This multimillion-dollar grant comes from the Louisiana Office of Community Development, as it is a part of their Block Grant CARES Act Program (CDBG-CV). The awarded funds will be put towards a Bayou Region Incubator that will give local entrepreneurs access to business consultations, various training opportunities, technical assistance, and funding opportunities. The incubator will also bring in multiple guest speakers to Nicholls’ campus, organize entrepreneurial pitch competitions, provide professional development opportunities, and host a variety of entrepreneurial workshops.
Executive director of the Bayou Region Incubator, Kevin Pitts, commented on the vital need for such an establishment for growing businesses, saying “as these businesses grow, they will create more jobs and contribute their fair share of taxes. All of this will help the local economy. While some businesses will focus on coastal dynamics, we will work with a diverse variety of businesses. These will be businesses that the Bayou Region can be proud of.”
The incubator identifies some of its primary objectives as enhancing a sense of resilience for entrepreneurs in a post-COVID-19 landscape by diversifying the surrounding, local economy and developing multiple strategies for businesses to adapt to. Some of these strategies will be used to respond to new economic trends that may emerge and other imaginable, unexpected challenges. In addition to these pragmatic objectives, the incubator also plans to organize several programs for minority-owned and women-owned businesses and to generally support business development and the creation of jobs in communities with low and moderate levels of income.
When the funding for the project was initially announced, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards emphasized the focus on economic recovery in the wake of a worldwide pandemic as a reason as to why the state is supporting such an initiative. Out of the total $3.5 million, $2.6 million will be used to construct the nearly 8,000 square foot facility this fall, and the remaining $900,000 will contribute to operating expenses.
Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune said of the grant, “this grant will cement Nicholls State University as the economic heart of the Bayou Region. We expect the Bayou Region Incubator will produce everything from coastal solutions to innovative ideas in technology, healthcare, and more. Rebuilding our coast is more than physical land. It’s rebuilding the quality of life. And the Bayou Region Incubator will sprout businesses and generate jobs that will only augment the unique character of South Louisiana.”
The building, which will be located on the same “footprint” as Nicholls’ future Coastal Center on the corner of Acadia and Ardoyne Drive, will house collaborative workspaces, private offices, and a multifunctional conference room. All of the facilities within the incubator will be accessible by participating small businesses. At the conclusion of this 2-year grant, the Bayou Region Incubator will transition into a self-managed nonprofit.
The dean of Nicholls’ College of Business Administration, Dr. Marilyn Macik-Frey, said of the future facility, “this facility will be a place for entrepreneurs to access training, mentoring and space to make their dreams of a successful business come true. Helping ideas grow into viable businesses benefits the entire region through economic diversification and job creation. We are especially excited that the incubator will be on the campus. Students and faculty will have a resource in their backyard that allows them to transition research and creative ideas into viable businesses.”
With this new Incubator being housed on the campus of Nicholls, small businesses in the Bayou Region will be set up with the facilities, resources, and expertise needed to be successful and innovative in the competitive entrepreneurial landscape of not just South Louisiana, but the world at large.
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