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HAMMOND -- When Southeastern Louisiana University opened its off-campus business center 10 years ago, the event represented a first-of-its kind economic development initiative in the state.
The Southeast Louisiana Business Center, located near the campus at 1514 Martens Drive, brought together elements of the university, the private sector and government and economic development agencies in a coordination of efforts designed to facilitate economic development in the five-parish region comprised of Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
"We launched this unique initiative with the intent of helping to strengthen the future of our region," said Southeastern President John L. Crain at the Hammond Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday (Oct. 31).
The luncheon served as an opportune time to highlight the center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Crain said in 2002 the university determined it had an important role to play in assisting with the economic development of the region. In obtaining permission from the state to sell a parcel of surplus land near the airport, the university committed to use the proceeds to benefit economic development.
"That investment has paid off handsomely," Crain said.
He thanked the economic development agencies, chambers of commerce, municipalities and dozens of other partners who he said have contributed to the economic development successes across the region and the success of the Business Center.
Noting that the center operates largely through grant funds, Crain said, "We would not have achieved the success we have without the strong support and shared vision of others who saw the potential strengths of building this one-stop shop for economic development," he added. "The Business Center has exceeded our expectations in all areas."
Director William Joubert said since its opening in 2003, the Business Center has aided 5,793 clients, assisted 256 businesses in their start-ups, helped create more than 2,800 jobs, and worked with clients to secure more than $342 million in capitalization funds. In addition, the center has received 10,000 visitors, handled over 31,000 calls, and provided business-related training for more than 12,000 participants.
Southeastern units operating in the Business Center include the grant-funded Louisiana Small Business Development Center, which provides programming for area businesses and direct one-on-one consulting to clients; the Business Research Center, which collects and publishes area economic and labor data and conducts feasibility and other business-related studies; and a business incubator that houses small startup businesses and provides them with the support they need to become established firms.
"Our plan from the start was to develop a one-stop shop for businesses looking to locate or expand in our region," Joubert said. "We have tried to take a strong retail approach by providing a single point of contact for business to access the resources of the university and our partners."
Joubert noted the center has been honored with numerous awards over its 10-year existence, including recognition in 2012 of the LSBDC as one of the top 10 in the nation by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Service Excellence and Innovation awards in 2010 and 2012 by the governor and Louisiana Economic Development. In addition, several staff members have been recognized with LED's Big Deal Award, State Consulting Award, Five Million Dollar Club and Jobs Generator Award.