Cenla Economic Dashboard in existence for full year, helping business leaders make important decisions

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 3:12 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:19 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - If you’re wondering how the local Cenla economy has faired during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a tool for that, and it’s been around for the past year.

KALB sat down with the face behind the Cenla Economic Dashboard to find out how it’s helping local business leaders make important decisions.

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 was declared as a national emergency and America’s economy began to shut down.

“We felt very disconnected. No one knew where the economy was at, how bad things were or were not, and basically, we were in the dark,” said LSUA College of Business Dean, Dr. Randall Dupont.

Information became available on a national level, but there wasn’t a way to measure what was happening here at home.

“It’s really been kind of a missing link to have that data drilled down to our regional, local economy,” said Red River Bank President and CEO, Blake Chatelain.

Local business leaders began to have discussions with LSUA.

“Basically, the question was, is this something that we can do here in Central Louisiana,” said Dupont.

In came LSUA College of Business Dean, Dr. Randall Dupont, the face and research behind what’s known today as the Cenla Economic Dashboard.

“The best way to describe the dashboard, we try to monitor the economic pulse of Central Louisiana. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Dupont said.

So that local business leaders have accurate information to help them make important decisions.

“Every day we’re trying to make decisions based on what we think is happening in the local economy. Having access to real data is just incredibly important for us,” Chatelain said.

The first-ever dashboard was released in April of 2020.

“It took us about six days to publish the first issue. It was about 10 to 12 pages, so not very long, but it covered things like our mobility and our social distancing in the different parishes,” Dupont said.

It’s taken off ever since, covering everything from consumer spending to small business development and travel.

“Basically, during a pandemic, you don’t have a whole lot of interaction, so we didn’t know how it was being received, but we were getting very good feedback,” Dupont said.

Today, the dashboard is being distributed to 3,000 business and community leaders across Cenla, including additional parishes and new information.

“We’re assessing the needs of the community and as the needs change, we change the dashboard. We don’t just keep publishing the same data because the environment changes,” Dupont said.

“I would say it’s really one of the best ones I’ve seen in the state. It’s very comprehensive, there’s something in there for everybody,” said Chatelain.

Over the past year, Dupont said Cenla’s economy has done incredibly well.

“We didn’t know if consumer spending would fall off the cliff, or at least the best we were hoping for was that it would kind of remain stable, and that’s kind of what happened,” Dupont said. “Jobs have returned. Not all of them, but we are very close to where we were last year at this time. We may not be back in all industries or in all segments, but overall, as a general economy, we have done well.”

This wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the people who call Cenla home.

“I saw a resilience here with the citizens, with the businesses of Central Louisiana, quite resilient, quite determined to make a future for themselves,” Dupont said.

Dupont said he will continue to publish the dashboard. Each report includes data for all Cenla parishes, Vernon, Concordia, Catahoula, LaSalle, Evangeline and a few others.

The April dashboard will be released either next week, or the week after.

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