Nicholls State University has received a $3.5 million grant to establish a center that will help start-up businesses get established.

Construction of the approximately 8,000-square-foot Bayou Region Incubator is expected to begin in the fall and will cost about $2.6 million, university officials said today.

The center will be located at the same site as the future Coastal Center, at the corner of Acadia and Ardoyne Drive.

Inside the incubator, small businesses will have access to collaborative workspaces, meeting rooms, private offices and a conference room.

The remaining $900,000 will contribute to operating expenses. Following the end of the two-year grant period, the incubator will become a self-managed nonprofit.

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“This grant will cement Nicholls State University as the economic heart of the Bayou Region,” Nicholls President Jay Clune said in a news release. “We expect the Bayou Region Incubator will produce everything from coastal solutions to innovative ideas in technology, healthcare and more.

“Rebuilding our coast is more than physical land. It’s rebuilding the quality of life. And the Bayou Region Incubator will sprout businesses and generate jobs that will only augment the unique character of south Louisiana.”

The federal tax money for the grant comes from the Cares Act, an economic stimulus package Congress approved in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is administered in Louisiana by the state Office of Community Development.

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Through the incubator, local entrepreneurs will have access to consulting, training, technical assistance and funding opportunities. The incubator will also bring guest speakers to campus, host entrepreneurial workshops, organize pitch competitions and provide training.

“As these businesses grow, they will create more jobs and contribute their fair share of taxes. All of this will help the local economy,” said Kevin Pitts, the incubator’s executive director. “While some businesses will focus on coastal dynamics, we will work with a diverse variety of businesses. These will be businesses that the Bayou Region can be proud of.”

The incubator’s objectives include enhancing resiliency in a post-COVID-19 environment by diversifying the local economy and developing strategies for businesses to adapt and respond to new economic trends and unexpected challenges, officials said. Additionally, the incubator will organize programs for minority and women-owned businesses and support business development and job creation in low and moderate-income communities.

In announcing the money, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards emphasized economic recovery in the wake of a global pandemic as a reason the state supports the initiative. 

“This facility will be a place for entrepreneurs to access training, mentoring and space to make their dreams of a successful business come true. Helping ideas grow into viable businesses benefits the entire region through economic diversification and job creation,” said Marilyn Macik-Frey, dean of Nicholls’ College of Business Administration. “We are especially excited that the incubator will be on the campus. Students and faculty will have a resource in their backyard that allows them to transition research and creative ideas into viable businesses.”