|(From left) Rep. Vincent Pierre, Rep. Mike Huval, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Rep. Stephen Ortego, Rep. Jack Montoucet and Philippe Gustin, director of Le Centre International de Lafayette at CODOFIL's office Thursday morning.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne wants the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana to know he's got its back — and its future — with a plan that includes grants and the promotion and support of economic development outreach and tourism opportunities already in place with Francophone countries.
"We are undaunted in our commitment to make certain that we strengthen CODOFIL and we strengthen what all of you have a tremendous interest in doing that is beneficial to the State of Louisiana on multiple fronts," says Dardenne. In town for French Ambassador François Delattre's visit, Dardenne outlined his plan for CODOFIL Thursday in a press conference prior to a CODOFIL board meeting.
There's also another plan in place to utilize social media to help CODOFIL replenish its lost funding.
When Dardenne's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism felt a loss of $2 million two weeks ago at the swipe of Gov. Bobby Jindal's veto pen, CODOFIL had $100,000 lopped off in the process.
"This is not a political issue. This is something that's good for the economics of Louisiana. It's good for tourism in Louisiana," says Dardenne. "And tourism in this state means jobs and it means money coming from outside the borders of Louisiana, investing in Louisiana and it minimizes the burden that our taxpayers have to pay to make good things happen in government."
Dardenne says there's a tremendous untapped potential from a tourism standpoint to capitalize on the relationships "we're building now to convince those Francophone countries that this little slice of the world in the southern most part of America is a place that is welcoming to them and shares their culture and shares their language and shares many of their interests."
Jindal's cuts hurt the 2-year-old Escadrille Louisiane initiative that sends teachers to French universities to learn the language and teach it to Louisiana students.
"It was unexpected. It's very unfortunate. It was unnecessary," Dardenne says. "It is one of the programs in Louisiana that is working at a time when we're attempting to create jobs and create economic opportunity for Louisiana. CODOFIL is one of the agencies that makes that happen."
Dardenne says Louisiana needs to capitalize on the "incredible and intense interest on our state that exists in Francophone countries all over the world," something he saw in a trip to Quebec and one he plans to promote in France and Belgium when he goes to "reinstitute the accords that exist between Louisiana and those countries and to talk about the incredible opportunities that exist from an education and an economic development standpoint."Along with the grants, Dardenne's CRT plans to cover CODOFIL Director Joseph Dunn's expenses to Europe for what he calls "a very important trip and one of the most important international trips that the State of Louisiana has made in recent years to reach out to our business partners in France to thank them for what they do, encourage them to expand what they do in Louisiana and to create opportunities for Louisiana businesses to do business in France."
Mandy Migues, a teacher and president of FrancoJeunes, is on board to help through a campaign called 100,000 Cajuns and Creoles that is soliciting $1 from French-speaking Louisianans and those who support CODOFIL. Go here for more information.
"If we can do our part to help, that's what we're trying to do," says Migues. "I'm hoping once we get the word out, I'm very comfortable we'll reach our goal."