ALEXANDRIA, La. – (WNTZ) Louisiana Central recently initiated and completed a study that underscores the nursery industry’s significance, growth, and impact in the 10-parish central Louisiana region. “Louisiana Central has believed for some time that the region’s nursery industry is an important economic driver for Central Louisiana”, Jim Clinton, President and CEO of Louisiana Central said. “This study allows us to quantify the cumulative economic impact of this cluster of independent growers that provide nursery products regionally, nationally and internationally. It also allows us insight into how Louisiana Central and others can facilitate the path for additional economic growth and opportunity for entrepreneurial development in this sector.” The report shows that there are 286 active nursery operations in Central Louisiana.

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The Regional Nursery Cluster Report was conducted cooperatively with mano-Y-ola, an organizational change and research consulting group. Dr. Nolo Martinez and Maya McElrath, co-partners of mano-Y-ola, a minority-owned company, have over thirty years of combined experience in the field of leadership, education, family services, social work, and community development.

In addition to providing baseline research on the nursery industry, the report provides the groundwork for Louisiana Central to continue to play a critical role in providing solutions to forecasted challenges, such as entrepreneurial training, business development, and connecting growers and entrepreneurs with resources and partners.

Louisiana Central’s regional service area for the nursery industry is distinguished for its historical significance, the increasing number of small businesses, and the renewal opportunity with a growing immigration population dedicated to the industry. Self-taught horticulturist, Mr. Samuel Stokes, pioneered the nursery business in Forest Hill, Louisiana over 100 years ago by propagating native plants,
creating the business, and then teaching his trade to other residents in the area who then became successful entrepreneurs, igniting a sustainable and growing industry. Because of this growth and success, the nursery industry attracted distributors and other associated businesses creating a thriving economy. Over time, the region grew in diversity amongst its owners and workers, specifically
attributing the impact of diversification between 2000 and 2020 to the Hispanic/Latino population. Today the industry’s success continues with the Hispanic community of Forest Hill. Mexican farmworkers who began as seasonal workers to fill a labor shortage learned the trade and opened their own nurseries, as the early Forest Hill residents had done.

Through transparency and collaboration, the study’s full report shows how positive regional economic trends have emerged including new business and employment opportunities that indicate sustainable growth within Louisiana Central’s 10-parish service region. Dedicated to innovative strategy, consistent
leadership, problem solving, and most importantly a strong devotion to community and business relationships, Louisiana Central encourages the nursery industry to push into broader paths of expansion and will promote and support the industry fully in these endeavors.

“Louisiana Central is enthusiastic about expanding our relationships with those who are developing the nursery industry,” Clinton said. “There is a new opportunity to help generate interest and business by creating a network to outside markets and promoting opportunities this industry currently offers for
future growth.” Examples include:

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● Louisiana Central’s connections with farmers and the Natural Resources Service can establish collaboration and partnerships to deliver incentives for farmers/growers to participate in the Biden Administration’s Climate-Smart Commodities.

● The nursery industry is proudly generating makers, and with support from Louisiana Central’s entrepreneur program (Business Acceleration System or BAS), entrepreneurs and makers can receive the business instruction and coaching that helps to grow their businesses. BAS already works with a number of businesses in the nursery industry and is witnessing how opportunities are generated to support makers who are crafting products that serve the industry. When provided knowledge and skills through Louisiana Central’s BAS program, these makers have expanded beyond the region into larger markets promoting economic growth and opportunity for the region. Louisiana Central initiated and led this study in order to demonstrate how they can provide the missing roadmap needed to catapult the already thriving nursery industry into expansion. The report was funded in part by cooperation from the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED) and through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) under EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance program.

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Resources:
View the executive summary click here to take a closer look at the area’s nursery history, production, market, and liabilities, along with identified growth opportunities.

To learn more about Louisiana Central’s services and programs, visit www.louisiana-central.com and follow them on Facebook.

About Louisiana Central
Louisiana Central acts as a catalyst, leader, and connector to build a knowledge-and-innovation-driven economy, encompassing a ten parish region including Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon, and Winn.

(By: Britni Lilley)