The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has awarded a $429,000 grant to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to help develop a plan to address the shortage of high-paying jobs and the need to diversify the regional economy in order to retain the area’s skilled labor and graduates of area universities.

“Creating local jobs is President Obama’s top priority and he has taken significant steps to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstone of our communities,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez said in a news release. “This grant will identify gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and create an operational plan to connect entrepreneurs to resource providers; mentors; investors; and others who can help them succeed in creating high-value companies with higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs.”

The project will prepare an operating strategy and business plan for a new regional venture innovation organization to spur the growth of new technology-based, high-value companies. The strategy will complement the Baton Rouge area’s existing physical infrastructure of universities and research institutions, the research parks and incubators by focusing scarce resources on the highest value opportunities.