It’s a well-known fact that small business is the backbone of every economy. Here in Cenla, it’s certainly no different. Small businesses are the life blood of our community. The frontline organizations charged with promoting and supporting enterprises both large and small are our chambers of commerce. With numerous chambers throughout Central Louisiana, each works within their respective community to make sure that entrepreneurs have the tools and support each of them need to succeed. Whether attracting large industry to our area, insuring the continued success of our existing businesses or fostering the development of new endeavors, Cenla’s Chambers of Commerce are working hard to ensure that investing in Cenla continues to be big business.
Founded in 1914 by local business leaders, the (now) Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce has from inception occupied a position of economic, social and political leadership throughout the multi-parish Central Louisiana region. The hallmarks of the region have included continuous attention to expansion and improvements to the highway, aviation, rail and Red River means of transportation. Engagement in levels of education, workforce, health care, agriculture, forest products, government and the military remain prominent. The Chamber led the campaigns to establish a large Veteran’s Hospital and permanent National Guard facilities in the area and convert a closing U.S. Air Force Base to community uses.
The Cenla Chamber has unceasingly taken the initiative to broaden the local industrial and commercial base; aggressively recruited outside businesses while fostering growth and expansion of existing ones; financed advanced community capital planning, zoning and land use projects; and created and supported numerous local development boards. The crowning achievement was fostering community assumption of the former England Air Force Base upon the Base Realignment and Closure Commission closure decision. It has achieved occasional national attention with development projects such as (the now) England AirPark, the recent $100million Union Tank Car manufacturing facility with the pinnacle event being the visit to the Chamber offices by President George W. Bush, who held a private “State of the Economy” session with several local small businesspersons.
Though the precise emphasis on ever-differing community needs has varied widely with time and circumstance, the unrelenting overall focus of effort has been the strengthening and growth of the entire region. Given the ever-evolving economic landscape and the characteristics of the local communities, the Chamber in recent years has focused more heavily on broadening the local quality of life for Cenla citizens by creating the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) via concentrating its efforts on broadening the economic base of the area business community; job creation across the spectrum of existing and potential Cenla employers; improving the educational and training levels off all its citizens to fill available job openings; and strengthening and expanding Fort Polk and the Louisiana National Guard presence in Cenla.
The Grant Parish Chamber of Commerce has now been active for a little over a year, following a period of inactivity. Since becoming reestablished, the Grant Chamber has been able to assemble a governing board and now have nearly 50 businesses and individuals who have become active members. Additional achievements within the last year include an overhaul of the organization’s website at www.grantcoc.org, creating a more inviting and informative experience for those outside our area interested in finding out about Grant Parish. The site now includes upcoming events on the homepage, links to photos, places to eat, places to stay, as well as other useful information for visitors.
Also in the past year, the Chamber has welcomed the addition of Mrs. Carol Ulmer to the staff as secretary handling the day-to-day business of the chamber and to help expand marketing efforts. Part of that marketing effort has been the development of a strong relationship with the Catahoula Ranger District of the National Forest and Ranger Rodney Stone in hopes of bringing more recreational opportunities to the parish.
The potential is there no doubt. With two brand new four lane highways, the Red River Waterway, plenty of reasonably priced land, and many fine graduates of the school system to supply a workforce, not much stands in the way of continued growth.
The Marksville Chamber of Commerce has really grown in the past few years, and has established a set of short-term goals they hope to achieve over the next few years. Among these is the development of curriculum designed educate high school students in capitalism and free market enterprises. The Chamber is also recruiting another large scale employer, in addition to the existing casino, to Marksville to employ even more of the community workforce.
One of the Chamber’s more long-term goals is the establishment of a community center where the Chamber can host monthly luncheons with members and as an area host events for the Chamber and other non-profit organizations. The Chamber boasts several accomplishments including community activities such as sponsoring the Fourth of July parade each year (which, by the way, is the longest running Fourth of July celebration in the state); the annual Farmers Market around the courthouse square every Saturday in June; and the sponsorship of one local student to the Girls State convention for the past 20-plus years.
The Chamber strives to benefit current, new and prospective residents by working with fellow business people to foster a strong business climate; playing a part in recruiting new business and industry to the community; joining with the business community to address issues such as infrastructure and various city concerns that directly affect businesses; and providing cost-effective marketing opportunities through sponsorships for the Chamber website, events, monthly publication and Avoyelles Parish Map. While Marksville is marked by growing economic prosperity, it manages to retain a distinctive hometown feeling, making it an attractive place to live, work and play.
Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce
1601 Texas Hwy
Many, LA 71449-3936
The Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce is a volunteer organization that promotes and supports the civic and commercial progress of our community. The Chamber is primarily financed by the investment of its members. The Sabine Parish Chamber has been proudly serving its community and parish for over 6 decades. The Chamber’s mission is simple and direct. The Chamber serves the area’s business community through its business service programs, event and committees and continually strives to find new and added ways to serve its members.
The Sabine Parish Chamber’s doors are always open. They invite local businesspeople to enjoy the benefits that over 250 members already have, and to get involved in one of the Chamber’s committees charged with harnessing the power of its volunteer members towards common goals. A Chamber membership makes you first priority for thousands of referrals to area newcomers and tourists, and puts you in the eye of all at Chamber Ribbon Cuttings and other chamber sponsored events. As a member you can proudly display your membership plaque for all to see in your business.
The Natchitoches Chamber has been extremely busy this year. They are propelled by the momentum generated by a fantastic group of chamber leaders from the previous years who had the wisdom to chart a new course for the Natchitoches Chamber. The Chamber cites the single most critical need as a better educated workforce. The Chamber has become deeply involved in education initiatives and formed a wonderful working relationship with the local school board. Much of their resources have been directed toward education initiatives related to health services, early childhood education, truancy, the Project Lead the Way curriculum, Math Counts and more. They have implemented a half million dollar fundraising campaign through the NSU Foundation to put additional funds in to the programs they believe are instrumental to creating a better workforce.
In addition, the Natchitoches Chamber continues to dedicate energy to sponsoring forums for the business community. Forum topics have included “How to Start Your Own Business”, the recent “Health Care Reform” legislation, Legislative briefings with local, state and federal elected officials, Business tax “roundtable discussions”, and many more.
The Natchitoches Chamber manages and organizes the annual Christmas Festival, so naturally, they spend a great deal of time concentrating efforts to make sure that celebration continues to improve each year. This year has created new challenges, however, as former President/Executive Director, Nick Pollacia recently moved with his family to Georgia, leaving a position he held for the last 15 years. Despite the tremendous loss, the Chamber is delighted with the plans so far and can’t wait for the lights to be turned on.
Beyond this year, the Chamber is looking to continue involvement in improvements in the areas of education, parish government, membership development and support for local business.
Merging the Vidalia and Ferriday Chambers is the biggest ongoing project for the Chamber. The name of the new organization will be the Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce. The transition will officially take place on January 1, 2011. A committee made up of members from both chambers has been working hard for about 7-8 months and now has the organization’s new by-laws in place, job description for the new Director position and many of the day-to-day details. Nominations for the new Board of Directors are being taken now through September 30th, and that group should be named sometime in October. The search for the new Director should also start in October.
The Chamber is also working very closely with the Miss-Lou Steering Committee to further “regionalism” concepts and activities in the adjoining parishes and Adams County Mississippi. This group, with collaboration of the Ferriday, Vidalia and Natchez Chambers of Commerce, has been hosting forums, workshops and various activities this year. The last forum had Rick Ranson, Director of the Cenla Economic Development Alliance, as guest speaker. He provided attendees with very valuable information relative to the planned merger. This group also sponsored the recent “Natchez Bridge Lighting” ceremony which greatly exemplified the regionalism concept, as well as reminded the community how much we all need each other if our communities are going to thrive.
The Concordia Chamber of Commerce coming to fruition will be the realization of a dream for many hard working people in this region. It has been the Chamber’s unwavering goal to have it support the local business community, availing each citizen the best quality-of-life possible. The Chamber is dedicated to its plan to thrive, not merely survive.
Bunkie Chamber of Commerce
110 Northwest Main Street
Bunkie, LA 71322-1630
The Bunkie Chamber of Commerce was chartered in 1965 and has been promoting commerce in the city of Bunkie for 45 years. The chamber is proud to be a part of the facelift of Main Street and renovation of the train depot. It is also responsible for the new visitor’s center on Hwy 115 off of I-49.
The chamber has started a stronger movement on making the business environment know that Bunkie has a lot to offer a company looking to locate in Central Louisiana. Bunkie has major assets that it can offer an industry. City officials along with other elected officials and chamber members are committed as a group to making Bunkie a prosperous place to live and have a business. The city was very fortunate to get state funding for an industrial part. The park is located just south of Bunkie on 250 acres of land, alongside a major railroad. The city has funding available to develop the park to meet locating companies’ needs. The chamber, together with the city, is working with Cleco and the state to have the industrial park certified. The certification will lead to expanded market exposure in its search to entice new business. The Chamber views Bunkie as just like all the other small cities and towns, struggling to find a large business or industry to revive the community.
The Bunkie Chamber is currently working to improve its website with a large concentration on economic development. This will be a huge step in getting vital information to the public. The chamber is also the sponsor of the Louisiana Corn Festival which will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2011. Through the USDA Rural Development, the chamber has money to lend to new or existing businesses in Bunkie for improvements at competitive interest rates.
The chamber is committed to promoting Bunkie and helping businesses become successful. The Bunkie Chamber is invested in making the city a place where people want to put down roots and raise a family, not just a place to pass through.