Dec. 15, 2015 01:35 PM

Get plugged in to an array of services to help your business grow and succeed.

Last month, I wrote about LEDA’s economic impact on Lafayette’s economy and some of our core services— visitation program, site identification and market research. This month I’ll share information about LEDA’s remaining services that contribute to the organization’s more than $1.25 billion impact on Lafayette’s economy.

Workforce is an issue of paramount importance; and we work directly with business to address it. LEDA’s Workforce Development staff provides advisory services regarding funding to offset employee training expenses. We actively promote workforce training programs such as the Incumbent Worker Training Program (IWTP), the Small Business Employee Training Program, LED Fast Start and the On-the-Job-Training Program. These programs can help businesses obtain the skilled workforce necessary for their operation and growth. In FY 2014-15, Acadiana businesses were awarded $1.1 million in Small Business Employee Training awards— the most in the state. Thirty local businesses were awarded more than $4.7 million dollars in Incumbent Worker Training Program grants, also the most in the state.

For 20 years, we’ve hosted the LEDA Job Fair. The 2015 LEDA Job Fair had 111 employers participate and more than 2,700 job seekers attend, making it the largest and most diverse job recruitment event in Louisiana. The 2016 LEDA Job Fair will take place on May 10. LEDA’s Virtual Job Fair (www.lafayette.org/jobs) has become the most popular page on LEDA’s website. New job vacancies from LEDA’s clients — which may be employers who are new to the area, companies in the process of expanding their local operations, or other local businesses seeking qualified employees — are posted almost daily. So far this year, we’ve posted more than 480 jobs on the Virtual Job Fair, at no charge to businesses. These positions range from sales executives to senior managers, custodians to engineers, tour coordinators to mechanics.

The LEDA Resource Center is available for business use at no charge. Conveniently located in the Research Park of UL Lafayette’s University Common, the facility is the perfect location to hold company trainings and seminars or to make a high-level presentation. Our two meeting rooms feature presentation equipment and can accommodate meetings with two to 75 attendees. So far this year, the Resource Center has been used for more than 102 meetings by 37 businesses or organizations with more than 1,800 people in attendance. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette frequently uses LEDA’s meeting rooms for educational seminars. Heidi Melancon, LSBDC director, says, “The rooms are conducive for small or large groups and the technology is leading edge. The staff is always willing to help make LSBDC’s events a success.”

LEDA also offers several educational opportunities throughout the year for business. Nearly 300 business people have attended seminars hosted by LEDA this year on topics including: Workforce Training Programs, Resources for Women-Owned and Minority-Owned Businesses, Manufacturing Opportunities in the Aviation Industry, Resources for Business and the inaugural Intro Lafayette class. Based on positive feedback from the aviation seminar, we are planning a session on quality management for 2016.

Since 2009 the Opportunity Machine, also known as “the OM,” has served Lafayette’s entrepreneurial community. Originally designed as a tech incubation program, the OM has matured to become an entrepreneurial acceleration and incubation center focused on rapidgrowth startups utilizing automation, delegation and omission strategies to achieve their goals. Nearly 50 members have worked with the OM and more than 400 individuals have used OM services this year— including training, networking, mentoring and space. The OM staff worked closely with UL Lafayette’s AcceleRagin (student incubator program), the Acadiana Center for the Arts’ ArtSpark artist stipend program and INNOV8 to provide training and education to more than 200 participants. Within in the past 18 months, OM members have received more than $1.5 million in private and bank funding to further the growth of their businesses.

Earlier this year, CSE ICON announced their expansion and acceleration through the OM program.

“We are grateful for the tireless efforts that LEDA and the OM put forward. Their hard work has made it all the easier for ICON to grow by 100 percent in its first year,” says John Miller, vice president of operations.

Other OM members include Rader Solutions, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Experon, Perficient, Enquero, Envoc, WAITR, College AD, Raconteur Games and Kheiron Safety Solutions — to name a few.

One of the most essential services LEDA offers is serving as an ombudsman for local business. This may include anything from offering general advice to facilitating meetings with government, business or community entities or individuals. In addition to being of benefit to our clients, our ombudsman services also help to alleviate pressure on local elected officials in dealing with concerns or issues of their constituents. Through our visitation program, we assist dozens of companies each year with issues ranging from drainage to zoning to permitting. My goal is to personally assist at least 20 companies each year through ombudsman activities. Most of these are a direct result of LEDA’s Outreach and Visitation Program.

It’s by offering these services to local businesses that LEDA has been able to — and will continue to — substantially contribute to Lafayette’s strategic growth and diversification. As our community maneuvers through difficult economic times in the next year, LEDA will continue to lead the way through innovative collaborations, consensus building and progressive leadership. I encourage each of you to connect with LEDA to find out how we can best work together for a prosperous tomorrow.

Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

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