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BRF gets entrepreneur program funding - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

BRF gets entrepreneur program funding, commission may spend more than two million

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -

Last year, the Biomedical Research Foundation went before the Caddo Commission's economic development committee with a big request. It was seeking $10 million to start an entrepreneur accelerator program, which helps start-ups grow and thrive into big businesses through services like offering a link to investors. Often these days, entrepreneurs find banks are hesitant to loan cash. Commissioners didn't sit well with the EAP's price tag but voted to fund a reduced price on Thursday.

With infusion of taxpayer dollars from the Caddo Commission and Shreveport City Council, bio-med plans to create a synergized ecosystem entrepreneurs need. The idea for the EAP came from Austin, Texas, one of the country's top markets for tech start-ups. Austin has seen its population and wealth grow since starting its EAP in the late 80's.

Bio-med hopes Shreveport-Bossier will see similar results, a place where entrepreneurs will flock to start businesses. It sees our area's EAP as a one-stop-shop where entrepreneurs with the best ideas meet local, wealthy investors and take their start-up to the next, hopefully moneymaking, level.

Right now, bio-med has the money for the EAP. It's got enough cash to cover five years' operation costs. Shreveport's city council has already kicked in $250,000 for just one year. Thursday, bio-med requested Caddo Parish pay a majority of the cost. It asked for $2.5 million, that's $500,000 a year for the next five years. Commissioners passed the ordinance granting the money. In order for bio-med to get money from the parish each year, it must provide the EAP's progress report every 6 months.

"I think jobs and economic growth and development in the City of Shreveport and especially Caddo Parish is a very, very high top priority of the parish commission," Doug Dominick, the commission president, said. 

He says it will come from the oil and gas reserve fund. "We use money out of the oil and gas fund when we felt it was something that would be very beneficial, not to just one commissioner's district but something that was going to hopefully effect the entire parish."

Dominick says the parish should eventually see its money returned through new taxes from job creation. "This is not just giving, completely, money away," he said. "It's going to be giving incentives for people to come here, to Shreveport and Caddo Parish, to create jobs and build businesses. Ultimately, those tax dollars should be paid back through the economic employment incentives these jobs will create." 

The EAP will need to be a success for those tax generating jobs to be created. CoHab Shreveport-Bossier may be a vital part of the start-up ecosystem the EAP would create. Cohab founder John Grindley says Cohab will keep doing what it does today, offer a place where entrepreneurs can first enter the business community and learn through trial and error.

"I think an entrepreneur's biggest problem, they'll tell you it's money, but I think it's business acclamation..." Grindley said.

At CoHab, entrepreneurs can meet mentors, test out their ideas, get feedback and more before they present their ideas to the EAP.

"An entrepreneur should never get in front of an investor until they're ready and qualified," Grindley said. "Because these power people that have the funds to back an entrepreneur or start a company, they need to know the project has been vetted and gone through a system. We're going to help with system and process."

Bio-med plans to provide $250,000 a year for the EAP. It hopes to have yearly budget of around one million dollars to operate the program.

 

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