W.E. Tucker Endowed Professor and Co-Director of the EDA University Center for Economic Development, Dr. Sung No, was noticeably enthused when giving his opening remarks for the “Creating Sustainable Neighborhood Developers Program: Mentorship Program” last Saturday at the Global Communications Center in T.T. Allain Hall. Now in its third year of operations, the award-winning program has seen 51 students obtain certifications, with some even securing developments within the greater Baton Rouge area.
“We want to change our neighborhoods to be more livable and productive,” said Dr. No.
The purpose of the program is to give any interested participant in the community the ability to gain knowledge of the tools and resources associated with property acquisition, fund securing, and other basic property management skills, with a goal of developing experts in renovation and/or new construction who will able to convert blighted properties into viable economic assets to the community. “It is an outreach program. [It’s an] community development program,” said Dr. No
The audience featured community business owners, SU alumni, and current undergraduate and graduate students, along with faculty members from the College of Business.
The EDA, or Economic Development Administration, was a program created by the United States Department of Commerce, with a mission to encourage sustainable job growth and boosting local economies throughout the country. Southern’s involvement with EDA can be traced back to 2013, when they were awarded a 5-year, $500k grant that would go on to be used to conduct research and launch the current mentorship program in conjunction with the College of Business and ComNet,LLC, a minority lead firm managed by president and senior partner Eric Porter, a former SU graduate. Dr. No said that Southern was able to receive a five-year grant extension due to their successful research.
In 2018, Southern’s EDA program was recognized at the University Economic Development Association National Summit held in Milwaukee, WI, for being selected as a finalist in the Talent + Place category, described as “projects and initiatives that…enrich discourse, promote civic participation, and otherwise enhance quality of place” according to UEDA’s official website. Out of 80 universities represented, SU also received the Judges Award for Overall Best Practice, the only historically black college to receive such a distinction to date.
When reflecting on his motivation for being co-director of the EDA University Center, Dr. No referenced his South Korean upbringing, and how an economic initiative from the government that targeted small towns was able to increase the per capita income of his hometown from $300 to $70,000. “I learned [economic development] from personal experience,”
“The golden rule of business is ‘He who has all the gold, makes all the rules,’” said JC Cesars of Community Housing Partners, one of the presenters during the first session. Some of the topics covered during the first session ranged from differentiating between being interested and being passionate about real estate, learning about the affordable housing industry, identifying traits consistent in firms of the future, and integrating technology to boost business performance.
The current program in Baton Rouge is intended to last for six weeks, with a certification exam to follow at the end of the course. Following the completion of Creating Sustainable Neighborhood Developers program in mid-May, there are plans to hold a 10-week session in Monroe in September. Shreveport and Lake Charles are the other cities slated to be host sites for the program. “There is no program like this in the state of Louisiana,” said Dr. No.
For more information about the program, visit the SU EDA University Center’s website at subruniversitycenter.com. The next session is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, 2019 from 8:30am to 1:30pm in T.T. Allain Hall.