MINDEN — An economic development initiative for the City of Minden may become a parish-wide initiative should the Webster Parish Police decide to pony up the money to do so. Minden Mayor Tommy Davis, Tracy Campbell with The Consortium of Minden/Webster and Industrial Development Board Chair Mahala Hutto made a pitch for The Collaboration to the Jury’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday.
“[The Collaboration] is a resource available to entrepreneurs to start up or expand their for-profit enterprise,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the program starts with the Small Business Institute, an intense eight-week program hosted at Northwest Louisiana Technical College. The first class is scheduled for Nov. 28, and is currently open to business startups and expansions within the greater Minden area.
“[The Small Business Institute] is designed to to educate and train would-be entrepreneurs on how to start their own business enterprise,” Campbell said. “It also provides training and educational opportunities to existing businesses.”
Applications must go through an approval process and tuition must be paid by a sponsor for startup businesses. The tuition is $800.
Once the training is completed, the student would possess an individually crafted business plan and be eligible for assistance in the form one-on-one consulting, technical assistance, and loans made by local community banks. These loans would have a 75 percent guarantee from Louisiana Economic Development.
“This makes it more feasible for community banks to loan money for to pay for startups,” Campbell said. The banks participating in the program are MBL Bank, Citizens National Bank, Gibsland Bank and Trust and Richland State Bank.
Campbell said after the initial press conference, there was interest beyond Minden in the Collaboration. “You can not only be a partner in The Collaboration but you can hit help extend The Collaboration beyond the greater Minden area to other parts of the community like Doyline, Sarepta or Springhill,” Campbell said. “As you know we need economic shots in the arm in more communities than just Minden.”
Hutto said in order for The Collaboration to become a parish-wide initiative, it would require a $20,000 investment from the Police Jury. For that money, those starting or expanding businesses anywhere in Webster Parish would have full access to all the benefits of The Collaboration.
“Also, The Police Jury would have a parish-wide representative on the board of directors of The Consortium,” Hutto said.
The $20,000 line item from the Police Jury would be split across five expenditures: 50 percent for technical assistance, 25 percent for books and instructional materials, five percent for supplies, ten percent for rent and utilities, and ten percent for professional speakers.
Davis said The Consortium would be in charge of the finances, should the jury decide take part. “None of this money goes to the City,” he said. “The [The Consortium] is a 501c3 and would handle all of it.”
Davis told jurors the city’s investment in economic development need not be duplicated at the parish level. “Why should you pay for something we’ve already paid for? We need to work together.”
Jurors took the proposal under advisement and will revisit the issue during budget talks in coming weeks.