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Small Business.

The small business community in Louisiana plays a vital role in Louisiana’s economy. Growth will greatly depend on maintaining a healthy industrial base coupled with a thriving small business community. More than 75% of LABI’s membership is comprised of small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. LABI recognizes the concerns of small business and over the growing risk of liability associated with routine business operations and governmentally imposed costs and regulations.

Major Issues.


Tax Policy/Taxpayer Fairness

Support measures to correct the imbalance in the tax burden borne by business and to encourage industrial and business investment in Louisiana. Such measures should include: (1) eliminating inconsistencies in the administration of the state and local tax systems by centralizing the collection of sales taxes; (2) shifting the financing and delivery of many governmental services from the state level to the local level; and (3) enacting business tax measures that encourage the retention or relocation of jobs and business to this state. LABI supports efforts to ensure that small businesses are treated fairly in the tax collection process and the distribution of the burden of taxes that fund state and local government. LABI opposes measures to increase the homestead exemption, which would further shift the property tax burden to business.

Businesses in Louisiana pay a disproportionately higher share of taxes as compared to other states. In order for Louisiana to be able to compete with other states, stronger efforts must be made to develop a fairer and more balanced tax system. More needs to be done to level the playing field and reduce the tax burden borne by business, especially small businesses. There must be a properly balanced property tax structure so that small businesses do not end up paying a higher share of property taxes.

Reduce Health Care Burdens

LABI will support efforts to help employers offer or maintain employer-based health care coverage and oppose anything that would increase employers’ health care costs.

Most employers recognize that after salaries or personnel compensation, health insurance coverage is the most important benefit they can offer to their employees. However, due to the ever-rising cost of health care, providing this benefit has been difficult if not impossible for small employers. Unfortunately, many employers are being forced to drop coverage because they simply can’t afford it. Small businesses are finding it difficult to contain costs when commercial insurance costs are steadily rising, unnecessary government intrusions limit employer choices, and the imposition of new business taxes or fees are a constant threat. Therefore, more needs to be done to contain health care costs so as to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses and to give them more choices in the type of coverage needed for their companies.

Increase Availability and Affordability of Commercial Lines of Insurance

LABI will support efforts to reduce the cost of commercial insurance for small businesses, especially in the areas of workers compensation, liability and cybersecurity. The cost of doing business in Louisiana is constantly on the rise. Unfortunately, businesses are forced to expend resources defending suits that lack merit or fighting fraudulent claims rather than focusing on the bottom line. Rising commercial insurance costs are a major concern for all businesses. Notwithstanding the high cost of commercial insurance, many business owners struggle to find commercial coverage because many insurance companies are not willing to write policies in Louisiana. Therefore, the following must be done to help keep commercial insurance costs under control:

  • Make every effort to preserve reforms enacted in the liability area.
  • Oppose efforts to impose any tort remedy in workers compensation cases.
  • Support appropriate efforts to protect businesses from non-meritorious lawsuits.
  • Support the enforcement of the Louisiana unified building code to enable a viable, affordable and competitive private insurance market to exist.

Current Issues.


Government Contracts: Support an appeals process for small businesses that are discriminated against in federal, state and local government contract bids.

Government Competition: Restrict efforts by government to provide goods and services in competition with private businesses.

Department of Economic Development: Support additional emphasis by economic development entities to provide assistance to Louisiana’s small businesses. Support the consideration and distinguishment of small businesses in the decision-making process of economic development entities.

Public Bid Law: Oppose any efforts to circumvent or make exceptions to the public bid law and support legislation to strengthen its enforcement.

Expropriation: Support legislation that would provide appropriate treatment of private property owners regarding expropriation for “public purpose.”

Taxes & Fees

Special Funds – Legislatively Dedicated Self-Imposed Fees: Oppose raiding of legislatively dedicated funds that were created and funded by industry fees paid to accomplish specific regulatory or other purposes.

Business Activity Tax: Oppose legislation that would impose additional or new taxes on business through a business activity, gross receipts, value-added, or any other similar taxing scheme, thus decreasing our ability to attract and retain jobs and investment in this state.

Energy Taxation: Oppose increased or new taxes or fees on energy sources.

Inventory Tax: Support retention of Louisiana’s inventory tax credit and explore ways to eliminate the tax completely without increasing the business tax burden.

Inheritance Tax and Gift Taxes: Protect and maintain the repeal of the inheritance tax and gift tax as enacted by 2007 Act No. 371 and 2008 Act No. 822 respectively.

Franchise Tax: In 2016, the Legislature voted to greatly expand the franchise tax to include all types of businesses, specifically LLCs. LABI opposed the expansion of this “pay-to-play” tax that unduly harms small businesses and places an added layer of taxation on capital investment. LABI seeks the permanent repeal of the uncompetitive franchise tax.

Business Tax Burden: Oppose the elimination, reduction or modification of any tax exemptions, deductions, exclusions or credits, including the inventory tax credit. Oppose the imposition or increase of any taxes or fees, including those on energy or energy resources, which would increase the imbalance in the tax/financial burden borne by business in Louisiana. Support efforts to limit or reverse judicial expansion of the business tax burden.

Cost of Service: Oppose legislation that would shift the cost of electricity service from one class of consumer to another. Oppose imposition of taxes or fees to subsidize energy assistance programs within the Public Service Commission.

Fees: Support legislation to limit or reduce the amount of fees assessed on small businesses.

Property Tax Millages: Support legislation to limit or restrict the rolling forward of property tax millages following a mandatory millage roll-back.

Civil Justice

Non-meritorious Suits: Support appropriate legislation to discourage the filing of non-meritorious lawsuits and to curb abusive solicitation and litigation tactics.

Abrogation of Contracts: Oppose legislation permitting abrogation of existing contracts.

Employee Relations

Wage Discrimination: LABI supports the current state and federal laws on the books that address wage discrimination. LABI opposes legislation that expands lawsuits, including but not limited to, comparable worth and removing legal defenses. 

Minimum Wage: Oppose legislation establishing a state minimum wage. 

Workers’ Compensation: Support legislation to reduce workers compensation (WC) costs by overturning liberal court decisions, addressing factors responsible for escalating medical costs, and opposing the imposition of any tort remedy in WC cases. Continue to participate in the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, particularly in its capacity as WC insurer of last resort in Louisiana. 


Ongoing Policy.


Regulatory/Licensing Burden: Support the reduction of the regulatory burden on all businesses, especially small businesses, by reducing wasteful regulatory and/or licensing burdens on workers and small businesses. Support efforts to ensure regulations and licensing are necessary and justified by sufficient public interest and not protectionism.

Government Prompt Payment: Support prompt payment legislation that would require state and local governments to pay their bills within 30 days and to be subject to interest, fines and penalties.

Preference Laws: Oppose bid preference laws. Support current reciprocal laws for states that deny or restrict opportunities for competition by Louisiana businesses.

Government Efficiency: Support efforts to operate state government in a more efficient, cost-effective and fiscally responsible manner, including privatizing state government services where feasible, and encourage the utilization of technology.

Small Business Financing: Support legislation providing incentives for commercial financial institutions to extend credit to small businesses. Oppose any legislation that would duplicate regulatory practices and unnecessarily impose additional state authority to oversee financial transactions.

Prison Enterprises: Oppose expansion of prison enterprises or inmate labor and services not used solely in correctional facilities, and support legislation requiring a public certification process, including economic impact studies, prior to the establishment of such programs.

Consumer Advocacy: Oppose legislation that would establish new programs within new or existing agencies or departments that require public funding for representation or intervention in regulatory proceedings.

Health Insurance

Mandated Benefits/Mandated Coverage: Oppose new or expanded governmentally mandated benefits in group health plans, except those benefits that are effective in controlling health care costs. Oppose new or expanded governmentally mandated payments by health plans for the benefit of a limited population or specific providers, except when there is a documented, actuarially positive benefit for such mandates. Oppose governmentally mandated employer-provided or employer-paid health insurance.

Mandate Offset Credit: Support legislation to provide employers with a tax credit for every mandated health care benefit they are required to provide.

Civil Justice

Tort Reform: Oppose liberalization of Louisiana’s tort laws with specific emphasis on preserving reforms enacted in the following areas: strict liability, joint and several liability, punitive damages, product liability, class actions and government liability.

Double Recovery: Support legislation to eliminate double recovery of damages.

Education & Workforce

Industry Training/Workforce Development: Promote cooperative efforts between business owners, education institutions and the Louisiana Workforce Commission to ensure that workforce training programs are easily available to small businesses in Louisiana, are updated regularly and are customized to meet the needs of small business owners.

Worker Training: Study and develop legislation that would allow businesses – in particular, small businesses – better access and greater flexibility in the use of monies for worker training.

Education: Continue to support efforts to improve the quality of education at all levels in Louisiana by making the best possible use of tax dollars spent on education, to try new or more effective methods of education, and to demand better accountability, which will improve the quality of the workforce and economic prosperity in the state.

Freedom to Work: Over time, a number of state entities have created artificial barriers to work in the form of occupational licensing. Unless a license is necessary for public health and safety, individuals should be “free to work.” LABI supports efforts to review occupational licensing and remove costly and time-consuming barriers when possible.

Employee Relations

Labor Relations: Support legislation to prohibit state or local government interference with employers’ rights and protections as provided under existing federal laws governing labor/management relations. Oppose any state legislation designed to weaken employers’ protections under existing federal laws governing labor/management relations.

Right-to-Work/Agency Shop: Do everything necessary to maintain Louisiana as a Right-to-Work state, including opposing repeal through any “agency shop” legislation.

Project Labor Agreements: Protect the ban on project labor agreements on publicly funded projects.


Contacts.


Jim Patterson serves as Director of the Small Business Council. In this capacity, his responsibilities include issues that impact Louisiana’s small businesses.

 

Jim Patterson

Director, Small Business Council, LABI
(225) 215-6645
jimp@labi.org

John Overton

Chair, Small Business Council
Turn Key Solutions

As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, businesses in Louisiana are struggling to stay open or reopen.

The federal government has injected $350 billion into local banks to be lent out to small business owners in the form of SBA loans and Paycheck Protection Programs.

President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stephen Waguespack says the federal government has ‘tools in the toolbox’ to help small business owners.

“P.P.P. is the one that can be converted into a grant. So if you use that money for payroll, mortgage, utilities, or rent — that turns into a grant the small business does not have to pay back,” said Waguespack. “The E.I.D.L or Disaster Loan from the SBA does not have that same quality. You still use it for the similar expenses but it doesn’t convert to a grant you actually have to pay that back.”

Waguespack says last week was a rough start for local banks disbursing the loans to business owners because he says there was little guidance for banks from the federal government.

“And the banks said, ‘whoa hang on we’ve never done this before we don’t know how to monitor payroll what proof do you need on a mortgage, rent, and utilities, what are we asking for,’ and that was the confusion last week,” said Waguespack. “And so the Treasury went back and defined their ‘regs’ a little bit more. So now what the banks are telling us is ‘look it’s still new, we are still trying to figure out this new process but now we have more guidance from the SBA and Treasury,' so now, the local lenders pretty much use that templet to decide how much you qualify for and more importantly how much of your expenses can be converted to a grant.”

Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office says in an email, “Small businesses are encouraged to reach out to the LSBDC for technical assistance and help to determine which program may be the best fit. It is possible to apply to both programs as long as funding is used for different purposes. Additionally, it is possible to apply to both programs and determine before signing final loan documents which one is a better fit. Email lsbdc.gnor@lsbdc.org or call 504-831-3730to be connected directly with a consultant for assistance.”

Click here to listen to the full interview.

 

Here is a list of approved SBA lenders in the New Orleans area:

Biz Capital BIDCO, 909 Poydras St., Suite 2230,(504) 832-1993

Business Resource Capital, 3801 Canal St., Suite 320, (504) 524-6172

Fidelity Homestead Bank, 201 St. Charles Ave., (985) 871-4202

First Bank & Trust, 909 Poydras St.,(985) 249-6761

Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, 200 St. Charles Ave., (504) 561-6100

Hope Credit Union, 1726 O.C. Haley Blvd., (504) 527-0688

Liberty Bank, 6600 Plaza Drive, Suite 600, (504) 240-5107

Regions Bank, 1920 St. Charles Ave., (504) 544-6017

Regional Loan Corp., 3810 Canal St., Suite 320, (504) 524-6172

Whitney Bank, 228 St. Charles Ave., (504) 846-2577

Stephen Waguespack from LABI was on the show and discussed a variety of topics that are impacted by the Coronavirus. The legislative session has yet to take place and Stephen discusses the likelihood that a special session will occur. He explains how special sessions work and what would be the major topics of the special session. Then, Waguespack talks about the revenue estimated conference and how the job of that conference is nearly impossible because of the Coronavirus closures. Finally, Stephen breaks down payroll protection and how LABI is working with small businesses to help with payroll and ensure that these businesses survive the closures.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Questions continue to pour in as the federal government prepares to open applications for the new Paycheck Protection Program tomorrow.

In a webinar hosted by Business Report this morning, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves and LABI President Stephen Waguespack answered some of the most pressing questions about which businesses qualify and how to apply. 

More guidance is expected in the coming days, but both Graves and Wageuspack strongly encouraged business owners to start filling out the paperwork now with their bank and CPA to get into the programs early.

A video recording of the full webinar is online here

Here are some of the paraphrased answers provided by Graves and Waguespack during this morning’s webinar:

Q: How does the PPP differ from the economic injury disaster loans (EIDL)?

Both: The PPP loan is a new product that limits the amount of borrowing to roughly 2.5 times your monthly payroll/benefits. The loan has a 0.5% interest rate with 2-year maturity, but if you spend 75% of PPE on payroll costs, that loan can be converted into a grant. 

The EIDL has a $10 million cap that’s intended to be a quick injection of cash and has a larger eligibility of use. Interest rates for that program are 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits, but it is not forgivable. 

Q: How are monthly payroll costs calculated for PPP?

Graves: For an established business, it’s the average of your payroll from April 2019 through March 2020. For new businesses, it’s the average of January and February payroll. That includes benefits, but there’s no guidance yet on if more expansive operating costs will be included. 

Waguespack: The U.S. Chambers of Commerce has a document detailing what’s excluded, that includes compensation over $100,000, and payroll and income taxes. 

Q: Can you file for both?

Graves: Absolutely. Where it gets complicated is if you get an EIDL loan, and if you use that money for payroll, mortgage or rent, that may prohibit you from getting forgiveness for PPP. If you want loan forgiveness, focus on payroll costs with PPP, and focus on other costs with EIDL loan.  

Q: When will the loan portal officially open?

Graves: It will open tomorrow, but I have not seen a specific time. That may be in the guidance issued later today.  

Q: How quickly does the money start getting dispersed?

Graves: The intent is this money is available within days, not within weeks or months. There’s not a specific amount of time that I’ve seen released. 

Waguespack: The eight-week clock begins when the money is in hand if you want to be eligible to convert the loan into a grant. 

Q: Are the banking industry and SBA prepared to roll this out?

Waguespack: With EIDL on the SBA website, we are hearing frustration in dealing with that and a backlog. But on the banker’s side, this is a new program, kicking off for the first time tomorrow. I would expect there to be some growing pains on that. There is apprehension on the front end going in, but I expect it will become more second nature as we run through the process. 

Q: What do you say to banks that are wary of participating?

Waguespack: The treasury did come in a little more narrow on return rates. What we’re hearing from banks, despite that, is they’re absolutely willing to step up and do what’s best for their community.

Q: Are funds available for non-profits? 

Waguespack: Yes, but mostly limited to 501(c)3s. Follow CPA advice. 

Q: Can lobbying firms participate?

Graves: Not on the EIDL, but they’re likely eligible for PPP. 

Q: Can PPP be used to pay 1099 contractors?

Both: A company can pay their 1099 contractors with PPP funds, but that will not be considered part of the payroll costs that can be forgiven. Contractors can apply for PPP independently.

Q: How do the employee retention credits work?

Graves: There are all sorts of incentives in the law designed to help keep employees on the payroll. The credit in the CARES Act allows for a payroll tax credit of up to $5,000 if you paid $10,000 in payroll (including health care) to retain an employee. There are also provisions to defer payment of payroll taxes until 2021 or 2022.

Waguespack: There’s also Form 7200 to get an advance payment from the IRS to qualify.  

Editor’s note: Further clarification was received after the webinar that companies cannot use both the PPP and the employee retention tax credit.

Q: What is available for midsize companies that exceed the 500 employee cap?

Graves: $425 billion has been allocated for companies between 500 and 10,000 employees to get capital. So far, eight lending institutions have been approved to participate in the loans, with low and zero interest.

Waguespack: The interest rates are capped at no more than 2%, but there are some limitations like prohibiting stock buybacks. The state’s new lending program led by LED also has a $50 million total loan pool for companies with less than 100 employees. Those loans are being offered for up to $100,000, with 5-year terms, interest capped at 3.5% and a 6-month payment deferral. That program does not conflict with any of the federal programs. 

Q: What are the expanded unemployment offerings?

Graves: This one is really generous, in fact maybe too generous. The average weekly unemployment payment in Louisiana is $247. This adds a $600/ week federal supplements, and provides an additional 13 weeks of eligibility, and expands eligibility to gig workers, independent contractors, self-employed workers, non-profits, and state and local government employees. 

Waguespack: Employers do have the right to tell the workforce commission when they’ve offered continued employment, but an employee has chosen not to return to work and seek out unemployment benefits. 

Q: Are agents prohibited from being paid by clients for the PPE?

Graves: Guidance from the Treasury says agents are able to collect a certain percentage of the bank’s servicing fees, and prohibits an agent from collecting funds from the applicant. More guidance is expected today.

To watch the webcast in its entirety click here.

Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of LABI, joins Tommy to talk about Louisiana businesses and how they're faring. Plus, will Mardi Gras be impacted next year?

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Stephen Waguespack from LABI was on today’s show to talk about how LABI has stayed in communication with all of the businesses that are members of LABI. Stephen talks about the discussions he’s had with the small businesses about where things stand with them and how LABI can help the business during the Coronavirus shutdown. Then, he discusses the federal funding from the government and where that money will go and how small businesses can benefit from the funding. Waguespack also explains the federal stimulus packages that have yet to be passed and what might be included in them.

Hear everything Stephen said, here!

The federal government will cover the operating costs of businesses in Louisiana for eight weeks through forgivable loans if they retain or rehire laid-off workers under the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate on Wednesday, which the House is poised to approve on Friday.

The provision to forgive loans appears likely to provide a crucial lifeline in the coming days as the nation copes with the unprecedented ravages caused by the coronavirus to the world economy.

“That will help businesses hold on through this crisis and bring their workers back,” U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the House, said in an interview Thursday from his Jefferson Parish home where he is self-quarantined because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. Scalise said President Donald Trump will sign the stimulus bill immediately.

The U.S. Labor Department released an astonishing set of numbers on Thursday that showed the huge need for the bill: 3.3 million people filed for unemployment insurance last week. That was easily the highest number in 50 years of data, dwarfing the highest previous weekly figure, 695,000, recorded in the depths of the 1982 recession.

In Louisiana, about 10,000 people are filing unemployment claims every day now by phone or online, although the number surged to 14,597 Wednesday, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported. The normal average is 300 per day.

The federal legislation also will mean a one-time payment of up to $1,200 to most adults, $500 per child and provide an additional $600 per week to unemployed workers who remain jobless through June 30.

Businesses and banks throughout Louisiana were scrambling Thursday to understand exactly how the loan provisions would work. In general terms, companies and nonprofits with up to 500 employees could borrow up to $10 million from their bank to cover payroll, mortgage, rent, insurance and other expenses.

The federal government would essentially forgive the loan for business expenses for eight weeks, said Guy Williams, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company — making it essentially a grant.

“You’d be foolish not to be interested,” Williams said, adding that the borrowers would pay 4% interest on money they borrow for spending after the eight weeks have elapsed but would pay no borrowing fees on the loan. Companies have to maintain their pre-coronavirus hiring levels for the loan to be entirely forgiven.

Camille Conaway, a policy analyst with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said 100 business leaders jumped on a conference call Thursday with the state’s congressional delegation, and the main topic was the forgivable loan provision, known as the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Speed is everything right now,” said Conaway. “We have members telling us they’re taking it day by day to see if they can stay open. We’re encouraging each business to talk to their banker to see if this makes sense for them.”

Jude Melville, president and CEO of Business First Bank, said he has been receiving a steady stream of calls about the program.

“We’ll try to get it onto the street prudently and quickly,” he said.

Bill Hammack, who with chef Donald Link owns several notable New Orleans restaurants, said he was already in contact with his bank to initiate a loan.

Hammack said he has had to lay off nearly 400 workers while retaining 100.

“If the government is going to give us the opportunity to keep people employed, we’re definitely going to take advantage of that,” Hammack said. “I’m hoping that it will allow us to hire at least some of them back.”

David Balhoff, who co-owns three orthodontist offices in the Baton Rouge area, is also planning to apply. Balhoff said he and partner Stephen Sherman have been shut down for a month but are still paying all of their 25 employees.

“We’re going to use the loans to pay staff and to pay mortgage and rent on our buildings,” Balhoff said. “The goal is to maintain a viable business with our staff.”

Said Tim Scandurro, who operates the Scandurro and Layrisson law firm in New Orleans, “It allows us to be comfortable and confident to keep our employees on the payroll even though they’re not at the office working.”

Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, said the loan forgiveness will be a “shot in the arm” for nonprofits throughout Louisiana.

“Nonprofits are feeling very fragile in terms of their ability to stay open,” Kopplin said. “They’re making the same kinds of decisions as small businesses in terms of laying off employees and maintaining that payroll.”

Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. said the program will likely provide major advantages over typical disaster relief programs, which involve loans from the federal Small Business Administration.

“The loans are being made by the private banking system,” Hecht said. “It’s quicker than relying on the existing SBA infrastructure, which is not built for a program of this scale.”

Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, agreed.

“The SBA might have taken 20 days in an optimal time frame, but the banks could be putting capital in companies’ accounts in 5-10 days,” Knapp said. “The bottleneck problem gets solved by that provision.”

Louisiana business leaders are closely following a provision of the anticipated $2 trillion stimulus package that would distribute $367 billion in loans to small businesses—which, provided certain terms, business owners likely won’t have to pay back to the federal government.

Specifics of the loan program have yet to be released. But it’s understood that banks designated as 7(a) lenders would be able to loan the SBA money directly to their small business customers, who can also apply through the program through those lenders rather than through the swamped SBA. Also, the government would forgive loans taken out by small businesses and 501(c)3 nonprofits, treating them like grants, as long as business owners prove those dollars went exclusively toward employee payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities for payments made between March 1 and June 30. 

Because of these factors and the fact that the massive bill—on which U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration have reached a preliminary agreement—could be signed into law later today, small businesses that need loan assistance should get in line early, according to LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack.

“This is the lifeline Louisiana’s small businesses have been looking for all week,” Waguespack says. “Small businesses need to get in touch with their local lending institutions, find out if they’re a 7(a) lender and apply through them once the funds become available.”

Should it pass today, the provision would come at an ideal time for small businesses, many of which have been forced to shut down until at least April 13 and aren’t expecting to receive any income during that time. Further pressuring cash-strapped small businesses is another $100 billion package Congress quickly passed last week, mandating they pay sick leave for their employees. Waguespack says the anticipated loan program marks an “innovative approach” those business owners could take to stay financially afloat and in compliance with the requirement.

The SBA loan program has traditionally been a cumbersome, slow and unappealing process for business owners, with the maximum amount on economic disaster injury loans currently capped at just $2 million.

However, by putting banks on the front lines for assistance, this loan program would ideally expedite the process for small businesses, says Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp, noting speed of service has been the greatest concern among the businesses BRAC represents.

“The SBA has been saying now that in an optimum time frame, you’d see funds within 20 days of approval of your application, yet we’ve experienced much longer periods with the SBA after disasters,” Knapp says. “Banks are much faster at getting capital out into the economy.”

Knapp says he’s heard maximum loan amounts could be as high as $10 million, but isn’t yet aware of what interest rates would be on the loans.

The bill would also include an expansion of unemployment benefits to nontraditional employees like gig workers and freelancers, and it would bump up current unemployment assistance by $600 a week for four months.

Stephen Waguespack from LABI was on the show today to explain the economic impact that the stay-at-home order is having on small businesses as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Stephen says that a lot of local businesses in Louisiana might not recover from closing for at least a month. In order to encourage people to support local businesses in during this difficult time, LABI has set up the Gift Card Challenge. The Gift Card Challenge allows people to order a gift from a local restaurant or business and post a picture on social media with the hashtag #giftcardchallenge. This is a great way to get the word out to convince people to support these businesses. To learn more about the Gift Card Challenge, visit labi.org.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

We all have to eat. With great emphasis on cooperating with authorities, we strongly support the Stay Home approach and we support President Donald Trump’s suggestion that we shop for — or make — groceries one week at a time.

Home cooking is a good idea as we spend more time in our homes with family, friends and roommates who share the same space. Rinsing, soaking and cooking a batch of red beans, making that just-right roux for the best gumbo and fixing some jambalaya with the holy trinity (if you have to ask, call a New Orleans friend) are some of our go-to kitchen musts and more time at home gives us more time to practice, or just enjoy these dishes.

But we all enjoy a good meal prepared by someone else.

The restaurants whose dishes, sandwiches and plates we were enjoying with tableside service, on bar stools or with takeout at lunch or after work — only a few days ago — are now in a tailspin.

Doing something none of us could have conceived as possible previously, Gov. John Bel Edwards closed down bars completely and limited restaurants to to-go and delivery orders until April 13 to limit social interaction and slow the spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus disease rapidly killing thousands around the world.

With the coronavirus significantly reducing restaurant hours and offerings, we need to maintain some of our tasty culture by supporting our chefs, cooks and servers who provide us with delicious meals when we’re not in the mood or just want a night off or a night out.

We shouldn’t be venturing out to restaurants and public spaces with many people we don’t know, but we can pick up a telephone and place an order for delivery or pick up.

The Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has a suggestion: Take the #giftcardchallenge. The association reminds us that these mom-and-pop businesses, restaurant and retail outlets have helped us with special family events, gifts and good food. They remind us that these are our friends and neighbors, and they’ve often helped us immediately after storms. “It’s our turn to have their back after they have had our back time and time again over the years,” according to LABI. They suggest buying a gift card, taking a photo of yourself with it and posting it on social media with the #giftcardchallenge hashtag to inspire others to do the same.

There are plenty of choices, especially in New Orleans. Get yourself some Creole gumbo from Dunbar’s Creole Cafe on Earhart, served with gumbo in a big cup, with rice, potato salad and French bread on the side. Consider visiting the Joint in the Bywater for a pan of barbecue and sides. In Lafayette, Charley G's could use some customers. Whatever your favorite place is, they need you now more than ever.

Let’s support our good-eats restaurants with gift cards, delivery and to-go orders. Everyone who can cook the good stuff deserves a break.

Stephen Waguespack joins Tommy to talk about how local businesses are reacting to the coronavirus. Plus, what are some ways you can help supporting businesses during this time?

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Dealing with the coronavirus crisis requires public officials to make decisions that try to save lives without wrecking the economy. It is the case here in Terrebonne and Lafourche as it is across the state, nation and world.

It’s a difficult balancing act, and saving lives obviously demands top priority. Amid the fallout, some economists have said there is a high probability that mass closures, plant shutdowns, social distancing and a host of actions aimed at slowing the deadly virus’s spread could be severe enough to cause a global recession.

Small businesses in Louisiana can get some relief after Thursday’ announcement that federal disaster loans will be available to help Louisiana’s 440,000 small businesses deal with financial losses.

“Our hope is that these SBA disaster loans will be an important part of sustaining their businesses and providing support to their employees who make up over half of Louisiana’s private-sector workforce,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in announcing the action.

It’s probably going to take a lot more than loans to help many small businesses survive.

Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, puts that into perspective in a column published Thursday by The Courier and Daily Comet.

“Will there be any small businesses left when this is done? I know it sounds alarmist, but the question is absolutely legitimate,” Waguespack wrote. “Talk to any mom-and-pop restaurant or store owner and they will tell you we are in a crisis. The festivals and cultural events that drove their markets have been canceled. The students who used to be their customers have returned home. Their ability to serve customers inside their own establishments has been banned. Their employees are like family to them and they are desperately trying to do what is right by them, but profit margins for many of these entities average about one to two percent, and there is simply no cash flow available to pay bills and wages. The rent is due, and their supply chains are disrupted.”

Waguespack suggests that state and federal lawmakers are going to have to enact bold and creative actions to prevent many small businesses from going under.

“Tax credits that can be used down the road are nice, but they don’t help much when cash flow is nonexistent since the government has shut down your business and banned your customers from coming to see you,” he said. “Low-interest loans only help so much when the loans you already have to operate your low-margin business are overdue.”

Look for more actions from Congress soon. In the meantime, those with the means to do so can help by patronizing local businesses whenever possible through this crisis. Buy a drive-through meal from a local restaurant. Purchase a gift card you can use when the business opens later.

It’s often said that small businesses are the backbone of any community, a major source of jobs and economic vitality. Ensuring they can sustain themselves through this pandemic will be essential to Houma-Thibodaux’s long-term recovery.

– Editorials represent the opinions of this newspaper and not any single individual.

By: Stephen Waguespack

America has changed very quickly.

In only a matter of days, what was once a generally stable, prosperous, independent nation filled with everyday people just grinding it out on a daily basis to raise their family and have a little fun in the process has turned into something much different.

Everyday people like you and me are now known as “potential carriers” and are being told to stay home. Everyday people are now educating their own children at home and avoiding contact with their neighbors, families, and friends. They are no longer visiting local restaurants, retailers, offices, governments, churches, or entertainment venues by governmental request and/or mandate. This could go on for two weeks, two months or even longer, and we are all now trained to keep hitting refresh on Twitter to find out the new rules we’ll be living under for the moment…until they all change again in the next moment.

Our leaders are trying their best to figure it all out also and are doing a good job, all things considered. Anyone playing politics or spreading partisan blame right now needs to get a life. These are unchartered waters and we all must lock arms and figure it out together until this life-altering ordeal is past us. The health of our citizens comes first and there is no asterisk on that statement. However, there is another crisis at hand and we also must be preparing for what comes next on that front.

Will there be any small businesses left when this is done? I know it sounds alarmist, but the question is absolutely legitimate.

Talk to any mom and pop restaurant or store owner and they will tell you we are in a crisis. The festivals and cultural events that drove their markets have been canceled. The students who used to be their customers have returned home. Their ability to serve customers inside their own establishments has been banned. Their employees are like family to them and they are desperately trying to do what is right by them, but profit margins for many of these entities average about one to two percent, and there is simply no cash flow available to pay bills and wages. The rent is due, and their supply chains are disrupted.

Oh, by the way, these small business owners are also parents, so their children are at home trying to abide by whatever rules their school is piecing together on the fly. They have elderly relatives they are worried about and are discouraged from visiting. Whatever savings they have in the market have tanked, and they are not the type of long-term investor who can just “ride this one out” and wait for things to get back to normal.

For many of these folks, they don’t see how normal ever returns. They are scared, they feel alone and they are not sure where to turn. Many more than you realize are contemplating closing their doors for good despite their strong desire to stay open at all costs.

These small business restaurant and retail owners are the backbone of every community in Louisiana. Over the years, their establishments are where you would gather to celebrate a family special occasion, propose to your girlfriend or simply enjoy some cold beer and crawfish on a beautiful Louisiana weather evening. These folks always are some of the first to step up when a storm hits and they go all over the state to feed folks first who are hungry and wonder about any payment after the fact, if ever.

It’s our turn to have their back after they have had our back time and time again over the years.

As a citizen, do your part by supporting them any way you can. If you can order takeout from your favorite local restaurant, do it as much as you can the next few weeks and tip generously to the workers. If you cannot make it there, go online and order gift cards from them to help provide them the cash flow they need to get by. Here at LABI, we are pushing folks to take the #giftcardchallenge. That means buy a gift card for a local restaurant or retailer, take a photo of yourself doing it and post it online to inspire others to follow suit. Use the #giftcardchallenge hashtag and spread it around.

As for our elected leaders, we at LABI are begging them to be just as bold and decisive on the small business recovery as you have been on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Do not hesitate to jump in and ensure these small businesses survive. Tax credits that can be used down the road are nice, but they don’t help much when cash flow is nonexistent since the government has shut down your business and banned your customers from coming to see you. Low-interest loans only help so much when the loans you already have to operate your low-margin business are overdue.

This is a crisis of epic proportions on multiple levels. The health crisis is one that leaders have taken bold steps to tackle. The economic ramifications of such bold actions require just as bold and immediate of a response.

Congress is currently debating legislation to help, and it appears they are hearing the cries of small business and resolving some of these issues best they can. When the state legislature returns, it is imperative that they immediately take steps to pass bills that target immediate relief for small businesses. That is all well and good, but today government can only do so much for this small business crisis.

Today, it is all on all of us, the consumers. If we want our unique Louisiana culture to continue…the one based around close-knit communities focused on food, fun, faith and family…we the people must do our part now.

Just don’t sit at home right now, social distancing your day away by binge-watching your favorite shows. Buy a gift card to your favorite local small business today and encourage your friends to do the same. Order takeout from a local restaurant, safely pick it up and tip generously. Find creative other ways to help these community pillars these next few weeks in a way that adheres to health guidelines.

We all want things to go back to normal soon and, if we follow governmental guidelines, it looks like we will get there from a health perspective. But that new normal may not include many of your favorite local small businesses on the back end if you don’t step up now to help. Do your part today, and if you do, continue to reap the benefits of these small businesses in your community for years to come.

Louisiana has a strong reputation of staring down and overcoming adversity time and time again. This perseverance will be tested with our collective approach to beating the coronavirus, and I am highly confident Louisiana will once again band together, help our neighbors and show the world that no challenge is too strong for our people, writes LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack in a special opinion piece.

In that vein, LABI is asking Louisianans across the state to take the #giftcardchallenge. Small restaurants and retailers across Louisiana have seen their markets evaporate almost overnight and, for many of them, this situation is not sustainable. So to help them bridge this temporary disturbance in their business so that they can keep serving the communities they love, we are asking folks to purchase a gift card to their favorite local small business outlet.

Whether you buy a gift card online or in person, take the time to support your local small business retailer and encourage others to do the same, Waguespack writes. Read Waquespack’s full column.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, LABI, has issued its own social media challenge to help small business owners in Louisiana.

To take part in the #giftcardchallenge, all you have to do is go to your favorite local restaurant or retailer and purchase a gift card to help them bridge this temporary disturbance in their business so that they can keep serving the communities they love.

After you buy a gift card, be sure to take a picture of yourself with the #giftcardchallenge hashtag and help spread the word.

Click here to watch the video.

Stephen Waguespack from LABI talks about the impact the Coronavirus is having on small businesses. He says that a lot of small businesses are concerned that they may not survive because people are avoiding public areas. Stephen encourages people to support small businesses now more than ever and he explains the different ways people can still support their favorite business. Then, Waguespack breaks down the impact that the virus has on the states tourism dollars and how it will change the legislative session.

Hear everything Stephen said, here!

A group of executives have been hashing out for several months priorities and goals meant to improve the small business climate in Louisiana, focusing on access to capital, support programs, occupational licensing and regulatory policy.

The culmination of the Louisiana Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council's effort is a draft report expected to hit Gov. John Bel Edwards' desk in the coming weeks.

The board includes 16 business and government leaders from across the state who have been meeting with the Louisiana Economic Development department to develop recommendations for the governor, some of them on business wish lists for a long time.

It suggests deeper exploration into: 

  • Angel Investor Tax credits to create a state- and private sector-supported venture capital fund to stimulate high-growth industries.
  • A statewide accelerator program to help emerging companies scale up operations.
  • Possible changes to loan guarantee programs to entice lenders to underwrite small business loans.
  • Elimination of more than 40 existing occupational licenses currently required.
  • Reducing the cost of workers' compensation for businesses and tort reform.
  • Expanding government contracting opportunities, particularly for military veterans.

“This (report) is the first step. We're still gathering information to determine the best road forward. … We'll continue to make recommendations as we learn more moving forward,” said council leader Edward Krampe III, who is chief executive officer of Lafayette-based MacLaff Inc., a major McDonald's franchisee in the state with 45 restaurant locations.

“We have a really diverse group of people from all over the state in many different businesses,” Krampe III said of the council make-up.

Across Louisiana, there are 82,644 small businesses, classified as those with fewer than 500 employees, employing 917,466, or 53% of the private sector workforce, according to the report, which relied on U.S. census data.

In the Capital Region, those numbers are 14,033 small businesses employing 167,433, or 50% of the area's private-sector workforce; Acadiana Region, 12,499 small businesses employing 135,523, 61%; and the Southeast Region, which includes New Orleans, 26,463 small businesses employing 290,550, 54%, census records show. 

The goal of the report is to juice those numbers and improve on Louisiana's national rankings in various often-cited business categories: 42nd in entrepreneurship; 49th in venture capital; and 44th in business tax climate, with a more favorable 24th ranking in labor regulation. 

“Given Louisiana’s relatively low ranking, 'low-hanging fruit-opportunities' likely exist where marginal reforms could yield significant positive impact,” the report said.

Currently, Louisiana is engaged in numerous activities in an attempt to facilitate entrepreneurship in the state, the report said, but most of the activities are focused around a few paths. Those include tax credits, business incubators operating under a real estate management model and university-based activities.

“Louisiana appears to be lacking in access to capital, investor networks and accelerators that help startups understand how to successfully scale their business,” the report said.

The council hopes to build on a foundation of several small business-focused state economic development programs operated by LED. Those range from the department's Small and Emerging Business Development program and an Economic Gardening program that nurture fledgling businesses, to the department's CEO Roundtables in which executives learn from each others' experiences and tackle business problems. 

The report notes that “successful high-growth startups tend to have an outsized impact on the economy.” It cites as one example Austin, Texas, a state capital and university town, that spawned Dell computer, then attracted operations from Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Adobe.

“Although the high-tech sector is the one that gets all the press, there are many different sectors that can create high-growth businesses. One in Louisiana is health care; we've had a couple startups that are doing pretty well,” Krampe said.

But the council's executives don't want the state to invest in companies directly and be “in the business of picking winners and losers,” Krampe said. “We want either an accelerator program or venture capital funds to do what they do and then maybe create a state matching fund for those programs,” he said.

In addition to council members, the report relied in part on research performed by LED and discussions with a number of partners, including Committee of 100 for Economic Development, Reset Louisiana, the National Federation of Independent Business, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and the Small Business Administration. A significant portion of the research involved identifying best practices implemented by other states, which can serve as a model for Louisiana, the report said.

Angel Investor Tax Credit

For the past three decades, Louisiana has planted seeds to build a venture capital industry by investing about $40 million of equity in nearly a dozen funds that in turn are expected to invest in homegrown startups. However, the venture capital match program activity has largely dwindled in recent years.

The report said Louisiana should consider selling tax credits to create a state- and private sector-supported venture capital fund that's not focused on any particular industry sector. This fund would be different from previous efforts, which carved out investor money for technology startups or biotechnology and life sciences ventures.

The report also said there potentially should not be a cap on the Angel Investor Tax Credit so investors making an equity commitment will know tax credits are available to them. The rationale, the report said, is that selling tax credits does not have an immediate impact on the state budget. It said the impact of successful startups in the state should be greater than the cost of the tax credits.

The report said the state should identify the types of Louisiana startups that are negatively impacted by the inability to obtain seed funding and identify potential funding sources and structures; additional education services for small business owners and entrepreneurs; and research options to improve Louisiana’s entrepreneurial culture.

Business owners also requested that the state invest in a license for SourceLink, which is a resource for small businesses and considered an asset mapping tool and customer matchmaker.

Accelerating businesses

There was support among the executives for a statewide accelerator program, in addition to business incubators spread across the state. Accelerators work with emerging companies to scale-up operations. The executives urged LED to explore what other states across the country have found to be successful regarding incubators and accelerators. 

“We have a tremendous array of incubators across the state. … What we don’t have is the next phase of growth for these small companies which is acceleration,” Krampe said.

The goal is for that accelerator network to be centralized and connected so that any small business interacting with one of its branches can get access to the whole network. There is a Techstars program, which is an accelerator for high-growth tech startups, in New Orleans only, and Propeller is a homegrown accelerator for startups in New Orleans as well.

Loan guarantees

LED's economic development corporation already approves business loan guarantees — a state version of a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan. 

Since 2011, LED's board has approved small business guarantees across 58 companies for $21.9 million of the $31.7 million in capital they received from lenders. Most of the loan guarantees are split between the Capital and Acadiana regions, which had 20 and 22 loans respectively. Seven were backed across the New Orleans metro region since 2011.

Small business leaders recommend conducting a study of entrepreneurs who are impacted by the lack of access to startup capital — those often being too early stage to qualify for a loan but without enough personal wealth to finance a business.

The board wants to explore whether changes to how the state supports small businesses with access to capital could make a difference with lenders to entice them to underwrite early stage loans.

Eliminating some licenses

The report suggests that the state should explore the elimination of more than 40 existing occupational licenses currently required.

There are 29 occupational licenses required in fewer than half of the other states in the country. There are 12 licenses required in fewer than 10 states across the country. In addition, the council suggests including a small business representative as a member of the Occupational Licensing Review Commission. 

“We have 63 licensing bodies in Louisiana. That seems like the cost for our government to run those and for small business to try to meet the requirements of those is pretty big,” Krampe said.

Workers' compensation costs

The board also suggested exploring ways to reduce the cost of workers' compensation for businesses, taking note of best practices in Arkansas and Virginia which are lower-cost states for that insurance. 

On average, Louisiana employers pay $2.23 per $100 of payroll dollars for workers' compensation insurance compared to only $1.08 in Arkansas and $1.17 in Virginia, according to the report. The board asserts that there are some types of jobs defined as high risk by insurers which may not be.

Tort Reform

The board also suggested tort reform, referring to the long-standing high insurance costs in Louisiana. Potential tort reform touted by businesses would change how Louisiana courts function and force litigants into pretrial negotiations rather than a system that the report said may appear to extort insurance companies for out of court settlements.

“Considering the past failed attempts at tort reform over recent years, the (board) recommends that tort reform proponents expend resources on researching and proposing incremental, bipartisan, proven reforms that would result in more competition and lower costs for consumers and businesses,” the report said. 

Government contracting

Expansion of government contracting, particularly for military veterans, was another priority the board agreed upon. One recommendation was that state agencies should be required to submit agency-specific small business outreach plans with goals and strategies to broaden the available pool of vendors. 

Similar to a disparity study conducted by East Baton Rouge city-parish, board members suggested a statewide small business disparity study which breaks down existing contracting data to see where there are gaps.

By: Stephen Waguespack

Louisiana voters turned out in large numbers this election cycle.  Now, only a few weeks removed from a contentious and competitive election season, the question becomes what was the message these voters intended to deliver to elected officials by their votes?

To find out, don’t grind over the crosstabs from some fancy biased poll, YouTube a bunch of nasty political commercials or sort through a stack of leftover glossy political mailers that filled your mailbox the last few months.  Instead, go talk to real people around Louisiana that could care less about politics but care greatly about their desire to simply work and raise their family in the state they love.

This week, one of our LABI team members met such a person. This man runs a company that provides non-emergency medical transportation in a rural parish. During a policy discussion, when the subject of legal reform came up, he grew increasingly animated. He described his difficulty finding commercial auto insurance, his experiences with frivolous and predatory lawsuits, his frustration with being sued for $49,999 – magically just $1 short of the $50,000 jury trial threshold. He’s fed up, and he’s ready to see action from his elected officials.

He’s not alone. Far from it.

He’s had enough of frivolous lawsuits, his business is suffering because of the high cost of auto insurance, and if these costs drive him out of business, he wonders who will drive his clients to meet their medical needs in such a large, rural area? To him, these aren’t just clients — they are his neighbors, friends, family members and fellow parishioners. In this case, our broken legal system is not only threatening families and small businesses working to find a good job and afford auto insurance, it is also affecting a rural community’s critical access to health care.

This small business owner echoed the collective cry of Louisiana voters when they elected a whole new type of legislator in the 2019 cycle. Pundits analyzing our governor’s race have opined ad nauseam about how that race was far more about mudslinging than substance. They are correct. However, while there may be no clear mandate from that race, there is a deafening mandate from Louisiana voters for change as voiced in their collective choices for legislators around the state. In fact, voters across Louisiana sent to the Capitol the most reform-minded Legislature ever elected and they sent them with a clear mandate. They want to see meaningful legal reform. They want a better tax code. They want fewer regulations strangling startups and entrepreneurs. They want economic opportunity. They want their kids to find a job here when they graduate. They want Louisiana to finally reach its infinite potential.

This new freshman class of legislators is full of smart, diverse, business-minded leaders who know how policies enacted at the Capitol play out in real life across Louisiana. And that’s critical for progress. They campaigned on these issues, and their voters are sending them to Baton Rouge with clear instructions to get it done.

That sentiment stretches across our state government, to our Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where all eight elected members of our state’s highest school board are reform-minded education champions uninterested in the status quo, focused instead on opportunities for our students, on critical workforce development needs, and on building a brighter future through our education system.

It continues to our State Supreme Court, where Judge Will Crain was elected to fill the seat vacated by Justice Greg Guidry who was appointed to the federal bench. Judge Crain is an unyielding advocate for judges applying existing laws rather than expanding law or “legislating from the bench.” Simply put – he calls balls and strikes, and as a conscientious jurist will fairly and evenly apply the law.

Louisiana’s newly elected legislature, our state school board and our latest Supreme Court Justice represent a voting public saying “no” to more excuses and “yes” to more opportunity. They don’t ask for much, at least in their mind, it doesn’t sound like very much. In fact, it sounds pretty darn easy to them.  Fix our economy. Safeguard our tax dollars. Improve our schools. Build roads we need and cut programs we don’t. Stop all the silly lawsuits raising costs and chasing away jobs and just make it easier to afford insurance and own a small business.

That mandate is straightforward and simple. It was delivered strongly. No political party owns all the answers to get this done and voters don’t care who gets the credit. They just want it done.

The voters spoke clearly. Hopefully the elected listened. Rest assured, the voters will be watching.

Stephen Waguespack from LABI joined us to talk about tort reform and small businesses. Stephen explains that the tort reform for lower auto insurance rates falls on the Senate leadership. He says that the Senate needs to come together and figure out a solution to lower insurance rates. He also breaks down what new leadership the Senate will be looking at soon.

In honor of Cyber Monday, Waguespack talks about how you can support small businesses in your area. He says that instead of getting on Amazon and buying items from there, go to a website of a local business to check out their deals because a lot of times the local product is better and you could get it for the same price. Hear that and more!

Click here to listen to the full interview.

By: Stephen Waguespack

While the political ads and mailbox clutter has finally ended due to election season wrapping up, a new invasion of ads are now upon us: the holiday shopping season ads. This week is Black Friday, which traditionally is the biggest shopping day of the year and the kickoff to a shopping month which is critical for retailers of all sizes.

The margins for retail have become much tighter in recent years as customers have increasingly migrated to online shopping. This trend is expected to only increase as the years go by, making it even more challenging for your traditional brick and mortar retail businesses.  These backbones of every Louisiana local economy need your support – especially small business retailers that serve their community day after day throughout the year.

“Small Business Saturday” started as a simple idea to help struggling local businesses during the 2010 recession. Nine Small Business Saturdays later, and American consumers have spent an estimated $103 billion with their local businesses. Considering that for every dollar spent in the U.S. at one of our small businesses, 67 cents stays in the local community, that’s good news for communities across the country.

LABI is happy to help promote the tenth Small Business Saturday in Louisiana this coming Saturday, November 30. There are 447,440 small businesses in our state – which accounts for 99.5 percent of all businesses operating here. So when you hear “small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” that’s a pretty accurate analogy. Those small businesses employ just over half of the state’s private workforce – or 902,758 people in areas like health care, food services and retail trade. Additionally, small businesses are responsible for creating 2 out of every 3 new jobs.

Here at LABI, our 2,200 member businesses collectively employ more than 300,000 Louisiana workers, and 80 percent of those are small businesses. We’re extremely proud of that.

So, as you kick the Christmas gift-giving season into high gear, remember to visit your local small businesses. And encourage your friends and family to do the same – consider making it a game to see how much of your giving can originate locally or with a Louisiana-owned small business. The gourmet goodie specialty supplier, the handmade gift shops, the art galleries and clothing stores – not to mention the restaurants and coffee shops – spend this Saturday spending with our Louisiana small businesses.

And while you’re at it, spread the word. Share pictures on social media and give your local favorites a shout-out, brag on your neighborhood establishments, and use the hashtag #ShopSmallLouisiana.

And while local merchants and restauranteurs will certainly appreciate your patronage on Saturday, November 30, they would love even more to see you show up in their doorways throughout the year. Doing so drives our local economies, keeping your dollars in your own community.