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Center Changes Focus, Garners Award for Efforts

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One center at UL Lafayette knew it had to reinvent itself when international free trade agreements prompted U.S. textile and clothing manufacturers to take their business overseas and to Mexico in the mid-1990s for cheap labor.

Now, that same center - with a different mission and name - is already being recognized by the governor's office for its new efforts.

The Center for Business and Information Technologies is geared towards helping Louisiana companies prosper by developing Internet-based applications like an online business directory. As the Apparel-Computer Integrated Manufacturing Center, it serviced the textile and clothing manufacturing industries by refining automation in manufacturing.

"The center's mission went from developing solutions that improve manufacturing to helping businesses find a balance between the supply and demand of their product," said Director Dr. Ramesh Kolluru. "We saw the problem as much bigger than manufacturing and knew that because some companies had moved their manufacturing out of the country, these companies would need help managing their inventory and supply chains."

The center helps find this balance between supply and demand by developing Internet-based technologies that foster commerce. It also offers business seminars that discuss pertinent business practices and strategies with company leaders.

CBIT leaders were recently honored for their work as the 2003 Lantern Organization Award winners by Gov. Mike Foster. This was the first year for the award, which honors non-profit organizations or universities who have shown leadership in helping Louisiana businesses grow.

CBIT demonstrated its leadership mission earlier this year when it launched a free, searchable Internet directory of Louisiana businesses. The Louisiana Commerce Exchange System connects businesses across the state, building partnerships that lead to more economic growth.

LACES works by businesses logging onto and posting information about their products and services, geographical markets of interest and contact numbers. Anyone can view this information at any time with the idea being that businesses across the globe can access the website to find a Louisiana company to fill their specific business needs.

And in addition to LACES, the center is also focusing on new ways to manage supply and demand for Louisiana businesses by developing technologies and offering seminars that address efficiently managing manufacturing needs and inventory levels.

"This is the next logical step following LACES," said Kolluru. "It's a continuation of helping businesses with solutions to their problems by combing expert help and innovative technology."

This expert help will be available to businesses in July during "A Roadmap to Supply Chain Management." The seminar will feature faculty from UL Lafayette as well as Clemson University.

Together, the universities are developing supply chain management technologies for application within the Department of Defense. This same technology is already available to Louisiana businesses. Seminar participants will get a first glance at this technology on July 21.

"Every single step we take every single day is to find a way to help Louisiana businesses," said Kolluru. "We want to offer them business solutions that are efficient, affordable, and most importantly helpful."