A resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners has relocated to a Shreveport-Bossier campus in the hopes of collaborating to better serve workforce and economic development.
The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) Northwest and Central Region office has moved from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches to the campus of Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC).
The office officially opened today, Oct. 1.
“We talk a lot about start ups and entrepreneurs and small businesses, and I really see the greatest growth opportunity is to instill some entrepreneurial spirit in our students. A fair number of our students are just going to have to be entrepreneurs to survive in the 21st century economy,” said BPCC Chancellor Dr. Rick Bateman.
The LSBDC office at BPCC is one of seven throughout the state and will provide free face-to-face business consulting and at cost training on a variety of topics.
The center provides business expertise and resources to existing and start-up small business in the areas of business development, market information and research, business finance, marketing, and training at no cost to clients in 14 parishes.
“Many times, people ask me, ‘Dana how do you help our entrepreneurs?’ and I have to go back to the definition of an entrepreneur — to organize and to operate a business while taking on a greater than normal financial risk,” said Dana Cawthon, director of the LSBDC northwest and central region. “That seems like a simple definition, but nothing about being an entrepreneur is simple. We have to wear many, many hats, and when these future business owners come to us they sometimes lack the vision on how to execute starting their own business. And we are the people that handhold these visionaries through the process of starting and succeeding in the community.”
The LSBDC center will be connected to BPCC’s division of economic and workforce development. It will be a comprehensive, full service organization providing access points to support local start ups and small businesses throughout the parishes of central and northwest Louisiana.
“We look forward to exploring the many ways that this partnership will expand and extend the success of both of our entities as we embrace, educate, and empower small businesses to survive and thrive in our region,” said Dr. Gayle Flowers, BPCC’s vice chancellor for economic and workforce development.
Cawthon said she hopes to marry the effort of Dr. Flowers with her abilities and add value to the clients they’re serving.
“She’s trying to build that workforce development for those companies and making sure they’re trained and have the right skill set, and I’m trying to make them more profitable in valuing their business or helping that business owner,” Cawthon explained. “A lot of people that come to us have a skill, but they don’t have the management and leadership skills, so we offer that leg of support to where business owners can stop working in their business and work on their business.”
Dr. Bateman described the office as a new component in their menu of services designed to foster job growth and innovation.
“I am confident that, together, we’ll be an incredible asset to the community, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in our service area. Supporting job creation and economic development is not new to Bossier Parish Community College, but this partnership with the LSBDC will advance our efforts to create an ecosystem that embraces, instills, and inspires entrepreneurship by creating a flow of talent, information and resources to the entrepreneurs as they need it.”
Dr. Bateman said they are working on collaborating with big goals in mind.
“We are doing a lot in economic and workforce development, but having this additional arm that focuses on small businesses is going to strengthen what we’re doing there and I think that what we’re doing will strengthen LSBDC as well. I think there is good synergy there,” he said.
The process of getting the LSBDC regional office at BPCC was a lengthy one. The SBDC moved its state headquarters from the University of Monroe to the Louisiana Delta Community College, which introduced the office to community colleges and vice versa. Typically housed at universities, Dr. Bateman pointed out that SBDC offices around the country are migrating to two-year community colleges.
“There was a desire and openness from the leadership at Northwestern for this move. Collaborating with Dr. Maggio and Dana to see the potential and the strength in our economic and workforce development community, it seemed to be a natural fit,” said Dr. Bateman.
The move has been in the works for two years because Shreveport-Bossier is the biggest market in the LSBDC’s region and, perhaps more importantly, demand.
“Two years ago, when I was looking at my program, I soon found out that I really did need to be up here and I needed to find a host here, and it took me almost two years to find one. Everybody wanted us to be here — Centenary, LSUS, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern Technical College — and was a better fit here in Bossier Parish, not only because it’s Bossier Parish Community College, but because of Dr. Bateman and Dr. Flowers. That’s what sold me on it.”