Our professional staff works with citizens, non-profits, local governments and businesses to access resources that enable business and industry, and generate opportunities for outside investment to be drawn into the region.
The agency’s expertise includes Strategic Planning, Technical Assistance and Capacity Building, Grantsmanship, Project Development, Development Finance, Government Contracting, Business Outreach and Entrepreneurship, local government reapportionment, and issues relevant to public sector governance and development.
Heather Smoak Urena, CEcD, Executive Director
As Executive Director, Heather manages the agency and serves as the primary economic developer. She works with communities, businesses, would-be entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, and other agencies to benefit job retention/creation and improved quality of life. Her primary focus is on project development, leveraging resources, and advocating for regionalism.
Heather became executive director in 2005, after having joined the agency in 1996 as the Economic Development Specialist. She has a B.A. in journalism, emphasis in public relations, from Northwestern State University; completed the Economic Development Institute at Oklahoma University; and is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) through the International Economic Development Council. She is also a certified facilitator in NxLevel and Operation Jump Start and alum of the Delta Leadership Institute, having attended both the Executive Academy and then advanced leadership training at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Shelia Wallace, Development Specialist
In her role as Development Specialist, Shelia has distinct expertise in counseling and training entrepreneurs on government contracting, federal acquisitions regulations, sam.gov registrations, and delivering specialized technical assistance to small business clients. She also assists communities with navigating reporting and reimbursement responsibilities with federal agencies and advises small businesses of opportunities and strategies to advance their competitiveness.
Additionally, Shelia helps originate and conduct training events and develop and distribute the agency’s news blast, Regional Issues, to help connect the region with opportunities for knowledge, funding, or other resources.
Heather Daigrepont, Client Services
Client Services is the most recent addition to the professional staff, with Heather Daigrepont providing program support and engagement that assists businesses with accessing the Restore Louisiana small business lending program. She is also undertaking other recovery, resiliency, and competitiveness enriching efforts to help our region’s leaders improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem and help support small business growth and success.
Previously she has worked in marketing within the region and also was formerly staff of the Small Business Development Center with Northwestern State University, providing much of the social and traditional media engagement and small business training coordination.
Virginia McCann, Financial Specialist
Virginia serves as Financial Specialist and has distinct expertise in governmental accounting and project administration. She provides support for relations with the Board of Directors and the region’s membership.
In addition to day-to-day financial matters, Virginia also delivers assistance with lending and servicing for our small business clients and also provides program support on agency programs and services.