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.
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.