New JEDCO Loan Program Connects Under-Served Commercial Fishing Industry With Access To Capital

AVONDALE, La (press release) – The Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) launched a new small business lending program to support the historically under-served seafood industry. Tailored to meet the specific needs of commercial fishermen and fisheries-related industries, the Seafood Enterprise Assistance (SEA) Fund offers loan repayment terms that align with seafood industry and fishing seasonality. This program makes it easier for commercial fishermen to pay off the loan when they’re making a catch.

In Jefferson Parish, commercial fishermen and businesses in the seafood industry are key players in the regional and statewide economy, supplying fish, shrimp, oysters, and more across the state and the US. Despite the economic and cultural significance of the local seafood industry, it remains under-served. COVID-19, Hurricane Ida, and the increase in access to imported seafood has had a devastating impact on the Jefferson Parish seafood communities, creating significant barriers for businesses that were already experiencing disadvantages in sustainable profitability.

JEDCO utilized dollars from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), administered by the Jefferson Parish Community Development Department, to create the SEA Fund. It is one of the only loan programs in existence developed to provide commercial fishermen with access to capital. Through the SEA Fund Program, commercial fishermen and fishing-related small businesses operating in Jefferson Parish can borrow between $25,000 and $150,000 for the purchase or improvement of equipment. SEA Fund loans have fair and competitive fixed interest rates. JEDCO has already funded four SEA Fund loans for nearly $300,000.

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Unlike grants and other short-term programs, the SEA Fund is intended to be a constant source of funding for commercial fishermen and fisheries-related businesses. The program is designed to be replicated along the gulf coast region.

“Our fishermen and seafood-related business owners make up one of the most iconic industries in the state. JEDCO is committed to providing opportunities for investment, growth, and job creation to support their needs,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “The infusion of resources and capital into this industry will have a catalytic impact on both the fishermen in our community and the on many different businesses they serve and supply. We are proud to offer the SEA Fund to those businesses in need of extra support.”

“Thanks to the work of the Jefferson Parish Community Development Department and JEDCO, our commercial fishing industry will have an opportunity to grow and thrive in Jefferson Parish,” said Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng. “JEDCO’s innovative use of this funding has the potential to make a long-term impact on the resilience and success of the Jefferson Parish seafood industry. We commend the Community Development Department and JEDCO for their groundbreaking approach to financing this long under-served industry.”

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The development of the SEA Fund is part of a larger, long-term strategy to preserve the fishing industry in Jefferson Parish. In addition to launching the loan program, JEDCO continues to dedicate time and resources to bring profitability and sustainability back to the commercial fishing industry in Jefferson Parish. The organization secured a $100,000 Technical Assistance Grant from Louisiana Economic Development to further assist seafood businesses through business retention meetings, industry partnerships, business attraction, supply chain development, marketing, and events.

“Louisiana Economic Development is proud to partner with JEDCO to support the growth and sustainability of the Jefferson Parish seafood industry,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Agribusiness remains a powerful driver of job creation and economic activity across our state. Louisiana fisheries are a major contributor, producing more than 40 percent of America’s shrimp, 70 percent of its oysters, and the majority of its crawfish. This collaboration between LED and JEDCO is a great example of state and local economic development organizations working together for the benefit of the entire state.”

The Technical Assistance Grant allowed JEDCO to enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Coastal Communities Consulting, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving Southeast Louisiana’s fishermen, fishing-dependent small businesses, and their families. Coastal Communities Consulting (CCC) provides outreach services, SEA Fund loan support, and translation services.

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“Coastal Communities Consulting (CCC) is excited to partner with JEDCO on this extremely important initiative,” said Sandy Ha Nguyen, CCC Executive Director. “Since 2011, thousands of people have benefitted from our programs and services as changing coastal circumstances, including environmental challenges, disasters, industry shifts, and new regulations continue to impact coastal entrepreneurs’ work. We look forward to creating an open dialogue between our clients and JEDCO as the organizations work together to create a more equitable and stable environment for the commercial fishing and fisheries-related industries. We are stronger when we are united in this effort and look forward to this engaging work with JEDCO.”

The Technical Assistant Grant runs through June 2023.

 

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