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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and community business leaders are coordinating the Accelerate Northside program to help spur COVID-19-related economic recovery.

UL Lafayette’s Louisiana Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center and the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce will lead the 12-week initiative.

The entities are enlisting volunteer businesspersons who will provide consulting and mentoring to owners of small businesses and people interested in starting a business on the north side of Lafayette.

Accelerate Northside is part of an 18-month initiative that the LEED Center will coordinate to help bolster economic development in several regions of Acadiana, including rural areas. The center supports small businesses, entrepreneurs and economic development agencies in Louisiana.

The initiative will be augmented by $300,000 grant awarded to LEED by the U.S. Economic Development Administration that is designed to help business owners and entrepreneurs impacted by pandemic-related business closures.

Accelerate Northside will include workshops that will be held each Saturday from Feb. 20 to March 27 on campus that will cover topics such as business planning, financial resources and support, and marketing. The events will be held at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise Center, or LITE Center, and the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

“The aim of Accelerate Northside is to help to create a sustainable entrepreneurial foundation that will last beyond the scope of the grant,” said UL Lafayette’s Dr. Geoffrey Stewart. He directs the LEED Center and is the Moody Company/BORSF Endowed Chair in Regional Business Development.

Six weeks of consulting and mentoring from working professionals and retired business owners will follow. Faculty members and MBA students from the Moody College of Business Administration will also advise Accelerate Northside participants about management, finances and marketing strategies.

Alum Stephen Bartley’s interest in Accelerate Northside extends beyond the participants he will mentor about financial matters; Bartley, ’08, is president of the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce.

“Participants planning a startup might need help understanding a business plan. Someone trying to grow their business might need insight to help get over the hump. Helping individuals succeed has a ripple effect that benefits the economy of entire communities,” Bartley said.

Jonathan Shirley, LEED program manager, said “the idea is to develop and cultivate relationship-based approaches” to economic development that are essential to “creating a stronger Lafayette, Acadiana and Louisiana.”

A range of entities will provide counsel and resources for the Accelerate Northside program, including the Acadiana Planning Commission, Acadiana Workforce Solutions, Lafayette Consolidated Government, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, Lafayette Public Library, Louisiana Small Business Development Center, Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Opportunity Machine, McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, One Acadiana, and Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation.

Cost to attend Accelerate Northside is $450, although scholarships of up to $425 are available to applicants with financial need. For more information, contact Jonathan Shirley at

Learn more about registering or volunteering for Accelerate Northside program.

Image caption: UL Lafayette’s Louisiana Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center and the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce are leading the Accelerate Northside program to help spur COVID-19-related economic recovery. Image credit: Tracey Monte / University of Louisiana at Lafayette