A business incubator in Carencro, LA is under new ownership. The University of Louisiana is now the sole owner of the Enterprise center of Louisiana. It acquired the center earlier this year from two partners, the Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership corporation and the city of Carencro.

Roy Holleman, Executive Director of ECOL

Roy Holleman, ECOL’s executive director, said the change is another step in the center’s successful evolution. And, it’s a step that was planned from the start.

The business incubator was spearheaded in the early 1990s by SLEMCO to help promising businesses get established and create more jobs. SLEMCO, a private membership corporation that provides utilities in Acadiana, owned 60 percent of ECOL’s stock; UL owned 40 percent. the city of Carencro put up 25 percent of the funds needed to build it and obtained a 50 percent matching grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the center’s construction. Additional funding to build ECOL came from the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

“SLEMCO’s intent from the beginning was to get ECOL started, help it through its lean years and then hopefully turn it over to the university someday,” Holleman said. “The plan worked.”

It became clear that the timing was right for a transfer of ownership, Holleman continued. “We all saw that for the incubator to continue to grow, it would be better with one partner and that the most logical partner would be the university.”

As a UL center, for example, ECOL will be eligible for funding from sources that weren’t available under the original ownership arrangement. As part of the university, ECOL will continue to contribute to economic development in Acadiana, Holleman said. “At the same time, this move ensures the Enterprise center’s future.”

Early agreements require a public body to own the building and specify that the center must be used as a business incubator for at least 30 years.

ECOL offers office space, administrative support and guidance to budding entrepreneurs who have solid business plans. New businesses are nurtured there until they “graduate” and move to other locations. A business can stay at ECOL for a maximum of five years.

“Small businesses are really the backbone of job growth. they will hire locally and buy locally,” Holleman said.

the incubator is at 100 percent capacity, with businesses ranging from an electrical repair franchise to a commercial fire sprinkler company. Some tenants have only one employee, while others have more than 20.

One recent ECOL graduate is Durel Mail and Imaging technologies. the first of its kind in Acadiana, it offers high quality, rapid turnaround, short run digital color printing and automated mailing services.

ECOL Owner John Durel said one of the biggest expenses for most start-up businesses is rent. By locating first at ECOL, he said, “small start-up businesses like mine are able to ‘live within our means’ and build up business.

“This, along with the advice, exposure to high level business leaders via the board of directors and the incidentals provided, gives ECOL’s clients a leg up.

This allowed me to not only build a successful business but to invest in Lafayette’s commercial real estate market, something that I would not have been able to do without ECOL’s helping hand.”

Holleman said all ECOL graduates have remained in Louisiana; most have relocated within Acadiana. Many of those graduates have stayed in northern Lafayette Parish. recently, four ECOL graduates, which have a total of 45 employees, relocated in Carencro.

ECOL sits on prime real estate.

“Basically, we’re at the corner of Interstate 10 and I-49, so our manufacturing and distribution businesses, and those who are using the interstate system, couldn’t ask for a better place to be located,” Holleman said. “Once I-49 continues further south, it will make our area stronger. It will become an even more important corridor.”

ECOL works closely with other economic development agencies and programs, such as the Manufacturing Extension of Partnership of Louisiana, Louisiana Small business Development center, Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the small business unit of the Louisiana Economic Development Department.

ECOL Location“We’ve identified what we all do best, and we don’t duplicate. We complement each other,” Holleman said.

The Louisiana Small business Development center holds training sessions at ECOL, including seminars for people who are considering opening small businesses. Mark Galyean, that center’s director, said it is the only “nationally-accredited, university-based business consulting and training organization in the state. And, our consulting is free.”

ECOL assists many businesses that never become tenants. “About 90 percent of people we help will never locate here and shouldn’t locate here. We’re not the place for them,” Holleman said. For instance, ECOL can’t accommodate restaurants or retail stores. “But we will help people with those businesses, along with our partners,” Holleman said.

ECOL also houses a library of business start-up guides available from Entrepreneur Media Inc. It is the only free, comprehensive library of its kind in Acadiana. It’s a joint project with the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority.

With financial unrest in the United States and abroad, some potential entrepreneurs may be reluctant to start a business.

“It’s tough. but if you think it through and you prepare a business plan properly, that takes a lot of the fear out of it,” Holleman said.

Also, he added, “One of the great things about being in an environment like ECOL is that you have other companies that are starting up. the tenants are all very good about working with each other and helping each other.”

Visit the ECOL website -.

First Photograph: Roy Holleman has served as executive director of the Enterprise Center of Louisiana for the past eight years.

Second Photograph: ECOL provides offce space and administrative support to its tenants.

Third Photograph: The business incubator is strategically located near the intersection of Interstate 49 and Interstate 10.

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