Even with the economic hardship that has gripped the nation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there is some good news locally.
Ouachita Parish has a strong climate for success for small business. A respected financial technology website says so, and local business owners agree.
SmartAssett.com conducted a study on the best places in the country for small business owners. According to the study, Ouachita Parish ranked among the top 10 parishes in Louisiana for small business presence.
The nationwide study measured IRS data on the number of small businesses operating in each parish, how much income they generate and what they pay in taxes. According to the data from the website, Ouachita Parish contributes 26.39% of the state’s small business returns and 10.49% of the state’s small business income, and $9,806 of incomes taxes from small businesses in the Ouachita Parish go to the state.
Kristopher Kelly, communications director for the West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce, said Ouachita Parish is a strong place for small businesses because of the support from local and state government and the Chamber.
“Ouachita Parish proudly hosts a community that fosters opportunity for small business development,” Kelly said.
Dr. Matt Turpin, a dentist in West Monroe, credited the citizens, city management and the business owners for the strong business presence in the parish.
“I think a lot of that comes from the leadership we have in our town with our mayor, city hall and also our police jury,” Turpin said. “The main thing that makes business go here in Ouachita Parish is the people. It’s the owners and the employees that work hard and then the people’s desire in our area to support local business.”
Turpin said the community has a selfless attitude and are supportive of each other’s business.
“When I move to town, the other dentists contacted me and encouraged me, ‘Hey man, if you’re out of town on the weekend and you need us to take calls for you, we will’ and vice versa,” said Turpin. “We became friends and not competitors. I feel like that same spirit is in a lot of our local businesses here.”
Tracey Carter of JAC’S Craft Smokehouse in West Monroe also credited the community for the success of his business and said when one of the parish’s largest employers left the community still prospered.
“When State Farm left here, the community still thrived,” Carter said. “The community supports within.”
There are a number of successful minority-owned businesses in Ouachita Parish, which includes a number of restaurants, dance studios and used car dealerships.
John Coleman of the Coleman Co., an automobile dealership in West Monroe, said as a minority business owner, he had to earn the trust of the community.
“People have to trust you and earn your trust in the community when you’re a Black-owned minority owned business,” Coleman said. “But once you do, it gets OK.”
Coleman and his business were recently awarded the Community Champion Award by the WMWO Chamber of Commerce for his contributions to the community, such as his company’s annual Christmas toy and bike giveaway.
Carolyn McClinton-Goodin of Carolyn’s Dance Land in Monroe said owning a Black-owned dance studio in the parish has been challenging.
“In the dance world, when I first started out 10 years ago, some people really didn’t respect the little Black girl coming in teaching. They were still sending their kids over and because they felt like that was the better way,” McClinton-Goodin said. “I think our people now are getting on board with the whole ‘Black small business trend’ that’s going on now. It’s definitely better. I had to grow to where I am now.”
McClinton-Goodin said the state allocates grants for the performing arts, which tend to go to predominately white dance studios in the area.
“We have not been privileged enough to receive any of those grants which makes it harder and they’re able to do more at their recitals and do bigger and greater things because they get thousands of dollars that we don’t see,” McClinton-Goodin said.
McClinton-Goodin said she plans to continue to offer African American children in Ouachita Parish training that they would not receive from other dance studios.
“They don’t get the recognition that they deserve,” she said.