A program aimed at giving entrepreneurs the tools to realize their own business dreams has announced its intentions to expand outside Shreveport-Bossier.
A $1.2 million effort has seen the creation of NorLEAP, expanding the current Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (EAP) from northwest Louisiana to 21 parishes in north Louisiana.
U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) joined local officials from Bossier and Caddo Parishes Friday morning to announce a $600,000 grant to EAP at the Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning.
The Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF), which operates the EAP, will match the grant to complete funding for the expansion.
The grant will result in the creation of the North Louisiana Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (NorLEAP) to provide hands-on, industry-specific guidance for entrepreneurs in growing and building their businesses.
According to BRF, their efforts will save or create more than 200 jobs and generate $15 million in revenue in the first 15 months.
“We discussed how we can innovate and take this (EAP) model and expand it to take on north Louisiana,” said Dave Smith, director of the EAP.
Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) said efforts to improve the national economy are helping initiatives like this one take root.
“We talk a lot about economic policy and drive that conversation the goal of improving economic mobility — people who have the ability to reach the American Dream. The latest job and economic stats show now is the perfect time to invest to create jobs and economic opportunity,” Johnson said. “We want our kids to stay here. And to do that, we’ve got to inspire job creation.”
The beginning of the grant grew out of a 2017 roundtable hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Sen. Cassidy at the Cyber Innovation Center that focused on how to highlight innovation and put north Louisiana on the map.
Sen. Cassidy said NorLEAP is about giving the young workforce an opportunity to reach their goals with next generation jobs inside the state of Louisiana.
“How do we give them a reason to stay here? These parishes (of north Louisiana) will do well in 50 years or not with the people who vote with their feet to stay or leave,” said Sen. Cassidy.
He added that the difference in the ability to change in north Louisiana has been the commitment of local leadership.
“It’s like rain. Without the local leadership, it just washes away,” Sen. Cassidy said. “This is a proof of concept because if we have federal partners and local leadership, we can put this together.”
The announcement was the kick off of the Innovation North Louisiana events scheduled for Nov. 13-15. The events are aimed at highlighting innovative efforts among Shreveport-Bossier’s economic agencies, entrepreneurial incubators, and chambers of commerce to showcase developments in north Louisiana.