It is small businesses — existing businesses growing with the parish and new businesses relocating or starting up in the area — that keep Lafayette’s economy fresh, vibrant and diversified. LEDA’s services complement those provided by other local economic development ally agencies and when used in tandem can get small businesses off to a good start, helping to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Acadiana.
One of the biggest assets to the local entrepreneur is the Louisiana Small Business Development Center.
The LSBDC is a statewide network of nine centers, with a local center located at UL Lafayette. LSBDC is a unique collaboration between Louisiana Economic Development, U.S. Small Business Administration and participating universities. Its mission is to facilitate the formation and growth of small businesses through free confidential business consulting, entrepreneurial training programs, and online business information resources to develop and diversify Louisiana’s economy.
LSBDC consultants meet one-on-one with individual clients to assess their needs, develop business strategies, and business and marketing plans specifically tailored to the goals of the clients, whether it’s business expansion, business turnaround, or assistance with starting up their business.
The LSBDC “turn-key” philosophy can best be illustrated through one of its success stories. “Lamont Growe’s rise to success is a real Cinderella story,” says Mark Galyean, director of the local LSBDC office. “Lamont started out as the janitor at Lettsworth Oilfield Services and 15 years later became the owner and president of the company, which he renamed Huntington Oilfield Services.” Huntington filters and recycles completion fluids for drilling companies and is the only minority-owned oilfield service company in the Gulf. Nominated by Chevron, Growe won the 2007 Supplier of the Year award from the Louisiana Minority Business Council.
The Growes turned to LSBDC at UL for assistance to purchase the company. LSBDC consultants helped them prepare a business plan and a loan package that secured the financing for the acquisition and then continued to work with the Growes to develop their management and business skills through its entrepreneurial programs. “The lessons they learned from LSBDC business workshops gave them the confidence and skills they needed to expand into commercial construction,” Galyean says. The Growes again turned to LSBDC consultants for help in starting this second company. Today, their two companies employ six full-time workers and three part-time employees.
By helping entrepreneurs start, grow and expand their businesses, LSBDC encourages job creation and capitalization, and the overall numbers it’s been chalking up are quite impressive. Every day, LSBDC clients create 4.5 jobs and retain two jobs. Every two days, LSBDC helps a client start a new business. For every dollar Louisiana Economic Development invests into the LSBDC, its clients return $4 to the state treasury. Since 2001, the LSBDC program has helped clients across Louisiana obtain nearly $454 million in financing and expand sales by more than $691 million.
“Clients who seek assistance from LSBDC and LEDA come from all walks of life,” Galyean says, “but they all have one thing in common — the desire to achieve the American dream of owning their own business.”
LEDA’s mission, to provide assistance to existing businesses and start-ups and to attract new businesses to the parish, meshes well with the goals of LSBDC making for a beneficial relationship for both organizations and our clients. At LEDA, we work to fulfill our mission in several ways. We work to facilitate existing business retention and expansion within the parish through our business visitation program. Each year, LEDA staff members meet one-on-one with decision makers from more than 500 unique businesses, the majority being small, locally-owned businesses. We discuss how LEDA can assist their businesses within the scope of our services, including tax incentive education and workforce training program application assistance, networking opportunities and ombudsman services.
LEDA also offers market analysis assistance to existing and prospective businesses. LEDA’s team of researchers has access to data points ranging from retail sales to employment figures and can gather competitor and consumer data to assist in the growth and development of small businesses. Data from LEDA’s Information Services department such as custom demographics, competitive analysis and industry research may be used by start-up businesses to substantiate a business plan.
Finally, LEDA can help a start-up or expanding business locate potential sites for development. Working in conjunction with LEDA and the economic development entities in the five surrounding parishes, Acadiana Economic Development recently launched acadianaprospector.com. The free Web site program is designed to attract new businesses and to respond to existing businesses’ needs. Acadianaprospector.com gathers economic, planning, infrastructure, geographic and demographic information often sought by businesses looking to relocate or expand into a “one-stop-shop” business portal on the Web. It allows users to find available commercial or business property; view, create and print maps; and develop custom demographic radius reports.
Entrepreneurs and business owners of yesterday have taken their commercial success and translated it into opportunities for new entrepreneurs and new business development, as well as for the overall growth of the community. And, our “wildcatter” mentality is still going strong today.
Every day, LEDA’s Business Retention and Development staff is in the community meeting with business owners. Every day, LEDA’s researchers receive requests for information. Every day, the staff at LEDA, LSBDC, and our ally organizations are working to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of our clients. Both LEDA and LSBDC encourage you to call our organizations and use our services. Together we can continue the legacy of great, home-grown entrepreneurs right here in our back yard.
Gregg Gothreaux is president and chief executive officer of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.