Areas of Focus
To learn more or to get involved in this work, contact BRAC’s Economic Competitiveness team.
Small Business & Entrpreneurship
Small businesses make up the vast majority of Capital Region businesses, and employ most of its workers. Ensuring the continued success of the Baton Rouge Area small businesses, and encouraging their growth, is critically important to the overall economic vitality of our region. And with the increasing importance of innovation to the economy, rather than capital accumulation and reliance on natural resources, providing a climate in which entrepreneurs can thrive and innovation is encouraged is more important than ever.
In addition to BRAC’s efforts to promote policy reforms and major initiatives to improve the local business climate for businesses of all sizes, the 2020 strategic plan outlines a variety of strategies through which the organization will aggressively pursue the acceleration of local entrepreneurship, high-growth firms, and business innovation. Through a targeted Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program, providing research on the state of local entrepreneurship and innovation , and developing and enhancing local small business and entrepreneurship assets – such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Nexus LA, and the Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)– BRAC is actively working to enhance this vital sector of the local economy.
Our small business investors engage directly in these efforts through BRAC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, which brings together local small business owners and advocates to learn more about BRAC’s ongoing efforts and to provide their insight on how BRAC can best address the needs of the small business community. At the same time, BRAC’s BRE and Business Concierge [link?] programs proactively engage businesses directly to help address their specific pain points and barriers to growth. For more information on BRAC’s work in this area, please contact BRAC’s Policy and Research Project Manager.
Transportation has been identified as one of the leading barriers to growth for Capital Region businesses year after year. Research on the state of the Capital Region’s transportation system shows that congestion and poor road systems cost the average driver $2,000 per year. Identifying ways to improve regional mobility and better connect local residents to jobs, commercial centers and recreational opportunities is one of BRAC’s top priorities. Crippling congestion on major thoroughfares and surface streets, extremely limited bike and pedestrian options, and an underutilized transit system have all been identified as major obstacles to effective movement within the region. The resulting inefficient system has a significant negative effect on both the region’s quality of life and its economic development, limiting the ability of local businesses to grow and attract talent, and limiting the appeal of the region to external companies looking to relocate to the area.
BRAC’s Think Bigger strategic plan outlines a number of major transportation initiatives that will provide permanent solutions for the Capital Region, including identifying major new funding for much-needed capacity increasing projects, developing a solution to the I-10 bottleneck, and pursuing inter-city rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to better connect the state’s two largest metropolitan areas. In addition, BRAC’s ongoing work on the Complete Streets Citizens Advisory Committee and the Qualifications Review Committee for Capital Area Transit System (CATS) board appointments will continue the development of robust multi-modal transportation options, particularly in the region’s high-density urban areas.
Key to many of BRAC’s major transportation initiatives is the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS) coalition, formed in 2015 with the Center for Planning Excellence and Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, with leadership comprised of some of the Capital Region’s largest employers. BRAC and the CRISIS coalition are working to develop a unified regional voice on transportation, identifying and advocating for responsible, data-driven solutions to the Baton Rouge Area’s biggest transportation challenges. The four regional priorities put forward by CRISIS in 2015 are listed below. To view the in-depth analysis on regional projects, click here. A State of the Region report developed by CRISIS can be found here.
- I-10 Widening through Baton Rouge
- Ascension Commuter Route (I-10 or Airline)
- New River Crossing South of I-10 Bridge (With LA 30 Widening)
- Increase Use of US 109 Bridge (BUMP or North Bypass)
For more information on BRAC’s participation in the CRISIS coalition or on the organization’s other transportation initiatives, contact BRAC’s Policy and Research Project Manager.
Education & Workforce Development
BRAC’s Economic Competitiveness team advocates for a regulatory and policy environment conducive to job growth in the nine-parish Capital Region. Education and workforce development outcomes serve as the foundation of a sound economy and economic growth. Rapid gains in these areas are vital to the region’s attractiveness for business investment and talent recruitment.
To cultivate our region’s talent and transform the Baton Rouge Area’s quality of place, BRAC’s focus on education and workforce development includes increased opportunities for quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and business / school partnerships throughout the Area, more high-quality school choices, greater access to customized training solutions, and compilation and analysis of regional data related to education and workforce.
Rooted in the principles that talent and workforce development begins with a high-quality primary and secondary education, and that all kids can excel if given access to a high-quality school, BRAC supports policies that increase school choice for families, promote high standards of learning for students, hold educators accountable for student outcomes, and set decision-making about education in the hands of school leaders and parents.
We engage educators and businesses in providing opportunities for students to access all pathways to prosperity after high school. With the regional economy serving as its foundation for our activity, BRAC supports initiatives that prepare students for the workforce through attainment of post-secondary education, including everything from technical credentials to doctoral degrees.
BRAC aims to increase access to and quality of workforce development training by providing timely occupation and industry growth information to relevant stakeholders, facilitating public-private partnerships between businesses and area colleges and universities, and leveraging area workforce development entities to increase access for all students.
In partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education, BRAC worked to develop the Micro-Enterprise Credential for high school students. This credential, which may be earned as part of a high school career diploma, is designed to prepare students to become small business owners and employees. BRAC’s Small Business Council provided expertise in creation of the credential to ensure that its components would be of real-world value to students and employers. The credential requires that students complete a self-assessment regarding traits necessary for success as an entrepreneur, present that self-assessment to a business mentor either in-person or virtually, complete bank and online credit applications and a company registration, and pass a national Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management credentialing test.
BRAC’s Virtual Schoolhouse
BRAC’s virtual schoolhouse pairs business people with classrooms to engage in online mentoring, guest speaking, field trips, demonstrations and more.
The virtual schoolhouse helps facilitate in-person volunteering for business people at Capital Region schools by providing a volunteer calendar to simplify logistics and coordination.
To learn more, visit brac.nepris.com.
Quality of Place
Viewed through the lens of economic competitiveness, in which we recognize that the Capital Region competes with those across the country and the world in attracting and retaining talent and businesses, BRAC appreciates that an important subset of any region’s quality of life is quality of place itself – that is, the attractiveness of its built and natural environment, with unique features and destinations, which add value to life, work, and play, and the economic opportunities those create. This work includes improving maintenance and code enforcement, sustainable development and blight elimination, and community enhancement and beautification programs.
In pursuit of these goals, BRAC is developing a Quality of Place strategic plan for the region, outlining BRAC’s vision and role in quality of place initiatives. It will include components for physical beautification efforts and identify and address the top regional quality of place challenges that impact businesses and ideas for improvement. BRAC will also pursue concepts for corridor enhancements, such as between Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport and downtown Baton Rouge, as well as partnering with stakeholders in ways that BRAC can assist in accelerating both short-term projects and public policies with lasting impact.