Scaling Up

is Our

How Louisiana’s renewed focus on small business
has helped to create major project success.

In Louisiana, landmark industrial projects aren’t big news for big companies alone. They’re big news for small businesses, too. Billion-dollar manufacturing projects and large corporate expansions are bringing new business opportunities for the state’s smaller businesses. At the same time, Louisiana is nurturing small business growth with increasingly strategic and powerful programs.

Both strategies are yielding big dividends for Louisiana’s small businesses and the nearly 900,000 people they employ.

In Northwest Louisiana, Benteler Steel/Tube’s $975 million seamless steel tube mill project, for instance, translated into $34 million in contract work for Brown Builders of Bossier City, Louisiana.

Brown built the 1 million-square-foot building that houses Benteler’s first U.S. plant, an undertaking that added a mark of distinction to the contractor’s large-scale projects.

(Brown Builders, Bossier City) President Kristen Brown at the 1 million-square-foot site built for Benteler Steel/Tube’s first U.S. plant.

“We positioned ourselves to compete for more projects,” says Kristen Brown, Brown Builders president.

At the Port of New Orleans, TCI Plastics is building a 500,000-square-foot logistics plant, where TCI will package and ship 40,000 containers of PVC and polyethylene pellets upon completing the expansion in 2017.

TCI’s growth – which includes boosting its local workforce from 80 to 240 – is driven by expansion of plastics-based chemical production across Louisiana, including South African energy company Sasol’s more than $8 billion ethane-cracker complex under construction near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“It’s quite a knock-on effect in terms of creating jobs along the supply chain,” says Christian Jensen, president of TCI parent Jensen Companies.

Hayes Manufacturing, Pineville

Why Small is Big

Louisiana has good reason to focus on small business. More than half of Louisiana’s private-sector workforce – some 892,000 residents – are employed by small businesses, and 97 percent of Louisiana businesses are small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

But small companies don’t just benefit from big investments. As vendors and suppliers to large businesses, they help those companies thrive and they position Louisiana to better complete for major projects.

In Alexandria, Louisiana, Hayes Manufacturing fabricated custom conveyor systems that Union Tank Car deploys in producing railroad tank cars. As an innovative small business, Hayes advanced the relationship with a major upgrade for its bigger customer: Hayes devised a more cost-effective welded part for Union Tank Car’s ongoing manufacturing process.

In Lake Charles, Sasol looks to eight major Louisiana contractors to support the construction of its ethane cracker and six additional chemical plants, which represent one of the largest projects of its kind in the world. Sasol contracts with Louisiana vendors and material suppliers total more than $2.5 billion to date, according to Kim Cusimano, Sasol’s senior public and government affairs specialist.

“The use of Louisiana businesses provides considerable value to Sasol,” Cusimano says. Lake Charles-based Port Aggregates is among Sasol’s suppliers. With a partner, it is supplying 100 percent of the Mexican base limestone that Sasol will use for the project.

“It’s a big deal to be part of that,” says Andrew Guinn, Port Aggregates owner.

Recognizing the valuable role of small businesses, Louisiana Economic Development is helping businesses statewide gain greater access to capital, develop managerial skills and overcome obstacles to growth.

Waitr, Lake Charles

Competitive Edge

Programs delivered by LED’s Small Business Services team equip the state’s smaller businesses with solutions that represent a competitive edge.

LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development program assists early-stage business owners with specialized, industry-specific training, along with training in managerial and technical skills. The SEBD program helped Waitr Inc. raise capital, offset costs and develop a way to share information with other startup companies, says Chris Meaux, founder and CEO of the restaurant technology company.

(Waitr, Lake Charles) LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development program helped Waitr Inc., an app that streamlines ordering and delivery from local restaurants, raise capital and offset business costs.

Read more about Lake Charles-based Waitr, and its groundbreaking app.

“LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program has been instrumental in our growth,” Meaux says.

Louisiana’s network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) is another integral element dedicated to coaching small business. Its centers provide no-cost business strategy, consulting, loan packaging and other services to businesses in rural and urban communities across Louisiana.

A key partner with sustained funding from LED, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center network provided assistance to 11,000 small businesses and individuals in 2015.

“The 11 Small Business Development Centers in Louisiana are here to work with businesses with 500 or fewer employees, including startups,” says Na’Tisha Natt, SBDC director of marketing. “We recognize that they’re the ones that help create jobs and help the economy flourish, and we’re here to help them do that.”

Learn more about Louisiana’s extensive Small Business Development Center network.

Critical, early-stage assistance provided by the Louisiana Business Incubation Association similarly serves as a strategic advantage for small businesses in Louisiana. Cohab in Shreveport, for example, offers a shared, high-tech workspace for entrepreneurs and small-business owners while encouraging networking and creative partnerships across the industries in which members work.

“Cohab is the front door for entrepreneurship in Northwest Louisiana and the I-20 corridor,” says John Grindley, executive director. “We’re able to work with entrepreneurs in different stages of development.”

Learn more about Cohab and the businesses that have benefited from this Shreveport small business incubator.

CEO Roundtable, Baton Rouge

Adding Value

To better understand what their peers need to succeed, Louisiana’s small business leaders are addressing entrepreneurial challenges through the state’s Small Business Advisory Council, or SBAC. Council members are themselves small business owners who advise LED and state leaders.

“We meet regularly and continuously collaborate with state and federal agencies and private sector organizations to identify, discuss and solve issues that impact the growth and development of Louisiana’s small businesses,” said Mike Mitternight, a Metairie business owner.

Some entrepreneurial challenges are solved best by executives sharing their experiences in a robust, personal setting. LED’s CEO Roundtables offer such a forum.

The 2-year-old program connects decision-makers from second-stage businesses in software, biomedicine, manufacturing and other target sectors with peers in complementary sectors. About 15 CEO Roundtable participants gather for half-day sessions 10 times a year to share insights on coping with growing pains. Moderated sessions cover issues from time management to technology solutions.

In 2015, LED expanded CEO Roundtables from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and Shreveport, with plans to launch roundtables in other state metros. The 13 businesses that took part in the inaugural CEO Roundtables program measured revenue increases of $23 million, the creation of 36 new jobs and a projected additional 105 new jobs.

Erik Frank, CEO of Your Nutrition Delivered LLC, says his company’s year-over-year revenue grew by 35 percent after his participation in the program.

“The CEO Roundtables could not have come at a better time for my business,” Frank says.

Diversifying Markets

Many growing businesses need intensive market research. LED’s Economic Gardening Initiative fills that void by directing second-stage businesses to in-depth market strategies. From 2012 to 2014, the Economic Gardening program helped 95 qualified small companies in Louisiana increase annual revenue by $170 million and create 558 full-time jobs.

Economic Gardening helped startup Aristotle’s Alexander identify gaps in its marketing strategy and opportunities for growth.

“The assistance extended our team’s efforts and supplied critical resources that contributed to the success and expansion of our technology company,” says Christopher Hebert, founder and CEO of the firm.

LED's small business programs also help small businesses compete for government contracts.

The Veteran Initiative improves access to state contracts for veteran-owned small businesses. Likewise, LED’s Hudson Initiative helps other small businesses better compete for state contracts.

Both programs help small businesses become certified for government contracting opportunities. Companies that qualify receive bonus points in Louisiana’s public-bidding process.

Safeguard Business Systems, a printing and marketing firm, has gained valuable partnerships with larger contractors through the state’s Hudson Initiative.

The program “has proved valuable to our small company by giving us the opportunity to do business with large prime contractors that we would not otherwise have had access to,” says owner Kathleen Wilkin.

Louisiana not only works to connect small businesses with large companies — and the contractors who work for them — but LED increasingly connects small businesses to the global economy. Since 2003, the state has attracted $33 billion in foreign direct investment projects that rank Louisiana No. 2 overall and No. 1 per capita in the U.S.

One of those projects is Canada-based CGI, one of the world’s leading information technology companies, which moved into a new operations center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park in early 2016.

Local firm, Architects Southwest, designed the contemporary 50,000-square-foot facility for CGI.

“It’s exciting to be part of an investment by a global company,” says Wayne Dominigue, Architects Southwest’s chief operating officer.