Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards highlighted international recognition for Louisiana Economic Development’s Small Business Services team, which earned the Gold Award for Excellence in Economic Development from the International Economic Development Council recently.
IEDC presented LED Secretary Don Pierson, LED Assistant Secretary Mandi Mitchell, LED Small Business Services Director Stephanie Hartman and the department’s Small Business Services team with the Gold Award at a Tuesday awards ceremony during the 2019 IEDC Annual Conference in Indianapolis. The IEDC Gold Award recognizes Louisiana for delivering the world’s best economic development programs in entrepreneurship within IEDC’s largest population category (more than 500,000).
“From our recent Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative, which promotes doing business with our veteran-owned firms, to innovative training in our Small and Emerging Business Development Program, and market-driven tools in the LED Growth Network, our program offerings are extraordinary,” Gov. Edwards said. “Not only are we helping Louisiana’s small businesses be more successful, we are positioning them to help all of our industries become more productive. I am proud that LED has answered my charge to create greater value for Louisiana’s small businesses, and that we have been recognized for the best entrepreneurship practices in the world.”
During 2018, LED Small Business Services programs, including its partnership with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Network, served more than 11,000 businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2017, the department created the LED Growth Network, which has been hailed as a national model for entrepreneurship by the Edward Lowe Foundation. So far, the LED Growth Network has assisted 353 firms in their second stage of growth, with those firms representing more than 13,000 employees and a combined $2.7 billion in annual revenue. The network’s Economic Gardening Initiative and CEO Roundtables have spurred the creation of 3,265 new small business jobs and $338 million in new annual revenue for those firms.
“What a tremendous honor for Louisiana,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “It’s our privilege to serve Louisiana’s small business community every day, and many of our best ideas and successful programs come from our Small Business Services team brainstorming with businesses, chambers, economic development organizations, elected officials and other peers. Governor Edwards and the Legislature are our biggest champions, because they know that small business is big business in Louisiana. I’m convinced the future holds even greater things in store for Louisiana’s small businesses.”
LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program, or SEBD, provides technical and managerial assistance to Louisiana small businesses. Certified firms may secure strategic help for up to 10 years from over 20 training organizations. The program includes current participation of 6,608 certified firms, helping Louisiana SEBD participants experience a two-year survival rate that exceeds the national average by 19 percent.
“The programs have been instrumental in helping focus on long-term growth strategies that have certainly paid off,” said business owner Byron Stephens, whose Broussard, Louisiana, firm Step-Ko Products helps customers in 40 countries protect sensitive equipment from corrosion. SEBD and LED’s Economic Gardening Initiative helped Step-Ko double sales and add 11 full-time jobs.
Quality First Marine of Madisonville, Louisiana, participated in LED’s CEO Roundtables and Economic Gardening programs, which helped drive company revenue up 157 percent and create 15 new jobs. JESCO Environmental & Geotechnical Services of Jennings, Louisiana, became certified in LED’s Hudson and Veteran initiatives, state procurement programs that provide certified firms with a bonus of 10 percentage points during evaluations on state purchasing and contract bids.
“The Hudson Initiative has proven to be the most significant program for growth in our business,” said Alvinette Teal, JESCO principal in charge.
With greater emphasis on supporting Louisiana small business growth, the Hudson and Veteran initiatives increased the volume of state contract businesses to certified firms by 40 percent, climbing from $27 million in 2017 to $38 million in 2018. LED Small Business Services is providing other innovative programs for small business construction firms.
Begun in 2016, the Louisiana Contractors Accreditation Institute, or LCAI, has produced 861 graduates statewide who trained for state contractor exams while building a better foundation in the construction industry. In 2017, the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies presented its biennial Innovation in Regulation Award to LCAI, which includes distance-learning technology and is administered by LED, the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Since 2016, LED’s Bonding Assistance Program has provided $1.5 million in bond guarantees that leveraged $13.2 million in contracts that are expanding the capabilities of construction firms.
LED’s small business innovation mirrors the state’s workforce gains, said Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers.
“For more than a decade, LED has led the field in establishing the best practices for workforce development,” Rogers said. “LED’s FastStart is the gold standard for workforce training programs, but Louisiana’s expertise is not reserved for the largest and most lucrative industrial projects. LED’s Small Business Services suite brings top-flight entrepreneurial know-how to an innovation ecosystem that gives business startups the staying power for long-term success.”
The value, diversity and substance of Louisiana programs struck IEDC officials who judged LED’s Small Business Services as a best-in-class entrepreneurship model on a global stage.
“Small businesses stimulate job creation, develop crucial innovations, and promote a diverse economic base,” said IEDC CEO Jeff Finkle, CEcD. “We are pleased to recognize Louisiana Economic Development for their efforts in supporting entrepreneurship through innovative programs and focused initiatives that nurture and provide critical assistance to small businesses.”