BATON ROUGE, LA – Connecting new professionals to career opportunities are always a welcomed advantage to any workforce development program, but when it centers around further advancing small businesses building industry-skills for individuals with low-access to digital training, and economic equity, it becomes a catalyst for success.
Over the course of the next three years, Microsoft has awarded $300,000 towards the collaborative effort between MetroMorphosis and The Walls Project to bring effective change needed for tech entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber estimates that 98% of businesses in the Capital region are small businesses (less than $1,000,000 net worth and owned by people with net worths of less than $400,000). As Baton Rouge grows and becomes a city that is increasingly focused on the economic development of all its residents, small business development has emerged as a critical component of our economic viability. The SBA reports that nearly 53% of the local workforce was employed by small businesses, increasing the number of proprietors by 1.9% in 2017. This upward trend was expected to continue, especially given the increase in both minority- and locally- owned businesses. Small businesses, especially those that are locally owned, create job opportunities and drive economic growth in smaller geographic locations making them a key component of economic development and job growth.
However, as gleaned from several listening sessions, focus groups, and interviews with small businesses, especially those that are veteran, woman, and minority-owned and operated, support for growing their business is often limited and overlooks the fact that additional human capacity is sometimes needed to help the businesses grow. This creates quite the predicament for small businesses in that they need to expand to acquire the talent they need to help them expand.
Consistent with its mission of transforming urban communities from within, MetroMorphosis builds partnerships with existing community assets to leverage resources and redefine systems. These redefined systems translate into more coordinated service delivery models and/or new pathways for success. To this end, MetroMorphosis is partnering with The Walls Project to strengthen Baton Rouge's small business and workforce development ecosystems.
This new collaboration will combine the existing small business development efforts of MetroMorphosis with The Walls Project’s existing technology training program, Futures Fund, to provide a comprehensive workforce development learn- to- earn career pipeline that focuses on tech. By equipping new workers with technology and soft skills training and connecting them to small businesses that could benefit from “back-office” support, the collaboration will provide meaningful work experiences for youth and COVID-19 displaced workers while strengthening the small business ecosystem in our city.