(Michael Cooper / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, August 19, 2013 5:15 PM Last week’s opening of the Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development Center marked a milestone in this area’s economic development push.
The $13 million SEED Center, located on the banks of Contraband Bayou across from McNeese State University, was once a dream. Now a reality, it’s geared to make other business dreams come true.
The 50,000-square-foot, three-story building will house business incubator sites, McNeese’s Small Business Development Center, The Chamber Southwest Alliance, the state Workforce Investment Board and the H.C. Drew Center for Economic Development Information Services. It will offer one-stop shopping and nurturing for entrepreneurs yearning to start their own business.
The SEED Center owes much of its birth to a laudable collaboration between federal, state and local government, McNeese, The Chamber, and private business.
McNeese furnished more than seven acres for the site. The state of Louisiana provided $7 million via a Community Development Block Grant. It was combined with $4 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce/Economic Development Center. The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance contributed $1 million and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and City of Lake Charles chipped in $500,000 each. With the sale of the previous Alliance building, the SEED Center was able to open debt free.
‘‘At the end of the day, we’re all in this together,’’ said Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, who has long advocated regionalism as a vital component in economic development. ‘‘This is what this building represents.’’
It also offers hope for fledgling businesses. According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the highest rate of failure for news businesses occur within the first two years of start-up.
That underscores Alan Lakein’s observation that ‘‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’’ Start-up businesses fail for a myriad of reasons: lack of capital, no business plan, cash flow issues, poor evaluation of the market, bad execution and little or no marketing.
Now, entrepreneurs that take advantage of the SEED Center’s resources can find valuable advice from experts right down the hall or on the next floor.
The Center also benefits for McNeese. University President Dr. Philip Williams notes McNeese is now one of the few universities in the nation with a regional chamber of commerce on its campus.
According to a news release from the university, McNeese is one of only two universities in the country that now offers an innovation curriculum in Engineering. The innovation curriculum will be applied to other studies.
“Producing graduates who have achieved mastery in a particular content area is critical, but we want to teach them new ways to approach that major. For example, a chemistry major would have the tools to become an innovative chemist. The minor requires coursework in creativity, communication skills and commercialization, which means learning how to develop a raw idea into one that can be commercially viable,” said Williams.
The unprecedented coming expansion in Southwest Louisiana’s petro-chemical industry will provide small businesses opportunities to service those industries. The potential is not limited, however, to one field. There will be additional opportunities in our area’s mainstays of agriculture, timber, tourism and maritime along with relative newcomers like aviation and gaming.
The SEED Center is undeniable testimony that if you can dream it in Southwest Louisiana, it can become a reality. It should further the development and diversification of Southwest Louisiana’s churning economy.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.