Cultivating Success: How State Programs Are Giving A Big Boost To Louisiana Small Businesses

Source: Louisiana Economic Quarterly

With an eye on the future, Louisiana Economic Development sees great potential in small businesses seeking sustainability and aggressive growth. LED’s Small Business Services team supports these entrepreneurs through a range of initiatives that assist with procurement, one-on-one business support, peer-to-peer learning, marketing, research, accounting, legal and more. The programs are designed to work together as a continuum—providing the right resources at the right time whenever a small business owner needs them.

Services for small businesses continue to evolve to meet additional needs, as evidenced by two new programs in 2017. Developed through a partnership of LED, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the Louisiana National Guard, the Louisiana Business & Technology Center and LSU Executive Education, the Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program enables service members leaving the military to gain intensive training in topics that outline the critical steps to start, operate, fund and launch a business. LVEP also gives veterans the tools needed to develop their business ideas. The first group successfully completed the program in 2017 and the second began in January 2018.

Former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer and recent LVEP participant Caroline Kenelly Herschbach is in the midst of planning a family-oriented food truck park.

“Before LVEP, I had no idea on how to start my own business. LED helped me with financing, brought in investors and provided insight into laws, taxes and essentially how to create a business here in Louisiana.” – Caroline Kenelly Hershbach, Former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer and recent LVEP participant.

U.S. Coast Guard vet Stephen Nutting founded The Warehouse in 2016—a co-working space with over 70 members. Nutting joined the LVEP last year when he decided to open a restaurant inside the space.

“While I was successful with The Warehouse, opening a restaurant was a bit more complex and there were definitely a few blind spots,” said Nutting. “LVEP brought in some talented people and subject matter experts who have been extremely helpful.”

Louisiana’s Small Business Services team strives to assist growing businesses as they evolve. With that goal in sight, the LED Growth Network was born in 2017 to bolster existing programs, such as Economic Gardening and CEO Roundtables, with additional support. The LED Growth Network Alumni Group enables graduates of these programs to continue accessing resources and networking with one another.

By nurturing these companies and providing CEOs with the tools they need to reach the next level, the programs cover such topics as cybersecurity, regulatory changes and growth into new markets. The Alumni Group continues adding members, creating new jobs and positioning itself as a vital part of Louisiana’s economic engine.

Proof of Louisiana’s success came in late 2017 when two prominent organizations recognized LED’s small business efforts. The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies presented the Louisiana Contractors Accreditation Institute with a national Innovation in Regulation Award, highlighting the institute’s achievements in supporting the success of small construction companies in Louisiana and the collaboration between the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and LED.

In addition, Thumbtack awarded Louisiana a grade of A+ in its 2017 report card on small business friendliness, ranking the state No. 4 in the U.S. for its supportive small business environment. This ranking represents a 13-point gain from Louisiana’s No. 17 ranking in 2016. Louisiana earned an A in eight specific categories of the state’s small business climate and a grade of B in four other categories. The grades are part of an annual survey of small businesses throughout the United States conducted by Thumbtack.