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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 liveable 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, Keller Enterprises, LLC, 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 WorkReady 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 CLEDA.
Carolyn Barton is the Accounts Manager for the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA). Before joining CLEDA she worked as a business educator in Calcasieu and Rapides Parish for 30 years, as a school librarian at Holy Savior Menard High School for seven years, and as a night instructor at Central Louisiana Technical Community College for five years, and Delta Career College for ten years. Carolyn is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Northwestern State University with a B.S. in business education, an M.S. in business education, an M.S. in library science and an add-on certification in gifted education.
Carolyn was an active sponsor of Future Business Leaders of America for 25 years, treasurer for the Alexandria Band Parents Club for four years. Carolyn likes to garden and she is active in her church work and has taught an adult Sunday School class for over 30 years.
Sondra C. Redmon is Director of Workforce Development for Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance and has been involved in workforce development for more than 20 years. Prior to joining CLEDA, she served as the Director of Louisiana Workforce Investment Board Area 60 that served six parishes in Central Louisiana and was Vice-President of the Louisiana Workforce Investment Board Directors Association.
Mrs. Redmon is very active in the region, facilitating the regional ACT Work Ready Communities certification initiative. She serves as a board member of several organizations, including Louisiana Workforce Investment Opportunities Act Area 60, Re-Entry Solutions and Secretary of the Central Louisiana Human Services District. She serves as Secretary/Treasurer of Catahoula Parish Economic & Industrial Development District. She also works closely with several youth-serving organizations, including 4-Rivers Youth & Adult Community Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Delta Omega Chapter.
She is the former Director of the Mayor’s Office on Human Services, where she established the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint, along with other services. She also served as Executive Director of the City of Flint Human Relations Commission, where she addressed complaints of fair housing, equal rights and landlord/tenant concerns. She worked with the State of Michigan Department of Civil Rights, U. S. Department of Justice, and a number of state-wide organizations to create the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes (MIAAHC). She served as the committee chair for the development of the Community Response to Hate Crimes, a handbook for addressing the presence of hate groups in the community. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Flint, with a B.A. in Political Science.
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.
Allison Tohme is the Director of Regional Farmers Market Development with the Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative. In this capacity, she is working to strengthen and expand the region's network of farmers markets to increase healthy eating and access to healthy food. Allison joined CLEDA with expertise in program development, evaluation, and coalition building. She began her career at Pennington Biomedical Research Center where she coordinated research studies, administered grant programs, and evaluated community-based obesity prevention programs throughout Louisiana. She has been involved with CLEDA’s Local Foods Initiative since its inception in 2012.
Allison earned a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2011 with a concentration in health behavior. She is personally and professionally committed to finding ways to eat better, move more, and support all things local. She serves on the board of directors for the Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance in Baton Rouge, LA, and in her spare time, she enjoys cooking, Crossfit, and being outdoors.
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 CLEDA. 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.