SLEC

From left: Louisiana Governor, John Bel Edwards; Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson; Nicholls President, Dr. Jay Clune; South Louisiana Economic Council President and CEO, Vic Lafont; CPRA Chairman Chip Kline; and The Water Institute of the Gulf President and CEO, Justin Ehrenwerth. (Cain Madden/Nicholls State University)

Governor John Bel Edwards joined Nicholls State University President Dr. Jay Clune and South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC) President and CEO Vic Lafont on Friday to announce plans for the Louisiana Coastal Technical Assistance Center (CTAC). 

Officials from Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), The Water Institute of the Gulf and SLEC joined the Governor and Dr. Clune in signing a memorandum of understanding for the creation of the center. 

Housed on Nicholls campus, the new resource center will aid local companies competing for work on state coastal restoration projects as contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

“Louisiana plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually, over the next 50 years, in projects that protect and restore our coast,” Gov. Edwards said. “These projects will create substantial new opportunities for Louisiana businesses. The Coastal Technical Assistance Center will be designed to help small Louisiana companies compete for this important work all across our coastal region on an unprecedented scale. We want Louisiana businesses involved in our coastal mission as much as possible.” 

SLEC will oversee the center, which will assist companies in acquiring qualifications for participating in the public bidding process for coastal recovery projects. 

“The South Louisiana Economic Council has a record of deploying unique services for businesses during times of increased need,” Lafont said. “Representing Louisiana’s Bayou Region, we routinely see the efforts our state is putting forth to restore and ensure our coast remains working and vigilant. Our team is excited to be asked to lead this new initiative alongside LED, CPRA, The Water Institute of the Gulf and Nicholls State University – Louisiana’s closest university to the coast. Together, we will assist Louisiana-based small businesses in obtaining contracts with entities involved in the restoration and recovery efforts of coastal Louisiana.”

Nicholls State University will serve as the center’s higher education partner, providing technical support, research and in-kind services, such as future shared office and small business incubator space dedicated to the coastal mission. 

“The Coastal Technical Assistance Center will be a tremendous asset to South Louisiana,” Dr. Clune said. “We have the most environmentally threatened student body in the world, so it is critical for Nicholls to be involved in the restoration and conservation of coastal Louisiana. This is an exciting project that we believe will result in impactful solutions.”

Nicholls has positioned itself to be a leader in coastal restoration and preservation after partnerships with the University of New Orleans, Water Institute of the Gulf and Coastal Preservation and Restoration Authority. In the spring, Nicholls and CPRA announced the intention to build a Water Research Center for Coastal Restoration on the Nicholls campus. 

“CPRA’s investments will transform the coast,” said CPRA Chairman Chip Kline Jr. “By teaming up with LED, Nicholls, SLEC, and the Water Institute, we believe we have a real shot at transforming the economy of South Louisiana as well. CPRA is measuring success in restored land and reduced flood risk, but CTAC also gives us the opportunity to measure our impact in jobs and business development.”

LED and CPRA will provide a combined $750,000 to establish the center. Each agency will contribute $125,000 annually for three years, beginning with the current 2020 fiscal year. 

“We consider water management one of the key sectors for economic growth in our state,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Based upon the groundwork laid by the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Lafayette, we have a blueprint for leveraging the maximum opportunity for Louisiana businesses in the coastal and water management sector. This is an exciting economic development initiative, and we’re most appreciative of the resource and management roles played by Nicholls State and SLEC, as well as the project leadership that CPRA and The Water Institute of the Gulf will provide.”

The Water Institute of the Gulf will assist CTAC in increasing employment and business opportunities in the water management sector. The Baton Rouge-based institute is a leading applied research center focused on coastal and deltaic solutions across the world. 

“Restoring and protecting our coast requires all of us working together,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf. “The Water Institute is honored to join the governor and our colleagues from CPRA, LED, Nicholls State and SLEC in supporting the creation of the Coastal Technical Assistance Center, which will continue growing our state’s collective capabilities in support of the coastal program.”

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