Working On The Water:
Connecting Economic Development, Small Business and Workforce Development to Retain and Grow Jobs On the Louisiana Coast
- The Regional Planning Commission (RPC) is the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) locally designated Economic Development District and receives “District Planning Grant” funding from the EDA to prepare the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and to perform a number of economic development planning functions. The EDA has made additional planning grant funding available to the RPC with a 50-50 match requirement. The RPC will partner with entities in St Bernard to utilize a portion of the additional EDA funds to support ongoing economic development initiatives in the Parish which have regional impact.
- The St Bernard Economic Development Foundation (SBEDF) initiated an EDA funded study called “Fisheries Moving Forward” to identify opportunities for fisherman put out of work by the BP Oil Spill to be re-employed, working on the water and in the Parish. This initiative identified 3 fields of alternative work on the water: Coastal Restoration, Eco-Tourism, and Sustainable Fisheries.
The Fisheries Moving Forward project has revealed a number of ways in which supporting working on the water is an interconnected endeavor crossing many fields of practice within economic development.
- Economic Development – On the Water supports two industry clusters
- Coastal Restoration - The Gulf region is experiencing rapid loss of wetlands and other natural coastal protection features. The State’s Coastal Restoration Master Plan which is expected to be the framework for the deployment of RESTORE Act funds identifies a number of projects in the New Orleans region.
- Energy (Oil & Gas) - The New Orleans region is experiencing a new “energy boom” with many large investments in facilities supporting the energy industry along the Mississippi River and Gulf. These facilities represent opportunity for employment and revenue for the region, but also must be managed properly to avoid another man made disaster
- Small Business – Many fisherman have their own boats and their own businesses. These fisherman and their crews can go out on the water commercial fishing one day, can provide an eco-tourism excursion the next day, can be involved in wetlands restoration the day after that, and can be contracted to perform clean-up activities in the event of a disaster. These are diverse client bases with different pay schedules, communication methods and service needs which a small business or employee must be able to navigate.
- Workforce - Working on the water requires a diverse skills set, those who have it can be a small business person one day and an employee the next, called upon to perform a different function in a different industry on the water. Many types of work on the water require certifications such as Hazardous Materials Handling, certifications on how to store, prepare and sell seafood for sale etc. To make a living on the water, boat captains and crews must be flexible and responsive to different set of “customers” and employers requiring different expertise and skill sets. They must constantly be adding to their inventory of skills to be eligible and prepared for opportunities in different endeavors on the water.
- Inventory - Coordinate with Workforce Investment Board (WIB)– Planning District One and TruFund’s database which catalogs small businesses and individuals (workforce) with certain equipment, certifications and skill sets along with features that enable communication of employment and contracting opportunities and needs to this audience. The current database focuses on coastal restoration and disaster response opportunities – this work would add Eco-Tourism to the database and strengthen the connections between these modes of work.
- Develop Center of Excellence at Nunez Community College – To develop an industry hub to modernize the fishing industry and expand working opportunities on the water beyond fishing. The Center will improve the profitability of business and to provide training and certifications needed for working on the water. The Center would provide training in product handling, safety (e.g. handling hazardous materials), wetlands methods, regulations, business management (financial, marketing, planning) and new technology and equipment. This work would develop the curriculum, identify the instructors and promote the courses.
- Annual Symposium and Educational Workshop Series – This work would establish an annual symposium that provides fisherman an opportunity to gain knowledge about working on the water in coastal restoration, eco-tourism, disaster response and commercial fishing. The annual symposium will be an opportunity to gather fisherman together along with other businesses in these industries to learn about training, procurement and employment opportunities as well as other resources. The symposium will also be a place to build relationships between businesses to encourage collaboration. In addition to the annual symposium, a series of educational workshops and professional development programs will bring information and training to the community while providing the community access to key stakeholders in the various industries (coastal restoration, eco-tourism, disaster response and commercial fishing).
Partners in Funding: three entities will coordinate and collaborate on this project leveraging federal funds from the EDA with contributions of their own funds.
- Regional Planning Commission (RPC) – will provide $40,000 of EDA funding
- St Bernard Economic Development Foundation - will provide $20,000 of funding
- Nunez Community College - will provide $20,000 of funding from their Foundation
- Regional Planning Commission (RPC) – will provide technical assistance in the preparation of the scope of work, soliciting a service provider, and will partner in oversight and review throughout the contract.
- St Bernard Economic Development Foundation - will coordinate this work with the Fisheries Moving Forward initiative committees. The EDF will also provide space for meetings, provide existing relationships, event planning services and relationships within the fishing community.
- Nunez Community College – will lead the coordination of the development of the Center of Excellence, will provide technical assistance on the inventory and symposium and will help coordinate the educational workshops providing the training whenever appropriate.
- Other Key Stakeholders: - will serve on an advisory committee and support the initiative where appropriate
- St Bernard Chamber of Commerce – will assist in outreach to businesses and in the development of communication platform and materials
- St Bernard Parish Government – will provide technical assistance and resources when needed on this initiative
- WIB and TruFund – will coordinate their inventory of assets and outreach to businesses