While the future of Baton Rouge looks bright, panelists participating in a Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week session this afternoon agree that the area will need to race to catch up with creative and tech hubs like Austin.
The Baton Rouge area must get better at embracing inclusion if it wants to retain and recruit young talent to the region, says panelist Mary Ellen Slayter, RepCap founder and CEO. She says reinvesting in the Plank Road corridor is a good start after years of the parish’s southern half attracting the most development.
“You can’t bring half the city up, you have to bring the full city up,” Slayter says.
She says the repeated failure of the fairness ordinance, which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people, to pass through the Metro Council makes it harder to recruit workers to move to Baton Rouge. “(When the ordinance fails), I ask myself ‘do they want me here? Do they really want me here?’”
Christopher Tyson of Build Baton Rouge says the community needs to become more interconnected to promote diversity.
“We keep coming back to the urban space—who it serves, what people feel welcome, who feels excluded—and that underlies the decisions entrepreneurial people make when deciding where to go. … There’s currently a high level of segregation that defines relationships in Baton Rouge.”
He suggests that discomfort may be necessary for the business community to grow.
Kasra Kahlili, CEO and co-founder of Mintor, stressed the importance of teaching the younger generation how to start businesses quickly.
“We have to leapfrog,” Kahlili says. “We’re going to be left behind if we don’t understand that entrepreneurship is getting more competitive. As a city, we have to take notice that we can develop a lot of entrepreneurs in a short amount of time if we want.”
BREW concludes this evening with its High Stakes Pitch Competition, in which Omnidek, BioCAID and Relief Telemed will go head-to-head for a chance at winning a $50,000 investment prize. The two-hour, live streamed event starts at 5:30 p.m. Check out BREW’s homepage for the full agenda.
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