Lafayette has stepped up its game with INNOV8, an eight-day series of more than 40 diverse events that leads up to and overlaps with Festival International, melding the best music festival in the world with the most creative, innovative thinkers who define our fair city’s "Cool Town" status. Think Geoff Daily of FiberCorps, UL VP of Research Robert Twilley, Colin Miller of Creative Action, Pete Prados of InventureWorks, Tom Cox of, Mark Falgout of Blue Moon Saloon, filmmaker Natalie Kingston, visual artist Denise Gallagher. You get the picture now, don’t you?

On a mission to brand Lafayette’s creative economy, INNOV8, which takes place at venues across the city, is scheduled for Sunday, April 22, through Festival close on Sunday, April 29. But before that, INNOV8 hosts a preview event at the Acadiana Center for the Arts next Wednesday. The event, Lafayette Comprehensive Plan Workshop, is being presented by Wallace, Roberts & Todd from noon to 2 p.m. Admission is free, and there will be a $5 box lunch available.

Solicitation of community input on LCG’s comprehensive master plan actually begins Monday at the South Regional Library on Johnston Street. The public is encouraged to attend so its vision for managing Lafayette’s future growth can be discussed. Four sets of community forums on the plan will be conducted over the next 18 months. The three remaining batches of forums, which have not yet been scheduled, will cover issues such as imaging alternative futures for Lafayette, discussions on what Lafayette will likely become if planning is not a part of our growth and gaining consensus on the plan.

Be sure to pick up next Wednesday’s Independent for a special spread highlighting a diverse group of INNOV8 events, all presented in the words of the very people behind them. In the meantime, Carlee Alm-Labar, assistant to City-Parish President Joey Durel, wants to tell you on why should attend the INNOV8 preview session at the AcA and the many other community forums designed to shape Lafayette’s future:

Lafayette thinks big. It’s been that way since the early days of the oil industry. And as we have grown, that “wildcatter mentality” has taken root beyond the oil industry. That same risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit has spread from the oil field to other fields — technology, culture, medicine, and more.  
But despite our culture of forward-thinking innovation, a lack of public planning has caused our public infrastructure and development atmosphere to lag behind, placing a drag on our economy, our taxes, and our way of life. That is where the comprehensive planning process comes in. More important, that is where you come in.
The first of many in a series of community forums starts on Monday. Wednesday, in what is a perfectly appropriate move, the INNOV8 preview event will serve a dual role as one of our community forums. The forums next week are the first in a four-forum series, so you will have many opportunities to participate.
So what does innovation have to do with the Comprehensive Plan? Think about it this way — Lafayette’s Comprehensive Plan is our opportunity to define and decide what we want Lafayette to be. We can “innovate” together as a community to determine our future.  

"We are not reinventing the wheel here. There are countless stories out there of communities saved by plans and cities made great by plans."

— Carlee Alm-Labar

This first set of forums is dedicated to collecting ideas and developing a shared vision. Under the guidance of trained consultants (who have done this successfully in many other communities), our community will rally behind a unifying vision of who we want to become. What are the best things about Lafayette? The worst? What are our opportunities? The potential pitfalls? We will build our roadmap based on these hopes and realities, aspiring to make Lafayette the best it can be.
You need to participate. We all need to participate. The plan will be strongest when it has been designed by the entire community. We cannot make it easier for you to have your say. Besides the community forums — which promise to be fun — we are also on Facebook and Twitter, and we have a web presence ( where the process will be documented.  
How will this plan help us? City-Parish President Joey Durel said it best when he said that Lafayette will grow. That is a certainty. And we will spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years to deal with that growth. This planning process will use data to show us a “Trend Growth Scenario,” showing us what Lafayette will look like in the future if we don’t do anything differently from today. We might not like where the trends are taking us. Next, we will test that “future” against the shared vision that we start developing next week. If they don’t match up, then the consultants will begin designing “alternative scenarios” so that we can move closer to realizing the community-wide vision.
How will the plan help you? Well, what is important to you? If you participate, the more likely it is that the plan will acknowledge and address your concerns. If you worry about too much traffic or safe roads, this plan can address that (if you speak up). If you find our government’s regulations confusing, costly and unpredictable, this plan can address that (when you speak up). If you live in a quiet part of town and fear losing your quiet way of life in the midst of all this growth, this plan can address that (because you spoke up).
We are not reinventing the wheel here. There are countless stories out there of communities saved by plans and cities made great by plans. At the same time, there are plenty of cities that have gone through a half-hearted planning process and ended up with a plan that never gets off the shelf. Lafayette is different, though, because Lafayette thinks big. We will continue to be one of the shining stars in our state and our country because we are willing to take a risk on ourselves. By participating in this process, we will end up with a plan that matches Lafayette’s forward-thinking roots. And the next 20 years will be as exciting as the last.
“Innovating” our community begins next week, Lafayette, and it begins with you.

Here’s a full list of next week’s meetings:
Monday, April 16, 6 p.m., South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston Street
Tuesday, April 17, noon, Milton Civic Organization, 1000 Picard Road
Tuesday, April 17, 6 p.m., Comeaux High School, 100 West Bluebird Drive
Wednesday, April 18, noon, Acadiana Center for the Arts, 101 W. Vermilion Street
Wednesday, April 18, 6 p.m., Ossun Elementary, 400 Rue Scholastique

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