New businesses continue to open in Central Louisiana despite labor shortages
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - According to the latest LSUA Cenla Economic Dashboard, Rapides Parish experienced a 29% increase in business applications last year, totaling 518 new business applications in 2021.
Deborah Randolph, the President of the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, said there was a lot of movement in the Central Louisiana market, even during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have experienced a great deal of churn in the marketplace here,” said Randolph. “We saw business closures, and we were seeing that pre-pandemic, but we were also seeing new businesses open, and we’re seeing more of that now.”
Randolph said it was the entrepreneurial spirit that grew commerce in Cenla in 2021.
“We have a steady stream of ribbon cuttings and certainly that was the case in 2021,” said Randolph. “People who were confident enough that we will manage, we will come out of this and we are resilient enough to do that and to forge a brighter future for Central Louisiana.”
Now, the new business applications submitted in 2021 are coming to fruition, especially in the restaurant sector.
PJ’s Coffee is a New Orleans coffee shop being brought to the corner of Coliseum Blvd. and Heyman Ln. in Alexandria by franchisees Smanvi Gudur and Raj Poloju.
“PJ’s focuses on developing the human connections, developing long-lasting relationships with all of our customers, and we’re just so excited to bring all that energy to our local community,” said Gudur.
PJ’s Coffee is known for its customer service, as well as its sustainable and ethical business practices.
“PJ’s trades ethically with the coffee farmers, and give back what little extra they are making to the farmers and their families,” said Poloju. “They also use 100% recycled plastic for their cups, minimizing their carbon footprint.”
PJ’s Coffee is will break ground in February and is set to open in June.
Wingstop also opened a location in Alexandria on Jan. 16 on South MacArthur Drive. Just over a week since the restaurant opened, franchise owner Barry Burke said it has been successful so far and hinted at a possible second location in Cenla.
“We opened up and blew the doors off...a massive amount of people,” said Burke. " So, we are very happy with the results, it was one of the record highest opening stores in probably the nation. Overall, we’re very happy to be in the neighborhood, and we’re looking for other locations in the area as well.”
Although new businesses are opening, Cenla and the rest of the nation are dealing with labor shortages. The LSUA Economic Dashboard stated that there are 1,300 unemployed people in the Alexandria metro area and 5,600 job openings. That means there are approximately three job openings for every unemployed person.
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