Louisiana Economic Development (LED) Secretary Don Pierson visited Nicholls State University in January as part of his statewide tour promoting the small-business initiatives of Governor John Bel Edwards.
An LED veteran since 2005, the new secretary addressed about 20 attendees of a South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC) strategy meeting hosted at the Harold J. Callais Student Recreation Center.
Pierson told the professionals in attendance, representing government, industry, and economic development entities, that the Bayou Region’s continued success in recruiting, retaining, and expanding small business depends on proper use of the tools available to LED and its constituent organizations.
“We must defend our incentives,” Pierson said. “It is important to understand that this is not corporate welfare. Rather, this is a partnership between the public and private sectors. This is a contract in which a return is expected and enforced. It’s as safe a deal as we can make, and our communities are seeing a lot of return on our investments.”
Pierson said the Edwards administration will not only be open to new economic development ideas, but will also work to reintroduce preexisting programs designed to boost small business, like the bonding assistance program.
“Above all, LED is a resource provider,” Pierson said, “and we need to make sure that small-business interests know we have tools available for their benefit. This is a global competition, and incentives do matter. Let’s keep the dialogue open.”
Vic Lafont, president and chief executive officer of SLEC, echoed Pierson’s assessment.
“The economic strength of our region is SLEC’s top priority,” Lafont said. “I do look forward to working with Secretary Pierson, and I am very excited about the opportunities that our dialogue will open. I also encourage area businesses to dialogue with SLEC, because, as Secretary Pierson said, our toolbox is for their benefit.”
Attendee Kevin P. Belanger, chief executive officer of the South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC), said he is more optimistic about the Bayou Region’s economic future following Pierson’s visit.
“This visit was a very positive step,” Belanger said. “It is critical for us all to get on the same page, to have a meeting of the minds as we work to strengthen our economy.”