By Koran Addo
Capitol news bureau
June 26, 2012
President Barack Obama’s plan to give a boost to businesses looking to expand and a college’s desire to build a comprehensive small-business training center are merging at Southern University.
When fall classes start, Southern students looking to be entrepreneurs should be able to make use of a new Small Business Development Center currently under construction in what used to be an old bookstore.
The Southern University Foundation bought the building for about $300,000 about five years ago.
In the future, a long-abandoned post office next door on Harding Boulevard is slated to become a small business incubator, offering management and leadership training for startups, said Ernie Hughes, the foundation’s vice president for advancement.
A portion of the project’s financing is coming from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The agency has granted funding to its local partner, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, or SBDC.
Tuesday at Southern, SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns walked through the concrete and drywall shell of the old bookstore looking at space where entrepreneurs will get help with planning, starting and managing small businesses.
Although Congress has largely ignored Obama’s so-called “to-do” list of economic initiatives that he says would create jobs, Johns said the agency is still putting some of the president’s ideas to work.
Obama, she said, recognizes that small businesses are responsible for most of the country’s new jobs, and young entrepreneurs often come up with the innovative ideas that turn into successful small businesses.
“Congress needs to act. The president is proposing tax breaks for businesses adding employees and buying new equipment, and giving raises and all of the different things that support economic growth,” Johns said. “This business development center will help entrepreneurs grow and thrive. Small business is where all the jobs are coming from.”
Southern’s Small Business Development Center will include intensive training and guidance from experienced consultants, said Leighton Bryant, senior business consultant with the SBDC.
Donald Andrews, dean of Southern’s College of Business, said the adjacent business incubator will house the principals of a dozen or more startups.
“The purpose is to reduce the odds of their business failing. We will teach them how to walk, how to run and then how to win marathons,” Andrews said.
The two roughly 2,000-square-foot buildings were designed by students at Southern’s School of Architecture.
Jason Lockhart, an assistant professor, said they should be fairly similar brick structures with arched openings, an outdoor patio and a glass entryway connecting the two.
Construction for the two buildings is being handled by Tillage Construction, a Baton Rouge firm co-owned by Southern alumnus Keith Tillage.
“We came in on the front end to help develop this project,” he said. “I went to this school, I grew up two minutes from here. The big deal is to make this project work.”