April 25, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
Partnering with BP, the National Urban League kicked off it's Gulf Coast Economic Empowerment Tour in Lake Charles. Former New Orleans Mayor and NUL President Mark Morial says the program is designed to help small and minority owned businesses, especially during this post hurricane period.
"All of these areas were affected by Rita or Katrina, directly or indirectly and by kicking it off in Lake Charles we're giving Lake Charles the opportunity to really say that there are not only opportunities here, but these opportunities are essential to the rebuilding of the regions," said Morial.
BP is funding the $3.2 million program for three years at no cost to applicants. BP Mid-Atlantic Gulf Coast General Manager Marti Gazzier says it's a chance for businesses to gain access to contracting opportunities with government and major corporations.
"Two years ago our employees at BP started a collection for relief. This $3.2 million is just one step in helping that recovery effort and getting people back into their homes, back into the Gulf Coast and really driving the economic factors of this region," said Gazzier. "The program can answer several questions, such as how do they fill the gaps in there organization to be technically stronger? How do they go after contracts, even things from human resources mentoring to things that have to do with their budgets. This is a very valuable program to them and they would not get these resources elsewhere."
Available is more than 10 billion federal dollars. Looking to get a piece of the pie is New Orleans business owner Sylvia Pastrano. "It's so exciting, that there really is millions of dollars out there," said Pastrano.
Pastrano relocated to Lake Charles after Hurricane Katrina, where she has been operating her New Orleans court reporting and translating business. Eager to start a new business in the Lake Area, she's exploring her options.
"I'm looking into what the opportunities that are out there for partnering, investing and starting up something totally different in the Lake Charles area," said Pastrano.
Over the next three years, business owners who take advantage from the program will be given resources and the tools to grow.
"This is the kind of program that guarantees nothing to anyone, except opportunity through information. And we've learned through work we've done throughout the country that providing information to smaller businesses is essential to help them grow," said Morial.