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Louisiana Technology Park Open For Small Businesses

To help companies with fewer than 25 employees reestablish the technology base for their businesses, a facility in Baton Rouge is opening its doors.

New Orleans-based businesses are finding some space to temporarily re-establish their technology infrastructures in Baton Rouge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and at least one solution provider is moving to take advantage of the opportunity.

The Louisiana Technology Park in Baton Rouge is opening its doors to New Orleans firms with free space to those with 25 or fewer employees, said Eddie Ashworth, president of the public, non-profit organization.

The Park has 120,000 square-feet of space for companies mainly in the Baton Rouge area to use for their IT operations, as well as incubator space for new high-tech companies, said Ashworth.

The incubator space, which startups can use free-of-charge, had been full with 16 companies before the hurricane, but those companies pooled their unused space to come up with about 100 workstations with a desk, a computer, and phone and Internet service, for use by New Orleans companies until that city is rebuilt, Ashworth said. Any New Orleans small business can apply for up to three of those spaces, and only have to pay for long-distance charges, he said.

About 23 of those spaces were already taken by Monday thanks to word-of-mouth, said Ashworth, as the New Orleans Technology Park, which offered similar services to companies there, had yet to restore phone or Internet services.

One company that has reserved three of those spaces is Agilogic, a solution provider and consultant in the disaster recovery and business continuity space based in Metairie, La., a New Orleans suburb.

Terry Verigan, vice president of consulting services with Agilogic, escaped New Orleans with his wife, dog and cat before the levees failed, and has been trying to rebuild his business from a Ramada Inn in Houston. As of late Monday, he had moved into an Extended Stay hotel in that city, and is shuttling back and forth to Baton Rouge to help clients.

While Agilogic expects to open an office in Houston next week, the space at the Louisiana Technology Park will be of great help in assisting customers to recover from Katrina, said Verigan. "I have a technology base," he said.

Unfortunately, Verigan has no place to stay in Baton Rouge, despite help from the government, including from Michael Olivier, Louisiana's Secretary of Economic Development. "We have to commute," he said. "Olivier's office gave me information about real estate agents. They're doing a great business. I'd be happy with a one-bedroom apartment for my staff. It's hard to drive five to six hours from Houston one-way. Or we could fly back and forth, or sleep in the cubicles. We will if we have to."

In addition to the free space for small businesses, the business park is also renting its commercial space to larger New Orleans companies that pay commercial rates, said Ashworth. But that space was completely leased out on one-year leases last week, he said.

How quickly businesses can recover in New Orleans depends on their markets, Ashworth said. "If they depend on local revenue, they need to find a way to survive for three to six months with no revenue," he said. "If their business is external, they need a place to get up and running. Our space allows them to do that."

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