WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced the opening of the Acadiana Women’s Business Center in Lafayette, La.

“This new Women’s Business Center in southwest Louisiana, which was devastated by Hurricane Rita, will give women entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed in the business world,” said Sen. Landrieu, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee. “The 2005 hurricanes destroyed 18,000 businesses in Louisiana alone, and this center will be a springboard for business recovery in the Acadiana region.”

“This grant would not have been possible without the support of municipal and parish officials, as well as the strong support of the Louisiana Congressional delegation,” said Graylind Hadnott, Manager for Economic Development, Acadiana Regional Development District (ARDD). “The new funding will allow us to further grow the regional economy by supplementing Louisiana Recovery Authority efforts in the region, in cooperation with the ARDD, to provide small firm grants and loans to businesses impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“The Acadiana Women’s Business Center will not only provide technical assistance to disadvantaged women entrepreneurs, but will also assist existing women-owned businesses and those looking to expand operations in the Acadiana region.”

The grant was provided to the Enterprise Consortium of the Gulf Coast, a subsidiary of ARDD, and is one of six new centers nationwide that will receive a Small Business Administration (SBA) grant this year. For the first year, the center will receive $150,000, and future funding will be based upon performance.

The Acadiana Women’s Business Center will provide business training, counseling and other technical assistance to women entrepreneurs in southwest Louisiana, serving Lafayette, Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermillion parishes. The other Women’s Business Center in Louisiana is in New Orleans.

Sen. Landrieu has long championed the SBA Women’s Business Centers Program and fought for increased funding to open new centers. In May of 2006, she sent a letter to then SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto pushing for a center in southwest Louisiana.

“Many of these parishes were severely impacted by Hurricane Rita and, in some cases, both storms,” Sen. Landrieu wrote. “A Women’s Business Center for this region would contribute greatly in the overall economic recovery of the region and the State of Louisiana.”