Healthy economy, people guide Foundation's work
Research shows a strong tie between a vibrant economy and the health of a community. Populations with the highest poverty rates and lowest education levels suffer the worst health problems.
People with higher incomes have better access to medical care. They can afford better housing, live in safer neighborhoods and have the means to engage in healthy behaviors. Community members who achieve these goals are, on average, in much better health than those unable to do so.
“Because a vibrant economy and a healthy community are tied so closely, the Foundation dedicates 25 percent of its funding to improving the economic environment in Central Louisiana,” said Joe Rosier, CEO and president of The Rapides Foundation. “Building a more prosperous Central Louisiana means concentrating on business startups and expansions; workforce skills and development; and business culture and environment.”
In 2001 The Rapides Foundation began awarding grant dollars to deliver employee training programs and build technical knowledge in Central Louisiana. This Workforce Development Initiative showed great benefit in preserving and advancing workers’ careers while making businesses more efficient and viable.
Then, in April 2003, the Foundation was approached by community leaders who wanted to enhance economic development in the region. That led to the eventual formation of Cenla Advantage Partnership, a private regional nonprofit economic development organization, which now drives the Foundation’s work in economic development.
CEO Jim Clinton is excited about CAP’s opportunity to impact the economies of all communities in Central Louisiana. “We are committed to serving the entire region,” Clinton said. “Sure it is easier to focus just on the larger areas, but we are making a concerted effort to go into the other parishes.”
In the past year since Clinton became CEO, the nonprofit has been busy creating a conversation around workforce development. With The Rapides Foundation, CAP commissioned a study showing the need for a community college in Central Louisiana. The Foundation and CAP are working with state players for long-term commitments, but in the interim are looking for community college-type training opportunities.
“Even if we don’t have the place, that doesn’t mean we can’t do the work,” Clinton said.
Other areas where The Rapides Foundation and CAP are exploring include bringing an intermodal transportation center to the area, seeking federal stimulus money for broadband expansion to rural areas in Central Louisiana, continuing to cultivate local entrepreneurs and promoting an online business community at Cenla.org.
ELS builds pipeline of entrepreneurs
CAP’s goal is to change and grow Cenla, one entrepreneur at a time. It does this through the Entrepreneurial League System® of Central Louisiana.
The program is built on the concept of creating a pipeline of entrepreneurs with identifiable skill sets at each stage of development. ELS organizes entrepreneurs into leagues named after those in minor league baseball. Based exclusively on demonstrated skills, an entrepreneur is placed on a rookie, class A, AA or AAA team. Each team is assigned a coach whose particular skills and strengths are a match for the entrepreneurs in that league.
With 72 entrepreneurs on six teams, the current set of businesses has about $60 million in annual revenue and more than 630 employees. The growth increase from one level of the leagues to the next can be exponential. Experience shows that Class A entrepreneurs earn from 3 to 10 times as much as rookies, and Class AA entrepreneurs earn 3 to 10 times as much as those in Class A.
Local entrepreneur Gary Perkins serves as general manager of ELS. League coaches are Keith Rabalais, Jim Hurst, Mark Cazes, Felix Mathews, Skip Barth and Jim Redman.
The response from entrepreneurs has been remarkable. Tranell Green of Baskets Galore Floral Design said, “ELS is one of the best things to happen to Central Louisiana.” She says that having an ELS coach is like having a university that comes to her every week.
Chad Luneau of Echo Powerline said, “ELS provides a platform to share ideas and discuss solutions. An entrepreneur can ask his or her coach questions he couldn’t ask anyone else.”
David Hall of Monk’s Tractor Parts said, “I receive additional insight to help me think about my decisions. This input helps me avoid making new mistakes or eliminates making the same ones over again.”
CAP is now adding more entrepreneurship training opportunities to the mix so that it can touch more potential entrepreneurs in Cenla. Along with other service providers, CAP held an Entrepreneur’s Resource Fair earlier this year which drew more than 140 participants. CAP also launched an evening course called “Entrepreneurship 101” and is working on follow-up courses.
For more information, contact CAP at 318.767.3016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cenla.org provides knowledge, tools, leadership
Cenla.org is the new web platform of Cenla Advantage Partnership. It is designed to provide access to knowledge, tools and leadership to help build a more prosperous Central Louisiana.
The site features information and links on entrepreneurship, workforce development, infrastructure and many other subjects. It is designed to encourage participation in an ongoing series of web conversations on the future of the region, said Jim Clinton, CAP’s chief executive officer.
Cenla.org features CenlaDaily, a resource for news, analysis, commentary and dialogue. CenlaDaily is a news aggregator, a source of Cenla-related blogs, and a portal to an array of knowledge resources.
At a Glance: Economic Development Initiative
Goals are to improve economic opportunity and family income in Central Louisiana by focusing on three areas: business startups and expansions; workforce skills and development; and business culture and environment.
Workforce Development Initiative began in 2001.
Cenla Advantage Partnership and Entrepreneurial League System® of Central Louisiana serve as vehicles for this work.
CAP’s interests include building an entrepreneurial community in Central Louisiana; using all available tools to upgrade the knowledge and skills of the Cenla workforce; leveraging the capacity of all Cenla organizations playing active roles in economic development to achieve higher levels of collaboration and synergy; and creating and marketing a regional identity for Central Louisiana that is based on the region’s assets, capabilities and aspirations.