The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, La., netted a $250,000 grant to help create a comprehensive economic development strategy for the state’s coastal seafood industry.

The money will enable university researchers to examine the seafood supply chain in seven coastal parishes – Cameron, Terrebonne, Lafourche, Plaquemines, Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard.

Last year, the university secured a $250,000 Rural Business Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a similar study in Vermilion, Iberia and St. Mary parishes. That study ends July 1.

Dr. Geoff Stewart, an associate professor of marketing in the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, is lead investigator for the project. The study is a collaboration with Meridian Institute, Washington, D.C.

The earlier, 3-parish study included frontline conversations with municipal, parish and state leaders, seafood producers, suppliers and processors and chefs, restaurant owners and other consumers.

“We do not want this project to end with a list of recommendations and just hand it off and say, ‘here, good luck,’” Stewart says. “We want to say, ‘here are some priorities, and here is the approach to take to rectify those needs.’”

Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, the university’s vice president for innovation, research and economic development, is a co-principal investigator on the supply chain project.

“Another tool in our toolkit to see how we can mobilize investments into areas that need them to create opportunities,” Kolluru adds. “We are fortunate to have state leadership willing to have a conversation about how we can combine efforts and collaborate to improve economic opportunities for this vital industry.”

That fits into the university’s larger mission to conduct “research for a reason,” says Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president. “But, we also conduct research with a great deal of respect. Accompanying our respect for Louisiana, its people, history and environment, is a desire not only to understand our small part of the planet better, but to preserve the things that make it special. We certainly want to put seafood on our plates, in our boiling pots and bowls, but we also want to place it at the center of a larger economic development strategy for Louisiana.”