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Robideaux Administration Tackles City Innovation, CREATE in Second Annual Address

May 07, 2018 03:33PM ● By Savannah Ludwig

“Smart Cities” and innovation took center stage in the Heymann Center auditorium as Lafayette’s mayor-president updated constituents on city initiatives and projects during the second annual Robideaux Report.

In an hour-long speech open to the public, Joel Robideaux told residents that the city is “poised to become a global innovation hub, if we dare to” through the development of partnerships with emerging and prominent technology companies and businesses. Most importantly, he said, the community needs to focus on maintaining and attracting young innovators.

“We need to commit to build a future that motivates and retains our best and brightest and allows us to compete for the best and brightest from all over the globe,” he said.

In the long term, Robideaux said, he envisions Lafayette embracing emerging blockchain technology to utilize its own form of cryptocurrency and use revenue to foster research and innovation. However, he said the community should also “have some really frank discussions” about improving systems that already exist.

“We need to find money to invest in upgrades to the current utility infrastructure and we need to take advantage of 21st century energy technology that’s out there,” he said.

Robideaux announced a slew of new mobile apps such as The Hub of Lafayette, a one-stop service for local government information, access to event and entertainment information and animal control.

He also mentioned Gnome Nation, a community service app that incentivizes community service and allows organizations to list projects. Lafayette City-Parish Government received approval to enter an agreement with CGI Technologies and Solutions to develop and maintain the app at a recent council meeting.

In an update on the CREATE Initiative, which he unveiled at his inaugural report, Robideaux continued discussion on technological advancements. The program, an acronym for Culture, Recreation, Entertainment, Art, Travel and Economy, targets capitalizing on Lafayette’s cultural scene — or, as Robideaux said, the “low-hanging fruit” — to stabilize the city and parish’s budget.

As part of the CREATE Initiative, Robideaux’s administration is also building a Cultural Asset Inventory Portal, which would list every performer, performance venue and event that the region has to offer.

Kate Durio, who serves as Robideaux’s assistant and leads the initiative, told Parish News that a dozen film production companies have either expressed interest in moving to or beginning production in Lafayette.

 He announced that Lafayette was selected as host for the South Louisiana Songwriters Festival, offered by the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation based in England. Robideaux said the foundation heard about Lafayette and the CREATE initiative through word of mouth.

Set for May 24-25, the festival draws from talent such as Zachary Richard, Marc Broussard and Louis Michot, as well as numerous songwriters from out of state. The festival is the culmination of a four-day workshop, during which songwriters create original work.

“That’s a huge win for our music community,” said Durio. “The fact that it’s a four-year commitment really shows some sustained investment. If you just look at the names on, you can see just some real momentum building there.”

Robideaux also gave an update on the University Avenue Corridor project, for which LCG has held two public meetings.

"We’re going to turn this into a gateway corridor that is reflective of how we all feel about where we live, and we want people coming into Lafayette to feel and experience the Lafayette that we love. This is a project that desperately needs to happen,” he said.

Above all, Robideaux said, residents should keep an open mind to emerging technology while minding the “digital divide” in households — or the inability for some to access the internet or utilize smartphones and tablets.

“When you hear, big data, AI, augmented reality, machine learning systems, the internet of things, distributed ledger technology, blockchains, cryptocurrency, don’t let your mind go blank like it just did,” he quipped.

Photo credit: Brad Kemp