WASHINGTON DC—There is something to be said about leaders who push beyond boundaries to forge relationships and gain cooperation from others. For all intents and purposes, that’s what leaders from Baton Rouge are doing on a national scale following with a networking mixer held last month with leaders in Washington DC.
A delegation of elected and appointed officials from Baton Rouge attended the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference to build allegiance around issues citizens face and find resources to bring to their Louisiana districts.
Along with participating in many CBC conference activities, the Baton Rouge leaders attended the first “Baton Rouge Meets Washington D.C.” networking mixer hosted by the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office, the Southern University System, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
“In particular, for the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, it is our goal to leverage those relationships to develop the land surrounding the airport, fund capital improvements projects, and enhance our air service development by increasing the number of direct flights that we offer at BTR.” As an organizer of the mixer, Dunn said he believed the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference would be a great place to start the national relationship building process for the Baton Rouge leaders in attendance.
“Not only did I feel that our leadership team should attend the conference, but I also felt that we should create and host a Baton Rouge signature event that would promote the city of Baton Rouge, the parish of East Baton Rouge and several of the cities economic drivers,” he said.
More than 100 leaders attended the networking mixer.
“Governmental officials, elected officials, developers, private equity professionals, and business owners; all focused on how we can help the city of Baton Rouge and the parish of East Baton Rouge reach its fullest potential,” Dunn said.
The Baton Rouge Airport heavily relies on grants and federal dollars to expand runways and to complete capital improvement projects. Likewise, the city of Baton Rouge, the state transportation office, and the Southern University System pull most of their resources from federal dollars and grants. Leaders in attendance said the event gave them all a platform in the nation’s capital to present upcoming projects and programs to Congressional delegates and to potential funders and partners.
We asked attendees to tell us about what they expected from the mixer and its outcome.
Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport’s interim director of aviation Mike Edwards and Gregory D. Pierson, interim assistant director of aviation, said: “Support for infrastructure funding and our new air service initiatives is always at the forefront when meeting with delegates from any industry. However, one key expectation was to promote the diverse development opportunities available at BTR. Through doing so, we were also able to begin some preliminary dialogue about partnerships with other institutions from other industries that can further stimulate land development and business opportunities within the North Baton Rouge area.”
President/CEO of the Indigo Engineering Group, LLC, Delicia N. Gunn, said, “My sole CBC Conference expectation was to meet with executives of the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.”
State Rep. Edmond Jordan (BR—District 29), said, “My expectation was to network with other African-American leaders throughout the nation to compare ideas related to creating wealth and building businesses within African American communities. Additionally, I was there to promote the Baton Rouge region to other attendees who are located throughout the U.S.”
What was the outcome for you and your agency in DC?
Edwards and Pierson said, “The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport was able to establish some key contacts towards formulating a coalition for promoting targeted routes for direct air service. We were also able to promote our Aviation Business Park along with all the economic development incentives that accompany doing business at BTR.”
Rep. Jordan said, “I was able to network with business owners and elected officials; as we shared ideas, strategies, and successes within our community. Specifically, there were seminars related to federal government contracting and accessing venture capital that were engaging and thought-provoking.”
How were your outcomes met through the Baton Rouge Meets Washington DC Networking Mixer specifically and through other activities?
Edwards and Pierson said, “Through our (BR airport’s) discussions with legislative officials and other government partners, the mixer afforded us with the platform to solicit support and funding for capital improvement projects that improve the safety, operation, and development opportunities at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. We were also able to meet and connect with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises from other regions which will help us to continue to grow our DBE resource pool and further our outreach efforts.”
Veneeth Iyengar, assistant chief administrative officer, at the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, Office of Mayor-President, said, “From City-Parish’s perspective, any opportunity that we have to pitch and export “Baton Rouge and the Parish” is a huge win for the community. The event was very important for Mayor Broome’s administration to connect with organizations and groups, whether entrepreneurs, thought leaders, folks from non-profits and the Federal Government on how we collaborate and work together. The enthusiasm we saw based on the individual and group conversations at the mixer especially in wanting to help our community was great and we look forward to following up quickly on those offers for help.”
Gunn said, “Although my Washington DC-based firm, Indigo Engineering, has had the privilege of providing engineering and construction management services for cities across my home state of Louisiana, my biggest desire was to work with my hometown city, Baton Rouge….The mixer’s presentation of its airport and city goals provided me with inspiration and information regarding upcoming business opportunities. The casual setting afforded me an opportunity to have in-depth industry conversations that are often stifled around a business table. The event was a perfect recipe for successful networking.”
Rep. Jordan said, “Baton Rouge was represented in a positive light and promoted throughout DC. There is no doubt that the mixer will lead to business opportunities and an infusion of capital for the city; and hopefully, a direct flight from BTR to DC.”
Edwards and Pierson said, “As with most things, the follow-up and ongoing collaboration is critical. We must ensure we build upon the strategies discussed at the most recent event to leverage those relationships established at the mixer for all future initiatives.
Gunn said, “My next steps are to build relationships and to create partnerships with Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. It is my desire that my firm becomes a trusted advisor and business partner to these two agencies. I seek to achieve this goal by sharing my life, work and play experiences in the nation’s Capitol with city planners to provide a unique, urban perspective for our growing metropolitan city of Baton Rouge. I also seek to leverage my established business relationships and contacts with private and government sectors to help the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development meet its business and planning goals.”
Rep. Jordan said, “As this was just the first step of many to come, we must continue to cultivate relationships while implementing some of the ideas gained from the conference. We can’t become complacent or lose the focus and energy gained from the conference. Otherwise, it will be lost opportunity. We are better than that. Baton Rouge is better than that. Now let’s prove it to the rest of the country.”
Also in attendance were Baton Rouge Councilmembers Erika Green, LaMont Cole, Chauna Banks, and Donna Collins-Lewis;Metro Washington Airport Authority Vice Chairman Earl Adams, Jr. ; State Reps. Ted James, Rodney Lyons, and Randal Gaines; State Senator Ed Price; Metro Washington Airport Authority Rep. Kristin Clarkson; Federal Aviation Administration Rep. Nick Giles; US Department of Agriculture Rep. Danny Whitley; BREC Commissioner Larry Selders; Makesha Judson with the Mayor President’s Office; Louisana DOTD Chief Legal Counsel Josh Hollins; Former Southern University SGA President Armond Duncan; Perfect 10 Productions CEO T.J. Jackson; and Rise of the Rest Fund Partner David Hall.
By A.G. Duvall II
Drum Contributing Writer