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Left to right: Anthea Smith, Kate Wendel, Margo Ruiz

Since 1987, JEDCO has fostered economic development in Jefferson Parish, focusing largely on its business retention and expansion. Formerly the Business Retention and Expansion department, JEDCO has rebranded the cohort as HEART, emphasizing the truly comprehensive nature of its work. Standing for “Hub for Expansion, Attraction, Retention and Talent”, the acronym not only exemplifies JEDCO’s position in the parish’s economy, but touches upon every one of the roles it plays.

Kate Wendel, Director of Economic and Workforce Development, Anthea Smith, Business Retention Specialist, and Margo Ruiz, Economic Information and Incentives Coordinator make up this small but very mighty team. Fueled by a mission to sustain, support, and breathe life into the business community, the HEART team guides businesses through the growth process, brings new businesses to the parish, provides tools to existing businesses and develops skills within the community’s existing workforce.

“It is no secret that our business retention and expansion program has been the lifeblood of our economic development efforts for decades now. Our business retention efforts are how we partner with our companies to ensure they achieve optimal health,” says Kate Wendel. “We will continue to breathe life into our small businesses, pump resources into our community, and optimize opportunities for our workforce. It is our sincere hope that this new brand will further our reach and broaden our ability to serve our business community.” 

In 2021 25 businesses expanded, 315 jobs were created, and $224.6 million in investment has been generated through incentive programs. The HEART team’s most recent wins include the commissioning of Fuji Vegetable Oil, a processing and manufacturing facility, and Habitat for Humanity’s Rising Oaks project, bringing over 150 single-family homes to the parish’s West Bank. Aligning perfectly with HEART’s mission, listeners can learn about featured businesses and their leaders on JEDCO’s podcast, Jefferson Parish Pulse. 


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700 Churchill Parkway, Avondale, LA

Categories: 2022 Jefferson Strong