The Idea Village will receive a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist the non-profit in its mission of identifying, supporting and retaining entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said Wednesday.
The award, from the department’s Economic Development Administration, is expected to provide support to more than 300 local businesses, the Commerce Department said. The Idea Village also received Commerce Department grants in 2009 and 2011 totaling $1.2 million.
This year’s grant will be used to expand business assistance and education programs during the Idea Village’s six-month-long “Entrepreneur Season” and to support additional forums, workshops and networking sessions during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Programs geared toward developing technology, biomedical engineering and media production businesses also will be funded through the grant.
Growing an idea into a business “doesn’t just happen.” Pritzker said. “It takes more than a lawyer. It takes more than a business plan. It takes a whole effort. And that’s why Idea Village is such an important concept.”
Pritzker, who was named commerce secretary in June, made the announcement after touring the Idea Village and meeting with local entrepreneurs and business leaders as part of her nationwide “listening tour.” While in town, Pritzker also spoke at the second public meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which she chairs, and participated in a roundtable discussion about doing business in New Orleans.
Pritzker said she was impressed with the wide range of entrepreneurial ideas she came across in New Orleans.
“New Orleans has this breadth of opportunity and, I think, is building upon the creative culture that is native to this area,” Pritzker said.
Idea Village Chief Executive Officer Tim Williamson said some of the award will be used to introduce a wider swath of the local community to his agency and the entrepreneurial community.
“Part of this grant is to expand the platform to allow everyone in New Orleans to have an opportunity to learn how to be an entrepreneur, to start a business and to scale it,” Williamson said.
The Idea Village has assisted more than 3,000 businesses since its creation in 2000, Williamson said.
“The goal now is to expand that and to open it up and to encourage more folks in New Orleans to be engaged in the entrepreneurial movement.”