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Operation HandUP

Published Monday, August 9, 2021

The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance/Chamber SWLA announces the addition of two staffers who will lead Operation HandUP -- a new agency initiative that will provide technical assistance to small and disadvantaged businesses in need of operational support.     

Michael Thomas will serve as the program’s Business Coordinator and Donna Aucoin will serve as a Data Input Specialist.     

Thomas has over thirty years of business leadership and entrepreneurial experience.  He has been an active member of Phi Beta Sigma, a store manager, a loan officer, and a business owner.  As a business owner, he was recognized as Diamond Elite franchise owner generating over $350,000 in gross sales. Thomas has been a mentor and coach to many small local businesses in the region. He has been active with young football athletes in the Lake Charles area for over 25 years. He is a 1994 graduate of McNeese State University with a degree in business. In his role, Thomas will work directly with businesses enrolled in Project HandUp. His duties will include business interviews, assessments, and the creation of action/service plans for businesses enrolled in the program.     

Aucoin has 34 years of work experience in bookkeeping, training, public relations, human resources and office management. She is a graduate of SOWELA Technical Community College. Her duties will be in support of Thomas.

The Alliance/Chamber SWLA, Louisiana Economic Development and United States Economic Development Administration have partnered to make Project HandUP possible.

In order to qualify for the assistance program, a businesses:

  • Owner must be a citizen of the United States
  • Owner must have lived in Louisiana for at least one year
  • Owner’s personal net worth must be less than $400,000 (excluding personal residence and retirement assets (examples – IRA, 401K, pensions, etc.)
  • Owner is required to spend a minimum of 20 hours per week on the business
  • Net worth at the time of service cannot exceed $1.5 million, and must be organized for profit (nonprofits are not eligible)
  • Primary place of business in Louisiana


For more information about Project HandUP, call 337-433-3632.

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