Editorial: SEED center can blossom in Lake Charles

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.

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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.