May 19, 2008 -- "Food Incubator"

Jerry Folse of Folse Seafood and Louisiana Specialty Products is cooking a 35-gallon batch of his River Road corn shrimp soup. He'll freeze, package and sell it. Jerry is just starting his food and catering business.

"Last month we had 16 different catering jobs," he says, "so we're getting real busy on the catering side. And we do a lot of prepared foods as well."

The trouble is, when you're starting up a brand new food service enterprise, it's hard to find a 5,000-square-foot kitchen to cook everything.

"Boy, you're right about that!" agrees Jerry.

That's where the Ascension Economic Development Corporation comes in--offering its Louisiana Edible Creations Center, an incubator for startup culinary businesses. Brandi Duplessis of the Economic Development Corporation explains, "They can come in here, and they don't have to worry about making the big expenses of having to buy all this equipment. It's already here for them. They can come in here and make their product at a low hourly rate."

The food incubator provides cooking, freezing and packaging facilities to entrepreneurs like Jerry for $20 an hour.

"That's the beauty of this place," says Jerry, "and it's why we use this place. I tell you, for a new business this is a godsend! There are so many food businesses that go out of business in the first year. If you want to make it, I think you hold down your costs as much as you can, and this place really helps you do that."

Fifteen new businesses are currently getting a hand up from the food incubator.