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Readout of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s Listening Tour Stop in New Orleans, Louisiana

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pritzker is traveling across the country, engaging with business and thought leaders, academics and Department of Commerce employees

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker yesterday visited New Orleans, Louisiana, as she continues her nationwide listening tour. Throughout her travels around the country, Secretary Pritzker has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, and Department of Commerce employees to hear their priorities, concerns, and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

Secretary Pritzker started her day with a roundtable discussion with Louisiana business leaders at Loyola University. She was joined by executives from the fields of technology, energy, business development, transportation, shipping and others, and the conversation focused on the topics of hiring skilled workers, health care reform, energy, regional economic development, and transportation. The group also discussed how the Department of Commerce can help provide the tools to help businesses grow and create jobs.   

As Chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Secretary Pritzker then attended and spoke at the second public meeting of the Council, during which a vote was taken to approve the Council's Initial Comprehensive Plan and the public was able to offer comments on restoration efforts. This marks an important milestone in the Council's efforts to restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast Region, achieved with broad collaboration from the people who live and work in the region.

Secretary Pritzker then visited The Idea Village, an independent, non-profit organization that works to identify and support entrepreneurial talent in the New Orleans area. This entrepreneurship engine acts as a bridge between individuals looking to start business ventures, and those with the professional experience to help them succeed. Services include educational programming, mentorship, consulting, and access to investors. All told, Idea Village has helped more than 3,000 New Orleans businesses get off the ground, who have collectively created more than 2,000 jobs, since its founding in 2000.

While at Idea Village, Secretary Pritzker met with the organization’s co-founder and CEO, Tim Williamson. She also visited with a variety of entrepreneurs who are currently utilizing the resources of The Idea Village, including Elliot Sanchez, founder of mSchool. mSchool helps local community centers open a public, credit-granting microSchool by providing the most effective technology software and training available. She also met with Scott Wolf, founder of Zlien, which is a platform that solves credit problems in the construction industry by collateralizing a company's accounts receivables.

Secretary Pritzker also announced that the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration is awarding a $600,000 grant to The Idea Village to support their programs that assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses and creating jobs. The investment will support more than 300 businesses, according to estimates from The Idea Village. Specifically, it will fund additional technical assistance programs, especially in growing fields like technology, biomedical engineering, and media production; help with the expansion of The Idea Village's successful "Entrepreneur Season," a six-month-long program of business assistance and education; and support more forums, workshops, and networking sessions that will be offered during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. EDA previously awarded two grants to The Idea Village – $800,000 in 2009 and $400,000 in 2011 – which helped the organization build their capacity and create economic growth for the city.