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N.O. group speaks to Lafayette Chamber

May 14, 2008

Arnessa M. Garrett
agarrett@theadvertiser.com

They call themselves Fleur de Lis ambassadors. The group of volunteers from New Orleans has been touring the state and the nation sharing the story of the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

During a stop in Lafayette, they found a willing ear at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. Two ambassadors - Ruthie Frierson, chairwoman of Citizens for One Greater New Orleans, and Nolan V. Rollins, president and CEO of the Urban League of New Orleans - were in town Monday and Tuesday and are touring the state this week.

Frierson said they came to Lafayette in order to hear how the city was able to recover from the oil bust in the '80s and diversify its economy with an eye to the future. They left Lafayette with an invitation to return and share some of the expertise that New Orleans is attracting from all over the nation as it recovers.

fleur delis

 The Fleur de Lis ambassadors from New Orleans met Monday with a contingent of Lafayette leaders. Seated, from left, Ruthie Frierson, Fleur de Lis ambassador; Elaine Abell, chairwoman of the board of the Community Foundation of Acadiana; Marsha Miller, executive assistant to the director of the LITE center. Standing, from left, June Andrus, president of the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce; Arnie Fielkow, founder of the Fleur de Lis ambassadors; Don Bertrand, Lafayette city-parish council chairman; Pete Yuan, Lafayette market president of IberiaBank; Robbie Bush, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce chairman; Nolan V. Rollins, Fleur de Lis ambassador; and Rob Guidry, president of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. (Submitted photo)

Frierson said there was great interest among Lafayette officials in the "laboratory" of new ideas about education and infrastructure that New Orleans is experimenting with.

"When a city is on the move, it takes the time to meet, to share, to learn," Frierson said.

Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce President Rob Guidry said he was equally impressed with the Fleur de Lis ambassadors.

"They are being proactive about telling the story of their successes and what remains to be done," he said.

The Chamber has invited the ambassadors back for a series of seminars on the rebuilding efforts at a date to be determined.

"I was impressed with their can-do spirit. ... I have never seen a contingent from New Orleans reaching out to Lafayette and certainly that is a good sign," said Guidry.

Part of purpose of the tour, Rollins said, is to make exactly those kinds of connections.

"It's not just about New Orleans asking for something. It's New Orleans saying thank you for the outpouring of support," he said.

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September 2006