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Business accelerator program launched in Acadiana to assist entrepreneurs - 11/18/2016 -

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By Richard Burgess,

Acadiana entrepreneurs could be in line for start-up funds, professional guidance and technical assistance under a new business accelerator program supported by a $700,000 federal grant announced Friday.

Those funds will be matched with services and office space valued at $754,000 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and existing emerging business programs at the Community Foundation of Acadiana and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

The non-profit economic development group Winrock International helped secure the federal grant and will help set up the local program, which is modeled after a similar one in Arkansas.

"When they looked around the United States for the best place to replicate that model, they chose us," said Pete Prados, director of INNOV8 Acadiana, a Community Foundation of Acadiana initiative that offers mentoring, networking, investor access and other services for emerging businesses.

He said the new accelerator program will spotlight the Acadiana region as a "nationally recognized entrepreneurship hub."

The program, dubbed Accelerate Acadiana, will work with entrepreneurs in the eight-parish Acadiana region and focus on new services and products in five key sectors: healthcare, oil and gas, technology, aviation and manufacturing.

Businesses chosen for the program also will have access to seed capital ranging from $25,000 to $50,000.

"Business incubators can broaden economies by nurturing new companies, supporting research and development and fostering innovation," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said in a written statement. "... Of the more than 1,250 business incubators in the United States, most are nonprofit organizations focused on economic development, and they have a proven track record for creating jobs and diversifying local economies."

The $700,000 federal grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.


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