A Taste of Talent Development: First Connection

To support a workforce that satisfies employer demand and to position the Baton Rouge Area favorably for economic growth, BRAC executes a variety of initiatives to cultivate the region’s talent. The talent development program focuses on two aspects – recruitment and retention of talented professionals in the nine-parish regionBefore February 21, 2018, BRAC Controller Achilles Williams and IBM Human Resources Location Leader Michael Dale didn’t know each other. But after two cups of coffee and a sandwich spread at Magpie Café, the two parted fast friends. 

Achilles is a Baton Rouge boomerang who attended Southern University from 1984-1987 and returned permanently in 2008. Michael is new to Baton Rouge, moving here from upstate New York last December. They arranged a coffee meeting through BRAC’s Connect program, powered by Clear Blue Design, in which longtime locals (City Guides) and Capital Region newcomers (Pathfinders) are matched and invited to meet up, swap stories and learn about the community. 

We caught up with Michael and Achilles to ask about the first Connect experience* – which, by the way, went so well that they’ve since met up again for lunch!  


What’s your first impression of Baton Rouge? 

I spend a lot of time downtown, and I see a city that’s really working to do something special downtown and all the way through Mid City. I see a city that’s like Houston, where I lived 25 years ago, which was kind of in a similar situation – residents trying to make this place an attraction, a go-to place. I think there’s a lot happening here. 

How has the acclimation process been so far? 

The longer I’m here, the better it is. I’ve learned where to go and who to meet. I’ve met several people through a church that I’ve been going to, a cigar shop that I’m starting to frequent, and through work and BRAC…so the longer I’m here, the more I’m getting used to the environment and the culture.  

What’s it been like to go through the Connect process? 

We’ve already made a huge connection. I have a need and he is a resource that’s going to come into play. I would absolutely recommend going through . If you want to be a part of a community, you must step into it, learn what’s out there and meet people. That’s why I’m here – to be a part of the Baton Rouge community. 


What does it mean to you to serve as a City Guide to help welcome people to Baton Rouge? 

It’s a huge deal if we want to grow our community. It’s important to engage with people who are moving into the city, welcome them with open arms and show the love so that they can also become a part of it and make the city better as a whole. 

What kind of commitment did you make to serve as a City Guide? 

I always want to reach out into the community with like these. These things must happen if our community is going to grow together as opposed to separately. We need to have this mindset that we’re all in this together and we’re all here to make everybody else’s lives better. Michael and I are just sitting here together, breaking bread, doing our part to make our mark on this world. 

My commitment was pretty small when you consider what I’ve received in return. I took an hour of my day to welcome a stranger to Baton Rouge over lunch, but now we’ve shared a great meal and can call each other friends. This is one of those experience where it makes you proud to be from this community.  

What’s your favorite part of Baton Rouge to show off to newcomers? 

Magpie Café right now. It’s a great environment, and I really like the downtown area. 

To learn more about how you can Connect with others, visit brac.org/connect.  

*Their responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness. BRAC is an investor-driven organization leading economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area. One of BRAC’s strategic goals is to cultivate the region’s talent to meet workforce demands and each month we highlight one of our talent development initiatives. To learn more about our talent development strategies and resources, contact our director of talent development. 

Caitie Burkes

As the marketing and communications intern, Caitie is responsible for providing support for marketing team programs and projects.

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