Small businesses and nonprofits will be able to get free training in bidding and bookkeeping through the East Baton Rouge Contractor Support Center, a pilot program that organizers hope can provide help for about 100 companies.

The program, which runs through July, is the result of a partnership among TruFund Financial Services, Louisiana Economic Development, the East Baton Rouge Parish Fair Share Program and the Southern University Small Business Development Center.

“There is a plethora of infrastructure jobs and city work that would help these contractors and small businesses, and getting them prepared for that is tremendous,” said James H. Bason, president and chief executive officer of TruFund. “It’s going to create jobs and help these businesses grow.”

The goal is to provide contractors with training — in small groups and individually — and support that will make them more effective in bidding and on jobs, Bason said. Combine that with access to capital and some bonding, and it’s a recipe for success.

Participants in TruFund’s Contractor Competitiveness Boot Camp can access support services, including workstations, desktops and software such as BidPro and QuickBooks.

TruFund has offices in New York, Louisiana and Alabama. The company’s Contract Mobilization loan program has helped small businesses win more than $25 million in contracts. In Louisiana, 75 small businesses have secured $1.2 million in funding.

TruFund will assess the success of the pilot program to determine if an expansion is needed. Hours of operation are by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with scheduled trainings from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The resource center will be located in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s Choctaw Administrative Center, 2875 Michelli Drive.

Margo Wilson and Bonita Williams, owners of Multi Alliance Management Group 7 LLC, began their construction business in February.

The company’s major need is capital, Wilson said. But the partners hope the training will help them grow their company and land more contracts.

Evelyn Ware-Jackson, owner of Warehouse Business Network LLC and vice president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, said she has been doing residential renovations and remodeling since 1999.

Ware-Jackson wants to expand into commercial construction, she said. But commercial work is a whole different animal, and she first needs to learn the bidding process for that type of work.

John W. Matthews Jr., director of small-business services for Louisiana Economic Development, said small businesses need to be able to compete, and the Support Center can help to open up those opportunities.

“Please use the center, and go tell somebody. ... If you use it, it gives us the opportunity to do more,” Matthews told the small group attending the center’s launch.

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