Lafayette, LGMC prospering together


The city of Lafayette, La. has been an up-and-coming mid-sized metro for many years and, based on recent data, is still far from hitting its peak. While much of the nation is trudging through a slow economic recovery, Lafayette is a city on the move and helping lead the nation in economic growth. Part of that growth includes Lafayette General Medical Center (LGMC), which has enhanced the city’s upward trajectory.

In the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index, a measure of job creation and economic growth, the top 200 metros in the United States were ranked. Lafayette proved to be a top player in several categories, grouping it with some of the largest and most affluent cities in the country.

The Lafayette metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked #1 in the country in job growth from May 2011-2012, exceeding 10% growth for the year, up from 24th in the country in overall job growth for 2010-2011. Just as impressively, Lafayette ranked 2nd in the country in five-year wage and salary growth covering 2005-2010.

Some of the cities with similar growth to Lafayette included Knoxville, TN and Portland, OR while Lafayette outpaced the well-reputed areas of Pittsburgh, PA, Oklahoma City and Denver, CO.

At the same time, LGMC, the city’s only community-owned not-for-profit hospital, saw its facility transformed by major upgrades and renovations to keep pace with regional prosperity.

In 2009, the hospital completed a $26 million expansion and renovation to accommodate women and children’s services’ growth. This was followed by a $70 million total renovation of the hospital interior and exterior. The hospital is now undergoing a $52.5 million expansion of its emergency and surgical platforms that will further increase capacity and improve amenities. The newest project, scheduled for completion in 2014, is designed to accommodate a 6-story expansion some time in the future. That future expansion would increase bed capacity to 545 beds, making LGMC the third largest hospital in Louisiana. There’s little reason to think the city’s current progress won’t make such an expansion necessary.

The Lafayette Economic Development Authority reported that Lafayette Parish’s total retail sales for 2012 topped $5.71 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over 2011 and the highest year on record. Apparel (+26.4%), general merchandise (+22.8%) and food (+18.6%) were the best performing categories for the year, which also saw hotel/motel receipts outperform 2011 totals by 13.6 percent.

Both the city proper and its MSA have seen population growth coincide with its economic uptick. Lafayette has been touted in several studies as one of the nation’s fastest growing cities. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the city population at 122,130 as of 2011 (last date available), and its MSA at 224,390.

Lafayette notched a solid ranking of 10th in the nation in five-year job growth from 2006-2011 in the Milken report. During those five years, LGMC’s employee population has grown by roughly 13%, pushing the total count to over 2,000 employees. Salaries also increased an average of 18%.

Another sign of growth for the hospital is the flourishing health system it anchors. The hospital has extended its affiliation into five parishes surrounding the city. Its five-hospital system includes Abrom-Kaplan Hospital in Kaplan, La., Lafayette General Surgical Hospital, St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge, La. and the Lafayette General Behavioral Health Unit.

An IHS Global Insight report at credits Lafayette’s optimistic outlook to a boom in the domestic natural gas industry, as Lafayette’s economy mirrors other energy-oriented centers of Odessa, TX and Bismarck, ND. But, Lafayette leaders tout the city’s technological diversity and quality of life investments with bolstering its attractiveness for newcomers.

"It's difficult to get people to want to come to Louisiana from other states, but when they get there they fall in love with it,” says Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, according to a local TV report. "If you're looking for a job, Lafayette, Louisiana is the place to go."

LGMC’s President and CEO can appreciate what it means to be an outsider coming to Lafayette. David L. Callecod, FACHE, is a native of Indiana who also spent time in Searcy, AR as CEO of Tenet Healthcare system before coming to Lafayette General in 2008. He quickly learned to appreciate the city’s culture and vibrancy.

"There was definitely a little bit of culture shock, as the Cajun influence here defines the taste and spirit of the city,” he says. "But, the warmth and joy that people exude here make it an easy place to call home.”

Callecod says the hospital has reoriented its sights on being more than just a popular hospital for the city. He is positioning LGMC to be acknowledged as one of the leading health care centers in the Houston-to-New Orleans corridor.

As the city of Lafayette continues its ascension, its largest hospital is poised to keep stride with modern, forward-looking facilities, capable of meeting the needs of residents and professionals for years to come.

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