probably the most notable statewide workforce-development initiative comes from Louisiana. Its FastStart program, which launched in 2008, helps companies recruit and train workers.”

By partnering with the LED FastStart program, Ash Industries will be able to benefit from a workforce development team that strives to ensure high-quality, flexible workers who are prepared “one day one and beyond.” In fact, according to LED, “the FastStart team includes dozens of experienced professionals from a range of businesses — manufacturing to corporate headquarters, digital media to customer support centers and R&D. FastStart has designed and delivered comprehensive workforce solutions for a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, as well as high-tech companies funded by leading venture capital firms.”

In addition to FastStart, Ash Industries is also expected to participate in the Enterprise Zone (EZ Program) and the Industrial Tax Exemption programs. The Enterprise Zone Tax Credit program, as described by Louisiana Economic Development, is a jobs incentive program that provides Louisiana income and franchise tax credits to a new or existing business that is located within Louisiana. This business must also be creating permanent, net new full-time jobs and hiring at least 50% of those net new jobs from one of four targeted groups.

In addition to the EZ Program, Ash Industries will also be taking part in the Louisiana Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), which (according to LED), is an original state incentive program, which offers an attractive tax incentive for manufacturers who make a commitment to jobs and payroll in the state.

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DREAMS Foundation Meat Pie Food Truck Expands to City of Lafayette

The DREAMS Foundation of Acadiana, a nonprofit that helps people with special needs, has recently expanded their previously private meat pie food truck business, the DREAMS Xpress Truck, so that the citizens of Lafayette can order delicious meat pies all over the city, according to this article for The Advocate.

The nonprofit, the DREAMS Foundation of Acadiana, was founded by Donielle Watkins and Brian Watkins in 2008, and it has a name indicative of what they stand for. DREAMS stands for  Disability, Resources, Education, Activities, Management, and Services. Donielle Watkins and Brian Watkins founded the nonprofit organization in honor of their son, who has spina bifida and who had expressed interest in playing sports. Upon researching active organizations in the region for their son, the Watkinses noticed that the region was lacking offerings for their son, so they took it upon themselves to provide sports and activities for people with special needs and resources for their family members.

As the years progressed, the Watkinses launched their pie business, DREAMS Manufacturing Co., as a way to create jobs for people with special needs. Donielle Watkins commented on their ability to offer jobs to those with special needs: “we trained them from day one. We figured out what they could do based on their ability and had them do that. Whatever they could do, we use that ability and have them make them successful.”

The Acadiana Advocate, who covered the grand opening of the DREAMS Xpress Truck, spoke to several employees about their experience with the organization. Reporters noticed Logan Watkins, who usually made the meat pies or worked the ordering system on the truck, offering drinks to customers as they waited for their orders. He revealed that he enjoys the social aspect of working on the truck.

Additionally, Lex Goulas is another employee of the Food Truck who was seeking a job after graduating from high school, and after finding DREAMS in 2018, he has worked for them ever since. He spoke of this sense of duty by saying, “because DREAMS has done so much for me, it’s been an opportunity for me, and I loved it ever since then.”

One of the main jobs offered by the DREAMS Foundation is to work on the highly-popular DREAMS Xpress Truck, a food truck that has spent the past three years selling meat pies for nursing homes, jails, and local businesses. But as the popularity of the truck has risen over the past three years, the DREAMS Foundation of Acadiana and its workers are ready to expand their business to the city of Lafayette as a whole by making their pies publicly available.

The expansion of offering the food truck’s menu to the wider public of Acadiana began in mid-June with a grand opening held on Johnston Street near Burger Tyme, which is a highly popular spot for food truck patrons. Within the first hour of opening for business, the food truck was completely sold out of all of their available pies, which included popular flavors such as Chicken Alfredo and Pulled Pork. In speaking on the turnout of the grand opening, Watkins said, “it was awesome. Yes, we had to turn around and make more after the first. The Lafayette community (is) so supportive! I am exhausted, though!”

The DREAMS Xpress Food Truck specializes in baking and selling stuffed meat pies that come in a variety of flavors. As the truck expands to the public, Donielle Watkins revealed to The Advocate that they hope to sell upwards of 120-150 pies, as they offer a deal of purchasing two pies and a bag of chips for only $10. The truck is located at 3302 Johnston St., the central location of the DREAMS Foundation of Acadiana, and it will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on various days of the week.

Donielle Watkins invited the citizens of Acadiana and the city of Lafayette to try out the pies by saying, “come out, have a good time talking to our employees and have some great food!” Those interested in purchasing pies or booking the truck for private events are being asked to check out the organization’s official Facebook Page.

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Acadian Kitchens buys north Lafayette Warehouse

One of the pride and joys of Broussard, Louisiana, Acadian Kitchens, recently purchased a $1.2 million warehouse in north Lafayette to expand their thriving business and bring in more jobs, according to this article from The Acadiana Advocate.

The hard-working employees of the company, Acadian Kitchens, might be better known to some for being the makers of the Ragin’ Cajun and Cajun’s Choice brands of seasonings, box dinners, condiments, and other food products. In total, the company currently employs about 20, but with the new warehouse purchase and an increased production line, they’ll be looking to add possibly as many as 30 additional jobs when it’s all said and done.

Presently, the Acadian Kitchens company is operating out of three buildings at a combined footage of 10,000 square feet. The new purchase and the subsequent move will transition the company into a single, 35,000-square-foot building, and due to the warehouse’s strategic location of being housed on the NE Evangeline Thruway, drivers and employees will have a much more accessible route to the interstate highway. Land records indicate that the company has purchased the former Completeful building, located at 3136 NE Evangeline Thruway for just over $1.2 million.

CEO of Acadian Kitchens Paul Leleux estimated that the conversion of the north Lafayette warehouse into a proper food-processing facility will take approximately nine months, but it will allow them to consolidate its operations, add new equipment, improve its total productivity, and grow its workforce. The warehouse became commercially available after Completeful, the drop shipping fulfillment service, moved into the former Walmart facility on Evangeline Thruway.

Leleux commented on the increased demand in the food industry as a result of stay-at-home orders, hurricane evacuations, and other national events, saying, “the demand for food, particularly home-prepared food, is increasing. Particularly in this time of COVID, people are hesitant to go out and eat. Our goal is to allow the rest of the country to enjoy Cajun and Creole foods we’ve been enjoying all our lives in Louisiana. There’s nothing worse than having bad Cajun food. I’m doing everything I can to avoid that.”

That increase in demand was made ever more apparent last October when the company announced that it had hit a sales record just weeks after Hurricane Delta damaged one of the company’s buildings and its founder, Tom Riggsretired as CEO. The sales record was that Acadian Kitchens had its highest sales month in its total 34-year history. This was attributed to the company finding success in offering its Ragin’ Cajun food products in markets outside of Louisiana, particularly those on the east and west coasts of the United States.

While some of the company’s success can be attributed to the Illinois-based capital investment firm, Evanston Partners, buying a majority stake in the company in 2017. This was back when it was known as Southern Seasonings.

Surpassing its sales record just weeks after Hurricane Delta struck the company’s facilities was certainly an impressive feat. The violent winds of the late August storm had brought down a large oak tree atop one of the company’s buildings in Broussard, destroying 2,000 square feet. CEO Leleux reported that after the storm hit on Friday night, clean-up operations began Saturday morning, and operations resumed the following Wednesday.

Leleux said of the experience, “Hurricane Delta came at us hard like everybody else. We knew we had to do something to grow the company facility-wise, but that (storm) may have accelerated the process. We were still able to pay our people through all of it. We lost 2,000 square feet but didn’t miss a beat. It was a credit to a lot of people’s hard work.”

Employees of the tenacious company see the hurricane’s setback as more of a sign or a nudge that it was time to move on to a new facility— one that’s large enough to accommodate the company’s growth.

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