Restart BR


In May 2020, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome assembled some of Baton Rouge’s most prominent business leaders and voices spanning various sectors of the East Baton Rouge Parish economy in launching the Mayor’s Business Roundtable Economic Recovery Working Group, part of her Restart BR initiative. The working group is focused on facilitating the responsible reopening of business activity in East Baton Rouge Parish and creating a strategy for repositioning industries, businesses, and the workforce in the post-COVID-19 economy. It is directed by Mayor Broome and co-chairs chairs Jim Bernhard, Bernhard Capital Partners co-founder and partner, and Erin Monroe Wesley, Cox Southeast Vice President of Government and Public Affairs.

Key Resources

The Restart BR working group was also instrumental in catalyzing the start-up of a $1 million microgrant program for small businesses in East Baton Rouge Parish impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on the Resilient Restart EBR small business microgrants program, Learn more about Urban League of Louisiana. Since its formation, Restart BR working group members have moved aggressively in coordination with Mayor Broome and local leaders to address the needs of East Baton Rouge Parish businesses in restarting economic activity. These early recommendations include the expansion of the Capital Area United Way’s 211 services to provide information and guidance to capital area businesses and developing clear economic reopening guidance that is consistently messaged and applied throughout East Baton Rouge Parish.

To access other relevant resources and ongoing information for businesses, visit the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s COVID-19 business resources website at


Email with your questions, thoughts, needs, and ideas as we work together to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and restart our local economy. Register to virtually attend upcoming meetings or view videos of previous meetings below.

Working Group Members

Name Organization
Dean Donald Andrews Southern University College of Business
Paul Arrigo Visit Baton Rouge
Jim Bernhard (co-chair) Bernhard Capital Partners
Atty. Alfreda Tillman Bester Southern University Law Center
Greg Bowser Louisiana Chemical Association
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome
City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge
Michael Cooks Louisiana Waste Systems
Helena Cunningham National Housing Consultant Services
John D’Angelo Investar Bank
John Engquist H&E Equipment Services
Dan Gardiner Postlethwaite & Netterville
Gary Graphia Kean Miller LLP
Dr. Barbara Griffith Woman’s Hospital
Veneeth Iyengar (ex-officio) Office of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome
Jerry Jones North Baton Rouge Economic Development District
Adam Knapp Baton Rouge Area Chamber
Manard Lagasse Jr. Associated Grocers
Calvin Mills CMC Technology Solutions
Jenni Peters Varsity Sports
Ross Reilly Lamar Advertising
Dave Roberts EXCEL
Ann Trappey Forte & Tablada
Jim Urdiales Mestizo Restaurant
John Valluzzo Valluzzo Companies
Mike Wampold Wampold Companies
Mary Werner
The Sweet Lake Land & Oil Company and The North American Land Company 
Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors
Erin Monroe Wesley (co-chair) Cox
Brandon Williams Entrepreneur
Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Wilson City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, Metro Council District 4


Near-Term Priorities

The Restart BR working group is developing recommendations for a series of near-term priorities focused on reopening businesses and restarting economic activity that includes:

  • Reviewing and addressing known impediments to reopening sectors of the East Baton Rouge Parish economy
  • Identifying solutions in the form of protective equipment, policies, and guidance businesses need in order to reopen and safely protect the health of employees and customers (in line with state and federal guidance)
  • Determining near-term workforce needs, exploring workforce training opportunities, and connecting available job seekers to employment opportunities as economic activity restarts
  • Developing a communication strategy to raise awareness among residents that Baton Rouge is once again open for business

Long-Term Priorities

The working group is also working along a parallel path to develop recommendations for a series of medium- to longer-term priorities focused on repositioning and repurposing assets to drive sustained economic activity in this changing economy, with focus areas that include:

  • Reviewing economic data and trends to better understand how consumer demand for products and services has altered the landscape of key industries
  • Identifying industries or sectors that will be heavily impacted or changed in the post-pandemic economy, as well as the downstream impacts (e.g., supply chains, workforces, real estate, infrastructure, and adjacent industries)
  • Determining new industries or sectors that are expected to grow or further develop in the post-pandemic economy, particularly those where Baton Rouge has assets and an ability to aggressively pursue
  • Developing solutions to repurpose assets in impacted industries or sectors and determine how best to position local expertise in pursuing new economic growth opportunities, such as through upskilling or investments in capacity building
  • Developing a communication strategy to aggressively pursue economic growth opportunities while aligning local assets and building local capacity