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LSU's Louisiana Business & Technology Center mobile classroom visits more than 30 communities annually and, since its inception in September 2005, has assisted more than 1,500 entrepreneurs and business owners.
Video: The classroom on the move. [mov]
Video: John Barnidge, CEO of Controlled Recovery, Inc. and a member of the Dean's Advisory Council, describes the classroom's impact. [mov]

Banner Year for LSU’s Louisiana Business & Technology Center

From celebrating its 20-year anniversary to winning numerous national and international awards, it has been a banner year for the Louisiana Business & Technology Center, or LBTC, an integral part of the E. J. Ourso College of Business at LSU.

“It is exciting to receive these competitive national awards, which validate the program as an effective way to reach small businesses and entrepreneurs, thus moving them more quickly into the commercialization process,” LBTC Executive Director Charles D’Agostino said. “These LBTC programs are invaluable to meeting the economic development mission of the university.”

In November, LBTC, founded in 1988 under a joint venture agreement among LSU, the Greater Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority, celebrated 20 years of assisting entrepreneurs and small business. Since its inception, the center has focused on providing services to Louisiana’s businesses and entrepreneurs such as small business incubation services; management assistance and small business counseling services; technology transfer and commercialization assistance; financial analysis in preparation for access to capital; entrepreneurial educational training; and referral to fee-based professional and advisor resources.

Within LBTC, one of the most successful endeavors has been the mobile classroom, a retrofitted semi-trailer designed to host seminars and workshops for small business owners. The mobile classroom, the face of LBTC’s Driving Louisiana’s Economy initiative, has been praised by organizations both nationally and internationally for reaching out to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Louisiana and providing access to the resources, infrastructure and expertise needed to grow and sustain long-term success.

“This program brings business counseling and support services to entrepreneurs and small businesses to foster economic growth and development,” D’Agostino said. “Our rural communities are losing population and business opportunities, and this program is designed to reinvigorate those local economies with new job creation.”

The mobile classroom travels across Louisiana to rural parishes to present various programs including leadership development seminars, small business workshops on a variety of topics, women and minority business forums, entrepreneurship training, business planning and marketing workshops, access to capital workshops and Small Business Innovation Research grant seminars.

The mobile classroom visits more than 30 communities annually and, since its inception in September 2005, has assisted more than 1,500 entrepreneurs and business owners. In 2009, the mobile classroom has visited parishes across Louisiana such as Desoto, Claiborne, LaSalle, Jefferson Davis and Union, to name a few. 

In October, the U. S. Department of Agriculture presented $145,000 to LBTC for its mobile classroom program under its Rural Development Grant Award. In that same month, the mobile classroom won an award in the entrepreneurship category of the 2008 International Economic Development Council Excellence in Economic Development Awards.

More recently, the mobile classroom was recognized with the National Business Incubation Association’s 2009 Incubator Innovation Award, honoring the business incubation programs, graduates and client companies that exemplify the best of the industry. But the accolades didn’t stop there.

LBTC’s banner year continued when the mobile classroom program received the Economic Development Administration’s 2009 Excellence in Rural Economic Development Award. LBTC’s mobile classroom was deemed the most deserving by a distinguished panel of economic development practitioners, academics and government representatives.

“The Louisiana Business & Technology Center represents the best and brightest in 21st-century economic development,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a news release. “Excellence Award winners exemplify the importance of supporting regional strategies to ensure American communities succeed in the global marketplace and create higher-skill, higher-wage jobs.”

The Economic Development Administration’s 2009 Excellence in Rural Economic Development Award also garnered praise from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

“The Louisiana Business & Technology Center is well deserving of this Department of Commerce award,” Landrieu said in a news release. “During my visit to the center last year, I saw first-hand the impact LBTC and its mobile classroom is having on Louisiana’s small businesses, particularly those in rural areas. By taking training and technology expertise to underserved parishes in our state, LBTC is fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in all corners of Louisiana. Their programs not only empower aspiring business owners, but provide critical resources to help hurricane-impacted businesses get back on their feet. I congratulate the Louisiana Business & Technology Center on this award and will continue to support their efforts in the future.”

With the success LBTC has experienced in its first 20 years of service to Louisiana, that future certainly does look bright for the center and for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the state.   

About LBTC

The Louisiana Business & Technology Center endeavors to enhance economic development in Louisiana through the support of existing small businesses and the development of new businesses. LBTC, acting as a proving ground for technology applications and utilization, will serve to stimulate small business formation, growth and survival. By fostering growth in the new business segment, diversification occurs and jobs are created, further expanding Louisiana’s economic development.

LBTC strives to assist entrepreneurs and small business with access to the resources they need to grow and attain long-term success. LBTC plays a crucial role in the economic development future of Louisiana by supporting Vision 2020, a program designed to enhance the economic potential of Louisiana, and by promoting the formation and growth of business, cultivating jobs and commercializing technology.  LBTC is the catalyst in making LSU an economic development engine for Louisiana.

About the Mobile Classroom

The mobile classroom is a converted semi-trailer that seats up to 24 entrepreneurs and business owners to host innovative courses such as leadership development, entrepreneurship training, marketing in the 21st century, basics of federal contracting, basics of lean manufacturing and how to grow businesses using e-commerce. In conjunction with local partners, including chambers of commerce and small business development centers and incubators, LBTC schedules workshops and seminars over three or four days that the mobile classroom attends.

For more information on LBTC, visit www.bus.lsu.edu/lbtc. For more on the E. J. Ourso College of Business, visit www.bus.lsu.edu.

Ernie Ballard | Writer | Office of Communications & University Relations
Tim Rodrigue | Editor | E. J. Ourso College of Business
June 2009