ECONOMIC Inclusion

BRAC’s commitment to economic inclusion is grounded in the understanding that more inclusive opportunities for all people in the region will propel growth, attract business, and enhance the quality of life of our communities. Strong performance across economic inclusion measures – like poverty rate; household income; educational attainment; and workers in management positions – are closely correlated with more substantial economic growth. Communities that score high on these measures experience a virtuous cycle, while communities that score low, fall behind. As the lead economic development group for the Baton Rouge Area, BRAC is committed to doing more to understand and remove systemic barriers to opportunity and success and realize the genuinely inclusive economy and community that the Baton Rouge Area deserves.

BRAC’s Definition of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion means not just tolerance but the intentional pursuit by any group, organization, or business – through its employment practices, membership, activities, and those it serves – to reflect and represent its community’s population without compromising its commitment to its mission.

It means not just the absence of discrimination in a community but a welcoming recognition of the value added to the community through the participation of individuals with different perspectives and from all backgrounds.

With this definition as a foundation, BRAC’s Economic Inclusion Council crafted what might be called a “business case” for diversity and inclusion, consisting of elements like:

  • Cities and regions embracing diversity create an atmosphere of openness that improves their competitiveness in attracting and retaining businesses, talent, clients, and customers.
  • Businesses that value diversity and inclusion tend to attract and retain the best talent, form a stronger bond with the whole community, and develop greater knowledge of the needs of a wider variety of clients and customers.
  • Greater minority business ownership creates greater access to wealth creation in minority communities, more community reinvestment, and greater access to employment.
  • By reflecting the population of their community, businesses help expand the number of clients and customers they seek to serve, which is the foundation for improved sales, increased profitability, and future growth.


Launched in May 2019, BR-POP helps connect small, local, disadvantaged businesses to procurement opportunities from larger partner organizations. Inspired in part by Cincinnati, where public-private partnerships and business-led collaborations serve as major catalysts for profound community improvements, BRAC helped create BR-POP with some of the region’s leading private businesses and major universities to help expand opportunities and foster the development and growth of local veteran, women, and minority owned small businesses.  

BR-POP also serves as a vehicle for public entities and private businesses, working together on a voluntary basis, to bring intentionality and focus that enhance diversity and inclusive competitive practices to their procurement of goods and services from area vendors. 

In just its first year, more than 45 contracts or purchase orders have been awarded, with an aggregate total value of more than $5 million.  

  • Small business procurers or suppliers interested in BR-POP can email for more information.
  • Procurement Council members can send opportunities for small businesses to
  • Small businesses interested in connecting to opportunity can complete this assessment/application. The BR-POP team will follow up with an initial call for more information.

In partnership with Interise’s award-winning StreetWise 'MBA'™ curriculum, BRAC brings you Drive Minority Business Accelerator powered by ExxonMobil.

The annual program is designed for minority small business owners who want to take their business to the next level within the Capital Region. This hands-on, cohort-style program provides minority business owners with the knowledge, resources, and networks necessary for their businesses to scale.

BRAC hosts an annual event to discuss diversity and inclusion in a business context, and to provide thought leadership to the region’s business community on the topic

The event originally launched in 2016 as BRAC's Diversity in Business event, but in 2022 was revamped to a half-day conference called the Economic Inclusion Symposium.

The event is an extension of BRAC’s work promoting a definition and business case for the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and features national experts providing insight on key topics and best practices, plus opportunities for minority business owners to connect with procurement opportunities.

To highlight exceptional best practices taking place in the Baton Rouge Area, BRAC honors and recognizeregional businesses that have championed diversity and inclusion at their businesses or in the community with an annual award. 

BRAC’s Diversity Star Award was launched in 2018. Read about past honorees: 

  • DNA Workshop
  • Cox Communications
  • Bear Process Safety
  • AT&T

2021 Honorees  

  • City Year Baton Rouge
  • BASF Geismar

2020 Honorees  

  • Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge 
  • ExxonMobil Baton Rouge 

2019 Honorees  

  • Lighthouse Louisiana 
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana 

2018 Honorees 

  • Civil Solutions Consulting Group 
  • Republic Services of Baton Rouge

BRAC assists companies that are seeking to start or formalize their internal diversity business programs, or to take them to the next level 

BRAC helps companies that want to develop and foster conversations about race and racial equity in a partnership with Dialogue on Race LA. 


BRAC and TruFund Financial Services have partnered to launch a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the Capital Region's small businesses. The $1.1M fund focuses primarily on those businesses most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and most in need of support to recover, specifically those with 50 employees or less and with revenues of less than $3M. The RLF is being initially funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to provide both short- and long-term financing. Loans have terms extending from six to 60 months with interest rates between 0 and 10 percent depending on the loan product. RLFs are self-replenishing, with interest and principal payments on old loans used to issue new ones.

Small businesses interested in applying for a loan through the RLF may contact TruFund Business Development Officers Jay Gaudet at or Juan Nathan at Small businesses can also call the TruFund Louisiana office line at (504) 293-5550 or visit  BRAC and TruFund will seek local lending partners to assist in connecting regional business owners with funding opportunities. 

In addition to BRAC, partners in the RLF include regional nonprofit and community based organizations such as Ascension Economic Development Corporation, BUILD Baton Rouge, Capital Region Planning Commission, the City of Baker, City of Central Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pointe Coupee Chamber of Commerce, Iberville Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana State University Small Business Development Center, MetroMorphosis, Southern University Baton Rouge Small Business Development Center, St. Helena Parish Schools, and the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce.

Data on Disparity

BRAC conducted a benchmarking exercise to compare the Capital Region against some 40 peer metropolitan areas. Across a broad swath of indicators measuring a region’s relative strength for economic inclusion, broken down by racethe Baton Rouge Area performs in or very near the bottom half of every list. This data serves as the benchmark against which progress in the coming years will be measured. 

Get Involved


Davorio Stevenson

Manager of Economic Inclusion
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