Category Archives: Blog

#SHOPSMALL: Let’s support our business with GREAT Google reviews

Positive Google reviews can be Internet GOLD for our local businesses! Now, more than ever, our businesses need to be aware of their online presence and you, as a consumer, can help our business community
continue to grow and thrive by the power of your positive reviews!

Google reviews allow businesses to prove themselves and level the playing field versus those who can afford expensive marketing campaigns.

Effective reviews are social proof to potential customers so they can make an informed decision on whether to engage with the business. In the end, effective reviews can help bump a business up on local search rankings – which some might consider Internet gold!

Why are Google reviews important to local businesses?
1. Google business reviews increase brand trust
2. Google business reviews increase online exposure and local SEO. Read more on how this affects the algorithm here!
3. Reviews create a feedback loop as well as customer insights about how your business is performing
4. Having positive Google reviews is a great way to get potential customers to click through to your website
5. Google reviews convert more customers; take advantage of good reviews by advertising them on your website and social media as well
Read more here!

Tips for writing effective Google reviews

  1. Be informative and insightful: Be specific and relevant to the place you are reviewing. Highlight anything special about the business.
  2. Keep it real: Be authentic and include the negative and positive aspects of your visit.
  3. Be respectful: Make sure any criticism is constructive so the business owner can use the feedback to improve.
  4. Reviews are not general commentary: Reviews are not meant for social or political commentary. There are other forums for that. Write about your firsthand experience in relation to the business.
  5. Write with style: People want to read a thoughtful review with good grammar, correct spelling and free of profanity. Feel free to be creative and have fun!
    Read more on how to write GREAT reviews, straight from Google!

Want to keep this information? Click here to download our one-pager on writing Google reviews!

Gov. Edwards Announces Federal Grant For COVID-19 Economic Recovery

Commerce Department grant to support $3 million in Louisiana business retention, attraction efforts

BATON ROUGE, La. — On Thursday, Nov. 19, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson welcomed the award of $2.4 million in federal funds to spur business recovery throughout Louisiana in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. LED will match $600,000 in state funds for a $3 million initiative. The department will work with economic developers statewide on recovery-focused efforts to retain and attract small and large businesses.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the Louisiana award today, with the grant coming from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, or EDA.

“We are deeply appreciative of this EDA technical assistance grant and what it can do for business recovery throughout our state,” Gov. Edwards said. “As we continue to chart a path toward COVID-19 health recovery, we also are mindful of the major impact this health crisis has had upon the businesses of Louisiana. LED will work with its regional and local partners across the state to fund meaningful economic development programs that can secure jobs and investment for our economy.”

The EDA grant represents $2.4 million in CARES Act recovery assistance, part of a $1.5 billion package of economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. In Louisiana, LED will survey key economic development organizations and small business service-providers to identify COVID-19 recovery projects. Those efforts will focus on local projects designed to have maximum impact on the state’s economic recovery.

“President Trump is working diligently every day to support our nation’s economy following the impacts of COVID-19 through the CARES Act,” Commerce Secretary Ross said. “This investment will provide the resources that Louisiana needs to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and, in turn, create a stronger and more resilient state economy for the future.”

About LED
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant Louisiana economy. LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana, and promotes business opportunity for employers of all sizes. In 2019, LED attracted more than 80 new economic development projects representing 12,300 new jobs, 15,500 retained jobs and over $8.4 billion in new capital investment. LED’s Small Business Services team, in partnership with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, assisted more than 10,700 Louisiana small businesses and entrepreneurs in 2019. For more information, visit OpportunityLouisiana.com.

INNOVATION NORTH LA: How The Blake has turned to new ideas for 2020

Innovation in Assisted Living

By Jan Hutchinson

Innovation…a new method, idea, product, etc.  Yes, 2020 equals innovation!

 As Sales Director for an Assisted Living community, how do you sell something that you cannot see, touch, or feel?  You find other ways to promote your product, or “sell” your apartments.  Boom!  Virtual tours were born!  I picked up my phone camera and started filming our beautiful community in order to promote what I had to “sell.” 

Thanks to modern technology, I was able to video our community and use email to spread the word about what we had to offer.  I also used the virtual tours to do “home visits” whereby I would go to their homes to show them the virtual tours in case they did not have access to the internet.

 We still allowed move-ins with special criteria involved.  Therefore, this innovative way of selling proved successful!

Now, the other side of the coin was how to keep the residents we already had happy during this unprecedented pandemic?  Another innovation was made by our Activities Director, Chelsea Giles.  Due to social distancing, group activities were halted.  What does Chelsea do? Take her activities on the “road.”  Yep, she decorated her cart and went apartment to apartment spreading joy!

This year has been very challenging to say the least, but perseverance prevails!  Be innovative! Never give up!

INNOVATION NORTH LA: Vance Chosen As Department of Defense STEM Ambassador

Over the course of her 15 years in education, Cope Middle School teacher Elizabeth Vance can be credited with flipping on the switch for scores of students in her seventh grade science classes and as a teacher mentor
with STARBASE 2.0. She has served as an inspiration for many and will soon be sharing her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with a national audience.

Vance has been selected as a Department of Defense STEM Ambassador by the Defense Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Consortium (DSEC), which amounts to a $20,000 awards package that includes an educator stipend, classroom materials and supplies and professional development.

Recommended by Jon Ownby with CYBER.org, the academic initiative of Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Vance will work virtually with other educators from around the United States in partnership with DSEC to
advance STEM outreach. As a member of this prestigious cohort, Vance will help create and curate resources to support educators nationwide in the implementation of high quality STEM learning for all students.

DSEC focuses on broadening STEM literacy and developing a diverse and agile workforce with the technical expertise needed for national defense.
“I’m thrilled for this opportunity to collaborate with fellow teachers from around the United States,” Vance said.

“I can’t wait to work with these educators to develop meaningful STEM lessons and curriculum to benefit all students.”

INNOVATION NORTH LA: STRIKEWERX’s Design Sprint is working to solve B-52 maintenance challenges

STRIKEWERX, which launched May 28, is a new national innovation hub serving as the Air Force Global Strike Command’s store front for connecting with industry and academia, finding solutions to the command’s challenges and coming up with innovative ideas to shape the future.

In fact, STRIKEWERX is hosting a Design Sprint this week, to solve a challenge faced by B-52 maintenance crews. This multi-day design sprint will see airmen collaborate with industry experts and academia partners in an intensive focus to develop a prototype that can solve lost equipment and man hours regarding brakes maintenance on the B-52.

INNOVATION NORTH LA: DigiFest goes online to meet the needs of 2020

We’re thinking outside the box, and going online!

DigiFest South has refocused our plans from the traditional in-person event of the past years, and pivoted towards an online event instead. Since we will not be able to physically host our students, we decided that we should aim towards hosting a virtual conference. We want to continue to provide a highly interactive and educational event for our students, so we’ve come up with the following components that we believe will augment our interactivity goals for this year’s expo:


Video Presentations
We’re asking local businesses and academia to provide 5-10 minute video presentations that demonstrate how they use or contribute to STEAM education and employment in the local community.
Virtual Tours
Instead of having students attend in person, we would provide virtual “tour guides” where anyone can visit local businesses or college campuses and perform live interactions with the students, by using 360-degree cameras.
Activity Kits
We will create and package a number of STEAM activities that students K-12 can pick up at designated locations, such as Bossier Libraries and the Bossier Arts Council.

DigiFest Schedule
During the next five months (October 2020-February 2021), DigiFest will provide a theme-based virtual conference, where each month would feature one of the letters of STEAM, providing continuous coverage on our Facebook Page, at the Bossier Arts Council, select Bossier City Libraries, and from our dedicated sponsors. This monthly-themed conference aims to promote STEAM-related activities, events, and careers as follows:

  • October will highlight Science
  • November will highlight Technology
  • December will highlight Engineering
  • January will highlight Arts
  • February will highlight Math

INNOVATION NORTH LA: MW Estimating meets industry need with drone offerings

In 2017, Mark Walker began offering a variety of services to architects and contractors, mainly estimating and project management services through MW Estimating & Project Services. Fast forward to 2019,  Mark saw a need and decided to offer architectural and landscape photography services to my clients.  

As he visited clients, Mark began to realize what his clients could really benefit from was drone video and photography. Mark met the call, investing in a drone, posting his services on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).

In no time, SKYEWALKERimages was born, the drone and photography division of his company.  The demand for his drone services was immediate, as he started receiving calls requesting services from architects, general contractors, roofing contractors, etc.  Mark’s experience has led him to photograph schools, apartment complexes, construction sites, roof damage in south Louisiana from the recent hurricanes and even a state prison! 

MW Estimating & Project Services, as well as his SKYEWALKERimages division, provides services for architects, residential contractors, oil and gas, roofers, insurance claims, and continuously adding services to other industries as the demand arises. 

The demand for drone photography/video has led Mark to invest in a second drone as well as looking to add a second pilot in the near future. Because of his willingness and diligence to take a chance on a new and innovative arm of his business, Mark says MW Estimating & Project Services is fast becoming the premiere drone service provider in the Ark-La-Tex!

INNOVATION NORTH LA: Airline Teacher Tapped for National Cybersecurity Committee

Airline High School teacher Billy Neill knows his stuff when it comes to cyber science and robotics. Now, his knowledge has been tapped as a member of a national committee focused on developing new K-12 cybersecurity learning standards to be used in schools across America.

Neill is one of 30 educators representing 22 states who served as a content specialist on a committee focused on writing cyber curriculum. The groups collaborated virtually October 27-29. Once complete, the standards will help ensure students not only have a foundational understanding of cybersecurity, but also the skills and knowledge needed to pursue cybersecurity careers in greater numbers.

Supported by government agencies such as the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education, Neill and fellow educators were broken into three sub-committees based on their expertise. He was on the high school team.


Growing a stronger cyber and tech workforce is the ultimate goal and Neill has been doing his part through robotics and cyber literacy classes at Airline. Bossier Schools places a strong emphasis district-wide on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), in partnership with Cyber Innovation Center.

According to Cyber.org, the academic initiative of the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier, current demand for cybersecurity talent is outpacing the supply. It is projected by 2022 that 1.8 million cyber jobs will be unfilled.

INNOVATION NORTH LA: Gov. Edwards Announces Technology Agreement With LSU Shreveport

LED grant of $1.2 million will match $2 million from LSUS to grow technology careers

SHREVEPORT, La. — On Nov. 10, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Chancellor Larry Clark of Louisiana State University Shreveport announced a more than $3 million agreement to advance student careers in technology. Louisiana Economic Development will contribute $1.2 million and LSUS will contribute $2 million through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement to build a next-generation learning environment, one that advances technology through all degree programs at the fastest-growing university in the state.

The CEA follows an additional investment of $750,000 by LSUS to create a Design-Thinking Lab and a 10,000-square-foot Cyber Collaboratory, which was dedicated at today’s announcement and is central to the technology agreement. Through these creative learning spaces, LSUS students will build skills in high-demand careers, support K-12 students and teachers, and also collaborate with industry on solving real-world problems.

“Our administration is committed to ensuring that all our young people have ample access to the tools, programs and training needed to compete in today’s marketplace,” Gov. Edwards said. “I am proud to have worked with both LSU Shreveport and LED to create this opportunity, and to further strengthen the success of the I-20 Cyber Corridor. Under his leadership, Chancellor Clark has placed LSU Shreveport on a path of sustained growth and excellence, and this agreement is the latest initiative to foster growth at the university.”

The CEA covers four years through the 2023-24 academic year, and comes after LSUS welcomed a record 9,995 students to the university for the Fall 2020 semester. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, LSUS posted a 16 percent enrollment increase over Fall 2019, making it the fastest-growing college in Louisiana. The technology agreement will expand STEM academic curricula – such as computer science, analytics, data visualization and cyber systems – and target a 70 percent increase in freshman-application interest for those programs.

“LSUS thanks Governor John Bel Edwards and LED for the opportunity to partner with LED in its continuing efforts to strategically develop a globally competitive workforce and help build the economies within Louisiana, especially here in North Louisiana,” Chancellor Clark said. “We look forward to sharing best practices that we will develop with industry partners and other colleges and universities of North Louisiana.”

“A multidisciplinary faculty committee is already at work, focused on curricular changes to help prepare all LSUS students to be successful in the 21st century workforce,” said LSUS Vice Chancellor Julie Lessiter, who leads strategic initiatives for the university. “This includes the infusion of new concepts into General Education and strengthening cutting-edge disciplinary fields of importance to Northwest Louisiana.”

LED FastStart®, the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program, will lead the CEA with LSUS. FastStart will combine the capabilities of LSUS and its relationships with regional higher education peers to advance student success in software, information technology and related science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Those peers include Grambling State University, which received a similar LED grant in 2019; Louisiana Tech University; the University of Louisiana at Monroe; Northwestern State University; Southern University at Shreveport; Louisiana Delta Community College; and Bossier Parish Community College.

Through the CEA, LSUS and LED FastStart will develop enhanced academic programs in technology-driven fields. LSUS will hire faculty members with strengths in design-thinking and data visualization; expand professional development opportunities for faculty in technology integration; hire a STEM admissions counselor to recruit students for high-demand careers; increase scholarships for those high-demand fields; and hire an academic coach in the LSUS Student Success Center to improve student performance.

LSUS also will offer training certificates in these high-demand careers that could range from data analytics, data visualization and artificial intelligence to cloud enterprise, geographic information systems, innovative communications and cyberoperations.

“We are excited to have this $3.2 million investment infused into LSUS,” Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins said. “This will go a long way in building the technology talent in our city that can help us attract tech companies to this market. This partnership with Gov. Edwards and Chancellor Clark is a great example of what is possible when we all work together.”

The LSUS technology agreement is the latest in a series of milestones along the I-20 Cyber Corridor in North Louisiana. Highlights include establishment of Louisiana’s first Tier III data center, the EATEL Business Data Center in Shreveport; the National Governors Association biennial cybersecurity conference in Shreveport led by Gov. Edwards in May 2019; groundbreaking that same month for the $71.8 million Barksdale Air Force Base access project at I-20 and I-220, which will provide a direct link to the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park; and establishment of the Northwest Louisiana Cybersecurity Council in July 2019.

In October 2019, Gov. Edwards announced funding for a new $15 million Tech Pointe II commercial building on Louisiana Tech’s Enterprise Campus that is projected to generate 750 new jobs over the next decade. In November 2019, he announced a $10 million headquarters facility for the Louisiana Tech Research Institute at the National Cyber Research Park, with an additional $1 million from LED for every $3 million in federal and private research attracted in each of the next three years.

Other I-20 Cyber Corridor milestones include the growth of General Dynamics Information Technology employment to more than 1,000 at the National Cyber Research Park and other locations; and the April 2019 announcement that Fortune 500 CenturyLink will retain its headquarters in Monroe through 2025. During the past decade, the State of Louisiana has funded more than $300 million in STEM investments linking economic development project wins with higher education facilities and instruction. Those STEM investments are producing more than 20,000 new technology jobs in Louisiana.

About LSU Shreveport
Founded in 1967, Louisiana State University Shreveport offers a wide array of nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral degree. Enrollment at the university for Fall 2020 reached 9,995 students, an increase of 16 percent over the prior year. The university’s mission is to educate a diverse population of graduate and undergraduate students; engage in regional and global thought leadership through community collaboration and service; and innovate to enhance the application of knowledge and intellectual discovery through faculty and student research and creative endeavors. For more information, visit LSUS.edu.

About LED
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant Louisiana economy. LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana, and promotes business opportunity for employers of all sizes. In 2019, LED attracted more than 80 new economic development projects representing 12,300 new jobs, 15,500 retained jobs and over $8.4 billion in new capital investment. LED’s Small Business Services team, in partnership with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, assisted more than 10,700 Louisiana small businesses and entrepreneurs in 2019. For more information, visit OpportunityLouisiana.com.

Small Business Training Week from the Northwest Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center

Small Business Training Week – Government Contracting for Beginners
Held via Zoom meeting
>> Nov 30 @ 9 am – 10:30 am
Topics: The PTAC program, procurement basics, common terminology, required registrations, and websites of where to locate opportunities
Website: https://zoom.us
Meeting ID: 989 8537 5767
Passcode: 110827

Small Business Training Week – Small Business Certifications for Set-Asides
Held via Zoom meeting
>> Dec 1 @ 9 am – 10:30 am
Topics: Purchasing agencies set-asides some projects for certain groups. Find out how and where to certify your business as veteran-, minority-, woman-, or disadvantaged small business to take advantage of these opportunities.
Website: https://zoom.us
Meeting ID: 925 7818 0020
Passcode: 639630

Small Business Training Week – Marketing Your Business to Government Agencies
Held via Zoom meeting
>> Dec 2 @ 9 am – 10:30 am
Topics: Government lingo, acquisition procedures, market research, marketing materials (capabilities statements, business cards, website, etc.), successful marketing strategies, DSBS, and more
Website: https://zoom.us
Meeting ID: 943 2026 9093
Passcode: 904138

Small Business Training Week – Doing Business with Barksdale AFB
Held via Zoom meeting
>> Dec 3 @ 9 am – 10:30 am
Topics: Doing business with Barksdale AFB, current goals, the GPC Program, Section 889 requirements, and an open Q&A discussion with Marla Poirier, GS-14, DAF Director of Business Operations, 2d Contracting Squadron
Website: https://zoom.us
Meeting ID: 957 4377 6560
Passcode: 3011407