The old adage “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” is used so much in so many contexts that people often argue who said it. Regardless of who coined the phrase, they’re correct. In business, keeping things the same, or simply not fixing what isn’t broke is no way to succeed. Sure, businesses that value tradition above all else are wonderful pieces of Vermilion’s economic puzzle, but unfortunately, with the national, state, and regional economy in continuous flux, there is something to be said for change and growth. To remain competitive, and sometimes just to keep the doors open, it’s important to adapt.

Continuous improvement in small increments can have an impact, but sometimes those changes cost more than a company can afford. Now, don’t believe that television personality with the question marks all over his suit yelling, “Get free money! Secure a grant in minutes!” In the business world, grants are VERY difficult to come by, but opportunities do exist for small businesses in Louisiana to receive certifications, special guarantees, loans, technical assistance and training to take their business to the next level. I’m always surprised to meet with a client and discover that they haven’t taken advantage of any government programs. However, I imagine it’s very easy to get caught up in the everyday of payroll and inventory, sales and customer satisfaction. But, even a basic-level understanding of any of these programs can mean a lot to a small company. Your tax dollars are hard at work to provide the manpower and resources to make small businesses thrive.

Here’s an overview of opportunities that most Vermilion Parish businesses can take advantage of. They each have their own set of rules and eligibility standards, but organizations like ours exist to help you navigate the waters:

Small and Emerging Business Development Program (SEBD) – This program is all about the nuts and bolts of a business. In order for a company to be successful, they must be armed with a well-tooled manager and technical assistance. Small business owners are often great at what they do – making a particular product or providing a specific service – but lack the understanding of how to run a business. SEBD can be used to fill in the gaps. Once a business is certified with the program, an assessment will be conducted to find out just where those opportunities are.

  • Who? One-year+ Louisiana citizens with 51% of a company’s ownership, full-time employment at owned establishment, and a net worth of less than $400,000.
  • What? Developmental assistance, including entrepreneurial training, marketing, computer skills, accounting, business planning, and legal and industry-specific assistance. With its cost-sharing element, businesses can save up to 50% on professional services!

The Small Business Loan Guaranty Program – This program makes it easier for banks and other small business lenders to say “yes” to your project. Whether you need money for expansion or to retain your existing business, these dollars can help. The great thing about this program is that you can use the local lender of your choice and no more than 2 new/retained jobs are required (in some cases it’s only 1 job).

  • Who? Louisiana small business (as defined by the Small Business Administration), owned by a Louisiana resident.
  • What? Guarantees for up to 75% of the loan amount, which are typically between $5,000 and $1.5 million.

Acadiana Planning Commission Revolving Capital Fund – The board that approves these loans is made up of economic developers like me and commercial business bankers who determine the potential success of a given project. The purpose is to foster economic development by helping businesses in their start-up or growth phase. The great part about these funds is that they can be utilized where traditional lending may not be available, due to things like project size or low collateral. Have you had a great project and heard, “We’d love to fund you, but…”? If so, this is your program.

  • Who? Business owners in one of the designated parishes – Vermilion is included – with a bank denial letter and a solid business plan.
  • What? 4% interest on a loan up to $250,000, with flexible terms.

There are many more programs for veterans, woman-owned or minority-owned businesses, those who need a little help, and those that need a lot. The first step is undergoing an interview to figure out what best suits your needs. If you like to do the legwork yourself, try www.louisianaforward.com and click on “Small Business” for more examples. Keeping the momentum going is key – one improvement after another is the formula for sustainable growth and overall success.

Want to explore opportunities for your business? Contact our office at (337) 740-0433 or email us at info@developvermilion.org and we will be happy to assist. Together we can develop Vermilion.