Thursday, May 3, 2018

The power of Small Business in our community

The power and value of small businesses are celebrated this week during "National Small Business Week," recognized annually by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Small businesses are recognized as the backbone of our economy and that certainly is the case in Ouachita Parish and the state of Louisiana. In a state report issued by the SBA, small businesses employ more than 917,000 or 53 percent of our workforce. The top five Louisiana small business industry sectors are health care, food services, retail, construction and professional services. These industries alone employ more than half of all small business employees in the state.

The SBA defines a small business as any business with fewer than 500 employees and less than $7 million in annual sales, but we know the average small business in the United States is much smaller. The national average for a small business is less than 20 employees and less than $2 million in sales. Locally, we know those numbers are even smaller.

During National Small Business Week, the West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce encourages the public to think about the hard work and dedication it takes to run a small business. Often times, a small business owner wears many hats throughout a normal business day - sales person, accountant, even janitor. 

Small business owners contribute significantly to our economy by employing our residents, purchasing needed equipment and services and contributing to the local sales tax base. Sales tax generated by small businesses help fund local governments for such projects as road repair, upgrades to our sewer and water infrastructure, public safety and education.

The next time you think about buying a piece of furniture, a new outfit or are in need of a professional service, consider shopping in a local small business.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cyber Security - An Overview for Business Leaders

Cyber Security – An Overview for Business Leaders

QUESTIONS? If you would like more detailed information or would like information on how NortheastTel can help your business with Cyber-Security, please call or visit our office today!

(318) 874-7011 • 6402 Howell Avenue, Collinston, Louisiana, 71229

How often do you hear news of data breaches or cyber-attacks?
·         2017 Average Cost of Data Breach – $3.62 Million –
·         Personal data of 143 million Americans exposed in hack of credit reporting agency Equifax –
·         Target had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen, exposed the personal information of 70 million shoppers and experienced a 46% drop in profits in Q4 2013 –
·         Hilton’s $700k fine resulting from two breaches in 2105 could be as much as $420 million under the new laws. 
·         The FTC estimates that recovering from identity theft takes and average of 6 months and 200 hours of work.
Almost daily you can find a news item indicating a new threat or attack. For business leaders, having the information they need to make sound decisions is key to protecting your business. The following information is intended to provide a better understanding of the threats to businesses and the tools available to protect your business.

WHO? Identifying who the attackers are is the first step towards protecting your business. Due to the nature of the internet, cyber-attacks can come from anywhere. The attackers can be nation states, criminal organizations, disgruntled employees, hacktivists, or the kid next door.
Of all of the attack sources listed, the most difficult to defend against is the disgruntled employee. Because they have already bypassed most or all of the technological defenses put in place, policies and procedures become your best defense. And developing detailed policies and procedures will help your employees to understand the risks and take the necessary precautions to prevent outside attacks from happening as well.

WHAT/WHY? Businesses also need to identify what the attackers are after. Some attackers are after monetary gains, some are motivated by ideology, and some are simply malicious acts of vandalism. This often ties directly back to who the attacker is.

Most people immediately think of the financial losses when considering cyber security breaches. Not only can there be direct financial loss, but each of the types of losses can also cause additional financial losses.
Loss of data, ranging from ransomware attacks to damage to hardware. Here the additional financial loss can be in the ransom paid to restore data, the internal costs of restoring data from backups, and even the costs of replacing storage devices and hard drives.

Loss of intellectual property can range from proprietary information to large scale theft of data, such as the Netflix hack that ransomed “Orange is the New Black” and released it to the internet. In losing this type of data, businesses lose any income that would have been a result of a product or service that is now available from other resources.
Loss of productivity can come in many forms. If automated systems are targeted, then production processes can be shut down. Sales can be affected by disruptions in websites or point of sales systems. If systems and data needs to be restored, employees may be unable to perform their duties for an extended period of time.

When privacy data is compromised, whether it be employee or customer data, there can be long term problems for those with compromised data and possible legal action resulting against your business for the mishandling of data. Identity theft can cause damage not only in the form of debt, but also in ruined credit that can take years to repair.
The damage to the reputation of a business that has suffered a breach in data security can be crippling. Rebuilding the trust of employees and customers is sometimes a hurdle that cannot be overcome. The best plan for businesses is to prevent any of these losses through security and education.

WHERE? HOW? Understanding how the attackers are gaining access to your data will assist in setting up solid lines of defense. Let’s begin with the internet. The internet is an amazing tool. You can access the internet using telephones, tablets, laptops and computers – giving you instant access to information and communication, and allowing you to work from anywhere in the world. There is no governing body that monitors the internet for bad behavior, malicious intent, or illegal activities. This means that the job of defending your business is up to you.
Internet connections, Wi-Fi networks, websites, email, USB thumb drives and smart phones all provide a path that can be used to gain access to your data and systems. The access can be legitimate, but it could also be an attack. Defending these paths to your data require a combination of technology, education and policies.

Firewalls provide a technological defense by limiting the types of data that can use the path between your office and the Internet. Using encryption and strong passwords on your Wi-Fi networks and email can provide defense by protecting your network and data from unauthorized access to data and systems. Encryption can also protect data in the event of lost or stolen devices and equipment.

Social engineering and social media are used to find weaknesses of policies and procedures to gain access to data and financial gains. By limiting the information that is posted on social media, attackers have a harder time finding the information they would need in order to steal credentials or make requests while impersonating a business executive.

The physical threats to your data comes from systems not being secured from improper access. It does no good to have a password on a system when it is then written down and left where they can be easily accessed. Data on any movable device (laptops, tablets, cell phones, and USB thumb drives) should always be encrypted in the event they are ever lost or stolen. USB drives from unknown sources should never be connected to your computers.

Viruses, Malware, and Spyware can reach you in many different ways. By clicking an unknown link, opening an unexpected email attachment, or even filling out a form online, you may be opening yourself up to an attack. Making sure your systems and software are kept up to date will help to defend against attacks and vulnerabilities.
Insider and privilege misuse come down to education, policies and procedures. No one wants to believe that an employee or affiliate would compromise or steal data. However, the reality is that it does happen, and it is the most difficult type of data breach to prevent and overcome.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS? Ask yourself the following five questions to see where you are and what areas may need to be addressed in order to protect your business:
1.       Are my employees adequately educated about digital threats?
·         Educate yourself and your employees to be aware of the sources of attacks.
·         Do not use open Wi-Fi networks in public places.
·         Never trust email.
·         Limit the data you share on Social Media.
·         Develop a system to alert employees of threats.
·         Verify the identity of anyone requesting access to data/systems.
2.       Is my business’s cyber-security system robust?
·         Install a reputable firewall and configure it correctly.
·         Protect Wi-Fi networks.
·         Maintain a reputable antivirus program.
·         Keep computers up to date.
·         Restrict administrator access to computers.
3.       Are my employees’ mobile devices and personal computers secure?
·         Use VPN to access networks remotely.
·         Secure mobile devices and only install Apps from trusted companies.
·         Do not allow employees to use their own computers or mobile devices.
·         Use multi-factor authentication.
4.       Is my business protected from emerging threats?
·         Use identity theft monitoring services to alert you of suspicious activity.
·         Use intrusion detection and intrusion protection systems in your network.
·         Subscribe to reputable notification services to alert you of new threats.
·         Audit your network, systems, and policies on a regular basis.
5.       What can I do right now?
·         Develop policies for financial transactions that do not rely only on email or text.
·         Never send sensitive data without encryption.
·         Require strong passwords
·         Have an outside party audit your network, systems, and policies.

QUESTIONS? If you would like more detailed information or would like information on how NortheastTel can help your business with Cyber-Security, please call or visit our office today!

(318) 874-7011 • 6402 Howell Avenue, Collinston, Louisiana, 71229

Monday, January 22, 2018

Health officials warn about spread of flu

Health officials have  warned that influenza activity continues to increase nationally and across Louisiana. Officials said influenza-like illness represents a significant percentage of all healthcare visits currently in the state.

A significant amount of the current flu is the H3N2 “A” virus, which can lead to a more serious illness. There is a strong recommendation for early antiviral treatment of anyone suspected of having the flu.

Most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu should stay home from work or school and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Contact your doctor to see if an antiviral medication should be prescribed. If you have symptoms of flue and are in a high-risk group or you are very sick or worried about our illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

People at high risk for developing flu-related complications include: Children younger than 5, especially those younger than 2 years old; Adults 65 and older; Pregnant women and new mothers; Residents or nursing homes and long-term care facilities; American Indians and persons with certain health conditions.

For more information about influenza, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month - a month-long effort designed to inspire people to take action and raise awareness of the fact that 48 million Americans are food insecure. In fact, right here in Northeast Louisiana over 73,000 people are facing hunger.   

During this month, the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana hosted a series of events to spread the word about the hunger crisis, and dedicate themselves to a solution. 

Although September is coming to an end, we challenge the community to support the Food Bank year round and help end hunger in Northeast Louisiana. As we prepare for a busy fall and holiday season, we know there will be a tremendous need for volunteers, donations of food and financial support. The Food Bank challenges the community to spread awareness and join the movement to fight hunger in our community by participating in some of the events and actions below.

Get Involved:
·        Follow FBNELA on Facebook & Twitter and share our posts about hunger with your friends with the hashtag #HungerActionMonth.
·        Make a donation – $10 = 55 Meals for people facing hunger in Northeast Louisiana.
·        Coins for a Cause – Drop off your spare change at any Centric Federal Credit Union location. Your donations will be given to the Food Bank of NELA to fight hunger.

·        Visit for more events and ways to get involved.

Chamber Diplomats recently packed food bags for needy children in our area.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

With the end of May upon us, the West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce wanted to take time to reflect on National Small Business Month, which was celebrated throughout the month of May.

Across the nation and in Louisiana, small businesses have a huge impact on the economy.  The La. Association for Business and Industry reports there are more than 424,000 businesses in Louisiana, employing more than 892,000 people.  Small businesses make up more than 97 percent of Louisiana's employers, providing more than half of the state's private workforce.

The WMWO Chamber of Commerce partnered with the La. Small Business Development Center at ULM to spotlight small businesses in our area and thank local business owners for their commitment to their business and the community. Small businesses create jobs for our residents, and sales tax generated by these businesses help fund schools, parks, roadways and other vital services.

Each May, the Chamber honors small businesses in various categories as part of its Small Business Awards Program, sponsored by Glenwood Regional Medical Center.

This year's winners award winners included: 
  • Community Champion Award - Tiffany Olmstead, publisher of Macaroni Kid Monroe-West Monroe.
  • Emerging Entrepreneur - SaniCan Bin Cleaning & Exterior Services
  • Female Champion Award - Deanna Head, Unitech Training Academy
  • Micro Business Award - Finding Solace Counseling, LLC
  • Small Business Award - TBA Studio
  • Silver Plus Award - Kilpatrick Funeral Homes
  • Honorable Mention in the Micro Business Awards category was presented to Green Gator Pumping & Sewer, LLC
Emerging Entrepreneur Winner SaniCan Bin Cleaning & Exterior Services
Congratulations to all of these well-deserving businesses and leaders!

Remember to support small, locally-owned businesses throughout the year. For a complete listing of WMWO Chamber members, visit our online membership directory at

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring festivals and events abound in West Monroe

The spring season is right around the corner, which means festivals are abound in the West Monroe area!

We kick off the unofficial start of the spring season this Saturday with the 5th Annual St. Paddy's Bicycle Parade at Kiroli Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come rain or shine, this free family event will roll! The highlight of the day is a bicycle parade for people and pets of all ages. Bring your scooter, trike, bike, wagon, etc. and parade around the park in your festive green attire. 

Other activities include face painting, jumpers, food vendors, arts and crafts and live musical entertainment from Emerald Accent. Contact the West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce at (318) 325-1961 for more information.

Also this Saturday, Landry Vineyards kicks off its annual concert series.  If you haven't done so, make a point to visit this beautiful vineyard in the rolling hills of West Monroe and listen to incredible musical groups while enjoying Landry Vineyard wines and refreshments. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and a picnic is optional. Visit for additional information.

Celebrate the many talented artists and musicians found in this region later this spring at the Downtown Spring Art Festival on Saturday, April 29 in downtown West Monroe. This second annual event will feature local artisans, crafters, musicians, food vendors and more. There will be plenty of hands-on activities for children - then shop or dine in the district known to many as Antique Alley. Learn more about the Art Festival at

In May, the Chamber of Commerce, City of West Monroe and several community partners will host the annual Brown Bag Lunch Concert Series. This seasonal favorite features live local musical talent every Wednesday in May from noon to 1 p.m. at the covered pavilion at 7th Square in West Monroe (located directly behind the West Monroe Farmer's Market). A light lunch is sold at each concert and sponsors provide complimentary refreshments. Feel free to bring your own lunch and enjoy the sounds of terrific local entertainment. The concert series will pick up again in September.

There are so many fun things to do this spring season in the West Monroe area.  To learn more about any of these events or others taking place in the community, contact the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau at

Friday, October 7, 2016

Recognizing the impact of manufacturing in our region

October 7 is known as National Manufacturing Day, a celebration of modern manufacturing and a time to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

Manufacturing plays a key role in the economy of Louisiana and across the United States.

According to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), approximately 3,000 manufacturing companies in Louisiana contribute more than 20 percent of the state's gross state product and employ more than 148,000 people. These are good paying jobs which have an average salary of $82,000 which is almost double Louisiana's average wage of $44,409.

In the United States, manufacturers contributed $2.17 trillion to the nation's economy, and for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy. Stephen Waguespack of LABI said taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth largest economy in the world.

Locally, leaders are working on partnerships that will expand resources for regionally-based manufacturing companies and help strengthen the workforce needed to fill jobs at these sites. Today, La. Delta Community College announced a partnership with Reliability Solutions and Training Logic, Inc. two firms with substantive expertise in working with manufacturing companies to train workers for modern automated manufacturing operations. 

Read the full announcement at:

Representatives from Reliability Solutions said in less than 10 years, there will be a shortfall of 3.4 million skilled tradespeople.  Many people, especially those coming out of high school, falsely believe trades-related jobs are "second class" or "demeaning" jobs, said Ian McKinnon of Reliability Solutions.  McKinnon said many of these jobs often lead to six-figure salaries.  He encouraged community and business leaders to help spread the message of the opportunities awaiting those interested in pursuing a trades-related career.
To learn more about Manufacturing Day and its impact to our economy, visit

Students getting a tour of Bancroft Bag in West Monroe.