(August 16, 2013) The $13 million Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development Center is now officially open for business.
The three-story, 52,000 square-foot facility - located at 4310 Ryan St. across from the McNeese State University campus - had its grand opening today (Aug. 16) with several officials addressing the crowd, including Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Southwest Louisiana is the hub for the expanding global energy business. This expansion - combined with the escalating growth of existing petrochemical, aviation, maritime, agriculture, gaming, tourism and timber businesses - is providing unprecedented opportunities for local entrepreneurs and small business owners.
The SEED Center is a partnership between the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the city of Lake Charles and McNeese. Merging existing resources into one facility creates an economical, efficient and effective one-stop shop with the services, technology and experience to capitalize on economic development opportunities for all of Southwest Louisiana.
McNeese furnished 7.67 acres of undeveloped property located across from the main campus and funding for the facility came from the Louisiana Recovery Authority, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the city of Lake Charles. Proceeds from the sale of the Alliance building and a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department through the Economic Development Administration contributed to the cost and made it possible for the $13 million facility to open debt free.
The facility will serve as the central location for economic development for Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis parishes and as a catalyst for the creation, retention and recruiting of businesses and high quality, diversified jobs.
According to George Swift, president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, "Southwest Louisiana is one of the last regions in the state to have a full-sized business incubator and locating the SEED Center on the McNeese campus puts McNeese in the center of economic development and entrepreneurial activities for the region."
McNeese will have a significant presence in the building and Dr. Philip Williams, McNeese president, said the location of the Alliance offices in the SEED Center could make McNeese one of the only universities in the nation with a regional chamber of commerce on its campus. "The collaboration between business and academia is the way Silicon Valley started," Williams said.
But incubating new businesses is only one part of the SEED Center mission. "This will be the heart beat for the McNeese Student Innovation Center," Williams said. McNeese is only one of two universities in the country to offer the innovation curriculum developed by Doug Hall. The minor in innovation is open to all McNeese students.
"Producing graduates who have achieved mastery in a particular content area is critical, but we want to teach them new ways to approach that major. For example, a chemistry major would have the tools to become an innovative chemist. The minor requires coursework in creativity, communication skills and commercialization, which means learning how to develop a raw idea into one that can be commercially viable," said Williams.
The SEED Center will create opportunities for budding entrepreneurial students and faculty researchers who are studying new ways to add value to regional commercial and manufacturing partners, he added.
The facility offers a large meeting room with food preparation and service area, conference rooms and several modular rooms that can be configured to accommodate small- and medium-sized groups, a reception/information center on the first floor, along with classrooms for business and innovation training. Meeting rooms feature audiovisual equipment and the facility is wired for high-speed wireless Internet. Chartwells, the food service vendor for McNeese, will operate the Coffee Café featuring We Proudly Brew from Starbucks off the front lobby area.
The programs and centers located on the first floor include the Southwest Louisiana Business Incubator and Entrepreneurial Center and several McNeese programs and economic development centers, including the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, Institute for Industry-Education Collaboration, the Student Innovation Center and Business Incubation Studio, which is a state-of-the-art center designed to inspire meaningful creativity, encourage student exploration of new frontiers and stimulate economic development, the Student Internship Program, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the Doré School of Graduate Studies and Extended Education.
The Willis Noland Conference Center recognizes the late Lake Charles businessman and community leader Willis Noland whose family donated the former Alliance building on Pujo Street for economic development initiatives. The conference center is designed to serve a variety of business and meeting functions.
The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance is housed on the third floor and includes offices for the Chamber Southwest Louisiana, the Southwest Louisiana Alliance Foundation and the Southwest Louisiana Partnership for Economic Development. These regional economic development organizations, each with its own Board of Directors, have combined resources to strengthen the business recruiting and retention efforts for the five-parish area.
Also on the third floor are the offices SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission, a multi-jurisdictional regional planning and development commission dedicated to serving the five parishes and 18 municipalities in Southwest Louisiana.