Johnson: Innovation North LA expands reach

[Ed.’s Note: This column was originally published in the Oct. 1, 2018 edition of BIZ.]

Last year, the Bossier Innovates Foundation and Bossier Chamber of Commerce, along with regional partners, launched Innovation NWLA. This event helped further growth for our Bossier Innovates Initiative showing that Northwest Louisiana is a region full of opportunities for anyone from entrepreneurs to innovators alike.

Through the Education & Innovation Luncheon we were able to award $7,500 in scholarship monies to nine high school female students expressing an interest in studying a STEM-related field at a college or university. While that shows lots of progress for our region, this year we want to do MORE. That’s why we are expanding our reach to not just Northwest Louisiana, but with North Louisiana as a whole, partnering with other business communities to create a larger reach. Knowing that the I-20 tech corridor encompasses more than just northwest Louisiana, we knew that a name change was necessary.

Now we plan to move forward with our new name as Innovation North LA. The goal is to create an annual event to showcase innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in our region. Each year, our partners – BRF, Cohab, EAP, GBEDF, Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, LA Prize Foundation, NLEP, and Young Professional Initiative – work to curate events that will be centered on highlighting the advancements and opportunities of our area.

But, how does this week benefit the community? The answer is by serving as an educational initiative. The biggest challenge in our region is the knowledge of the local resources we have available as it relates to start-ups, business development, relocation incentives and the like. Innovation North LA is a way to educate the region and in essence build our brand of being a competitive region and hub of innovation.

We are able to educate students, both high school and higher ed, in addition to business community members and elected officials through this event. The Innovation Showcase and Resource Fair was a huge success last year. It was an opportunity for our area to tout its success stories as it relates to home-grown, organic talent. Several entrepreneurs/startup companies were present to share their story and answer questions regarding the successes and challenges of doing business in Bossier-Shreveport.

To keep this momentum going, we’ve decided to make cyber our main focus for Innovation North LA. If cyber is where our future is headed, then that’s where we’re headed, too! We will hear from community leaders on how cyber is changing our current workforce. And we will have a closing event in the newly developed, state of the art East Bank District Festival Plaza.

So, how can YOU get involved? Join us and our regional partners during Innovation North LA in November. Let us know if you have any ideas we should incorporate and get involved. Be on the lookout for events associated with Innovation North LA 2018 and come show your support for innovators of tomorrow.

Lisa Johnson is president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce