Our new website is optimized for the most current web browsing technology. If you are using an older web browser, part of our website may not function properly as designed. Please consider upgrading your browser for an error free experience.
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 email@example.com 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.
Dan Purvis is the Executive Director of Business Development for Louisiana Central. He is a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) with more than two decades of varied professional experience. Dan most recently served as Vice President and, formerly, Project Manager for a multi-state commercial real-estate developer, where he was involved with site selection, budget oversight, property management, and other aspects of the business. He also has experience in commercial and residential real-estate sales and higher-education administration and instruction. Dan conceptualized and created the first intercollegiate athletics program at Louisiana State University at Alexandria, where he served as its first athletic director and head baseball coach.
Dan holds a Master of Education in Physical Education and Recreation from Delta State University and a Bachelor of Science in Sports Administration from Belhaven University, where he played baseball.
A graduate of Leadership Central Louisiana and a member of USA Cycling, he is an active supporter of Alexandria Senior High School Lady Trojans Soccer and enjoys traveling with family, attending Calvary Baptist Church, and mountain-biking or gravel-riding in the Kisatchie National Forest and on other trails throughout the U.S.
Dan and his wife, Leigh Ann, are the proud parents of two teenagers who attend Rapides Parish Public Schools.
Krystal Rachal is the Director of Healthcare Career Central where she leads Louisiana Central's Healthcare Career Central program and is responsible for the oversight of all program planning, implementation, and evaluation. The Healthcare Career Central program collaboratively links employers, training providers and other partners to students, teachers, counselors and parents through a central website, social media campaign, and ongoing communication and networking events. The goal of the program is to expose more students to the diverse local careers in healthcare, the pathways to those careers, and resources available along the way. Krystal brings previous experience working as a Health Careers Coordinator where she coordinated several programs that expose high school students to heathcare careers.
Krystal is a native of Maurice, Louisiana, a small town located near Lafayette Louisiana. She is a graduate of The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She moved to the Central Louisiana area in 2019 where she quickly became involved in the community.
Krystal has a passion for advocating local resources and opportunities available in the community. She is an active member of the Junior League of Alexandria and serves on the board of The Hope House of Central Louisiana, The Food Bank of Central Louisiana, and advisory council for the Good Food Project. Krystal recently became a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Family is extremely important to Krystal, She loves spending time with her husband and son and visiting family. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking new recipes, fishing, hanging out with friends, and learning new things.
Elisabeth Dennis Culp is the Office Manager for Louisiana Central, where she skillfully oversees bookkeeping and general office management with a wealth of experience. Having dedicated 34 years to public speaking, marketing, organization, and accounting, she brings a highly diverse skill set to Louisiana Central. Elisabeth holds a degree in Communications from LSU and has invaluable experience as a congressional intern, natural gas marketer, payroll specialist, and tax preparer.
With her passion for public presentations and economic evaluations, Elisabeth also ran a successful professional organizing business while raising her children, assisting families relocating to the Katy, TX area, and supporting small business owners. For 16 years, she volunteered in elementary and high schools, organizing and directing activities with utmost dedication. During her time in Texas, Elisabeth also established an extensive contact database of 800+ members for a non-profit organization, promoting stronger community relations and communications.
After returning to Louisiana in 2007, Elisabeth became a valuable member of the family accounting business, initiating a payroll services division. She furthered her expertise by obtaining the FINRA Series 7 certification and pursuing additional education in accounting at Louisiana Christian University. While studying, she also contributed her exceptional organizational skills to assist the Vice-President of Academic Affairs with document organization for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools during the reaffirmation process.
Despite her impressive professional background, Elisabeth finds true joy in spending time with her family. They enjoy immersing themselves in diverse activities such as theatre productions, concerts, dance competitions, swim meets, golf tournaments, football games, and frequent trips to the lake, beach, Disney World, and LSU sporting events. Additionally, she has a passion for cooking and is always eager to share her favorite recipes featuring Louisiana seafood.
Elisabeth's devotion to working with children and teens is demonstrated by her leadership positions in Children's Ministry and her involvement in various volunteer roles within nurseries, preschool classes, and teen activities.
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
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. She currently serves as Central Louisiana’s Public Relations Association of Louisiana’s board as Secretary, the Young Professionals Group of Cenla’s board as their Member at Large and on the Volunteerism Committee, and is working towards earning her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) while enjoying the experience of being involved in Leadership Cenla 2023.
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
Dierdre “Dee” Ragin is Alexandria Farmers Market (AFM) Manager and serves as the on-site person in charge at the market. As the AFM Market Manager, Dee builds and maintains positive relationships with vendors, community partners, neighboring businesses and shoppers to create a safe and vibrant gathering place where vendors can prosper.
Born in Georgia and raised in California, Dee is no stranger to adapting to different cultures. A graduate from the Mercer University School of Business, a Certificate Holder from the International Institute of Nutrition (IIN), and a Certified Reiki I Holy Fire Practitioner,
Dee left Corporate America in the early 2000's and never looked back. Her career in fitness started as a personal trainer where she ran her own studio in Atlanta, GA and specialized in Corporate Wellness. Contracts included Warner Robins Air Force Base, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Gold's Gym, and AT&T to name a few.
Family brought her back to California where Holistic Health evolved and changed everything. Travel and study of culture wellness practices was presented by the universe and Dee decided to go to China where she lived for 2 years in a Shaolin Temple and studied the wellness practices of Shaolin Warrior Monks. Dee also studied Buddhism and the self-noted, life-changing connection of mind and body. She says that traveling Asia and visiting Temples in such places as Thailand, Laos, and Northern China was an experience of a lifetime. From China, she spent some time in Sri Lanka and volunteered at a home for pregnant, abused young girls. There she helped update the sleeping and teaching buildings, as well as supplied products and services for basic needs of the girls and babies. Dee states that this was her way of thanking the Universe for all she has been blessed with.
Dee was brought to Louisiana through family circumstances, where she feels blessed to be and is looking forward to seeing what happens during this part of her journey.
Brittney Reado is Louisiana Central’s Farm and Food Grants & Operations Assistant. In this position, Brittney works to ensure the Farm & Food program develops and maintains best practices during a period of growth and expansion by collaborating with the Farm & Food team, external partners, and funders.
Brittney was born and raised in Central Louisiana and has a deep passion for social justice and equity. She regularly attends community gatherings and events to better understand her community and its needs, and is currently pursuing a degree in Social Sciences. Her goal is to work in a community-based field, and more specifically, with marginalized groups of people. Her future goals include graduating college, learning more about farming, and developing her professional career.
Brittney prioritizes self care and makes time to enjoy traveling, walking her dog, crocheting, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries (she welcomes recommendations). She also considers herself self-taught and a coffee and loose leaf tea enthusiast.
Brittney believes her personal mission is to help others and ensure equity amongst all. Professional and personal growth is very important to Brittney, and she feels very fortunate to have found opportunities for both with her work at Louisiana Central.
Outreach Coordinator for Healthcare Career Central
Morgan Setliff is the Outreach Coordinator for Healthcare Career Central, Louisiana Central’s newest program that connects healthcare employers, training providers, and other partners to students, parents, teachers, and counselors. As Outreach Coordinator, Morgan works directly with healthcare and training providers to develop innovative opportunities to expose more students to healthcare facilities as well as existing career exploration, healthcare clubs, internships, speakers, and job shadowing opportunities.
Raised in Pineville, Louisiana, Morgan developed a deep interest in medicine during high school when participating in local healthcare programs. After graduating from Pineville High School in 2019, Morgan pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology at Louisiana Tech in Ruston. During her time working as an EMT, Morgan witnessed the physician shortage in Louisiana and was motivated to give back to underserved communities. Morgan is currently applying to medical school.
Joining Louisiana Central, Morgan aims to empower middle and high school students with valuable resources when making decisions on career paths. Committed to making a positive impact in Central Louisiana, she appreciates Louisiana Central’s efforts and initiatives throughout the region.
Outside of work, Morgan enjoys traveling with family and friends, indulging in shopping, and managing an online boutique. Serving as a valuable resource for anyone aspiring to pursue a healthcare career, Morgan believes in the transformative power changing lives.
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.