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Economic development organization recognizes 2023 award recipients

(Kenner, LA) – The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) celebrated a year of new projects, innovative initiatives, and economic development advancements at its annual year-end meeting Tuesday, December 5. The 2023 JEDCO Annual Luncheon, sponsored by Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company, is JEDCO’s largest event of the year, offering opportunities to highlight the organization’s successes in front of hundreds of regional business and community leaders.

This year, JEDCO placed a special emphasis on the organization’s lending capabilities. For over 30 years, JEDCO has created economic opportunities for small businesses through its accessible, flexible loan programs. JEDCO has financed over 580 projects for a total capital investment of more than $75 million since the early 90s. Business of all sizes across multiple industries have utilized these non-traditional loan options to startup, expand, and thrive.

In addition to administering the SBA 504 and the award-winning JEDgrow loan programs, the organization recently created the Seafood Enterprise Assistance (SEA) Fund to support the commercial fishing and seafood industry. In 2023, Louisiana Economic Development selected JEDCO to partner with the state in disbursing up to $113 million in federal support for small business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the U.S. Treasury’s $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). To-date, JEDCO has funded 8 microloans through the SSBCI program with a total project cost of over $575,000.

“The JEDCO Annual Luncheon has long served as an opportunity to formally showcase annual wins for our organization. This year, we are proud to celebrate our 2023 economic impact as well as our long history of financing small business projects in Jefferson Parish,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “Small businesses are at the heart of the local economy. Year over year, JEDCO’s financing arm has put small business ownership and business growth opportunities within reach for visionary entrepreneurs in Jefferson Parish.”

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JEDCO also announced the recipients of its 2023 business awards at the event.

HEART Award:
Each year, JEDCO selects a recipient that has been instrumental in the retention and expansion of jobs and businesses within Jefferson Parish to receive the prestigious Hub for Expansion, Attraction, Retention, and Talent (HEART) Award. This year, the special recognition was awarded to Dianne Sclafani, Culinary & Foodservice Business Development Consultant for the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Dianne has over 25 years of experience in culinary training, food manufacturing, restaurants, and foodservice sales. She has helped over 1,400 business owners in Greater New Orleans and River Region during her tenure with the LSBDC. She is known for developing loan packages and investment pitches for businesses in a variety of industries. In 2015, Dianne developed and instructed the first New Orleans Culinary Entrepreneur Training Program for Capital One’s Investment for Good Program. In 2016, she created the first Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s Catapult Culinary Entrepreneur Program, also delivered in 2018 and 2023. Dianne is responsive, supportive, knowledgeable, and passionate about her work and the work of her clients. She is a tremendous champion for and partner of JEDCO, repeatedly guiding businesses to our doors.

Small Business of the Year: JEDCO recognized a small business that contributed to the Jefferson Parish economy and experienced exceptional growth last year. Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza embodies the qualities and attributes of this award. Founded in 2004 by three childhood friends, Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza has grown into one of the top pizza restaurants in the area, boasting five locations, including two in Jefferson Parish, and landing top spots on local pizza rankings across Greater New Orleans. The company has invested over a million dollars into Jefferson Parish and has created dozens of new jobs for area residents. Most recently, they opened an office commissary in the area, using JEDCO’s loan programs to fund the project. Theo’s has a long history of supporting the local community. Just a few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans (and just months after they opened their first location), Theo’s Pizza re-opened its doors and provided hot meals to local residents until they sold out every day. Today, they continue to prioritize philanthropy, giving back to local charities and events.

Chairman’s Champion Award: JEDCO always affords the organization’s chairperson with an opportunity to select one individual who has positively impacted the Jefferson Parish economy. 2023 JEDCO Chairman Larry Katz selected James Martin, President and CEO of Gulf Wind Technology, as this year’s recipient of the Chairman’s Champion Award. James’ vision to bring offshore wind power to the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to position Jefferson Parish as a global player in this emerging industry.The development of the Shell Gulf Wind Technology Accelerator will establish a research, training and technology demonstration program at Avondale Global Gateway. This $10 million investment will create 30 new direct jobs Jefferson Parish. The focus on training a high-paying, high-skilled workforce through this dynamic collaboration aligns directly with JEDCO’s commitment to environmental sustainability and renewable energy. This accelerator has the potential the change the landscape of the regional economy and put Jefferson Parish on the map in new and exciting ways. This is a tremendous and dynamic win for our region and it’s happening right here in Jefferson Parish, thanks to James Martin’s belief and investment in our community.

“The businesses and individuals we recognized this year at our annual luncheon play an important role in the advancement of our economy,” added Bologna. “They are emblematic of the passion, perseverance, and dedication needed to move Jefferson Parish forward and build momentum as we move into the New Year. We are grateful for their contributions to Jefferson Parish.”

JEDCO recognized key project partners at the Annual Luncheon as well, including Louisiana Economic Development, Greater New Orleans, Inc., Port of New Orleans and the Public Belt, the Jefferson Parish Council and Administration, and multiple business organizations, such as the Jefferson Business Council and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

The event was sponsored by Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, Citizens National Bank, CRC Global Solutions, Jack Stumpf & Associates, Metairie Bank, and Port of New Orleans. The 2023 JEDCO Annual Luncheon took place at the Hilton New Orleans Airport on Airline Drive.



Kelsey Scram
JEDCO Director of Marketing & Communications