Robottom: St. John fosters new business development

Published 9:55 am Saturday, May 16, 2015

As we celebrated National Small Business Week, it was an opportunity to honor and acknowledge our small businesses and their contributions to our community.

Small businesses are an integral part of St. John the Baptist Parish, making it a great place to live, work and raise our families. In an effort to assist small businesses to succeed, the Economic Development Department has made great strides in opening the lines of communication, supporting business retention and providing training opportunities for new and emerging businesses.

St. John Parish has partnered with the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) and the South Central Louisiana Technical College to operate a business training center in Reserve. We are fortunate to have one of the most effective and efficient centers in our community, with easy access for small business owners.

The center is dedicated to helping businesses expand and create new jobs in our community.  Since its inception in July of 2013, over 300 residents and business owners have accessed the center to obtain business information, one-on-one consultation and training.

In addition to offering FastTrac, Quick Books, Grant Writing and Capacity Building, the Economic Development Department will be offering “Fundraising 101” this summer. Businesses are encouraged to register for upcoming workshops and take advantage of the free trainings and programs through this award-winning entity.

During National Small Business week, St. John was honored with the Louisiana Economic Development Collaborative Excellence Award for collaborating with Louisiana Economic Development and the Small and Emerging Business Development Center to create the Small Business Training Center.

St. John Parish is the first municipality to receive this award.

With regard to new businesses, 11 new small businesses opened their doors in St. John the Baptist Parish and created 33 new jobs since the beginning of the year.

Although most of them opened in existing space, our newer developments such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Corner Store and the Louisiana Dental Center are constructing new facilities. All have generated construction dollars and will result in the creation of more jobs and additional sales taxes.

As an added feature, restoring our community and identifying historic buildings for some of our small businesses is under discussion with Main Street Development. Opportunities for making Garyville and the West Bank a “Main Street” are also in discussion.

The Main Street Development Program enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets from historic, cultural and architectural resources. The Economic Development Department is working to make St. John the Baptist Parish a Certified Local Government, which is necessary to participate in the Main Street Development Program.

Businesses are reminded to sign up for the Shop Local Program by registering online at

This allows local businesses to be included the parish database and participate in the Shop Local Campaign each year.

Sign up to be included this summer as we paint St. John Parish Red, White and Blue.

Hurricane Season is just around the corner and we remind everyone to begin making preparations for their  businesses and homes. To “Stay Connected” and receive news and information during emergencies, please visit to sign-up for parish alerts.

We are excited about the growth and development in our Parish and we look forward to many great investments in the near future.

Natalie Robottom is St. John the Baptist Parish president. She can be reached at