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Louisiana Central acts as a catalyst, leader, and connector to build a knowledge and innovation-driven economy so that our region will continue growing into a uniquely creative, inclusive, and entrepreneurial place.
WHAT WE DO
We care passionately that the people of Central Louisiana, our home, have livable incomes and build intergenerational wealth. We value knowledge as primary currency-deployed to improve the profitability and competitiveness of business. We build vibrant communities to create, attract, and retain employees in places where people want to live. We measure success by the region's median household income increasing faster than the nation as a whole. We will not be limited by our history; we will be defined by our future. We think in decades, but act in the moment.
Louisiana Central is the dba for Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. The organization is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of two-thirds investing members and one-third participating members chosen to assure that the full Board is representative of all sectors of the region. Those interested in becoming Investing Members of Louisiana Central may contact Jim Clinton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-441-3401.
Funding for Louisiana Central
Louisiana Central’s core funding is provided by its investing members and matching funding from The Rapides Foundation. Additional program-specific funding is provided by a wide array of organizations and individuals, including but not limited to: The Rapides Foundation, the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, Louisiana Economic Development, and others.
Jim Clinton serves as President and CEO of the Louisiana Central, an organization dedicated to creating economic opportunities in the ten parishes of Central Louisiana. In this role, he has led efforts to enable more education and training opportunities for our residents, the upgrading of a technical school to a technical community college, the construction and opening of a new technical community college campus in downtown Alexandria and an associated manufacturing training center, enhanced collaboration among the region’s higher education partners, and the certification of all ten parishes as ACT Work Ready Communities. He has also provided oversight for the organization’s award-winning entrepreneurial acceleration system, business recruitment and expansion, and food system and farmers market development.
Jim served as Executive Director of Southern Growth Policies Board, a thirteen-state alliance based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. At Southern Growth, he was a lead author on publications such as Invented Here, The Mercedes and the Magnolia, The New Architecture of Rural Prosperity, Innovation with a Southern Accent, and Brave New South. He was President of the Louisiana Partnership for Technology & Innovation and President of Gulf South Research Institute.
In Louisiana state government, he was an Assistant Commissioner of Administration and Director of Contractual Review. He managed the Louisiana Superdome during its transition from public to private management. He was a lead author of the plan that consolidated Louisiana’s more than 250 agencies into 20 principal departments.
He serves on the boards of directors of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, America’s Kitchen Table, Regional Economic Alliance Louisiana. He recently served as co-chair of the Rural Development Task Force for the Governor’s Resilient Louisiana Commission.
His poetry, research, and essays have been published locally, nationally, and internationally.
Lafe Jones, APR
Vice President & Executive Director of Industry Relations
Lafe Jones is the Executive Director of Industry Relations for Louisiana Central. He brings more than 35 years of business planning, marketing and management experience to the organization. As a marketing and strategic planning consultant for more than 15 years, Lafe served clients throughout the United States. Lafe spent 15 years as CEO of a large medical practice with 12 doctors and offices in 13 locations throughout the state. In addition, he has served in leadership and management roles within both healthcare and higher education in Louisiana and Mississippi. Lafe has served on the board of the Louisiana Association for Continuing Higher Education (LACHE) as well as as the president of the Medical Group Managers Association (MGMA) at both the state and local levels. He is a past board president of the Central Louisiana Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) chapter, a past state PRAL board member and past Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF) board member. Lafe is a current board member and past president of the Rotary Club of Alexandria as well as a past board chairman for the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce. He previously served on the Rapides Parish Workforce Investment Board and The Rapides Foundation Board of Trustees. Lafe is currently a member of the Boards of Directors for Rapides Symphony Orchestra and the Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) - Cenla Chapter. Lafe graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University in 1985. He also earned Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 1997, was named a Senior Practitioner of the Southern Public Relations Federation in 1998 and received the Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) state Professional Achievement Award that same year. Lafe is also a specialist in coaching and training teams as well as a seasoned public speaker, having presented at management and marketing conferences at the local, regional and national levels for decades. Lafe enjoys spending free time with family and friends. He is an avid country music fan, but loves all types of music. He also enjoys great art, theater, literature and movies. He is actively involved in Calvary Baptist Church as a LifeGroup teacher and Deacon. He and his wife Evelyn live in Alexandria. They have two grown children, and one grandchild.
California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, North Carolina, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, and Louisiana. If you can’t think of anything to talk about… ask me how many times I’ve moved. Be prepared to hear me talk about why after more than 30 moves in 29 years I’ve finally bought a house and settled down in rural Central Louisiana.
Bahia has worked as an outdoor guide, a resource management technician, community organizing and outreach specialist, federal law enforcement officer, a small-business consultant, community development manager, grant manager, and most importantly, as a farmer.
Ms. Nightengale has presented on rural issues at The White House, participated in national policy work to address issues related to homelessness, and successfully grown a winter tomato in Iowa. Bahia enjoys cooking, crocheting, hiking, kayaking, shooting, supporting the American Arts & Crafts movement, and bonfires. She really wants to take you kayaking.
Bahia attends the Baton Rouge Friends Meeting and firmly believes in the restorative power of good food and the wisdom of always building a bigger table.
Gary Perkins has been a small business owner since 1978. He worked in the restaurant industry while attending LSU, graduating with a BS in Microbiology in 1978. He bought his first restaurant, Louie’s Café, the same year. Gary Perkins has continued to be a serial entrepreneur, focusing on the restaurant industry, real estate, and healthcare. He is the co-founder of Wildwood Pizza, named by TripAdvisor as the 2019 #1 rated Pizza Restaurant in the state of Louisiana. He was named the Red River Bank Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2019 Chamber Bizzy Awards. Gary serves on the Board of the Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition. He has been involved in starting philanthropic athletic events including the Indian Creek Triathalon, Red River Run, Wild Azalea Challenge, Spirits-Lee Jay’s 5k, and the co-founding of Rapides Junior Runners.
In 2006, started business coaching with the Entrepreneurship Initiative launched by The Rapides Foundation. Gary transitioned from coach to Executive Director in 2008. The Entrepreneurship Initiative uses a multi-faceted approach that includes coaching, expert technical assistance, and classroom and web-based instruction to deliver the right content at the right time. Since 2011, The Business Acceleration System has worked with over 470 business owners, and that group has increased its revenues by $225 million and created 1382 jobs, with out-of-region sales in excess of $500 million.
His hobbies include working nights and weekends, earning money, and furthering the endless number of initiatives imagined by Louisiana Central.
Sarah Ceballos is the Administrative Director of Louisiana Central. Her areas of responsibilities include monitoring revenue streams, in the form of federal, state, and private grants; as well as corporate sponsorship. She also oversees human resources, compliance, and office management.
A long-time resident of central Louisiana, formerly from Vernon Parish, she and her family moved to Alexandria in 2020. She earned her AGS, focusing in Business, at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA. Sarah then received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, concentrating in Finance from Northwestern State University, and, in December 2021, earned her MBA, concentrating in Human Resources Management from University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Sarah is a member of Society of Human Resources Management, SHRM, and the local chapter, CLSHRM. In 2021, she completed The Rapides Foundation program, BoardBuilders, and is currently investigating local boards, determining where her talents can be best utilized. In 2022, she participated in Leadership Cenla, an eight-month long interactive leadership series designed to help leaders develop their potential and be more engaged in the community.
She is an avid volunteer, giving her time to Girl Scouts and Junior League of Alexandria. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys taking her children camping, making jelly from locally sourced fruit, and learning about serial killers.
Keisha Hamilton is a Program Coordinator at Louisiana Central where she is responsible for workforce programs and other special initiatives. She is focused on regional workforce development efforts, including the coordination of Louisiana Central's ACT Work Ready Communities initiatives and other projects connecting area employers and training and educational providers. Keisha also supports and coordinates Louisiana Central Healthcare Career Highway project, and is a key contact and resrouce for the Louisiana Central Healthcare Alliance. She bringsboth prior communications and customer service experience to this role with our team.
Keisha stays active with her children in their school and sports activities, while also pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Operations Management with the University of Pheonix. As a proud resident of Central Louisiana, she is excited to continue investing into the community as she plans to open her own business in the future.
Spending quality time with her family and friends is something Keisha highly values. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and being involved with philanthropic endeavors.
One of her favorites quotes is "It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
A third generation beginning farmer, N’Kenya Jordan was born and raised in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana on her family’s 1894 homestead. She is proudly raising her daughter on the family farm and sharing her love of the land with the next generation.
N'Kenya brings years of experience in media (especially radio and television, both on-air and production) and Montessori education (teacher). She has lived and worked in Louisiana, Texas, and Key West, Florida. N’Kenya was settled in Kansas City, MO for five years prior to moving home to care for her mother -- a former farmer and small business owner. Here in Central Louisiana, she rediscovered her love for rural life. Prior to becoming the Alexandria Farmers Market Manager, she took part in the Louisiana Central's 2022 Farmer's Training Course.
N’Kenya loves paranormal mysteries, fantasy novels, family genealogy, making possumberry wine and drinking it.
Britni Lilley is Louisiana Central’s Communications Coordinator where she is responsible for coordinating and implementing marketing and public relations communication plans, in addition to developing written content for external communications.
A Mass Communication Studies graduate from Louisiana State University of Alexandria, Britni finds purpose in creatively coordinating communication strategies and impactful messaging for organizations and individuals striving to make a difference in their communities. While she enjoys design and creating strategic campaigns, she truly finds fulfillment in connecting with people and facilitating avenues to promote and elevate messaging that can change and improve the quality of life for those around us.
Britni was born and raised in the small town of Lecompte, Louisiana. Her college journey led her to Lafayette, Louisiana for a year where she met her Canadian husband while studying at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. After living in Central Louisiana for the first 4 years of their marriage and beginning their family, they ventured on to a life in Alberta, Canada. There they had their 3rd child, and not long after, found that their hearts lied in the South, specifically in Central Louisiana.
Britni and her family are lovers of travel, animals, and quality family time. They appreciate Louisiana and its strong culture, and are proud to call Cenla home. Britni’s individual hobbies include gardening, being involved in her church, observing and creating art (when she has time), listening and singing to music, joy riding to new places, and anything that involves her family and/or friends.
Continuing to grow and develop is something Britni values. She also believes in being open to experiencing new things and finding ways to serve others. One of her favorite quotes says “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capabilities.” - Benjamin E. Mays
Javonti Thomas is a Program Coordinator at Louisiana Central, where he works with local manufacturers, municipalities, and community partners to grow the Central Louisiana region. He is a key contact for the Louisiana Central Manufacturing Council and coordinates with local industry leaders to enhance and further develop the competitive capacity of the manufacturing sector in the 10-parish parish region. In addition, Javonti provides coordination and support with community and economic development/attraction activities, and works on special research and grant projects.
Javonti is a Central Louisiana native, born and raised in Winn Parish. He received a Bachelor's degree in Communication from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches in 2017. Javonti brings more than six years of journalism experience to the team, previously working as morning anchor for KALB News Channel Five in Alexandria and a news producer at KSLA News 12 in Shreveport. He also spent time as a freelance publicist for national restaurant brands, startup businesses, nonprofit organizations, and celebrities.
With his reporting focused on community/societal issues and health, Javonti received awards from the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters and an Emmy nomination. The National Public Health Institute also recognized his reporting of health disparities affecting Central Louisiana and other Southern rural communities.
In his free time, Javonti enjoys cooking, gardening, listening to podcasts and watching dark history documentaries.