BATON ROUGE, La. — In small business circles, Louisiana’s entrepreneurs had no greater friend or more valued advocate than Mike Mitternight, Louisiana Economic Development officials said today in recognizing the late chairman of LED’s Small Business Advisory Council, or SBAC. Recently, Mitternight was honored by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, or LABI, as a posthumous recipient of its 2016 Free Enterprise Champion Award. Mitternight, a successful small business owner from Metairie, died Oct. 7 at the age of 71.
“As a distinguished veteran of the Louisiana Air National Guard for nearly three decades, Mike Mitternight brought the same hallmarks of service to state and community to his business life,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Through his leadership of the LED Small Business Advisory Council and other business, workforce, training and education organizations, he helped galvanize support for small business issues statewide. As a small business owner and operator, he championed the issues that mattered most to his peers throughout the small business community, and we’ll remember him for providing that strong voice and for serving our state with great commitment and heart.”
Active on behalf of small businesses at the national, state and local levels, Mitternight directed a state task force that led the Louisiana Department of Labor through its transition to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. His devotion to the cause of workforce development was well-known, and he had an integral role in establishing many vocational-technical education programs aimed at synchronizing worker training with the specific needs of Louisiana businesses and industries.
“His passion was workforce,” said Pat Witty, executive director of LED’s Office of Community Competitiveness and Small Business Services. “In a lot of respects, he was a workforce expert in trying to help the state – and, really, anyone who would listen – to align the needs of industry to technical training.”
The owner of Factory Service Agency, a Jefferson Parish business specializing in commercial air conditioning service and construction, Mitternight was the first small business owner selected as chairman of the LABI board, in 2006. In presenting the award in his honor earlier this month, LABI said Mitternight “understood the importance of having a small business owner’s voice at the table.”
In addition to his work with LABI, Mitternight also was active in the National Federation of Independent Business, the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Small Business Association. In 2010, he earned recognition from the NSBA as the National Small Business Advocate of the Year following his 2008 selection by the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission as the Charlet Business Award winner for Outstanding Small Business Advocate.
He frequently testified at hearings of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the Louisiana Legislature, shedding light on the intersection of small business with education, workforce, health care, licensing and other significant issues.
“Mike Mitternight built a legacy that will live on and is the true definition of a ‘Free Enterprise Champion,’” said John Overton, a LABI and SBAC board member who nominated Mitternight for the Free Enterprise Champion Award. “Mike did not just lead, but inspired others with great consistency over decades, earning the respect of everyone he met.”