Baton Rouge outpaces several peer cities in entrepreneurial activity

The Advocate

Baton Rouge continues to demonstrate strong entrepreneurial activity, creating new locally-owned businesses at a pace ahead of similar-sized Southeast cities.

The number of businesses in the Capital Region increased by 22 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to a report on entrepreneurship and innovation released Friday by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. That’s the same percentage increase that Memphis, Tennessee, saw during the same period, and better than Columbia, South Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The release of the annual report, at was tied to the kickoff of Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, which runs through next week.

The report also gives several recommendations to support entrepreneurs and small business owners, such as reinstating a statewide Research and Development Tax Incentive, increasing entrepreneurship education in high schools around the state, building relationships to enhance the commercialization of university research and expanding participation in local angel investor networks to boost high-growth startups.

Adam Knapp, BRAC president and chief executive officer, said entrepreneurs and small businesses have provided the lion’s share of employment growth in the region over the past five years. The percentage of local workers who are employed by companies with fewer than 100 employees grew from 64.2 percent in 2010 to 68.2 percent in 2015. That’s the highest percentage of any of the comparison cities.

Knapp also noted another key metric of innovation for LSU, invention disclosures, increased by 80 percent from 2013. Invention disclosures are confidential reports sent to technology transfer offices and patent attorneys to determine the commercial potential of an innovation. The report notes that in 2013, Kalliat T. Valsaraj took over as vice president of research and economic development at LSU and Andy Maas was put in charge of the technology transfer program. The report notes that the larger the pool is for disclosures, the greater the odds are of hitting lucrative “home run” technology.

“The area’s climate for entrepreneurship and innovation is moving in the right direction,” Knapp said in a statement. “The BREW events next week have a lot to celebrate.”

Other findings of the report are that the Capital Region ranks first among peer cities in worker productivity, based on gross regional product. The per worker GRP has gone up more than 10 percent from 2010 to 2015 and is $7,200 more than Birmingham, its closest competitor.

While the number of patents issued locally increased by 61 percent from 2010 to 2015, Baton Rouge lags its peer cities. Only Little Rock has seen fewer patents issued.

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