NEW ORLEANS IS IN THE BUSINESS OF INNOVATION
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annoying distractions not worthy of interrupting our contentment lifestyle? Will we still have family to celebrate with if our children continue to move to other states seeking employment and quality of life?
Living life with blinders on can block out a lot of uncomfortable things. It’s the path of least resistance. Contentment can be quite peaceful. It can also be the enemy of growth and improvement. For Louisiana’s sake, I suggest we try setting our contentment aside for the year and instead pin our ears back and lean forward into reaching new heights, higher than ever before. Let’s make discontentment our new contentment.
Why this year? Because 2023 is the best chance we have had in generations to right so many of our historical wrongs and add growth and opportunity to the things we do well today.
bold new energy but short on experience in the Capitol. It is imperative for reform-minded people around the state to step up, support these new leaders and articulate for them a new innovative agenda to help Louisiana compete with states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the South that are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.
To fill this gap, LABI is pushing LA23: A collaborative, data-driven effort to design a strategic vision for the state that can make Louisiana an economic driver of the South by 2030. Optimistic? Yes. Ambitious? You bet? Unrealistic? Not even close.
YOU GOOD? You sure?
Some will argue that everything is fine, change is scary, growth is complicated, expectations are too hard to meet and hard work is simply too hard. They think setting lofty goals just sets you up for big falls. They are content at being, well, content and wanting for nothing else.
Oscar Wilde once said, “True contentment is not having everything, but in being satisfied with everything you have.”
Walt Whitman said, “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”
Are they right? Is that where we are as a state? Are we happy enough in Louisiana just to have good friends, close family and a fun culture? Does the desire by some to add to this bubble utopia a less bureaucratic government, more effective education system, safe cities and an ambitious economic game plan all amount to an exciting opportunity for growth or just
First of all, this is a market-share moment for us. The South is in a boom period. States all around Louisiana are attracting new businesses and new families as folks in other states flee big taxes and oppressive regulations across the country. Broken international supply chains are being repatriated back to America, and the South is primed to scoop up new manufacturing jobs. Louisiana is, thus far, sadly missing out on this moment, as our GDP and population ranks are shrinking, disappointingly, in the face of this tailwind. In short order, if we fix some long-term broken policies with short-term bold solutions, we can start winning, too.
Second of all, term limits bring us the best chance in a generation to reset our leadership mandates. We will elect a new governor, several new statewide officials, many new legislators and BESE members. These new leaders will not be the ones we have had for years, they wil come in with good intentions and new aspirations. These new faces will be armed with
The question is not one of capacity, it is one of heart, determination and resolve. Do we have what it takes to strive higher than ever before, push ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves and stand for nothing short of excellence? I sure as hell hope so, because if we choose this year to finally find that inner bravado, we can make drastic leaps in market share and opportunity thanks to term limits, fresh ideas and the Southern Renaissance taking place all around us.
You ready? I mean, really ready, for what will be asked of you this year? If so, let’s go grab that destiny we have long deserved.
To make it happen, we need each of you to do something this year we don’t often ask of our fellow Louisianans. You’ll need to do some soul searching, ask a few tough questions of yourself, demand more than ever before of the state as whole, and then be prepared to handle the truth no matter what daunting path unfolds.
You see, 2023 is going to be a gut-check moment for all of us who have the privilege of calling Louisiana home. The type of gut check that will have long-term ramifications, good or bad. The truth is most
Shaping the future of the Gulf South through diversity and inclusion.
Ochsner Health is proud to serve the Gulf South and we remain committed to shaping the future of healthcare. As the largest employer in the state, our mission is to create diverse and inclusive healthcare by acknowledging differences and valuing individual contributions. We are not stopping there – we are continuing to evolve by offering programs that focus on inclusive recruitment, retention, workforce planning and career development, as well as improving the health outcomes and equity for all of our patients. We are fueled by the talent, passion and diversity of our employees who continue to push the limits to advance medicine in order to change and save lives– we won’t slow down.
Learn more ochsner.org/careers
LaTwunya R., MHA, BSN, RN
Sepsis Performance Improvement Coordinator
Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans
Lean Green Belt Certified Employee Tuition Assistance Program: BSN and MHA
Diversity and Inclusion Resource Groups and Nursing Council
of us will be OK no matter how this goes. We have been through worse before and have shown our ability to ride out proverbial and literal storms with the best of them. But the tale of the tape will be how our sons and daughters respond to this moment. Do they stay or do they go? To be sure, a decade or so down the road will tell the ultimate story of our conviction… but it won’t take that long before we start seeing the trend, and it will be short order after that when we will know whether we had the guts to be bold or not.
Not sure how bad you want it? Try doing something I like to do when I need to find a heavy dose of courage and conviction. Look in the mirror and see what that person staring back has to say.
Yes, I believe that routines make good daily habits which lead to productive long-term outcomes. Solid daily routines can guide you along life’s journey over the long haul to make sound decisions much more than not. Sure, things like prayer, exercise, eating right, treating others the way you want to be treated, etc. are key to personal growth. Expanding this individual energy into a collective movement is the type of secret sauce Louisiana has long needed.
I never forget there are at least two times a day you must look yourself in the mirror and find that personal accountability when you brush your teeth. This may sound trivial, but I urge you to try hard not to speed through that daily routine. Take the time to look at your reflection and see the man or woman in the glass staring back. Are you living the way you should? Are you doing your part to help Louisiana reach new heights or do you simply look the other way each day while the status quo in our state continues to waste our untapped potential? Try that reflective moment, and you will be surprised how easy it can be to hold yourself accountable and be the best version of yourself more days than not. Once you have pushed yourself, try to do the same analysis for your home state you proclaim to love so much.
To help remind myself of this daily mission, I keep a prayer card taped to my mirror that reads:
THE MAN IN THE GLASS
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day, Just go to a mirror and look at yourself, And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father or mother or wife Whose judgment upon you must pass; The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life Is the one staring back from the glass.
Some people may think you’re a straight-shootin’ chum And call you a wonderful guy, But the man in the glass says your only a bum If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest For he’s with you clear up to the end, And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass, But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
Louisiana’s hopes should not rest on a wing and prayer. It should be determined by a bold strategic plan, our collective will to follow through and our unified passion to be the best version of ourselves.
Don’t cheat the man or woman staring back in the glass from you each day. The same goes for Louisiana. Outsourcing Louisiana’s destiny to others has been tried for decades. It hasn’t worked. A new plan is needed and that plan starts with you. 2023 is our year to change our collective reflection once and for all. Do your part, demand the same of others and make sure we all can one day soon be proud of what we see.
Sara Bongiorni, Marie DesOrmeaux Centanni, Emily Kern Hebert, Mariah Manuel Hernandez, Mary Beth Hughes, Gary Perilloux, Jeffery
Jeannie Frey Rhodes, Collin Richie
President& CEO, LABI
President & CEO
VP of Marketing & Strategic Communications:
Political Operations Manager: Mariah Manuel
Director of Technology & Communications
Manager: Mary Beth Hughes
Director of Membership: Elena Lacour
VP of Government Relations, Director of Taxation & Finance, Employee Relations and Transportation & Tourism: Jim Patterson
General Counsel & Director of Healthcare, Energy and Civil Justice: Lauren Hadden
Director of Education & Workforce and Small
Business: Brian Davis
Director of Political Action Committees: Andree
Political Action Committee Coordinator: Hannah
Chief Financial Officer: Wanda Allphin
Director of Operations: Claire Shirley
Director of Financial Operations, Office Manager: Tabitha Guidry
IT Director: Andre Forbes
Receptionist: Sheila Saniford
Joie de vivre
LOUISIANA CERTAINLY HAS IT. Festivities, fantastic cuisine, music, dance, and a culture beyond compare. Our state is an incredible draw and an entertaining place to live. Just check out all our festivals, back in action, starting on page 88. But while we revel in all the revelry, we as Louisianans know that it’s not enough to sustain us. We need to create a place where our children and our children’s children want to live. That’s why LABI has launched the LA23 initiative. Read more about that on page 57 and join the movement. After all, Louisiana is a state not only of survivors but of thrivers! Check out all the new business taking shape on the following pages. And step on out there and dance. We’ve got something to celebrate—new opportunities are knocking.- ASHLEY GORDON
Booking the best for outdoor enthusiasts
IT ALL STARTED with a 2019 Oklahoma hunting trip gone wrong. Logan Meaux, a Lake Charles native, showed up for a three-day trip with the accommodations lacking, the lodge overbooked and the hunting way below par. He knew there had to be a solution. With an outdoorsman Airbnb in mind, this LSU finance major created a business plan for his senior class project of what was to become Mallard Bay.
“I started looking to find co-founders to help solve this problem in the outdoor industry,” says Meaux, whose father, Chris Meaux, founded Waitr (now ASAP) and is chairman and CEO of BoomNation. “We now have a fast-growing team and business, and we are always on the lookout for fresh talent.”
The Mallard Bay team, in addition to Meaux, now includes co-founders Tam Nguyen, Joel Moreau and Wyatt Mallett. These four, with a slew of others on their team, are creating a solution to what has been a fragmented market for those looking to book trips with reputable outfitters and charters providing services.
Mallard Bay started with 12 outfitters in late 2021, and they now have roster of 250 outfitters in 30 states and counting. It’s a site where sportsmen, sportswomen and guides can connect on a frictionless online platform. On the outfitters side, Mallard Bay helps with calendar management, payment processing, website development, marketing and client relations.
“Change is growth,” says Mallett. “Everything in our business is constantly evolving, and there’s always a challenging project to tackle, which is fun.”
In the past year, Mallard Bay has seen significant change for the good. In April 2022, the members of the tech startup company were the first entrepreneurs from LSU to compete in the Rice Business Plan Competition, the world’s largest student startup competition, and took home more than $200,000 in prizes. They acquired Bourbon Media, an outdoor excursion marketing firm, allowing Mallard Bay to bring web development and marketing services in house. In September, they closed a $1.8 million funding round led mostly by angel investors. The Mallard Bay team aims to be the market leader in the next three years.
“There’s so much opportunity for startup innovation here in Louisiana, it’s exciting to see it unfolding right in front of us,” says Nguyen. “There’s no better time to be a venture- and angel-backed startup from Louisiana.”
GOOD WORKS Investing in tomorrow’s workforce
Nicholls State University received $131,000 from T. BAKER SMITH, LLC—an engineering, surveying and environmental consulting company—to support Nicholls’ Geomatics program. With this donation, the College of Sciences and Technology plans to hire a full-time assistant or associate professor for spring 2023 and two adjunct professors for fall 2023. “Donating to Nicholls is a no-brainer due to the return on investment we receive,” says Kenneth Smith, CEO of T. Baker Smith. “So many of our associates are alums from all disciplines at Nicholls. Investing in Nicholls means investing in our community.”
JOB CREATOR On the Horizon
The Louisiana State Bond Commission unanimously passed a resolution granting its final approval of up to $1.5 billion of tax-exempt bonds for the financing of the construction of Origin 2, ORIGIN MATERIALS first worldscale manufacturing facility to be located in Geismar. The plant in Ascension Parish will use sustainable wood residue—sourced partly from Louisiana’s timber mills and managed forests—to produce plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in packaging, textiles, apparel and other applications. “The availability of this funding to support the build–out of the plant will strengthen our ability to create local jobs, and to meet growing demand for our products in the United States and internationally,” says John Bissell, co-founder and co-Chief Executive Officer of Origin.
BUSINESS FOCUSED Remote emergency solution
A $450 million investment from Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund provides the critical infrastructure that supports Emergency SOS via satellite for iPhone 14 models—enabling messaging with emergency services when outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. A majority of the funding goes to GLOBALSTAR, a global satellite service headquartered in Covington, with facilities all over the United States. The investment provides critical enhancements to Globalstar’s satellite network and ground stations, ensuring iPhone 14 users are able to connect to emergency services when off the grid. “The launch of Emergency SOS via satellite direct to iPhone is a generational advancement in satellite communications,” says Jay Monroe, Globalstar’s executive chairman, “and we are proud that Globalstar’s satellites and spectrum assets will play a
SMART WORKS Power Up
LIGHTSOURCE BP is developing a solar farm in St. Landry Parish on a 900acre site in a rural area north of Opelousas. Prairie Ronde Solar, a privately funded $170 million renewable energy project, will create 230-280 direct construction jobs and will provide a more than $20 million boost to St. Landry Parish public services without a tax increase to its citizens. This solar farm will deliver electricity into the local grid, helping with Louisiana’s energy independence and energy security. Construction will begin this year and the project is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.
MOVING FORWARD Here We Grow
The largest public relations firm in the Gulf South, THE EHRHARDT GROUP has opened a second office—outside of New Orleans—in Baton Rouge. This new office will greatly expand the firm’s capabilities to offer public relations, issues management and marketing services to its clients including Fortune 500 corporations, national and regional institutions and public entities. “We’ve had a concentration of work in Baton Rouge and the Capital region for more than 25 years,” says Marc Ehrhardt, president of The Ehrhardt Group. “This new office was the logical next step for TEG and will allow us to continue those efforts in a more immediate and expansive manner.” TEG’s new office is downtown at One American Place, within walking distance of the Capitol.
The Certified logos promote authentic Louisiana products. Supporting Louisiana businesses and families is our mission, while keeping more dollars in state.
KUDOS Sweet Success
Robert Nelson, chairman and CEO of ELMER CANDY CORPORATION, received Candy Industry’s 75th Kettle Award last fall, the highest recognition a person working within the U.S. confectionary industry can attain. The 167-year-old company, located in Ponchatoula, is now in its 60th year of ownership by the Nelson family. Elmer Candy has become one of the leading manufacturers of Valentine’s Day and seasonal boxed chocolates in the United States. “I’m grateful to have the team of people that I have here and that we’ve been able to do what we do,” Nelson told Candy Industry Magazine. “It’s really a recognition of what we’ve achieved as a team. It’s very special to be able to share it with them.”
FOLLOW UP Project for a Purpose
In January, EXXONMOBIL launched its Baton Rouge Polyproplylene Growth Project, a new production unit that broke ground in 2019. The PPG Project created 65 new full-time jobs, generated $20 million in local sales tax revenue during construction, and produced $349 million in spending with local contractors and $210 million with local businesses. Polypropylene is used in everyday products including lightweight automotive parts that improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. “The new polypropylene production unit demonstrates ExxonMobil’s long-standing commitment to Louisiana and, more specifically, the Capital Region,” says Jonathan Morgan, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Polyolefins plant manager. “This project allowed us to train and hire more local residents while increasing our capacity to meet the growing global demand for lightweight, durable plastics.”
BACK TO BUSINESS In the Trenches
GREENUP INDUSTRIES successfully completed the Stockpile 2 project for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Project, clearing the way for the Army Corps of Engineers to fortify Louisiana’s levees. Stockpile 1 is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023. Greenup’s primary operations on the site have been excavating, processing and stockpiling clay from the Bonnet Carre Spillway. The clay will be used to construct 17.5 miles of a levee system that offers a 100-year risk level reduction to the area between the spillway and Garyville. Greenup will have removed 1.5 million cubic yards of clay from the spillway by the end of the two projects. “We are honored to be part of the project that provides much needed flood protection for the River Region,” says Rodney Greenup, CEO of Greenup Industries. “With these two projects and a recently awarded third project for Plaquemines Parish, the Corps can actually start building levees that will protect LaPlace from future hurricanes like Ida.”
A productive partnership
A continued partnership between the CYBER INNOVATION CENTER in Bossier City and the Air Force Global Strike Command Office of the Chief Scientist at Barksdale Air Force Base exceeds a $248 million impact. The CIC and STRIKEWERX Innovation hub, through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with AFGSC, connects business, industry, higher education and military stakeholders to bridge the command’s most critical technology gaps. “Entering our sixth year of PIA operations, the CIC has matured to a level that most Department of Defense entities would only begin to think possible,” says Craig Spohn, executive director and president of CIC. “AFGSC has realized a five-fold return on its investment with impacts of $248 million to date. This growth and maturity, while still increasing, is now very apparent through the results being achieved. Working together with our partners in the chief scientist’s office to accomplish these results is worthy of pause and reflection.”
JOINING FORCES Better Together
Xavier University of Louisiana and OCHSNER HEALTH are establishing a joint College of Medicine. “The Xavier medical students will get outstanding clinical training in our integrated health care system,” says Pete November, CEO of Ochsner Health, “and this significant expansion of our partnership with Xavier demonstrates our commitment to training the next generation of health care providers to solve the critical shortage of physicians in the United States and meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve.”
SET FOR GROWTH Investing in What Matters
ROYOMARTIN is investing $9.5 million to install technologically advanced production equipment at its Natchitoches Parish lumber mill. The plywood manufacturing facility in Chopin is one of the parish’s largest employers, and the expansion will allow the company to retain approximately 684 existing jobs through 2035. “The plywood mill has been in continuous operation since 1996 and has survived the Great Recession, COVID pandemic and other harsh obstacles without downtime,” says Roy O. Martin III, chairman, CEO and CFO of RoyOMartin. “The team leaders and team members at this facility deserve the job sustainability and security that this project and previous modernization projects provide.”
ON BRAND Core Workout
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, powered by the BOEING-built core stage, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in November. Eight and a half minutes into flight, the core stage completed its mission and separated from the upper stage of the rocket, sending NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its first journey around the Moon. “This country now has a superheavy lift launch capability for the first time in 50 years,” says Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division. “This test flight was a demonstration of engineering innovation, and we are ready to support NASA and their international partners in returning humans to deep space exploration.”
BELL RINGER Moment to Remember
While they remain a privately held company, ARGENT TRUST recently assumed trustee responsibilities for numerous publicly traded royalty trusts, including Sabine Royalty Trust (SBR), Permian Basin Royalty Trust (PBT), Cross Timbers Royalty Trust (CRT) and PermRock Royalty Trust (PRT). Argent Trust CEO Kyle McDonald rang the New York Stock Exchange Opening Bell on January 31 to celebrate their new Royalty Trust division. “Ringing the bell was a humbling experience that resulted from the opportunity we have to work with exceptional professionals who serve our valued clients well,” says McDonald. “It was an honor to be there representing the entire Argent team. When we started Argent in Ruston 33 years ago, this experience was not something we would have ever envisioned.”
JOINT VENTURE Wedding Belles
The premium silk flower rental company, SOMETHING BORROWED BLOOMS based in Lafayette, is partnering with David’s Bridal, the country’s largest specialty bridal retailer. “Partnering with David’s Bridal, a legacy brand within the wedding and events industry, is a pivotal moment in our journey,” says Lauren Bercier, cofounder and CEO of Something Borrowed Blooms. “It will allow us to reach and empower more couples with budget and eco-friendly options throughout the wedding planning process.”
LABI’S NEW CHAIRMAN of the Board of Directors brings quite a cache of experience to the table. Although, with a quick glance at the unassuming Jude Melville, one does not conjure up images of wartime intelligence. One would be wrong. This Bossier Parish native went to Harvard University on a military scholarship; he received a master’s degree from the London School of Economics which he attended as a Rotarian International Ambassadorial Scholar; and he worked at the Pentagon and spent years as an officer in the United States Air Force, achieving the rank of Captain, serving at various times in Turkey, Oman, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He returned to Louisiana at the urging of his uncle, former Gov. BuddyBY ASHLEY GORDON
Jude Melville brings a strategic mind to his new leadership role
Roemer, to help launch Business First Bank, a community bank in Baton Rouge that would support entrepreneurs and small community businesses. Today, he serves as Chief Executive Officer of the thriving b1BANK, which changed its name but kept its commitment to excellence and its entrepreneurial spirit for growth. Based in Baton Rouge, b1BANK has grown to become the largest bank by deposits headquartered in Louisiana.
“Many people don’t realize that opening a bank is an entrepreneurial journey just like opening other businesses,” says Melville. “Many of my role models have been business leaders.”
Melville becomes chairman of LABI’s Board of Directors during a pivotal election year coupled with an ambitious, strategic effort by LABI to create an informed road map for the state through the year 2030. In a nutshell, 2023 at LABI will not be a snoozer. But Melville is ready for the challenge and willing to step up in any way needed.
“I’ve always been aware of and respectful of what LABI means to the state and to all individuals involved,” says Melville, who has been a member for nine years. “I’m very excited about this year. The state needs a vision and a plan to achieve that vision and LA23 will produce that. I’m also excited to spread the word that small businesses are important, and LABI makes a difference.”
Melville has been married to Amy Moore Melville for 17 years and the duo has two teenage daughters. When it comes to considering a work/life balance, Melville contends that life is a series of tradeoffs and a long-term vision is imperative to keep you healthy minded at home and in the office.
“I’m a better dad because I’m a boss,” says Melville. “And I’m a better boss because I’m a dad.”
As far as leadership abilities go, LABI couldn’t have found a more insightful member to bring to the table during this pivotal year for Louisiana.
KNOWING LOCAL & BEING LOCAL
ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER.
We craft the stories that educate, captivate, and motivate the people of the Gulf South. We have chosen to stay and build so we can speak directly to the people most important to us.
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS
Healthcare and Medications Transportation
Everyone knows that gasoline powers our vehicles and Louisiana’s industry makes plenty of gasoline, however, industry also makes the power that is needed to fuel electric vehicles. From the battery packs to the plastics in the vehicles, Louisiana’s industries are part of the solution to make lighter weight, more efficient transportation.
From the shoes on our feet, to the baby seats in our cars. From our camping equipment and raincoats to constructing our houses and keeping our hospitals safe, Industry is there providing the products that make our modern way of life possible. Industry makes the products that helped get our world through the COVID-19 pandemic, from masks, to gowns, to syringes, blood bags and sanitizer, industry didn’t stop production. Industry’s manufacturing in Louisiana also make common medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which go into the popular brands of Tylenol© and Advil©.
Construction and Homecare
Louisiana’s industries supply construction and homecare needs in so many ways. From growing trees and making glue, to pigments that go into paint and concrete, the people of Louisiana industry are working hard. Even lawncare solutions, fertilizers, and keeping pests at bay, we make it all!
Louisianans love to cook and eat, and Louisiana’s industries make many foods. In addition to the food, our industries make the packaging materials, the safety products and the technologies necessary to deliver freshness to your table every day.
For more information and to volunteer, visit www.industrymakes.org
MIND Top of
LABI board members reveal the main issue affecting their industry for 2023
“Louisiana has an opportunity to lead the nation in producing low carbon energy. We have to get the policy right in 2023 so that this business advantage doesn’t pass Louisiana by. We want to remain an energy state.”TOMMY FAUCHEUX, President, LMOGA BY MARY BETH HUGHES
“The top issue in 2023 for Advantous is assisting our industrial and manufacturing clients to navigate federally mandated initiatives in conjunction with the complexities of our state and local tax code as it relates to carbon-capture sequestration, renewable energy, and other emerging forms of energy production.”JASON DECUIR, Partner, Advantous Consulting, LLC
“Powering a better future—our sights are focused beyond 2023 on building a lower carbon world. There is no one solution to manage the growing energy demand, but Chevron is taking action. While we continue to leverage our oil and gas strengths, we are further reducing emissions by growing our business in renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, geothermal, and hydrogen. These investments will allow us to continue to be a world energy leader.”CAMILLE IVY-O’DONNELL, State Government Affairs Representative, Chevron
“The business landscape is experiencing tremendous change, with innovative new technologies making enhancing the stakeholder experience more dynamic than ever. We believe that by emphasizing that hyper-personalized approach with all our stakeholders—from employees and agent partners, to policyholders, injured workers, providers, and citizens—we can live out our purpose to help Louisiana thrive.”KRISTIN WALL, President and CEO, LWCC
“Bridging the digital divide. AT&T is leading the nation’s largest fiber build, and with AT&T Fiber available to more than 500,000 homes and small businesses in Louisiana, we are a big part of that investment. And now, thanks to the unprecedented federal broadband funds made available, communities across Louisiana are also able to collaborate with companies like AT&T who can bring experience and expertise to expand broadband to even more Louisiana families.”DAVID J. AUBREY, Regional Vice President, AT&T Louisiana
“The challenge facing many businesses remains finding, securing, and maintaining of committed, dedicated, and talented staff members willing and able to perform the services or produce the products needed. Labor needs will remain even with a potential recession in the economy. Many industries will move more toward automation to resolve or mitigate this need.”J. H. CAMPBELL JR., Manager, Client Consulting Services, LLC
“The top issue affecting virtually every employer is dealing with the shortage of qualified labor. Legally hiring and retaining productive and cooperative employees is absolutely essential to the growth and prosperity of businesses throughout the U.S. A long-term, workable strategy needs to be implemented which could include elements such as seeking creative sources of applicants, providing attractive pay and benefits, and adopting different conditions of employment (flexible schedules, remote work and the like).”E. FRED PREIS, JR., Senior Partner, Breazeale Sachse & Wilson, LLP
“In wood products, we’re always mindful of regional housing starts and the variables associated with single- and multi-family construction. Although there’s a persistent need for more skilled labor, buildable land and less regulatory bottlenecks throughout our nation, the immediate issue today are headwinds created by inflation, lifted interest rates and the resulting costs of buying a home.”SCOTT POOLE, President and COO, MARTCO, LLC
“Our construction-related businesses are deeply concerned about the continuing cost inflation of raw material inputs and machinery and equipment into 2023, and its potential impact on the ability of states, like Louisiana, to put a greater number of infrastructure projects out for bid. Despite increased investment dollars, rising costs are preventing many states from funding the projects they had planned, which could lead to fewer job opportunities for construction workers, fewer projects available for companies like ours to bid on, and continued delays in improvements to the transportation infrastructure system on behalf of the taxpayer/citizen.”TERRY BAUGH, CFO, D & J Construction Company
FROM THE BOARD
“While workforce continues to be an important issue, the predictability of government is something to keep an eye on, especially at the federal level.”TYLER GRAY, Director of Government Relations, Placid Refining Company
“Our top issue and priority continues to be to meet our client’s expectations, especially under volatile material procurement conditions and a labor-challenged market. Efforts to procure cost-effective materials for our projects allow us to perform at a high level and continue our sustained growth. Our talented team works closely with subcontractors that provide welltrained craftsmen capable of performing their trades at the highest quality.”JOHN L. DONAHUE, III, President & CEO, DonahueFavret
“The top issue the infrastructure industry faces is hiring top talent to deliver the growing number of major projects being advanced by funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Every state in the nation will see increased activity. Now, more than ever, the war on talent is upon us.”BRYAN JONES, Mid Atlantic Division President, HNTB Corporation
“Consideration of flexible work structures and cultivating a culture and environment that attracts and retains new and diverse talent.”BOB BARTON, Managing Partner, Taylor Porter
“It’s 2023, but our industry is looking to 2050 and beyond. Progress toward net zero by 2050 is being driven by developing new products, new approaches and new technologies to accelerate and deploy solutions for modern life in a lower-emission future.”J. CHARLES DABADIE, Americas Regional Manufacturing Manager, ExxonMobil Product Solutions
“The top issue for 2023 in the transportation and logistics industry is workforce. There are over eight million men between the ages of 18 and 60 who are not in the United States workforce. Less than five percent of this eight million have a diagnosable disability—bad back, bad knee, etc. A large percentage of the balance are on some sort of government funded disability–depression, anxiety, etc. This situation is unsustainable.”TOM O’NEAL, President, O’Nealgas, Inc.
“When the economy thrives, banks thrive… and vice versa. One of our top issues is Louisiana’s growth or lack thereof. We must elect leaders committed to attracting more jobs to our state and supporting the growth of our local businesses.”JOE ZANCO, President and CEO, Catalyst Bank
LEADING the WAY
Erin Monroe Wesley on her new role and her future focus BY MARY BETH HUGHES
ERIN MONROE WESLEY recently took the reins as the Cox Communications market vice president for Greater Louisiana, overseeing operations in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. She previously served as Cox’s vice president of government and public affairs for the company’s Southeast Region. And she’s held various public and private sector leadership roles including special counsel to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Executive Vice President and COO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Executive Council to then Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and Associate Executive Counsel to former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Today, she heads up 745 employees in her new role. A mom, a marathoner and a first-rate fashionista, we sat down with Wesley to explore her vision for her new position and the exciting projects Cox has in the works.
What is your biggest challenge in assuming the role as market vice president for greater Louisiana? One of my goals is to maintain a positive Cox culture. It’s important to me to make sure that my employees are happy as well as our customers.
What is something new and exciting happening in the industry? The continued evolution of broadband! Broadband is essential, and we saw that firsthand during the pandemic. Some employers need their employees to work from home, students need to be able to do their homework and we all need reliable internet for our day to day. We not only need to be focused on increasing access, but also bandwidth and speed. We've got to adjust to a constantly evolving world.
You’ve had a very successful career. What drives you?
I think the passion for making a difference, enhancing the customer experience and the constant pursuit of excellence in everything we do. On the internal front, I want my employees to thrive in their jobs and on the external front, I want to see all of our Cox customers happy with their services. We’re playing an important role in local communities.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so, what did he/she impart to you? Without question it would be my friend Anthony Pope. He has been a huge part of my story and instilled confidence in me. He is a 30-year veteran in this field and while he’s been one of my fiercest critics in my current role, he’s also been one of my biggest encouragers.
What do you hope to bring to this role? My position is a new one for the company, so I think first and foremost it would be defining my role as a collaborator. At Cox we all work as a team, and I want to make sure everyone’s eye is on the ball. That’s top priority. We can achieve our mission together.
Our theme for this issue of 5th & Main is The Road Ahead. How is Cox planning for future? We have some exciting things coming down the pike. Cox Mobile just launched and has been a huge success. We’re generally evolving in all of our product offerings. As we look ahead, we always ask ourselves ‘how do we ensure reliability?’ It's critical that we understand our customer’s needs. You’ve been a leader in many different roles throughout your career. What do you enjoy about working for Cox in particular? Cox’s culture. Cox is a family-owned business founded 125 years ago that has always been committed to taking care of its employees, serving its customers and improving the quality of life in the communities it serves. It’s grounded in our history and continues to serve as our “North Star.”
How do you spend time outside of the office? When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family. My 17-year-old daughter, Lauren Elise is a movie buff. She’s a high school senior who will be entering a new chapter this fall as a college freshman. My son, Miles Dean, who is 16, is my sports enthusiast. He’s an all-state soccer player who has played the sport since he was about 5 years old.
LABI’s Free Enterprise Awards followed by Business & Boots spotlighted those individuals and companies who are making a difference to Louisiana’s business climate and in their communities
THE ED STEIMEL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FRED PREIS
A longtime champion of LABI, Fred Preis has given decades to the organization, lending his extensive expertise on many issues that affect Louisiana job creators. His knowledge and passion for LABI’s mission has informed our policy and fueled our membership. He is a former board chair and has previously chaired the Employee Relations Council. Fred is currently chairman of LABI’s Civil Justice Reform Council in addition to serving as partner at the Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson L.L.P. where he is a senior member of the Labor and Employment Law Section.
BUSINESSPERSON OF THE YEAR TERRY BAUGH
A familiar face at LABI headquarters as well as throughout the Capitol, Terry Baugh—CFO of D & J Construction in Monroe—champions the LABI ideals and is tirelessly dedicated to our cause. During the legislative session, he can be found in committee hearings, in the House and the Senate chambers, and sometimes behind the mic testifying for smart policy. Baugh was also critical in making sure that major investments were made in transportation infrastructure, buoying the transportation industry in Louisiana as a whole.
YOUNG BUSINESSPERSON OF THE YEAR JACOB LANDRY
Driven by his love of European ales and lagers, Jacob Landry launched Urban South Brewery in New Orleans to “share the gospel of good beer” to south Louisiana. Almost seven years later, Urban South is now available in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. And the company is a tremendous supporter of its local communities while also providing humanitarian aid through sales of specialty beers.
LARGE MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR BASF
Operating in Louisiana for 65 years, BASF’s three sites employ nearly 2,000 employees and contractors and invest almost $300 million in the state through annual payroll, purchases, taxes and charitable contributions. BASF recently committed $780 million to complete its Geismar Chemical Plant expansion. In addition, it paid tribute to those formerly enslaved on the site by setting up a memorial, while also commemorating an Indian Mound and historic family cemetery.
SMALL MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR ELMER CANDY CORPORATION
This company has been a Louisiana name since its inception in New Orleans in 1855. Elmer Candy Company moved to Ponchatoula in the 1960s, refocused its offerings to seasonal chocolates, and has become a household name throughout the United States. Today, Elmer is run by a third-generation family and continues to lead with the highest level of quality control, food safety and industry innovation.
LARGE COMPANY OF THE YEAR AMAZON
From 2010-2019, Amazon invested more than $250 million in Louisiana, including infrastructure and compensation to employees in the state. In 2021, Amazon announced its plans to open its second robotics fulfillment center in Louisiana (the first being built in Shreveport). The new operations facility in Baton Rouge, projected now to be open toward the end of 2023, will create over 1,000 new, full-time jobs.
SMALL COMPANY OF THE YEAR GULF COAST BANK & TRUST
This homegrown bank, started in Alexandria in 1999, is now the third largest bank in Louisiana and has expanded its footprint to Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, New Orleans and the Northshore. Gulf Coast Bank offers multiple fundraising events to support its local communities and non-profits. It’s a relationshipfocused bank with bankers who know the communities, live in the communities and invest in the communities.
WORKFORCE INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR OCHSNER HEALTH
This 80-year-old trailblazing health system is consistently named both the top hospital and top children’s hospital in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report. It launched Healthy State by 2030 with an initial investment of $100 million to raise Louisiana in national health rankings and improve health outcomes for communities within the decade. Ochsner has been a leader in charter schools development and opened the Dr. John Ochsner Discovery Health Sciences Academy in Jefferson Parish in 2020, with another Ochsner academy opening its doors in Baton Rouge in the fall of this year.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNER OF THE YEAR GREATER SHREVEPORT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Greater Shreveport Chamber stood with LABI and supported accountability changes to our public education system in 2022. Their commitment to higher quality education and higher accountability standards will lead to more technical and career education courses to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.
To nominate for the 2023 Awards, go to labi.org/nominate-a-business
To see photos from the Free Enterprise Awards Event on Nov. 10, 2022, go to page 104.
> Connecting local business to international markets
> Generating jobs and supporting a ready workforce
> Building the next generation of critical infrastructure
C O L O R S A coda in
Frederick J. Brown’s vivid paintings reflect Louisiana’s jazz and blues identityBY JEFFREY ROEDEL
WATCH THE FACE of iconic
melt into his horn, merely a fluid extension of his arm, as a mosaic of colors frame his visage like stained glass would honor a saint, and the message is hushed but clear. This is church. And the spirit is moving.
The creator of this vision, Frederick Brown, was drawn by jazz, not art, to New York City in 1970. The Georgia-born, Chicago-raised painter first connected with radical sax god Ornette Coleman, and soon they were hosting a rotating salon of artists, musicians and seekers at their lofts—collections of creatives that rivaled Warhol’s Factory.
“He was very open and kind to people which made him magnetic,” says Brown’s son Bentley Brown, an artist, art historian and educator at Fordham University. “His art was reflecting the force of the community he was cultivating.”
That community often looked like a dreamland of jazz.
Saxophonist James Jordan once called Brown’s loft an exciting place and “the start of a journey” for his career.
As his entry into creativity, Brown thought sound had a lot of color in it. That’s a sentiment that can’t just be reasoned out. It has to be felt.
The jazz of our modern minds often gets boxed into museums, and historic buildings and hallowed halls. A beautiful starting point, but too often, there it sits, safe and unsounded.
That is, until you find yourself on Frenchman Street, or walking past Preservation Hall, or in the buffet line at a wedding reception, or in your kitchen, half-awake in wrinkly pajamas, and you
hear it. Louis Armstrong is on and your body starts to sway and shake.
It’s then that jazz is not just in the blackand-white patina of a picture frame, or in the rusted curves of brass nailed up to a wall. It’s in your blood, and in your soul. And when it gets in there, your feet begin to move and your heart begins to dream.
That’s when the song really begins.
These songs now have another life with Universal Heart Chords: Music Paintings of Frederick J. Brown, now on display at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.
“In his scale and his use of color and
shapes, Frederick Brown brings his own sense of lyricism and creativity to the paint, much in the same way a jazz musician shapes and interprets a song or a solo,” says David Kunian, New Orleans Jazz Museum Curator.
Brown’s paintings challenged the notions of traditional portraiture head on, both in subject and in style. Bentley Brown views them as avant-garde, made at a time when black artists were never labelled as progressives—though Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and others fit the bill.
“It’s identity confirming for me as a
Black man who grew up in Arizona,” he says. “I see an aspirational energy that inspired me to realize you can exert your force upon the world.”
From Louis Armstrong to Buddy Guy, jazz and blues icons and sojourners alike shine in Brown’s vivid portrayals.
“Those are an act of ‘spirit conjuring,’” recalls Bentley Brown. “That’s what we would call it in the studio. The music hits in a certain way, and these are spiritual projections.”
The very idea of jazz is translated and transcended in Brown’s explorations. The medium is different, but the essence, feeling of a stroke of the brush and the stab of a horn, can be the same.
“He was portraying these Black folks at the peak of their moment and in the best light possible,” Bentley Brown says. “Rewriting the narrative on portraiture by
having audiences understand that these folks here are the bedrock of American culture, not just Black culture, but American culture. That’s the commentary. That’s the vision. And to use the language of Rembrandt to do that is a powerful statement.”
For the documentary 2003 120 Wooster Street, filmmaker Tony Ramos described Brown as a synergistic source of inspiration for all in his orbit.
Whether at his 1970s SoHo loft or commanding a creative cavalry for his massive retrospective (the first from a Western artist) at the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing in 1988, Brown was a masterful storyteller, and a humble leader.
“Freddie has this way of gathering around himself these incredible people, and then it generates its own thing,”
Though he died in 2012, the Frederick J. Brown Trust, the work of his son, Bentley, and galleries like the New Orleans Jazz Museum, ensure Brown’s work is still doing just that: gathering and generating Kunian says the galvanizing strength of the paintings leaps out of the frames with an undeniable energy that mirrors the power of the music itself. The same jolt that influences every aspect of New Orleans culture, and moves people to sway and shake and dream.
“Most of all,” Kunian says. “It overwhelmingly tells the viewer that jazz is still so alive and vital—especially in New Orleans.”
A world-class biomedical research facility in New Iberia plans for necessary growthBY SARA BONGIORNI
ON A FORMER NAVY airbase just off the highway in Iberia Parish, on a 118-acre site, more than 10,000 research monkeys cohabitate in the nation’s largest nonhuman primate research center. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center—and its monkeys—stayed quietly under the radar until its involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine pushed the center into the public eye.
in testing the safety and effectiveness of Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine, the first vaccine authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is no overstating the impact of that work. Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine saved 7 million lives in 2021 alone, according to a 2022 estimate by life-sciences data firm Airfinity.
NIRC was not allowed to discuss the work at the time, but the federal government required research to be peer-reviewed and published before vaccine approval. The center co-published its methods alongside other partners on the vaccine-development team in a February 2021 issue of the journal Nature.
After decades of mostly quiet contract research, NIRC was in the spotlight. And it was eager to talk about its role in development of the vaccine along with additional projects of global importance, including an HIV vaccine funded by a $67 million National Institutes of Health grant.
“Before, we would avoid talking about our work,” says Ramesh Kolluru, ULL vice president for research, innovation and economic development. “That changed with COVID.”
for a plant-based vaccine. It belongs to a consortium working on a pan-COVID vaccine to protect against the spectrum of disease variants.
Scientists from across the world partner with NIRC on infectious-disease projects moving toward real-world application. An Oxford University-led project to create an ebola vaccine for wild chimps to prevent its spread to human communities in Africa is now in early trials, for instance. Other work involves metabolic disorders like diabetes and infectious diseases like zika, mosquito-borne dengue fever and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. And humans aren’t the only beneficiaries of its efforts: Phase one trials for a nasal spray to protect dogs against kennel cough are underway.
Original research by the center’s own investigators has expanded sharply in recent years, much of it funded by NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An ongoing collaboration with Stanford and MIT, for example, uses its extensive PET-imaging technology to track where isotope-illuminated antibodies travel within the bodies of vaccinated rhesus macaques.
“Nobody knows how to influence whereFrancois Villinger.
Breakthrough scientific achievement aside, NIRC is a place of mind-boggling daily operations. It spends $3 million a year on monkey chow and employs 200 people, including 20 veterinarians. Its annual toy budget runs between $300,000 and $400,000. Tires for swinging and lounging are favorites among the monkeys housed in roughly 800 domed “corn crib” enclosures in social colonies of about 10. About 1,000 monkeys are born at NIRC each year, mostly rhesus macaques native to northern India and Pakistan that make up a majority of the eight species housed on site. Housing requirements vary by species. Rhesus macaques have stubby tails and hold up well in cold weather, while long-tailed species must be kept indoors in frigid temperatures or risk their tails freezing.
The center also houses about 90 chimpanzees, although NIRC phased out research involving chimps years ago before the federal government declared them endangered and stopped using them for research. A planned move to a north Georgia chimp sanctuary has taken years because the not-for-profit’s site is not fully developed and can’t take the remaining
biomedical research, and NIRC has more of them than any other U.S. site. Nevertheless, its monkey population will swell to 15,000 by the end of 2023 in response to a sharp reduction in the number of monkeys China exports to the U.S for research.
A single rhesus macaque can cost $12,000—NIRC has 6,000 of them. It will look to on-site breeding and acquisitions from breeding centers in St. Kitts and elsewhere to reach the 15,000-mark this year.
Meanwhile, it will use $50 million in state funds to position NIRC for more biomedical advances and to stand up what will be a first in Louisiana: an FDA-approved pharmaceutical manufacturing plant specializing in vaccines and other biologics.
NIRC will spend $25 million on a biosafety level 3 facility equipped to handle lethal airborne agents like COVID, flu and tuberculosis. It aims to break ground on new laboratories and new housing for monkeys exposed to aerosolized infectious disease this year.
Its work on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine highlighted the importance of expanding its ability to handle dangerous viruses that spread through the air. As a biosafety level 2 site, NIRC had to transport immunized rhesus monkeys to Tulane’s biosafety level 3 facilities and similar centers in Texas, Virginia and Georgia to expose them to the live Covid virus.
Kolluru says trucking the animals to and from those sites likely delayed the
FDA’s emergency authorization of the vaccine by two months or more during the pandemic’s first deadly year.
The $25 million for a manufacturing plant about 1.5 mile from the center’s main campus is an effort to diversify Louisiana’s economy by investing in a biopharmaceutical ecosystem. The university is seeking additional private and public partners to build on the state’s investment by another $100 million.
Researchers from institutions like Harvard and Oxford already tap expertise and run experiments at NIRC in developing their drugs but look to places like Boston and San Diego when it comes to manufacturing them.
“We want to provide a place where they can build their drugs,” Kolluru says.
The plant would focus on making biologics, the fastest growing segment of pharmacy manufacturing and one that relies on process-technology skills similar to those in the oil and gas sector. Kolluru’s target is to have the plant operational by 2024.
Kolluru sees advantages beyond economic development. Between 72 percent and 90 percent of active ingredients in U.S. pharmaceuticals are imported from China, leaving the industry—and the public—vulnerable to supply-chain holdups.
“It’s an instance of giving up control of something in our national interest,” Kolluru says. “So this is also a public health imperative, because we don’t want to depend on someone else to produce this.”
From the moment you walk into LABI, you are reminded of its unwavering commitment to free enterprise I know those principles will enable Louisiana to be a better place, not just for our manufacturing business and growth, but for the attraction, retainment, and growth of all business and talent.
Baton Rouge General is committed to providing care to our communities, but our success relies on the success of the people we serve LABI’s free enterprise advocacy and member collaboration creates an environment for economic growth in both our community and our state, allowing us to continue to grow the services we provide for the people of Louisiana.
Lipsey’s is a proud and longtime partner with LABI. Our relationship ensures that we have a voice of leadership in the business and industry sector LABI’s strong membership encourages economic development for all Louisiana businesses locally, nationally, and worldwide
I most appreciate LABI’s proactiveness. Many industry groups spend their time and energy focused on the negative, ﬁghting mostly rearguard actions. LABI gets involved early, when there is still a chance to treat conversations and policy making as opportunities, not just problems to defend against.
LABI has been a great ambassador for our industry and ﬁghts to make Louisiana better for business. Without LABI, we would not have gotten tax reform done Having LABI ﬁght every day levels the playing ﬁeld for all businesses in Louisiana!Nathalie Simon Scott Ballard Mark Emonet Edgardo Tenreiro Jude Melville Special Counsel to CEO, Laitram, LLC Owner, Ballard Brands Founder, Ballard Hospitality Senior VP, CFO, Lipsey’s LLC CEO, Baton Rouge General CEO, b1 Bank
LABI is truly the glue between business and government. For a small business like ours, it is comforting to know that the team at LABI is not only looking after our needs, but the needs of all Louisiana-based businesses. We are truly blessed as a business community to have this organization in our state
LABI plays a crucial role for Louisiana businesses, both large and small. Its inﬂuence in the legislative process is powerful and essential to helping ensure sound public policy and strong economic growth for our state and entire business community
We believe LABI is a valuable strategic partner because they give us space and opportunity to have our voices heard regarding critical like ours.
It is important that businesspeople engage at all levels of government to promote good policy and oppose bad policy. LABI is the ‘one stop shop’ for all of the above As a business owner, I cannot go to every meeting and attend every committee hearing. But I can through LABI, and still have a seat at the table LABI has an established track record in areas such as tort reform, tax reform, education policy, workforce development, election results, judicial reform, the list goes on…It all supports the fact that LABI is not only the largest business lobby group
LABI is smart, proactive and sensible. LABI stands not just for business but also building a better Louisiana. LABI stands for big and small businesses alike. I am a proud supporter of LABI and encourage fellow business owners to invest. It is money well spent. One of my business mentors always said, “get into politics or get out of business”. Never has that rang true until I become a business owner. LABI is the advocate businesses need in the political world.Meryl Kennedy Farr Marty Mayer Tom O’Neal Lauren Gibbs President/Managing Partner, Kennedy Rice Mill LLC President & CEO, Stirling Properties President, O’NealGas CEO, Gibbs Construction Eric Dexter Dir.of Business Development, Civil Solutions Consulting Group, Inc.
ON AN ORDINARY Louisiana afternoon in an ordinary Louisiana town, dignitaries and officials mark an extraordinary milestone in their community’s story. Photographs are taken, ceremonial gestures are made, lives are changed. This single gathering celebrates five hundred households and a half dozen businesses that are now connected to high-speed, affordable internet service – a service found shockingly sparse just three years ago, when families and employees across the state
found themselves attempting to learn or earn from home during a pandemic.
The ceremony is repeated and repeated across the state as efforts to expand broadband access progress at a national pace-setting clip. By the end of 2024, 80,000 addresses will be hooked up.
“It’s a political unicorn,” says Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of ConnectLA, the state’s Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, speaking of the rare alignment between the governor, legislature and local officials, the agreement between north and south Louisiana, urban and rural communities and the speed at which such a significant problem-solving effort is being implemented.
“We signed 75 grant agreements with private companies by November 21st of 2022,” says Iyengar. “What’s encouraging is that companies are moving a lot faster than government, the private sector, moving a lot faster than the agreements that we’ve signed. So the grant agreements will say, ‘oh, we’ll build in two
years,’ but they’re moving on average, 16 months faster.”
Iyengar says Louisiana has become a leader nationally in how the state has developed and implemented a plan to expand broadband access, and much like that high-speed internet–it’s catapulting communities forward.
“To go from policy to execution has not taken decades and decades and decades,” he says. “In this case, when Rep. Daryl Deshotel and Sen. Beth Mizell crafted the legislation that the governor signed into law in 2020 to create the office, to go from the creation of the office to creating a grant program to then seeing results, it’s four years, from a policy to execution. That’s pretty efficient.”
And there’s more–this game-changing endeavor comes at no cost to the state’s general fund. Zero. It’s all federal, some $2.2 billion from four funding sources spanning two presidencies. That comes with its own strong set of political opinions, but the bottom line is not only does this project meet a dire need, advance opportunity and generate workforce development and economic activity–it didn’t
force any tough budget battles or steep cuts and sacrifices in Baton Rouge.
This may indeed be the rarest political unicorn Louisiana will see. But can we force another?
We certainly have other needs, a rather lengthy public policy to-do list. Can Louisiana get this rare political and policy alignment in place to pull off this kind of game changer again?
LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack says yes, and that particularly right now, the opportunity is limitless.
“I truly think that 2023 will go down as one of the most pivotal years in Louisiana’s history,” he says, “but the challenge for all of us is will we pivot in the right direction or the wrong direction?”
Waguespack says three factors make 2023 the critical “gut check” moment for Louisiana–a national trend of workforce mobility that has families and investors looking south, a major election year ushering in new regimes and problem-solvers
at multiple levels, and the need for a sink-or-swim game plan that ties the two together.
“We know, going into this year, that we are in the middle of a national reckoning where the South is booming,” he says. “This is an era where southern state economies are growing by leaps and bounds, and they’re doing it because families and businesses and individuals are leaving high-tax, oppressive, overly regulatory states like California and New York and Illinois and they’re moving south. We’re seeing skylines in Nashville and Houston and throughout Florida and the Carolinas go up and expand.”
But we’re not seeing that here. When families and investors compare opportunities, he says, there are obvious barriers to choosing Louisiana. Our property and auto insurance are high. Our educational rankings are low, and choice is a challenge. Our tax system is complex.
But the 2023 election cycle will usher
in new leaders in a position to take on each of these deficiencies. The governor’s mansion is fair game. We’ll have a new attorney general. The insurance commissioner’s race will be competitive. The next wave of term limits is falling like dominoes in the legislature. And BESE, the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, will see more than half its members replaced – three due to term limits and three gubernatorial appointees likely swapped out.
Regardless of who is elected, state government WILL be profoundly changed after this fall’s ballots are counted. And trends point to a single party owning the outcome.
“The Republicans will hold the reins like never before,” says Dr. Albert Samuels, Southern University’s Political Science and History department head. And not just a majority–in the case of the state legislature, a powerful majority that can control outcomes and hold off vetoes.
“It’s really astonishing to think about this,” he says, putting it into perspective. “In 1991, which really wasn’t that long ago, there was one Republican elected statewide; Fox McKeithen. And now, in 2023 the Republicans have a clean sweep. Whatever bills or policy comes out of this, you know, the Republicans now own it.”
But are they talking about opportunity and claiming this responsibility as they take first steps on the campaign trail?
Barry Erwin, President of the Council for A Better Louisiana says not yet, but look to this spring’s legislative session for signs. A fiscal session, this shorter, limited session restricts each legislator to filing only five non-fiscal bills, and he predicts a tarot card assortment of signals being sent.
“To me you’ll see a full wide range of discussion because it’s an election year,” he says. “On the one hand, you’ve got a lot of freshmen legislators who are running for the first time as incumbents. They haven’t ever done that before. So how are they going to react? Are they going to be bold and say, ‘It’s election year, this is my last chance before the election, I want to do something bold or at least put out some bold ideas?’ Or cautious because they don’t want to rock any boats?”
On the other hand, he says, are the term-limited legacy-builders, in a key position of seniority, influence and experience to take on Louisiana’s big challenges. “This is their last bite at the apple and sort of the question is, do they want to try and do some something substantive this last go round? I do think you may have some that are kind of seeing the time slip away and say, ‘this is my last chance to do something in some areas that I’ve been maybe working on for some time, maybe I’ll have a big push to try and do that or do whatever I can as a last accomplishment in this area that’s important to me?’”
Erwin says the other conversation to watch is among BESE members and
candidates, with significant unfinished business setting the tone for this fall’s campaign chatter on major issues like accountability, measuring growth and career and technical training paths. He agrees public education is one of the main areas to address, along with infrastructure, insurance and our tax system, but says even these election-year conversations can have an impact.
“I don’t think these are issues we can fix overnight,” he says. “But I do think what we can do, during this period, is begin to send messages that we are addressing those things. I think sometimes the messaging is almost as powerful as the actual getting it done. If we send a message that, on at least a number of these things, we recognize them, we are working on them, and we’re going to fix them. I think that helps a lot right there because you feel better about moving into a state where they’ve got challenges but, look, they’re working on them and they’re looking at solution-oriented responses.”
Waguespack believes it’s time to intentionally curate that conversation.
“The challenge is there’s no clear vision for where the state’s going to go,” he says. “Even right now when you talk to candidates and others, it’s still a little unclear. What is the direction the state wants to go? What is the direction the leaders are going to go? So it’s imperative that we put
together a game plan for this state.”
To that end, LABI has embarked on a strategic planning journey called “LA23,” a bold initiative to position Louisiana as an economic leader in the South by 2030, crafted through extensive research and a vetting process with a broad array of stakeholders. The idea is to first define those key issues stifling opportunity for businesses and families, set a vision for what improving those issues looks like, offer policy guidance for how to achieve those outcomes and get it into the conversation of the people who will be in a position to implement the plan as they seek election.
In other words, creating the statewide alignment needed to summon another political unicorn. Because implementing bold moves will take that rare alignment, especially if it’s an eight-year process.
“What we’re trying to do with LA23 is identify both the deficiencies and the opportunities, and then the actions to get you there,” says Ted Abernathy, managing
partner of Economic Leadership LLC, and lead project consultant for LA23. “This is what strategic planning is all about. Where are you, where do you want to be and what does it take to get you from here to there?”
Identifying those actions is the energizing process getting underway this spring, seizing the historic opportunity for course correction and guiding next steps, and keeping those steps pointed in the same direction. But first, baby steps–identifying the actions Louisiana must take.
“Where do you want to be? What are your expectations for your state? What is acceptable to you?” asks Abernathy. “And if we can identify where that is, then the only question is to identify what types of specific actions, investment, strategies or legislation it will take to get you from where you are to where you want to be. And that’s all built on a presumption that where you are isn’t good enough.”
For now, says Waguespack, where we are is at a hopeful precipice; the
crossroads of necessity, opportunity and aspiration.
“We need to spend the next decade doing whatever it takes to join the ranks of the states in the South that are booming to get on that top pedestal with states like Texas, Georgia and Florida and claim what is rightfully ours,” says Waguespack, “which is at the top tier of southern states benefiting from an economic expansion into this region. We have the resources to be there, we have the workforce and the people and the culture to be there and 2023 is giving us the opportunity to put an elected official roster together that understands this mission, appreciates this game plan and is determined to see it to fruition.”
LA23, which will serve as a roadmap for Louisiana’s future, will be released in late summer or early fall of this year and will be featured in the fall issue of 5th & Main magazine.
It’s bold. It’s aggressive. And it’s personal. It’s the future of Louisiana. And if you live here, work here and are engaged in our communities, then you want to see Louisiana thrive just as much as we do. That’s why LABI is spearheading an initiative called LA23 to position our state as a top-tier economic leader in the South by the year 2030.
LA23 is a collaborative, data-driven process in the works now that will serve as a road map for Louisiana’s new leadership elected in the fall to drive our future for the next decade. In February, LABI hosted its first round of regional listening sessions to garner feedback on top issues from areas around the state. We heard from business and community leaders on the concern for education and workforce development, the impact of crime, and the struggle over the tax structure among other issues. This process of gathering qualitative data will help shape the scope of the project. Experts will then be consulted to do a deep dive on each major issue to create best practices for Louisiana’s future.
“We’re asking each region ‘What do you have in terms of strengths and weaknesses? What are the most critical concerns in your area?’,” says Stephen Waguespack, president and CEO of LABI. “This is not a ‘recover from tragedy’ plan like Louisiana has been so used to doing. We are not playing defense. We are playing offense.”
The cohesive plan, created by regional and national experts, will be revealed in the fall issue of 5th & Main magazine and will be part of a regional LA23 roadshow taking place in the third and fourth quarter of 2023. This next election cycle will prove to be a significant one, with many new men and women taking office. LA23 will include all the data and the best practices needed as well as the tracking necessary to insure future growth for years to come.
“Opportunity is at hand and coincides with a critical election year,” says Waguespack. “With your help, your investment and your involvement, we all have the opportunity to write a new script for Louisiana through LA23.”
Turn the page for more LA23 details.
STEPHEN WAGUESPACK LABI PRESIDENT & CEO
Stephen Waguespack is the President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). As the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturer’s association, LABI is the largest business advocacy group, representing more than 2,200 business members and 324,000 employees. With over two decades of experience in federal and state policy and politics, Stephen has earned a reputation as an active voice for reform in Louisiana. Before joining LABI, Stephen served as a member of the State Board of Education and as a senior advisor to former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Prior to that, he spent 10 years working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Stephen is a Louisiana native and holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University as well as a law degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
BEVERLY MOORE HAYDEL PROJECT DIRECTOR
As the founder of Sequitur Consulting, Beverly Haydel has more than a decade of experience working in both the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Her expertise lies in project management, coalition building, stakeholder engagement, public outreach, issue advocacy, policy development and legislative strategy.Throughout her career, Beverly has demonstrated an ability to plan and execute complex projects involving multiple stakeholder groups and across numerous sectors, including health care, education, transportation and infrastructure, and economic development. Beverly applies her critical thinking and interpersonal skills to help clients plan and manage projects efficiently and to achieve positive results. Her ability to write persuasively, her vast knowledge across multiple policy areas and her in-depth knowledge of the legislative processes at the local, state and federal levels provide her with the expertise to bring value to clients in a wide array of situations.
Ted is the Managing Partner of Economic Leadership LLC, a consultancy that is currently working in more than a dozen states to develop economic and workforce strategies. During the past five years, Economic Leadership has led the development of State Economic Development and Economic Competitiveness Strategies for the state chambers of commerce in Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and for both the state Chamber and the Department of Commerce in North Carolina. Economic Leadership assessed and presented extensive competitiveness and trends research; designed and facilitated strategic engagement processes; designed, conducted, and analyzed stakeholder surveys; created metrics for measuring future success and made presentations to large state gatherings.
On the data collection front, LABI has hired Pat McFerron, CMA Strategies’ founding partner and President of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates. McFerron is nationally known for his polling and focus group work for corporations and political campaigns. McFerron has been involved in wide variety of successful marketing efforts including those for start-up companies, Fortune 500 companies, charitable organizations and grassroots lobbying efforts. A veteran focus group moderator, he has directed more than 1,000 specific research projects in 41 states, as well as designed and managed national and international studies. In addition to being President of CHS, McFerron is a founding partner of CMA Strategies, Oklahoma’s leading political campaign consulting and lobbying firm. He is a William Randolph Hearst Scholar who graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma City University and attended graduate school at The American University.
TO POSITION LOUISIANA AS A TOP-TIER ECONOMIC LEADER IN THE SOUTH BY THE YEAR
EDUCATION & TALENT SUPPLY
Early childhood education
Market-relevant workforce training
Main Street Revitalization
TAX POLICY & BUSINESS CLIMATE
Constitutional barriers to change
SAFETY & RESILIENCY
During the month of February, we hosted regional listening sessions throughout the state to share the current research, key concepts and solicit input from business and citizens. The second round of sessions will be held in the summer.
RESEARCH & DATA COLLECTION:
• Conduct regional meetings, surveys and polling to hear directly from businesses, industry leaders and local experts
• Consult national experts to provide the perspective and reality check we need
• Utilize data and research to identify best practices from other states
Stay tuned for our LA23 findings in the next issue of 5th & Main. Want to know more? Go to labi.org/LA23.
MANY TORCHES WILL BE PASSED THIS FALLBY ANDREE MILLER
EVERY FOUR YEARS the world tunes into a fortnight of athletic excellence. Representatives from around the globe gather to face off in all matter of challenges, revealing winners and losers in their respective sport. Much like the Olympics, every four years Louisianans participate in our favorite spectator sport: politics. We watch representatives from across the state put forth their best effort and argument as to why they should be the champion of districts, carrying the torch of their constituencies. This year, 2023, is our political Olympiad.
The 2023 election cycle is fueled by term limits up and down the ballot. And while there are few guarantees in life–death and taxes being two—this cycle we are guaranteed a new Governor will be elected. That term-limited trickle-down effect of an open seat means we’ll also be electing a new Attorney General, a new Treasurer, and new legislators in seats that have opened due either to term limits, or the incumbent forfeiting that seat to run for higher office.
What’s more, the Olympiad will usher in a new Speaker of the House and President of the Senate starting in 2024, those chamber masters and marshals controlling agendas, debates, roles and outcomes in Baton Rouge. Truly, the 2023 cycle and decisions of voters across the state will shape Louisiana for generations to come.
“Politics plays the role in Louisiana that TV wrestling does in the rest of the nation. It is fixed. It is flamboyant. It is surreal. It is our spectator sport.”
– Eugene Schlossberger
WHAT IS GOING TO DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS?
2023 will give us our first view into the minds of voters in a post-pandemic Louisiana. While we’ve seen two federal elections since the world shut down in March 2020, we have not, as an entire state, gone to the voting booth to give a report card to the executive and legislative leadership that guided policy during the pandemic. We expect the handling of COVID-related issues and policies to be a key component of political messaging and still very top of mind for voters come election day.
Additionally, many of the issues throughout the country during the 2022 midterms will make their way into the legislative and statewide discussion as well–inflation, the economy and crime will be atop the messaging ticket and main points debated throughout the election cycle.
Voters should expect to be bombarded with messaging highlighting legislative stances on everything that was voted on during the 2020 term and beyond– issues ranging from the cost of insurance, criminal justice reform, COVID, vaccines and even social issues like abortion and the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. No stone will be left unturned on the campaign trail that stands to be as hot as the August days in south Louisiana.
It has been and will continue to be the mission of LABI’s political arms to be engaged in races throughout the state. We will have a data-driven approach in supporting candidates who believe in the free-market principles that drive our mission and serve our members.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE 2022 MIDTERMS?
Assume nothing. Traditionally politics has been thought of as an older person’s game. If 2022 taught us anything it is that the tide is turning. While, by and large, older generations make up most voters, the rate at which young voters cast a ballot is steadily increasing. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, about 27% of registered voters in the 18-29 age range cast ballots in the 2022 midterms. This is the second highest voter turnout in the past 30 years among that age group. And in races where every vote counts – like the ones Louisianians will face this fall – the young vote will matter. In the most contested congressional races in 2022, the margin of victory was delivered by voters aged 18-29. Will young people turn out in Louisiana in 2023? Only time will tell, but candidates would be prudent to consider how to reach those voters and make that outreach a part of their election plan.
Lastly, 2022 told us that identity politics is not enough. In a Pew Research Center poll conducted less than a month before the midterms, an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats said candidates did not do a good job of explaining their policy plans. Candidates who rely on identity alone to carry them over the finish line will be disappointed. The cliché “voting has consequences” became a reality for most constituents through the COVID pandemic. Voters will have questions on policy, and reciting basic political talking points will not be sufficient. Candidates would be wise to have their policy talking points thoroughly planned out, and their experience and record to point to for proof.
2023 is Louisiana’s Olympics. It will be a long summer of campaigning followed by an even longer fall of political messaging. But when the votes are cast and counted, we will have a new governor, new statewide leaders and a new legislature leading us in a new direction for our state. What will that direction be? Will it be more of the same or will it finally enable Louisiana to capture the proverbial gold medal and be a champion in the south? We, the voters, will decide.
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A strong sense of community helps Denham Springs rebound from disasterBY GARY PERILLOUX
AT 4 A.M., THE RISING waters lap at Dr. Ed Hood’s mailbox. He’s driving a pickup with his 89-year-old father riding shotgun, a new tractor, trailer in tow. His wife, Gwen, follows in their car. As they hit River Road, the swollen Amite River blurs the lines between road and ditch. Other drivers have found the ditch.
Hood and his family press on, praying they’ll reach his Hood Dental Care clinic on Veterans Boulevard, where his crowned lot has never flooded.
But this is the Great Flood of 2016, and it’s unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The home of Hood’s father—a vintage pier-and-beam house—didn’t flood in 1977 or 1983 or 1991. But by the time nearly 30 inches of rain fell that fateful August weekend, the floorboards of Elgene Hood Sr.’s house buckled under the weight of water. Like three of every four homes in
Denham Springs, his dentist son’s home also succumbed to the flood.
Some 2,363 days later, Dr. Ed Hood revisits the epic flood in his renovated dental office. The clinic that never flooded took on 2.5 feet of water. Deeper water in the parking lot destroyed vehicles. He lost $1.5 million in equipment at 13 operating stations, where sensitive electronics nested in the base of dental chairs. By the end of 2016, he’d lose another $1.5 million in business due to closure, he’d lose over half his staff, and for nearly a year he and his family lived in his father’s new doublewide mobile home while restoring their own homes.
Yet a surprising trend surfaced from the flood: Out of survival, came revival. Applying his business acumen, Hood opened new dental offices in Watson and Livingston while acquiring a pair of
Zachary clinics from former classmates. Hood Dental Care has grown from one clinic, three dentists and 28 employees before the flood to five clinics, nine dentists and 78 employees today.
“Nobody here was sitting around waiting for the government to step in and bail us out of this situation,” Hood says. “People just pulled together and went and helped each other rip out Sheetrock. It’s a tight-knit community.”
Today, rebirth is a common refrain across Denham Springs. Over time, federal and state efforts paid significant dividends. Within a year, FEMA supplied $8.5 million for debris removal in the city. More grants protected the electrical components of sewer lift stations, water pumps and other infrastructure. City Hall, which occupied three different sites in 2016, now resides downtown in
“When we started, it was all about a building. But I came to the conclusion that while a building is necessary, it is really about the people. I will never forget that life lesson, ever.”
– Superintendent Joe Murphy of Livingston Parish Public Schools
a former Capitol One Bank branch that is among the few structures that didn’t flood. Denham Springs is participating in the $1.2 billion Louisiana Watershed Initiative, which includes drainage improvements across Livingston Parish and a $10 million home buyout project in the city’s high-risk Spring Park neighborhood west of River Road. Floodwaters are never far from anyone’s mind.
“We live it. We talk about the flood every single day,” says Rick Foster, city building official. “I can tell you this: It’s a line item for us now.”
Among the city’s 180-person staff are employees dedicated to monitoring and maintaining drainage structures. An
action plan begins with every forecast of heavy rain. Over 50 city employees have traveled to Emmitsburg, Maryland, to study at FEMA’s National Emergency Training Center.
Yet Mayor Gerard Landry agrees with Hood that, in the beginning, the quality that rekindled rebirth in Denham Springs ran deeper than disaster dollars.
“Community involvement was the key to recovery,” Landry said. “When you have a disaster, neighbors help neighbors, family helps family and friends help friends. It was that community spirit and everyone willing to work together to give us the road map of what they wanted to see in the recovery.”
Reopening restaurants fueled recovery
in the first weeks. Then, schools and churches came to the fore. Hood recalls his flooded First Baptist Church sharing facilities with nearby First United Methodist Church, then moving to the Denham Springs Junior High cafeteria for 18 months. That bought time for First Baptist to build a new campus on 44 acres along Pete’s Highway, where membership has tripled.
Superintendent Joe Murphy of Livingston Parish Public Schools will never forget another church gesture. Immaculate Conception Catholic Church offered an open-ended, zero-dollar lease that would last five years on Hatchell Lane while a new Denham Springs Elementary School was funded and built.
“We cannot thank the church enough for what they did,” Murphy says. “They gave 500 children a home when they had no other place to go.”
After the flood, Denham Springs High students shared space with Live Oak High in Watson for one semester before returning to their school. However, Southside Junior High and Southside Elementary occupied temporary buildings for six years at Juban Parc Junior High and Juban Parc Elementary. Eventually, federal officials granted $67 million for a new Denham Springs Elementary and a 185,000-squarefoot Southside Junior High and Elementary School campus built on 2,200 pilings along La. 16—nearly 10 feet higher than the old junior high.
Of $100 million spent reopening Livingston Parish schools, the district spent $95 million in the Denham Springs area.
“When we started, it was all about a building,” Murphy says of the Denham Springs recovery. “But I came to the conclusion that while a building is necessary, it is really about the people. I will never forget that life lesson, ever.”
By 2017, U.S. Census data showed Livingston Parish retail spending approaching $1.5 billion. More than 90 percent of the Denham Springs population has returned, and the city’s reputation as a retail hub is stronger than ever: For the fiscal year ending June 2023, Denham Springs is on track to collect $12.6 million in sales taxes, or 68 percent more than just five years ago.
“God is good,” says Hood, the dentist. “And all of the things that we had to go through—I didn’t like it any more than anybody else. But if you have an abundance mindset, and you’re not ‘woe is me’ and having a scarcity mindset, you just feel like those things are going to work out for the better. On August 12 of 2016, I would never have dreamed that I would be where I am today.”
Denham Springs is on track to collect $12.6 million in sales taxes, or 68 percent more than just five years ago, showing a surging retail industry. The Denham Springs Antiques Village, a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists alike, has recovered after suffering devastating losses.
From headwaters in Mississippi, the Comite River on the west and the Amite River on the east squiggle through the Florida Parishes to form a wishbone near the U.S. Highway 190 bridge at Denham Springs. No matter how the wishbone breaks, the luck turns bad when rain gauges fill—as they did in August 2016. In a few days, nearly half Louisiana’s average annual rainfall fell across East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes. That means the Comite River Diversion Canal—a 12mile structure from southeast of Zachary to the Mississippi River—could signal the best chance for flood relief if it opens by 2025. Forty years in the making, the $560 million canal would divert floodwaters away from Central and Denham Springs and could lessen some of the statewide flood impact seen below in August 2016:
• 11 percent of affected households had flood insurance
• 13 lives lost
• 30 state roads washed out
• 54 percent of flooded homes outside the 100-year floodplain
• 200 highways closed
• 6,100 businesses flooded
• 11,000 people sheltered at storm’s peak
• 30,000 search-and-rescues performed
• 91,628 households flooded.
• 278,500 workers disrupted from jobs
• $110 million in agricultural losses
• $858 million in business structural and equipment losses
• $1.14 billion in economic labor losses
• $1.40 billion in business inventory losses
• $2.40 billion in first-year payments from the National Flood Insurance Program
• $5.12 billion in residential structure and contents damage
• 7 trillion gallons of rain
Wish You Were
A RADICAL RELOCATION PROGRAM AND OTHER PROGRESSIVE IDEAS ARE DRAWING NEWCOMERS TO DEEP-ROOTED RUSTON
ANYONE WHO THINKS scrolling on a phone is always a poor use of time has never met Andrew Halbrook. The public works manager for the City of Ruston was doing just that when he hatched an idea that would eventually lead to one of the state’s most innovative economic and civic programs.
That lightbulb moment happened just after Christmas in 2020, when the pandemic’s impacts were being felt not just around the city and country but right there in Halbrook’s home. “My wife had COVID at the time, and we were both quarantined, so we were just sitting around when an ad popped up on my phone that said ‘10 cities that will pay you to move there,’” Halbrook recalls. “I clicked on it and started looking at
these programs, and it really intrigued me to think about how the world had taken such a quick and dramatic jump toward remote working. It was being rapidly adopted so businesses could continue to operate.”
Halbrook put down the phone and pulled out his laptop. “I started typing out kind of a thesis of what a program like that could look like for Ruston—the attributes Ruston had and what amenities we could leverage to promote such an opportunity,” he says. “I did some benefit-cost analysis—does this make sense for Ruston?”
With parameters including minimum income requirements in place, Halbrook presented his idea to Ruston Mayor Ronnie Walker. “He loved the idea, and so we kind of took off running with it,” Halbrook says. “And it’s been a success ever since.”
To date, more than 200 individuals have applied for the “Welcome to Ruston” relocation incentive program, with 16 fulltime remote workers being accepted and invited to move to the area in exchange for a $10,000 grant paid out over a three-year period. Preference is given to applicants who are eager to get involved locally. In addition to the cash, the award also in-
cludes discounted tickets to local sporting events and access to a community liaison to help participants find their footing.
“I’m happy to say it wasn’t a purely original thought,” Halbrook says. “But I realized no one else in the state of Louisiana was doing it, and I said, ‘Why not Ruston?’ And we made it happen.”
Partnering with Louisiana Tech and Grambling State University, the city began spreading the word about its relocation grant program through digital ad campaigns in major metropolitan areas within a day’s drive, and officials also tapped into local universities’ alumni databases in hopes of luring some home. And while it might seem that young single professionals would be the most likely candidates, Halbrook says the program has drawn several young families and even retirees who have jumped back into the working world on a remote basis. Participants have moved here from as far as the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.
With an initial allocation of $250,000 for 25 program slots, the Welcome to Ruston program is still accepting applicants.
“We’ll reevaluate once we get to 25, and we’ll see where the market is with remote work at that point,” Halbrook says. “We’ll continue to gauge the interest and level of success.”
The Ruston Sports Complex, opened in January 2022, offers recreation and sports activities for locals including walking and biking trails, playgrounds, a stocked pond and more on 185 acres. And RSC is also a sports tournament destination with state-of-the-art amenities for baseball, softball, tennis, football and soccer.
The innovative spirit of this headline-making program is hardly new in this town that was founded in 1883 on the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Rail road line. “Ruston started as a railroad town and it quickly grew into a univer sity town,” says Ruston Main Street director Amy Stegall. “Even from the late 1800s, it’s always been a place where people came because there was something special and unique about it. And that his tory of entrepreneurship and education together made this melting pot of lots of different people from lots of different places.”
Among the many business leaders who have left a legacy here over the years are T.L. James, a former sawmill worker who in 1926 launched what would become one of the South’s largest construction companies; James Davison, whose trucking business grew into a variety of other areas and who has made a number of significant contributions to his alma mater, Louisiana Tech; and Hollis Graham, who in 1962 launched Lincoln Builders, a firm that has completed more than 125 projects totaling nearly $350 million in Lincoln Parish alone.
In January of this year, the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce awarded its Robert E. Russ Award to Lincoln Builders’ second-generation leaders, Ronny and Danny Graham, for what chamber president Will Dearmon calls “their tremendous impact on the civic, business and cultural advancement” of the area. “This family and organization are a great
ness excellence and giving back to one’s community can be seamlessly intertwined here,” says Dearmon.
A Winnfield native who attended Louisiana Tech, where he served as student body president, Dearmon moved to Texas for a few years before returning to Ruston. The Tech-to-Texas route is a common one among many local graduates, but it’s one that the city is working to disrupt with a host of new offerings.
“There are so many things that make Ruston a phenomenal place,” says Halbrook, who was born and raised here but like Dearmon moved to the Lone Star State with his wife after graduating from Louisiana Tech. “Thankfully, we had the opportunity to come back, because Ruston is where we wanted to raise a family. I think it’s only gotten better over the last eight years or so, with amenities you would typically only find in larger areas, but without the hustle and bustle.”
Stegall, who grew up in Shreveport, says Ruston felt “kind of quiet and sleepy”
ana Tech in the 1990s. Vacant storefronts were prominent in the downtown district, and concerted efforts were not yet being made to get the local universities’ students to remain here after graduation. “Most people would come to school here and then leave, and even when they were in school, it felt like everyone left on the weekend,” she says. “But now we’ve really made an intentional investment in our relationship with the universities, so that not only are those kids staying for the weekend, but some are graduating and staying here and being a part of the community. They’re engaged and involved more than ever.”
Investments in improving the downtown infrastructure, combined with public art in the form of large-scale murals and colorfully painted bulldog statues, have helped to make it appealing not only for university alumni but for potential business owners. “Downtown has evolved tremendously,” Stegall says. “Now it’s vibrant, and it’s welcoming to everyone.
We’re creating more opportunities for community, and we’re on the cusp of some really cool things happening.”
One of the most well known of those “cool things” is the planned construction of a Buc-ee’s travel center at a new I-20 exchange on the western edge of the city. The announcement was made in January after Ruston spent nearly three years wooing the popular Texas-based store. The new Buc-ee’s is projected to open in 2025, offering 120 gas pumps, famously clean restrooms, and a host of snacking options.
“From an economic development standpoint, it’s exciting because of the organic development that follows a brand like that,” Dearmon says. “I’m excited about the opportunities for local business owners and executives who will see expansion and development opportunities because of that singular investment.”
Local officials are also eager to see how they might entice Buc-ee’s shoppers to travel deeper into town. Experience Ruston, as the local CVB is known, is already tapping into new ways to capture data
about where Buc-ee’s visitors are from and what their interests are, in order to inspire them to stay a little longer. “It’s crazy to think about the impact of the tax revenue generated from Buc-ee’s as well,” says Experience Ruston president Amanda Carrier. “That’s money that is paid into our economy by non-residents that goes to support our community and the quality of life for our residents.”
City officials hope to draw more travelers to linger and enjoy not just downtown but also arts and entertainment events put on by the universities, as well as sports activities both on campus and at the new Ruston Sports Complex, which opened in January 2022. “It has been a game changer when it comes to youth sports in Ruston,” Halbrook says of the latter, “and not only do we get to enjoy it, but people from across the Southeast come and enjoy it too.”
Other local lifestyle amenities include the Tom Fazio-designed golf course at Squire Creek Country Club, which was ranked the top course in Louisiana by Golf Digest in 2021; the Rock Island Greenway walking and cycling trail that will eventually encompass six miles of connected paths; and the Dixie Center for the Arts, housed in a renovated historic movie theater. But even with all those attractions, officials attest that there’s something even more alluring about this city.
“I say this all the time: One of the things I believe makes Ruston so special is the people here,” says Carrier. “Our community rallies. We show up. Our community will wrap its arms around people, whether they are locals or visitors, and you can feel that.”
As a Winnsboro native and graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe, Carrier knows this feeling from personal experience. “I didn’t know anyone when I moved here, but within months, I was so immersed in this community,” she says. “It felt like, how have I not been here my whole life? Business owners know what you like, and restaurants know what you’re going to order. It’s almost like a Hallmark movie, but it’s real.”
Testimonies like that one keep the applications flowing in for the “Welcome to Ruston” relocation grant program. Officials say the initiative pays for itself not just economically but also in the form of community-minded and engaged citizens who serve on nonprofit boards, participate in local events, and otherwise support their new home. “This is an opportunity to incentivize that return for a professional working remotely to add to our business ecosystem, to bring their business insights and experience,” Dearmon says. “If we can get them back here, they’re going to pour into our community and our business environment in a positive manner.”
Through expanded chamber offerings including a recently launched executive speaker series and a soon-to-be-announced workforce development initiative, Dearmon and his team hope to “come alongside local employers” as they seek to grow—and maybe even innovate—in the current economic environment. It’s a sentiment that echoes down I-20 all the way to the site of what will be the new Buc-ee’s.
“The roots of this communi ty are unchanged,” Dearmon says. “This community is built on the backs of risk takers. What’s unique is that that root system is continuing to blossom today.”
LOUISIANA COMPANIES ARE gearing up for future growth, future expansion, and future success. They are investing in their people, right here in Louisiana. They are investing in their facilities, right here in Louisiana. And they are investing in their communities. You got it… right here in Louisiana.
It’s because local, national and international companies believe that Louisiana itself is poised for growth and ready for action. These companies are digging deep and expanding wide. And they are committed to the state we call home. It’s these companies who have helped cultivate our past and are creating our tomorrows. Learn more about them on the following pages.
EXXONMOBIL BATON ROUGE THE ADVANCED RECYCLING OPPORTUNITY
ADVANCED RECYCLING, also known as chemical recycling or molecular recycling, refers to processes that break down hardto-recycle plastic waste into raw materials that can be used to make new products. With this technology, more plastic materials can be recycled, especially plastics that aren’t easily recycled today. ExxonMobil is hoping to bring an advanced recycling project to Baton Rouge that will have positive benefits for Louisiana as a whole.
“This is new technology,” says Jennifer Purpera, ExxonMobil’s Planning and Energy Department Head. There are many opportunities to collaborate with the state, city and community to help achieve new recycling goals.
ExxonMobil built its first large-scale plastic waste advanced recycling facility in Baytown, Texas, and it is one of the largest of its kind in North America. ExxonMobil is assessing other locations around the world, including the Gulf Coast.
Many food containers are not able to be recycled using traditional means and have to be discarded, usually in landfills, because traditional mechanical recycling has difficulty removing oils, grease or other
food waste. Another factor is the packaging itself. When packaging has multiple layers of different types of plastics and other materials, like a chip bag with a plastic outer layer and an aluminum inner layer, it can’t go through the traditional mechanical recycling process. The combination of materials can’t be effectively separated by traditional machines.
advanced recycling,” Purpera says. “One of the nice features about advanced recycling is there’s no limit to the number of times those plastics that come from an advanced recycling facility can be recycled.”
Baton Rouge is a great choice for an advanced recycling facility because the city is home to ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge Refinery, Chemical Plant, Polyolefins Plant and Plastics Plant–all of the integrated facilities necessary for advanced recycling.
Advanced recycling solves these issues by breaking down materials to their molecular level. These molecules become the raw materials used to make brand-new plastics. The process is sometimes referred to as circular plastic, meaning the materials constantly flow around a “closed-loop” system rather than being used once and then discarded.
“Existing plastics are reprocessed during
ExxonMobil recently doubled its polypropylene production capacity with the successful startup of its new polypropylene production unit at the Polyolefins Plant in Baton Rouge. The sites are highly integrated, so the stream of raw materials that come out of the advanced recycling facility at the Refinery could be fed into the Polyolefins Plant to meet growing demand for certified-circular products for food packaging, personal hygiene products, medical equipment and more.
“I think we have all the right building blocks here in Baton Rouge, especially now that we’ve expanded the Polyolefins Plant, to bring that type of advanced recycling facility to our area,” Purpera says.
“I think we have all the right building blocks here in Baton Rouge.”
– Jennifer Purpera, ExxonMobil Planning and Energy Department Head
GREAT GROWTH IN AN EVOLVING INDUSTRY
DONAHUEFAVRET CONTRACTORS INC. has experienced a substantial 25 percent growth over the last three years – and its plan for continuing at that pace includes proactive communication with clients from project start to finish, analyzing and reacting appropriately to changes in the market, and doing an excellent job of pairing staff with the right projects. All those things have led to the bulk of DonahueFavret’s work coming from repeat clients, particularly healthcare and other institutional projects, says President and CEO John Donahue.
RECENT GROWTH AND SUCCESS
The Louisiana commercial contractor provides high-level expertise and experience to projects throughout Louisiana and the Gulf South. Its divisions include preconstruction services, construction, design/ build, CMAR and disaster recovery.
The business had a well thought out plan for steady and controlled organic growth over the last few years–it has grown from approximately $90 million in business in 2019 to $113 million this past year. Even though the economy may present additional challenges, the company has plans for additional growth this year. “We plan to
do that based on repeat client business,” Donahue says. “There are a lot of talented people who work here, and they’re very good in their respective disciplines.”
Years ago, the leaders at DonahueFavret recognized a shift in the industry where general contractors were working more closely with designers and owners earlier in the construction process. DonahueFavret’s pre-construction department allows for increased and earlier collaboration among the DonahueFavret team, and business owners and architects. The result is a more efficient project delivery both within budget and schedule.
DonahueFavret has done a great deal of work in the retail sector, but with the decline of brick-and-mortar retail projects, the company has shifted its focus to larger projects within the healthcare and education sectors, including major medical facilities and office buildings, academic buildings, and science labs. “We realized there was an increasing demand for those types of significant projects, and we adjusted accordingly,” Donahue says. “It’s been exciting for us because we excel at the
larger and more complex projects.”
Donahue says his company’s culture is what sets it apart. Team members take on client problems and treat them as if they were solving the issues for themselves and spending their own money. They stay on top of costs and changes in the market and will develop the most effective systems based on the trends.
Donahue says his company does a great job of pairing up project managers and superintendents with the right jobs. “We evaluate the project and its challenges and match people who have strengths that fit well to overcome those challenges,” Donahue says. “The end product may look like it was easy to do, but it was because we had the right people in the right place doing the right thing.
“There are a lot of talented people who work here, and they’re very good in their respective disciplines.”
– John Donahue, DonahueFavret President and CEO
CLEAN ENERGY ON THE HORIZON
FOR 55 YEARS, Air Products has operated safely in Louisiana, and today its 18 industrial gas facilities are sprinkled along the Mississippi River and the Interstate-10 corridor in Louisiana. Its newest commitment to build a $4.5 billion clean energy complex will make the state a leader in the United States’ clean energy evolution.
Air Products produces and transports hydrogen and other essential industrial gases to customer facilities in Louisiana, across the U.S. Gulf Coast and around the world. Its products touch the lives of consumers around the globe in positive ways every day, from enhancing the quality of frozen foods, to making a flat-screen LCD TV look amazing, to enabling MRI images of the body to help doctors treat an injury.
“We are a big part of things that people use every day, but they just don’t know it,” says Andrew Connolly, Air Products’ Vice President and General Manager, Low-Carbon Hydrogen Large Projects.
Air Products is also the only U.S.-owned industrial gas producer. The company got its start in the 1940s, when it was asked by
the U.S. Navy to develop oxygen generators for pilots flying at high altitudes. Today, its operations all over the world employ more than 22,000 people, including 350 employees at its Louisiana facilities.
In 2021, Air Products announced plans to build, own and operate the Louisiana Clean
captured for permanent sequestration.
“People want their kids and their grandkids to stay in Louisiana, and for that you need two things: you need good jobs, and you need a quality of life which includes the environment,” Connolly says.
This project builds off Louisiana’s skilled workforce in the process industries. It is expected to create 170 permanent jobs with a total annual payroll of $15.9 million, along with more than 2,000 construction jobs over three years. It represents Air Products’ largest-ever investment in the United States.
Energy Complex, which will produce more than 750 million standard cubic feet per day of blue hydrogen in Ascension Parish. “Blue” products are produced utilizing hydrocarbons as a feedstock, with the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the production process
Additionally, this project will take carbon dioxide that would normally enter the atmosphere, capture it, and permanently store it about a mile beneath Lake Maurepas. The CO2 is permanently locked into the deep layers of earth. Air Products must follow strict requirements from the EPA associated with CO2 sequestration. CO2 sequestration has been a safe and successful technology for over 50 years, with around 30 installations globally, Connolly says.
“We are committed to being a safe, transparent, and responsible community partner in all things –our operations, our communications, and our business.”
– Andrew Connolly, Air Products Vice President and General Manager, Low-Carbon Projects
“It’s a very established industry with an outstanding safety record of preserving the environment in which we sequestrate,” he says.
The project has the support of the state and federal governments, and it supports the Louisiana governor’s goal of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
To provide information and answer local residents’ and other stakeholders’ questions about the project, Air Products organized a series of town hall meetings to provide education on what carbon capture and sequestration involve and its safety. The carbon sequestration occurs deeper than a mile below the Earth’s surface, and well below the established underground source of drinking water in this region of 3,400 feet. The process is protective of drinking or other water supplies.
Air Products also hosted a public demonstration of its seismic testing process, where public officials and residents went out onto the lake in boats to witness the seismographic surveying that will determine if the geology about a mile underneath the
lake is suitable for the project.
Connolly says it’s important that Air Products identify the right geology suitable for sequestration. Lake Maurepas offers one of the best areas in Louisiana to permanently sequester carbon. The company believes the area has the perfect geology with a thick caprock layer, no major faults, no major salt domes within 10 miles and far fewer old oil and gas wells.. Further testing will determine whether the company moves forward with its plans.
While Louisiana’s residents are extremely familiar with oil and gas wells,
and the oil and gas industry as a whole, this process of CO2 sequestration is new to them, Connolly says. “Being transparent is the key,” he says. “Our outreach activities are continuing, and they’re going to expand over the coming months. We are committed to being a safe, transparent, and responsible community partner in all things – our operations, our communications, and our business. We strive to continue our more than five-decade history of safe and responsible operations in Louisiana, both through this project and in future investments.”
THE FIRST FOUR
COMMUNITY CONCEPT ADDRESSES NATIONAL NEED
IT’S BEEN 30 YEARS since Ginger Myers volunteered to help care for four elderly patients in their homes before and after her full-time job as a nurse in Opelousas, Louisiana. LHC Group, the company that grew from those humble beginnings, has become a leading national provider of in-home healthcare services.
In the early 1990s, those first four patients lived in and near Palmetto, a village in St. Landry Parish with a population of less than 200. Unable to access supportive services, they were at risk of premature placement in a long-term care facility.
Palmetto was also the home of Ginger and Keith Myers, and the city’s mayor reached out to Ginger for help. She was the only nurse living in the area, and Keith served on the City Council, as had both his father and mother. Ginger agreed to check in on her elderly neighbors before and after work. Keith, LHC Group’s chairman and CEO, said word spread and people began showing up at town hall meetings to inquire
about a service they assumed was being provided by the municipality.
In 1994, Ginger and Keith, along with other concerned members of the
was reimbursed through cost reports filed annually.
“There was no business motivation when we talked about our mission and purpose,” Keith says. “It was just a matter of doing what we felt morally obligated to do for our community.”
News of the home health agency opening in Palmetto spread quickly. Ginger was encouraged by physicians in St. Landry Parish to consider opening an additional St. Landry Home Health location in Opelousas–a joint venture with Opelousas General Hospital–where both Ginger and Keith were born.
community, acted personally to establish a line of credit through a local bank. They began the application process for opening a home health agency in the rural area of north St. Landry Parish–St. Landry Home Health. At the time, only the allowable cost of providing home health services
That story kept repeating itself as other hospitals called. That’s how the company grew to become LHC Group.
The passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was the next significant step in the company’s history. That legislation replaced the cost-based reimbursement system for home health services with a prospective payment system. Because LHC Group’s
“We’re now partnered with more than 400 leading hospitals and health systems around the nation.”
– Brach Myers, LHC Group’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Growth Initiatives
operating model was lean and efficient, the company was able to operate within budget and generate a positive operating margin the first year of prospective payment. Those funds were invested back into the business, which continued growing with new location startups and industry consolidation.
As a major part of its growth strategy, Keith says LHC Group is always looking for prospective partners and opportunities to establish new locations in communities throughout the country.
“We’re now partnered with more than 400 leading hospitals and health systems around the nation,” says Brach Myers, LHC Group’s senior vice president of strategic partnerships and growth initiatives.
“Through our decades of experience, we’ve built impressive infrastructure capabilities, innovated solutions, and compiled a proven record of helping our partners succeed.”
Today, LHC Group’s 29,000 employees deliver home health, hospice, homeand community-based services, and
facility-based care in 37 states and the District of Columbia – reaching 68 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older.
In the coming year, LHC Group anticipates expanding its patient-centered mission even further–a deal with UnitedHealth Group to buy LHC Group is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. The plan is to pair LHC Group with Optum Health, which is already integrated
into UnitedHealth’s network.
Keith says the move will better position LHC Group to continue growing and serving more people. For 30 years, the company’s purpose statement has been displayed across its website and throughout its Home Office halls: “It’s all about helping people.”
Now, he said, that phrase has evolved: “It’s all about helping MORE people.”
DELIVERING VALUE-BASED CARE FOR A HEALTHIER TOMORROW
AS THE COST to deliver healthcare continues to soar, employers everywhere are looking for more cost-effective ways to provide great health benefits to their employees. Ochsner Health Network’s value-based care model is an excellent example of how Ochsner is delivering tangible value to employers across the state.
Ochsner Health Network is a clinically integrated physician network made up of more than 5,500 participating physicians and healthcare providers across the Gulf South, focused on delivering value-based care. The network is designed for physicians to participate in value-based contracts where they are rewarded and incentivized to improve healthcare outcomes for patients and reduce the total cost of care, says Eric Gallagher, CEO, Ochsner Health Network.
The vast network of providers helps ensure employees are connected with physicians and their care teams in the
communities where they live and that they receive the right care at the right time and in the right setting.
In 2021, more than 2,600 employers partnered with OHN to provide care for their employees.
the short term, and those savings get even greater over time.”
The savings come from a higher rate of primary care provider utilization, reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and a higher rate of generic prescription utilization. Additional programs like digital medicine for chronic conditions such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, allow for remote patient monitoring, which also affects outcomes for the better.
“Through proactive and coordinated care, with a focus on prevention, we’re able to better patients’ health and keep them out of hospitals and higher cost settings for healthcare,” Gallagher says.
Transitioning to a value-based care model creates a workforce that is healthier, more engaged, more productive and has less time missed at work due to illness. And, Gallagher adds, “we’ve seen cost savings per member, or per employee, for organizations that we’re working with in
As an added benefit to physicians, OHN offers a 24/7 Nurse on Call advice line to provide dependable, after-hour access for patients and direct them to the most appropriate care setting. Nurse on Call handled more than 125,000 calls from 38 states in 2021. More than 80 percent of
“We’ve seen reductions in total cost of care of about $3,000 a year per patient.”
– Eric Gallagher, Ochsner Health Network CEO
The O Bar offers Ochsner patients the latest in cutting-edge, interactive health technology to help them seamlessly manage health and wellness. Staffed by a full-time technology specialist, the O Bar carries a variety of physician recommended products, such as activity monitors, wireless blood pressure monitors and scales, and features a state-of-the-art iPad bar.
OCHSNER DIGITAL MEDICINE
Ochsner Digital Medicine uses innovative technology and a devoted care team to help patients reach health goals. Managing high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes has never been so easy. Using digital devices, personalized care plans from licensed clinicians, and lifestyle support from professional health coaches, Ochsner Digital Medicine helps patients track progress, stay motivated and feel better.
BY THE NUMBERS
49.6% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure.
78% of Ochsner Digital Medicine patients achieved blood pressure control after 6 months.
45% Decrease in emergency room visits among Digital Medicine patients.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
callers avoided the emergency room.
Physicians who join Ochsner Health Network also gain access to Ochsner Health’s Real-Time Pharmacy Benefits program, which alerts physicians who are prescribing medication if a lower-cost alternative is available. Medication adherence increases when patients can afford the cost of their medication, and patients have already saved more than $1.8 million with this program since July 2021.
In addition to its health benefits network, Ochsner also offers consultations with other businesses to focus on ways to help
manage the total cost of care for their employees. “We’ve seen reductions in total cost of care of about $3,000 a year per patient,” Gallagher says. “When you consider a business with 100 employees, for example, those savings add up.”
From high performance networks to digital medicine programs and a range of other solutions, Ochsner Health Network connects employers and their employees to the benefits of value-based care, providing a more personalized and proactive care approach to achieve the best health outcomes in a cost-effective way.
81% of members reached A1C goal after six months in the program.
30% decrease in Emergency Room Visits among the Digital Medicine Type 2 diabetes participants.
15% decrease in Hospital Admissions among the Digital Medicine Type 2 diabetes participants.
Ochsner Digital Medicine is live in all 50 states, serving members, health plans, and employers nationally. Learn more at connectedhealth.ochsner.org
GULF COAST BANK & TRUST is taking a unique approach when it comes to investing its resources to be ready for the future–the bank is pouring into its people, equipping them to be leaders not only at work but also in the communities where they live.
For the last six years, the bank has invited groups of about 20 from various divisions and geographies across its footprint to participate in an internal leadership development program called Next Wave, which is a nod to the next wave of leaders within the organization. Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company offers personal & business banking services to communities in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the surrounding southeast Louisiana areas.
Next Wave is nothing like a typical banking driven training program. The skills gained at Next Wave are personal, professional and transferable and provide the skills need to be a better civic leader in their community, a better PTA volunteer, a better member of their church congregation or neighborhood association, and even a better parent or spouse.
“In preparing for the future, there is hardly a higher priority than investing in our talent, in our emerging leaders,” says Guy
GULF COAST BANK & TRUST INVESTING IN ITS PEOPLE
Williams, President & CEO of Gulf Coast Bank & Trust. “When we do this, there is a ripple effect–it improves them personally and professionally, and it simultaneously helps our clients and provides the community with stronger leadership at every level.”
Intelligence and Modern Networking. The sessions include guest speakers who live out the leadership practice being covered in that session. They often share vulnerabilities and lessons learned through their personal journeys. During a previous session, Stephen Waguespack, CEO of LABI, challenged the group to consider running for elected office. He reminded the group that businesspeople solve problems, and our state needs more problem solvers serving on school board, in local government and in the legislature.
Upon selection, cohort members undergo an assessment to provide benchmark levels for leadership and a personal skills inventory. It’s followed by a coaching session from a professional certified coach. Then, the participants meet one day per month for six months and attend sessions that are built around best practices of exemplary leadership, including Building Effective Teams, Critical Conversations, Presentation Skills, Time Management, Running Effective Meetings, Emotional
Throughout the six years of the program, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust has placed more than 100 employees in the Next Wave program, and many have gone on to be promoted to higher levels of supervision and responsibility in the organization.
“Without a doubt, the Next Wave program here at the bank is my greatest professional accomplishment and the thing I love most about my job, says Kim Carver, Senior VP of Gulf Coast Bank & Trust and Chairman of LABI’s Education & Workforce Council. “The ability to spend time and effort in sharpening the skills of a dynamic group of eager, aspiring leaders has paid dividends for our team and our organization over and over again.”
“In preparing for the future, there is hardly a higher priority than investing in our talent, in our emerging leaders.”
– Guy Williams, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust President & CEO
UNITING LOUISIANA’S FUTURE BUSINESS LEADERS
CalculatingBY ASHLEY GORDON
How three formidable women rose to the top ranks in a male-dominated field
SITTING AROUND THE conference room table with Sara Downing, Linda Gibson and Cherie Odom—the three managing partners in TWRU CPAs & Financial Advisors—there is a sense that this would be a good group to go to lunch with, or to meet up with for drinks after work. Laughter filled the space, stories of children and community work were shared, and a genuine appreciation for one another and the clients they serve was apparent. All in all, it didn’t feel like a lot of math and spreadsheets.
“People think that accountants just sit behind a desk all day,” says Gibson. “But it’s a very personal field. We are dealing
with people’s finances and their future. We build relationships. We want to create an environment where people want to remain with our firm.”
That is true of the clients TWRU serves as well as its employees. Today, the firm has 12 CPAs on staff with about 30 employees total. Not the traditional 80- to 90-hour work weeks during the tax season, TWRU prides itself on its family-friendly flexibility with its employees as well as cultivating a culture of dependability, excellence, and dedication with its clients. The three female principals joined the firm in the 1990s and have seen the shift in both how accounting services are
delivered and who is invited to sit at the table.
“When I joined in 1991 it was still very male dominated,” says Downing, recalling keeping quiet and taking notes when she first sat at the board table. “Today we are over two-thirds women throughout the ranks.”
When Gibson became pregnant in 1997, the managing partners came forward and asked “What will it take for us to keep you employed here?” Gibson recalls. Traditionally, women who wanted to spend time with children simply left the field when they became pregnant. Personal computers were still a rare luxury
and the World Wide Web for everyday men and women was still in its infancy. Gibson suggested to work three days a week while her twins were growing up, and they accepted the offer because they didn’t want to lose her. A flexible work schedule at TWRU was born.
“Technology really changed everything,” says Odom, remembering a few years later being able to go on her children’s field trips and leaving early to go to sporting events when they were younger. “I loved my work, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my family to do it. The managing partners were very accommodating.”
And accommodation is the name of the game, even in the accounting world. According to Catalyst, a global nonprofit leading companies to help build workplaces that work for women, 94 percent of accounting firms now offer modified work arrangements for all employees with the most popular being flex time. It also notes that women are 50 percent of all full-time staff at CPA firms, but make up just 27 percent of all partners and principals.
“Honestly, our partners were forward thinking and generous,” says Downing.
“Moms are the master multi-taskers. They juggle so much, and they are extremely efficient. And our managing partners weren’t afraid to invite women on board. Now that their children are grown, Linda and Cherie are back full time and leading the firm.”
While this isn’t your grandfather’s accounting firm, the foundation of TWRU’s spirit of excellence was laid 75 years ago by some formidable men who are still revered in the firm today. In 1948, Edgar Thomas launched the accounting firm that would ultimately become TWRU. Stewart Wilson joined the firm in 1965, Jake Ragusa came on in 1968, and Kerry Uffman joined the team in 1985. Thomas, Wilson, Ragusa, Uffman and Co. was formed with a number of other men dedicated to hard work and a commitment to the clients they served. With many other partners coming up through the firm, the name was officially shortened to TWRU CPAs & Financial Advisors in 2011. The last of the original four, Kerry Uffman, retired at the end of 2021.
“When Kerry retired, we had to regroup and recognize that we have a big firm
we are leading,” says Downing. “But in 2022, we had great growth. We all are dedicated to the clients we serve, the community and to our employees. And we are thankful for the 75 years of hard work from those who paved the way before us.” While technology has helped with communication and flexibility, it has also led to online tax services available to all. That does not seem to be an issue at TWRU, where clients are known by name. The managing partners say that clients like to have someone in their town that can come to their business and who they can call for advice. It’s all about personal relationships. It was about personal relationships when Thomas first opened for business and that still rings true today. Thankfully, the personal relationships within the office at TWRU reflect positively outside the office to its clients and the community.
“We work really well together,” says Gibson, who notes that the each stay flexible and work well with the staff. “This is a great firm with a great reputation. We intend to continue to be great ambassadors for TWRU for years to come.”
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Back and bigger than ever after the pandemic, Louisiana’s festival culture is a boon to tourism
THOUGH SHE WAS born well over a century after the Civil War, Katelyn Calhoun practically grew up on a battlefield.
A native of the northwest Louisiana community of Pleasant Hill, Calhoun has been participating child. When she wore the Miss Battle
help promote the unique celebration
Louisiana, we most likely have a fair types of cultures and traditions and a bustling community that surrounds
Calhoun says she believes the passion that pervades Louisiana’s festival-loving way of life stems from a desire for preservation. “It’s about preservation of the traditions within communities— preservation of our industries and all of the things that bring people together,” she says. “The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, for example, celebrates crawfish there in the Crawfish Capital of the World, but it also preserves that culture by only allowing traditional Cajun and Creole bands to provide their entertainment.”
Fair and festival culture was alive and well in Louisiana even before the 20th century. The state’s oldest fair still in existence is the Tangipahoa Parish Fair, which first welcomed visitors to Amite in 1888. Tradition abounds at several other festivals that are approaching the century mark, including Morgan City’s Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, which began in 1936; the International Rice Festival in Crowley, which was first held in 1937; and the Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival, which launched in 1947. “And of course there are new ones that pop up all the time,” Calhoun says. “So you can find a fair or festival pretty much at any stage of its life in Louisiana.”
While the biggest festivals like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest in New Orleans and the Louisiana Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula get the most headlines, there are plenty of lesserknown events with unique themes. The Louisiana Tournoi in Ville Platte features jousters on horseback, while the Zwolle Tamale Fiesta honors that area’s Spanish and Indian heritage through food. In Abbeville, would-be chefs gather for the Giant Omelette Celebration—featuring 5,000 eggs cooked in a 12-foot skillet— each November, and Houma’s Rougarou Fest celebrates a werewolf-like creature from Cajun folklore. Some up-and-comers are instant favorites, like the Scott Boudin
Festival, which launched in 2012 and has become a big regional draw.
No matter the theme, many Louisiana festivals have one major element in common: the crowning of a queen. “They’re like walking, talking billboards,” Calhoun says. “They get to go around and promote our festivals throughout the state. A lot of times, they are the people that the public meets first, and they’re beautiful and they have all their regalia on, so they become icons and role models, essentially.”
Louisiana’s festivals have bounced back stronger than ever after the shutdowns caused by the COVID pandemic, Calhoun notes. “Everybody that has had a festival has seen double or triple in profits and attendance,” she says. “I think when we had our festivals taken away, people hadn’t realized how much a part of their lives these events had been.”
Such a wide array of vibrant events is also a major boost for tourism. “We get so many international visitors every year just because of our culture here, and fairs and festivals play a huge role in that culture,” Calhoun says. “Festivals are essential to tourism in this state, and we work very closely with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. We’re all working to accomplish the same goal of bringing those tourism dollars into our state and into our communities so we can make a difference on the local, state and national levels.”
DOWN AN INDUSTRIAL street in Lafayette, peppered with tired office towers built in the heyday of the decadesago oil boom, not far from the airport, stands a gleaming 270,000-square-foot national company headquarters with state-of-the-art technology, modern aesthetics, full-service employee amenities and the capacity for future growth. It’s an anomaly in an area of Louisiana rich in history and prone to construction that honors the past. Instead, the new LHC Home Office, situated on 17 acres of land, boasts a structure of concrete, steel and glass more commonly spotted in a metropolis than a smaller municipality.
“When people walk into our building, they often say, ‘We can’t believe this is in Lafayette,’” says Brach Myers, Senior Vice President of LHC Group, a national provider of in-home healthcare services and innovations. “We are bringing something new to the community: a more progressive workplace. And it’s exciting.”
Future-focused design was the intent when LHC Group began imagining its employees from four separate office buildings in Lafayette all working under one roof. Keeping the bones of a former AT&T 66,000 square-foot building, the LHC team planned to add on significantly to accommodate all facets of a company that services and manages 29,000 employees in more than 900 locations in 37 states and the District of Columbia. And the structural addition was a doozy: 204,000 square feet. Jay Chase of Chase Marshall Architects in Lafayette served as the lead architect with Gensler Architecture and Design doing the heavy lifting. Justine Hebert of J Design in Lafayette handled the interiors, and CARBO Landscape Architecture orchestrated the grounds. A small internal team of employees joined in the effort, and together they visited modern, open-concept office spaces in Chicago to get inspiration. Construction began in 2019 and the new LHC Group Home Office opened for business in the fall of 2021.
“We really had a lack of conference space, and that was a necessity,” says Marcus Macip, Chief Administrative Officer of LHC Group. “We would drive all over town for meetings with our own employees, because this was before online meetings were available. Now, all our meeting areas encourage collaboration, which is imperative to what we do.”
Today, LHC headquarters houses 25 conference rooms, 22 “huddle” rooms (smaller conference rooms that can be booked on the spot) and two large training rooms. In addition, there are 36 “focus” rooms for singular use throughout the building if someone needs to take a private phone call or work at a desk away from the fray. Many of the 1,000 employees on site sit (or stand) at ergonomically planned workstations where the desks can be raised or lowered with the touch of a button. White noise in the more populated areas ensures that conversations don’t distract others. And printing stations strategically placed throughout can access each employee’s
printing needs with the swipe of an ID tag. All elements of workday needs were considered in design.
“This construction kept the employee experience in mind,” says Karl Comeaux, Vice President of Facilities Management at LHC Group. “We have a health clinic on site, with a nurse practitioner and two exam rooms. If an employee starts feeling bad, he or she can simply go downstairs and be examined on the spot. There are Mother’s Rooms on every floor for nursing
mothers. And we even offer a dry-cleaning service that offers pick up and drop off at our location.”
Perhaps the greatest employee benefit is located on the first floor: an onsite cafeteria serving hot and cold breakfasts and lunches at greatly reduced rates. Dubbed The Hub, this food service area—with a state-of-the-art kitchen that would be a professional chef’s dream— also produces home takeaway meals in a refrigerated section in addition to the
daily offerings. Employees can eat on site and take home a meal for their families. Seating for The Hub extends to a threestory atrium that is the centerpiece of the LHC headquarters and to the expansive outdoor courtyard beyond.
“All of our amenities assist with our focus of collaboration,” says Macip. “Before, employees would leave for lunch or eat lunch at their desks. Now they meet up with others who work in different departments.”
Now, in addition to eating in the atrium, the area plays host to LHC Group’s Home Office Fun: a stream of activities organized by front-line staff to get different departments connected with one another. It can be as simple as serving smoothies one day to playing cornhole and Jenga another.
“Having space in the atrium allows us to get teams together and collaborate or recognize something important that is taking place,” says Macip. “We also
have kiosks that solicit feedback from employees on what it is like to work here. For participating, they receive a $2 discount at The Hub.”
This focus on employee wellbeing fits into the LHC Group Pillars of Excellence which serve as operational guideposts where every aspect of the business is focused, measured and evaluated. They include the following: People, Service, Quality, Efficiency, Growth and Ethics. The paintings of these pillars serve as the only artwork on the walls throughout the headquarters, reminding employees what the company stands for. And a large painting on the three-story wall in the atrium sums up the greatest focus of LHC Group: “We are in the Business of Helping People.”
This mantra goes back to the company’s 1994 beginnings around a kitchen table in Palmetto where Keith and Ginger Myers, LHC Group Co-Founders (and Brach’s parents), first dreamed of creating a home health agency to service the people in their rural area. At the time, Ginger, a nurse, generously helped those in her community after she got off work at a local hospital, and the couple could see the need for this at-home care growing.
With only four patients, Louisiana Health Care Group was devised. Its first joint venture was with Opelousas General Hospital a few years later. Word spread about its dedication and its commitment to excellence. Today, LHC Group is the preferred in-home healthcare partner for more than 400 leading hospitals, caring for more than 100,000 patients every day across the country.
“We never dreamed it would become this. It happened so organically. I attribute it to the servant leadership we have in Louisiana and how this organization treats people,” says Myers. “When LHC Group was first created in 1994 with our first home health agency opening in Palmetto, the company incorporated and operated as Louisiana Health Care Group. When we expanded into Texas in 2001, we changed the name to LHC Group which enabled us to grow into Texas and other states. The original
name says it all right there. We had not planned for it to become this large.” But the significant growth does not negate the company’s focus on community and its belief that all healthcare is local. This outward-facing outlook is no less apparent than on the executive level of the LHC headquarters, where the company executives’ offices are comparable in size to offices on floors below.
"Our Home Office expansion was modestly designed so that every office— from directors to the CEO—is exactly the same size in keeping with our culture of a flat organizational structure. All leaders are equally valuable and valued,” says Myers. “In fact, we call our office in Lafayette our Home Office rather than our ‘corporate headquarters’ as our mission is to support those in the field who care for our patients in their home or place of residence.”
This focus on personal care and the success of the LHC Group business model caught the attention of Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group. Now Optum and LHC Group are combining to accelerate their ability to provide compassionate and comprehensive care to patients and their families in settings that are most comfortable for them, improving the patient experience and care outcomes. According to the company, this combination will advance value-based care and patient outcomes by uniting a national provider of high-quality home health and post-acute care services with an innovative leader in improving operational and clinical performance. The merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023.
“LHC Group’s Home Office operations will remain in Lafayette where the combination of these two organizations positions Lafayette to become the
home healthcare center for the largest healthcare company in the world,” says Myers. “All other remote and home office operations will continue from existing locations and LHC Group leadership, management, and employees will continue to provide service and support from its more than 900 locations across 37 states and District of Columbia.”
This dedication to its employees and
caregivers, as well as to its patients in communities throughout the United States, is reflected in the LHC Group Home Office in Lafayette: built to provide, built to bond and built to last. With two additional floors in one building just waiting to be built out for future growth, the LHC headquarters is constructed with all the modern amenities of today with a keen eye on the future. The principals
maintain that it is only going to get better.
“The vision our leaders have shown in building this company, and the financial investment in the building and in the community shows our confidence in the stability of our company,” says Marcus. “We are booming, and we still have room for growth. With our partnership with Optum, I feel like it’s going to take off like a rocket ship.”
LABI’S FREE ENTERPRISE AWARDS: BUSINESS & BOOTS
It’s one of our favorite events of the year! The 2022 Free Enterprise Awards was a night of celebration for Louisiana’s Main Street as we honored the people and businesses who make Louisiana a better place to live. Following the ceremony, we finished up the night in our cowboy boots dancing with country band Parish County Line.
2022 DC FLY-BACK
In October, LABI was pleased to host a number of board members for insightful panels, DC updates and messages from the Louisiana congressional delegation in New Orleans for our annual Washington Fly-Back.
WASHINGTON DC MARDI GRAS
While LABI certainly cannot claim this festive work/ celebration at the nation’s capital in January as its own, we still got a lot of facetime with many of our members and friends. The Mystick Krewe of Louisianaians—and all of the banquets, parties and networking—did not disappoint!
BehindBY ASHLEY GORDON
STREETS ARE BLOCKED off, trailers line parking lots, equipment is rolled out and maybe, just maybe, you might catch a glimpse of a celebrity dressed in character. The Louisiana film industry is thriving since COVID, when this disrupter of all disrupters changed the way viewers consumed entertainment. And the pandemic shutdown set the industry on a six-month production delay, reducing content that people had grown accustomed to binging. When the cameras were ready to roll again, Louisiana was well positioned to welcome film crews.
In the past two years alone, 145 productions have been shot in Louisiana. This includes National Treasure: Edge of History, Secrets of Sulphur Springs, Queen Sugar, Your Honor, Interview with the Vampire and The Winchesters. This has supported nearly 10,000 jobs statewide,
and has contributed to over $300 million in state earnings and more than $800 million in sales for Louisiana businesses according to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.
This is an industry that keeps growing and growing. Through the Entertainment Development Fund, created in 2017, LED has worked to support education and workforce opportunities in the entertainment industry. This means Old Algiers Main Street Corp. will receive $274, 631 over the next two years to train young adults for behind-camera jobs in the film and television industry. It means University of Louisiana at Lafayette is getting $920,000 to develop the visual effects program and launch a location scouting platform based on virtual reality technology. It also means a program for student filmmakers at Nicholls State University received $47,171 to set up a
Film Studies Suite equipped with new production tools that will enhance training in a range of filmmaking techniques. The films are coming, and Louisiana will be ready.
“Louisiana remains a premier global destination for motion picture production and, as a result, we have been able to invest in workforce development and education initiatives through the Entertainment Development Fund,” says Chris Stelly, Executive Group Director for Louisiana Entertainment and Digital Media. “This fund is laying the groundwork for the development of virtual production, post-production, digital media, and other state-of-the-art media training programs statewide. Investing in our intellectual infrastructure is vital so that we can provide the necessary workforce and creative minds for the future of these industries in our state.”
THANK YOU TO OUR ANNUAL MEETING SPONSORS
MAJORITY OF OUR FUEL IS SOLD IN LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI
OVER 1 BILLION GALLONS OF GASOLINE AND DIESEL
1 OF EVERY 4 GALLONS AT LOUISIANA PUMPS IS SUPPLIED BY PLACID
PRIMARY SUPPLIER OF EMERGENCY FUEL