LEDA/Opportunity Machine


by Patrick Flanagan

LEDA and AED's outreach-visitation program proves time and again that human connection is good for business.

LEDA and our regional ally, Acadiana Economic Development, work with businesses that run the gamut from single-employee startups to headquarter operations with thousands of employees. We recognize that each of our clients, no matter how big or small, has contributed to the economic success that Lafayette and Acadiana have seen for the past 15-plus years and to the economic stability we've experienced in recent years.

At LEDA and AED, we understand that a large part of a community's economic growth is generated by existing businesses, and maintaining a healthy business environment is a high priority. It is more cost effective to keep a business in the parish and to assist in its growth than to recruit a new one to the area. Because of that, one of the most important services we provide is our Business Outreach and Visitation program. With an annual goal of meeting with decision makers from 550 unique businesses, we have a one-of-a-kind view of Lafayette's business base.

SLCC received $500,000 to pay for faculty salaries and equipment for a new training program for registered nurses, with donations coming from four local hospitals and LEDA. From left are LEDA's Brett Mellington, Lourdes' Bud Barrow, Women's & Children's/Regional Medical Center's Kathy Bobbs, SLCC Dean of Nursing Laurie Fontenot, LGMC's David Callecod and SLCC Chancellor Dr. Natalie Harder.

The Outreach and Visitation Program is designed to build relationships with business leaders and influencers in the region and to encourage an ongoing dialogue with businesses. Building relationships with business leaders and decision makers is a critical function for all members of our organization. The visitation program helps to promote growth of local businesses by identifying development barriers and addressing urgent business needs so companies can remain competitive and profitable in the marketplace and in our community.

Through the program, LEDA and AED work closely with businesses to learn and understand the company's goals and objectives, products and services, and customers and suppliers. Together we identify common issues and address concerns based on your unique business needs and quickly connect you to resources and information.

Rendering of proposed 83,000-square-foot Health and Sciences Building, which SLCC hopes to break ground on in two years.

Ultimately, the goal of the program is to build a better business community by acting on the information we receive from you, our local business leaders. This data will help LEDA and our allies to better understand Acadiana's business environment and guide us as we work together to offer the most comprehensive slate of business services possible.

Through these one-on-one conversations, we often observe trends in the business community as they emerge. In our visitations with several medical providers in the area, we heard repeatedly that the industry had a high demand for registered nurses and many were having trouble meeting those labor demands. Following those initial visitations, LEDA facilitated meetings with representatives from area hospitals and educational institutions to discuss the workforce needs of the facilities. And in mid-August South Louisiana Community College announced the creation of a new registered nursing program at the school. With support from the four major medical facilities in the parish, the program will graduate 60 RNs each year when it reaches full capacity. The program, combined with UL Lafayette's and LSU-E's nursing programs, will go far to alleviate workforce concerns for the Acadiana's health care providers.

Gregg Gothreaux

Because of the relationships we have fostered in the business community through the visitation program, we were able to pull together the community resources to meet the needs of our clients. In addition to the nursing program, we are actively working on projects to address surveyor, machinist and digital media training needs, along with at least a dozen company-specific projects across the parish.

Is a visitation with LEDA or AED right for your company? That's a simple question to answer. Yes.

The Business Retention and Expansion department at LEDA strives to meet with a cross-section of Lafayette's businesses base. Meeting with the parish's largest businesses is a given, but it's the smaller businesses - those that make up the vast majority of our economic base - that we also want to connect with and learn from.

What will you get out of a visitation meeting? That depends on your specific needs. At the least, the visitation will provide you with an overview of LEDA's or AED's services, which include property/site identification, workforce solutions, permit streamlining, industry information, marketing opportunities, networking, and economic programs or incentives. You'll walk away knowing that LEDA and AED are here to assist and make the connections you need to continue your business ventures.

In the second half of 2013, I encourage our business owners and company decision-makers to participate in a visitation with LEDA or AED. Just call Mark Mouton, LEDA's director of business retention and expansion, at 593-1409 to request your visitation. The next issue we work to resolve could have a direct impact on your business.

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