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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 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.
Simpson, a Mississippi native, joined the team in 2017. With over fourteen years of Economic and Community Development experience. Larkin has led organizations in industrial recruitment and retention, site development, retail development, lead generation, marketing, government relations, strategic planning, leadership development, placemaking, and advocacy.
Holding a Master's degree in Economic Development with an emphasis in Technology-Led Economic Development from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, Larkin has been recognized both on a state and southeastern regional level for his many accomplishments in economic and community development, leadership development, marketing, and advertising, and organizational management.
Larkin also received his Economic Development Finance Professional certification (EDFP) from the National Development Council as well as his Institute for Organizational Management certification from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to working hard to better the region, he also gives a lot back to the community, his family, friends, and church. His hobbies include woodworking, fishing, cooking, and playing with his boys. He is an active participant in the Alexandria Rotary Club, 100 Men Who Care, Project 200, Boy Scouts of America, and other civic and religious organizations. Larkin lives in Alexandria with his wife Rebekah and their two boys, Ethan and Noah.
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.
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.
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.
Audrey Kolde is the Alexandria Farmers Market Manager, where she organizes the Tuesday Market on Jackson St. working behind the scenes to run the event and help connect the local community to local food.
A Southwest Louisiana native, Audrey earned her Environmental Science degree from Louisiana Tech, where a teacher shared that when science excites you and community excites you, working with food is the natural next step. Since then, Audrey has worked in West Virginia, managing livestock and gardens while hosting high school and college volunteers. On a board-run food hub there, she served to help manage a community garden, school garden, co-op store, and a rural farmer’s market. Then she worked in Alabama with agriculture education, empowering kids to experience and question the food system they are a part of.
Food is one of the connectors of nature, science, and communities. Getting to listen and work in that system is such an honor and joy
Sarah Ceballos earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Northwestern State University and is working towards her MBA focusing on Human Resources Management, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Sarah Ceballos is the Administrative Services Coordinator at Louisiana Central. Within that role, Sarah offers internal support and has implemented new policies and procedures to create a more efficient workplace. She, and her family, are long-term residents of central Louisiana.
In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and learning about serial killers and mass murderers.