St. John approves small business support plan

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish residents interested in starting a small business, or those who already operate one, stand to benefit from a bevy of offerings available to them through the parish’s Economic Development Department.

In an effort to continue outreach services to new and existing businesses, St. John the Baptist Parish Council members voted to approve an administrative recommendation to enter into a contract with EME Consulting Group, run by St. John Parish native and resident Eliza Eugene, for small business outreach services.

The one-year contract — in an amount not to exceed $122,904 annually and with an option to extend for one additional year — was approved at this month’s Council meeting. The agreement is managed through the parish’s Economic Development Department.

As part of outreach efforts to small businesses, St. John Parish established an Ambassador Small Business Outreach Program. The program was started to secure a parish point of contact who would be hired to brief new, small businesses established within their first year of operation in St. John Parish on the resources available in the parish to assist small firms to succeed and grow.

“The Ambassador Program is all about creating jobs,” Laverne Saulny of the Economic Development Department said. “It is so important for our office to meet with businesses in our community and offer our assistance in starting, growing or improving a business.”

As part of the scope of the project, Eugene will serve as the parish’s Business Ambassador and contact and set up monthly interviews with all new companies within six months of their anniversary date of establishment. She is also tasked with developing an updated business questionnaire to be completed by the firm in the meeting or on-line prior to the meeting, identifying contractor and vendor skills and competencies and identifying and informing local contractors and vendors that provide services, products and materials of public contract and procurement projects in St. John Parish.

Eugene will also participate in public contract and procurement meetings with prime and subcontractors and report to the Economic Development Department on progress in connecting small businesses with prime contractor and procurement business opportunities.

“My greatest joy is helping to empower someone,” Eugene said. “I count it as a blessing to be in this position. Anything I can do, I’m always willing to give 110 percent.”

Eugene said that as a small business owner for over 25 years, she understands the ups and downs of owning a business.

Officials said projected project outcomes include an increased number of firms that are accessing parish business related resources, an increased number of new small firms and jobs retained and expanded in the parish and increased small business organizational capacity, profitability, revenues and employment.

“Small businesses are the engines of our economy, and our goal is to support these businesses to benefit all St. John the Baptist Parish citizens,” Saulny said. “With the help of the parish, this program will ensure that businesses will start on the right track and succeed.”

For more information on available programs, call the Economic Development Department at 985-652-9569 or visit