Firm began in 1971 now employs 4,000
LAFAYETTE — Richard Zuschlag was a northerner working for Westinghouse who found himself in Lafayette in 1970. He didn’t like it down here that first sticky-hot July, which dampened his enthusiasm.
But in 1971, federal laws kicked in that prohibited funeral homes from providing ambulance service, and Zuschlag and a few others saw an opportunity.
With $2,500 and the energy of youth, they started Acadian Ambulance and didn’t look back.
“A lot of people wanted to help us succeed because they wanted a good ambulance service,” Zuschlag said this week as he was again showered with accolades for his steerage of the Acadian Companies through four decades.
Zuschlag, founder and chief executive officer of Acadian Companies, on Wednesday was honored at the 2014 “Honoring Upper Lafayette Success Stories,” sponsored by the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation.
About 300 attended the event at the Holidome.
Upper Lafayette Executive Director Jan Swift said the success story celebrated Wednesday was brought about by the 4,000 Acadian Companies employees and Zuschlag.
Zuschlag said Acadian Ambulance started humbly, with two ambulances manned by medics who had returned home from the war in Vietnam.
“Those Vietnam medics knew what they were doing,” Zuschlag said. “They saved a lot of lives.”
Through the decades, Acadian Ambulance grew into the Acadian Companies by innovating technology and processes, said Greg Gothreaux, head of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority who emceed the luncheon.
He said Acadian’s techniques and practices are now copied around the world, but they were conceived, nurtured and grown in Acadian’s home of Lafayette.
Some of the innovations through the decades include: family and company ambulance memberships to help underwrite the service; dispatching desk that turned into a communications center; enhanced 911 services that instantly showed addresses where medics were needed; remote transfer of vital signs of heart attack victims to hospitals; air-medical transport; an EMS academy.
As the company grew, so did those helped by it: eight patients a day transported to hospitals in 1971 compared to 1,500 a day now in Louisiana and Texas.
Swift said Wednesday’s event was the fourth annual presentation of the Upper Lafayette Success Stories. She said her organization represents businesses in North Lafayette, Carencro, Scott and Duson.