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$1.2 million state development grant boosts UL Lafayette-tech sector link

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Waitr delivers. So does the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

UL Lafayette received a $1.25 million state grant to support a pipeline of talent among its School of Computing and Informatics, the food delivery app and other employers in the state’s growing tech sector.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the Louisiana Economic Development grant Friday. The money is part of an incentive package from the state to aid Waitr’s growth.

The announcement was made at a block party that celebrated the food delivery service’s new downtown Lafayette headquarters. The governor and CEO Chris Meaux also used the event to outline the company’s addition of 200 direct jobs and 227 indirect jobs in Acadiana and the surrounding area.

Waitr sustains 315 existing full-time jobs in Louisiana and employs thousands of drivers.

Its on-demand food delivery connects restaurants to consumers in more than 500 cities nationwide. The company is also helping to create online and mobile software solutions for the restaurant industry, Meaux said.

Those solutions will require the skilled graduates the School of Computing and Informatics trains, added Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president.

“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is very pleased to continue to play a meaningful role in recruiting and growing high-tech companies that helps economic development and diversification in our region,” Savoie said.

“The University is very appreciative of this grant from LED and the governor’s support that will allow us to strengthen our academic programs, create certification programs, and produce high-quality and well-trained students that have the skills to meet Waitr’s technology needs.”

Dr. Azmy S. Ackleh is dean of UL Lafayette’s Ray P. Authement College of Sciences; it includes the School of Computing and Informatics. He noted that the University’s informatics and computer science programs “are a reason tech companies come to the area, why they stay here, and why they are able to expand here.”

In May 2018, CGI announced it planned to add 400 new jobs at its University Research Park location. UL Lafayette graduates make up a large portion of the digital technology company’s Lafayette workforce, Ackleh said.

“Companies like CGI, Waitr and others value the strong knowledge and training that a degree from UL Lafayette provides. This grant from the state will help enhance the well-deserved reputation the School of Computing and Informatics has as an essential factor in the region and state’s growth as a major tech hub.”

Read more about Waitr and its growth in the Lafayette area here.