Biz New Orleans Magazine August 2019

Page 1

developing a new workforce: Xavier University Delivers

new orleans first Quentin Messer President/CEO New Orleans Business Alliance

Leading the Charge to Bring Business to the City

august 2019

Apps You Should Know Local entrepreneurs solving common problems with tech P. 40

Rebranding? Top 3 tips for success P. 36

How to Keep Your Cool Even when clients and customers lose theirs. P. 34

2 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Publisher Todd Matherne Editorial Editor-in-Chief Errol Laborde Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Suzanne P. Tafur Multimedia Blogger Leslie T. Snadowsky Contributors Topher Balfer, Julia Carcamo, Keith Loria, Pamela Marquis, Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jessica Rosgaard, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, James Sebastien, Melanie Warner Spencer, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell Advertising Vice President of Sales Colleen Monaghan (504) 830-7215 Sales Manager Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Senior Account Executive Brennan Manale (504) 830-7298 Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 Account Executive Sydney Steib (504) 830-7225

Marketing Director of Marketing & Events Jeanel Luquette Event Coordinator Abbie Dugruise Digital Media Associate Mallary Matherne For event information, call (504) 830-7264 Production Traffic Coordinator Lane Brocato Production Manager Emily Andras Production Designers Rosa Balaguer, Meghan Rooney Administration Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne President Alan Campell Executive Vice President Errol Laborde Office Manager Mallary Matherne Distribution Manager John Holzer Subscription Manager Brittanie Bryant For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231

2016 Bronze: Best Feature Layout 2017 Bronze: Best Daily Email 2017 Silver: Best Recurring Feature 2018 Gold: Most Improved Publication 2018 Silver: Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold: Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold: Best Explanatory Journalism

110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123 • Metairie, LA 70005 • (504) 828-1380 Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: one year $24.95, two year $39.95, three year $49.95—foreign rates vary call for pricing. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2019 Biz New Orleans. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The trademark Biz New Orleans is registered. Biz New Orleans is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork, even if accompanied by a selfaddressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in Biz New Orleans are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or owner.

6 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019 / 7

august 2019 / Volume 5 / Issue 11

contents EVERY ISSUE 12 / 13 / 15 / 16 / 18 / 20 /


from the lens

publisher’s note Editor’s note Calendar industry news recent openings Events

40 / technology

in the biz 24 / dining

New Orleans’ booming food scene now extends to higher education.

26 / tourism

There are opportunities for growth in New Orleans as a destination wedding market.



Unapologetically New Orleans President and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance, Quentin Messer is not afraid to play favorites. By Kim SIngletary photos by Adrienne Battistella

Local entrepreneurs are putting the solutions to common problems right in the palm of your hand. 44 / healthcare

The “Brotox” phenomenon is alive and well in New Orleans.

64 / great workspaces

Real estate development and construction company Verdad’s new Warehouse District space features turn-of-the century architecture and location, location, location.

28 / sports


The Xavier Way Xavier University of Louisiana is ushering in the new workforce and putting a record number of black students in medical school.

New Orleans has one sports icon and another in the making. 30 / entertainment

In between “Hamilton” performances, the Saenger will host another hot Broadway ticket starring a much lesser known, but powerful character. 32 / entrepreneurship

Tips to help businesses survive the height of summer

70 / making a match:

businesses and nonprofits

46 / real estate & construction

Local professionals share how their favorite technological advances are changing the fields of construction and architecture

The Congo Square Preservation Society invites you to move to the beat of their drums as they fight to preserve a sacred, historical New Orleans gem. 80 / on the job

When it comes to creating a sustainable project, it all starts with the soil.

34 / etiquette

How to keep your cool when clients and customers lose theirs 36 / marketing

By Topher Balfer

68 / why didn’t i think of that?

A first for the region, Schmelly’s Dirt Farm’s compost collection is rapidly expanding to serve local restaurants, hotels, farmers and growers.

Three tips for navigating a rebranding

on the cover Quentin Messer, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance Photograph by Adrienne Battistella

Meet the Sales Team

Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager (504) 830-7252

Brennan Manale Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7298

Jessica Jaycox Account Executive

(504) 830-7255

Sydney Steib Account Executive

(504) 830-7225

Colleen Monaghan Vice President of Sales (504) 830-7215 10 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Publisher’s Note

A Winning Summer Last month, the staff of Biz New Orleans went

to Atlanta and took home gold. The Alliance of Area Business Publishers held its annual national conference and awards gala in June, during which our Biz team received two gold awards for journalism—one for Best Reoccurring Feature for our “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” monthly feature, and one for Best Explanatory Journalism for our cover feature in the May 2018 Women’s Issue on the Status of Women in Business in Louisiana. This marks three years in a row that our team has been recognized nationally for the great work they produce month after month. Not bad for a title that’s only five years old. On the local front, in July Renaissance Publishing also took home more than 25 awards at the annual Press Club of New Orleans Excellence in Journalism Gala. Our titles, Louisiana Life, Acadiana Profile, New Orleans Magazine, Biz New Orleans, St. Charles Avenue and our blogs and websites— and—won in numerous categories. Congratulations! In today’s media landscape, you the reader have to find a source you can trust and follow that does great work. We are proud to be that kind of source for you locally and I am so proud of our team for continuing to produce excellent stories and grow our readership. Congratulations to our team of writers, photographers, graphic artists and editors for creating award-winning content for New Orleans and Louisiana. Great work. Todd Matherne

12 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Editor’s Note

Thoughts from a NOLA Transplant In my interview this month with Quentin Messer, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business

Alliance, he reiterated something he said when we first chatted for a piece in our November 2016 issue: New Orleans has a perception problem. It made me think back to eight years ago, when my family was living in Omaha, Nebraska, and my husband was offered a job in New Orleans. We were deep into winter that year and, quite honestly, anything south sounded good to me, so we decided to take it. The reactions of those around us soon caught us by surprise. Essentially, it amounted to “Wow, that’s so good of you to go down there. They need the help.” We were treated like we were moving to a third-world country—six years after Hurricane Katrina. What we found upon arrival instead was a city that was warm in every sense of the word. During our first Carnival season, our apartment still packed with boxes, we wandered down to see the action and a complete stranger quickly handed us both bowls of red beans and rice to enjoy while we watched the parades. “Y’all look hungry,” she said, before giving us a big smile and disappearing back into the crowd. Since then, we’ve enjoyed countless world-class meals, learned a whole new language (including Who Dat, lagniappe and po-boy), and been enthusiastic participants in those parades we once just watched from the sidewalk. Now, this is not to say that I don’t have those “bad New Orleans” days—days when I bust another tire on a pothole, there’s a shooting a block from my kid’s school and we’re under a boil water advisory, yet again. Life was easier in Nebraska. Safer. But there was no spice to it, and it’s the spice that makes life worth living. I see my friends buying Midwestern McMansions while we live in a rented place with one-third the square footage that, yes, occasionally is also home to a cockroach the size of a matchbox car, but I wouldn’t trade it for a second. I wouldn’t trade New Orleans for anywhere else, and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you wouldn’t either. That’s why we’re here. Maybe, like Quentin suggests, we could all be a little louder about it —a little more unapologetically New Orleans. Happy Reading, / 13


August 4 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana New Orleans Regional SCORE 2nd Annual Small Business Award Ceremony 6 to 9 p.m. The Best Western Hotel & Suites 2600 Severn Ave., Metairie 7 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana New Orleans Regional SCORE 2nd Annual Small Business Award Ceremony 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Harrah’s New Orleans 228 Poydras St. 8 New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Alliance 5 to 7 p.m. Morton’s The Steakhouse 365 Canal Pl. 13 New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce August New Members Orientation 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Orleans Tower 1340 Poydras St., Suite 100 13 New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Power Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 1515 Poydras St., 5th floor auditorium 14 Nonprofit Fundraising 101 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Ashe Powerhouse Theater 1731 Baronne St.

15 ABWA New Orleans August Luncheon: Why Should I Pick You? Simple Ways to Stay Ahead of Your Competition and Get More Referrals by Melissa Willis 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Cannery 3803 Toulouse St. 15 New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce Mega Networking Night 5 to 7 p.m. Boomtown Casino, 2nd Floor 4132 Peters Rd., Harvey 16 New Orleans Chamber of Commerce 3rd Quarter Business Luncheon Workforce Engine of LA: Successes and challenges of the public schools of Orleans Parish and Louisiana 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sheraton New Orleans Grand Ballroom 500 Canal St. 16 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Business & Breakfast 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. New Orleans Marriott Metairie at Lakeway 3838 N. Causeway Blvd. 20 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce JCYP Coffee & Community Featuring Paula Polito of Beary Cherry Tree 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Chamber Offices 3421 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 203 22 DAV RecruitMilitary hiring event A free hiring event for veterans, transitioning military personnel, National Guard members, Reserve members and military spouses. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mercedes-Benz Superdome

22 AMA and New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Educational Seminar: Understanding Consumer Habits and Online Reviews with Yelp 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 1515 Poydras St., 5th Floor Auditorium 27 & 28 New Orleans Business Alliance and New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Aspen Institute Socrates Salon: Urban Opportunity Access and Economic Inclusion Reception at Windsor Court Hotel and Seminar at Baker Donelson 28 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Prosper Jefferson: Online Sales 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Entergy Auditorium 4809 Jefferson Hwy. 29 NORLI and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Women’s Equality Summit: A Celebration of Diversity Windsor Court 300 Gravier St. **NORLI Alumnae receive a discounted ticket price with the code “wesNORLIalum” 29 New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce Straight Talk Series: Business & Finance Sustaining Your Business Growth Through Financial Resource Management and Targeted Business Opportunities 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club 732 N. Broad St.

For a more complete list of events, visit We’d love to include your businessrelated event in next month’s calendar. Please email details to

Industry News


Louisiana Energy Costs Among Lowest in the Nation (1=Most Expensive; 25=Avg.) Avg. Monthly Energy Bill: $271 50th Price of Electricity 15th Price of Natural Gas 41st Natural-Gas Consumption per Consumer 50th Price of Motor Fuel

“The two-day event will cover all industry sectors and priority issues impacting the oil and natural gas industry in Louisiana and in the Gulf of Mexico.”

32nd Motor-Fuel Consumption per Driver SOURCE: WalletHub


2019 Grow St. Bernard Series Schedule Announced The result of a partnership between the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce and St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, Grow St. Bernard is a six-part professional development series aimed at providing business owners and their staff with new ideas and practical strategies to improve performance in key areas of their business. The six-part series features speakers from the Greater New Orleans region discussing a variety of topics geared toward new, growing and pre-revenue businesses. Participation in Grow St. Bernard is open to all individuals regardless of location or occupation. The first session, “Be the CEO of Your Success,” was held July 23, and the next, “Small Business Financial Bootcamp” will be held Aug. 6. Remaining sessions are in August, September and October. Registration for the full series is $100 and includes an individual Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment, and the option to receive one-on-one business mentoring provided by the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. Registration for a single session is $20 per attendee. For more information on the series and to register, visit GrowStBernard.


Delgado Forges Two New Partnerships Nunez Community College (NCC) signed an articulation agreement with Delgado Community College (DCC) on June 17, that will offer students at NCC and DCC access to more enhanced educational opportunities. The signing establishes a transferable pathway for Nunez students to transfer coursework and complete an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology, Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Technology or an Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology at Delgado and for DCC students to transfer coursework to complete Associate of Applied Science in Process Technology or Associate of Applied Science in Aerospace Manufacturing Technology at Nunez.

Tyler Gray, president and general counsel of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) speaking about the inaugural Southern Energy Conference, which will take place September 17 and 18 in Lafayette at the DoubleTree by Hilton. Presented jointly by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) and LMOGA, the event will provide attendees with firsthand access to Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates in a gubernatorial forum, along with critical updates on the oil and gas industry and CLE credits for professionals in multiple fields. For more information, visit

Just 10 days later, on June 27, Delgado agreed to allow graduates of the new New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) to earn Delgado credits for introductory and skills courses in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. Students may also use Delgado’s Credit for Prior Learning process, specifically the Life Experience Assessment Program, to obtain Delgado credits for their NOCHI experiences. The students must enroll in a degree program at Delgado and are limited to 24 hours of credits awarded through the process.




New Orleans Restaurants Recognized for World’s Best Wine Lists

New Orleans a Top Tech Hub

This month’s issue of Wine Spectator magazine lists more than 3,800 restaurants around the world that have achieved recognition as part of the magazine’s annual Restaurant Awards. For 2019, the magazine has selected over 30 New Orleans restaurants to honor with the Award of Excellence. Among those recognized for possessing one of the world’s best wine lists are Copper Vine; Compère Lapin, Jack Rose and Bywater American Bistro.

Business Facilities, a leading site selection publication, has named New Orleans as one of a dozen “Sweet Spots for High Tech” in North America.

Google Launches New Resource for Small Businesses

The complete list of award winners is also available at Restaurants.WineSpectator. com and on iOS via the free Restaurant Awards app, which allows users to look for dining spots in any location with maps, choosing by wine strengths, cuisine type, pricing and more.

16 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

New Orleans is not only a top tech hub, it is also one of the most inclusive. According to recent data from economic research firm Emsi, Greater New Orleans is: #2 for % women in technology jobs in the USA #7 for % Black Americans in technology jobs in the USA

According to Google, more than half of American businesses don’t have a website, and more than 65% are looking for easy-touse tools to help them promote their business. To assist them, Google has launched a tool to help business owners, startups and entrepreneurs learn how to use their advertising and online tools to grow their company. With, the site provides a custom, prioritized list of Google products to help that business stand out online, reach more customers, and work more efficiently.


Warner Thomas Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System, received the Entrepreneur of The Year® 2019 Award in the Healthcare & Related Services category in the Gulf Coast Area on June 21 at the Marriott Marquis Houston. As a Gulf Coast Area award winner, Thomas is now eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur of The Year 2019 National Awards, which will be held in Palm Springs, California, on Nov. 16. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of highgrowth, market-leading companies. / 17

Recent Openings


Bernhard Headquarters One of the largest privately owned engineering, mechanical and electrical contractors in America, Bernhard has announced it will combine its New Orleans, Arkansas and other offices to establish its national corporate headquarters in Jefferson Parish. The firm will be based in The Galleria, in Metairie, and will employ approximately 250 local team members, with expectations for continued job creation and growth. GNO, Inc. estimates the 250 direct jobs in Bernhard’s new headquarters will help drive another 328 indirect and induced jobs in the energy and technology sectors, totaling more than $42 million in annual salaries and contributing nearly $60 million annually to the Greater New Orleans economy. Established in 1919, Bernhard is composed of four companies with distinct service offerings, Collectively, the company employs more than 2,000 team members in 25 locations throughout the U.S., with more than 1,000 employees based in Louisiana.

Bellegarde Bakery Bellegarde Bakery, a nationally recognized leader in the fields of artisan bread and stone-milling, opened a retail bakery in New Orleans July 13. The new 3,200-square-foot bakery—double the size of its previous bakery—is located at 8300 Apple Street and will feature a second stone mill and oven. Walk-in customers will have the opportunity to purchase freshly baked breads available only in-store (plus Bellegarde’s staple wholesale loaves), freshly stonemilled flour and heirloom grits, customblended drip coffee from Congregation Coffee, and branded merchandise. The menu will continue to expand throughout 2019 with additional pastry, pizza, pasta and bread options.

The Escape Game


Maison de la Luz and Bar Marilou Maison de la Luz, the new luxury guest house by creative studio Atelier Ace, is now open in New Orleans. Housed in the former City Hall Annex right off Lafayette Square at 546 Carondelet Street, the six-story building offers 67 rooms, multiple guest spaces and a craft cocktail lounge called Bar Marilou. The bar is the first U.S. venture for French hospitality group Quixotic Projects — known for their acclaimed Parisian venues including Candelaria, Le Mary Celeste, Les Grand Verres and Hero.

18 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

New Orleans chefs Michael Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig, finalists at the 2019 James Beard Foundation Best Chef South, are close to opening the doors of their anticipated second concept, thalia, at 1245 Constance Street in New Orleans. The second concept by the co-owners and chefs of celebrated Coquette will be seat 37 and feature creative interpretations of familiar snacks, salads, pastas and hearty proteins. Themed “daily rituals” – which the chefs compare to blue plate specials – will range from Tuesday Schnitzel Night to Saturday Steak Night.

One of the first escape game companies in the United States, Nashville-based company The Escape Game has opened its 14th location—and first in Louisiana—at 233 North Peters Street in New Orleans. The Escape Game offers four different 60-minute adventures where teams work together to find clues, overcome challenges and ultimately complete a mission to escape the room. The company has hosted more than 1.6 million guests across its 13 locations and has earned the No. 1 spot on TripAdvisor’s national escape rooms list.

City Greens City Greens, a healthy, fast-casual restaurant concept founded by locals Abhi Bhansali and Ben Kazenmaier, opened its fourth location at 5001 Freret Street June 4. The restaurant includes tables and chairs crafted from old bowling alleys, a living wall built by Tiny Nest Botanicals and a 23-foot wall mural crafted by local artist Devin De Wulf. The company’s first location opened in Downtown New Orleans in January 2012. Its fifth location will open this fall inside the new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Maison de la Luz photo by Stephen Kent Johnson; thalia by sara essex bradley / 19











Thursday, June 6 | Hyatt Regancy

Thursday, June 13 | WWII Museum

Thursday, June 27 | Hyatt Regency New Orleans

2019 CID Awards Gala

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year Grand Finale

New Orleans Business Alliance Annual Meeting

The Commercial Investment Division (CID) of the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® awards program included over 1,500 transactions and a combined $1.1 billion dollars in real estate activity by its members in 2018.

Allison Shapiro Dandry, director of communications and technology for Krispy Krunchy Chicken, and Kurt Evans, CEO of Digital Engineering, were proclaimed Woman and Man of the Year at this year’s event.

Carnival Corp. President and CEO Arnold W. Donald was the keynote speaker at NOLABA’s annual meeting this year, where the organization also introduced its new business model, Economic Development Reimagined.

1. Eric Tanner, Sandra Corrigan and Michael Corrigan 2. Missy Whittington, Betty Sun and Lisa Guillory 3. Peter Lombardo, Rebecca Lombardo and Cameron Lombardo

1. Allison Sharpiro, Dandry and Ayesha Motwani 2. Jamie Cangelosi, Michael Pou and Heather Pou 3. Parke McEnery, Melissa Wogan and Ford Wogan

20 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

1. Cate Swinburn, Stacy Martin and Sidney Monroe 2. George Fowler, Arnold Donald and Kelly Duncan 3. Sonja Christophe, Quentin Messer Jr. and Mandi Mitchell

photographs by cheryl gerber / 21

22 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Biz columnists spe ak out


New Orleans has one sports icon and another in the making.

In The Biz dinin g

Classrooms in the Kitchen New Orleans’ booming food scene now extends to higher education by Poppy Tooker

24 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

dishwasher,” says Dickie Brennan. “If they’re fortunate, someone takes them under their wing, and 15 years later they’re working as a line cook with no opportunity for further advancement. NOCHI will always have a place for locals seeking better opportunities.” Scholarship opportunities from the James Beard Louisiana Restaurant Association and American Culinary foundations, among others, help make that possible. Fortyseven percent of NOCHI’s graduating class applied for and received financial aid, with all receiving the full amount of their calculated need. Students in NOCHI’s first graduating class ranged in age from 18 to 50 and hailed from as far away as Washington, D.C., Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. Their backgrounds were astoundingly diverse. One was a recent graduate from the high school culinary program at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, while another left behind two decades in the wine industry to pursue a future in hotel food and management. The results? Graduates received job offers from as far away as New York’s Restaurant Daniel, as well as acclaimed local establishments like Donald Link’s Peche and Gianna. Both the Hilton Corporation and Ritz-Carlton have pursued members of the inaugural class as well. Just across the river from NOCHI, the University of Holy Cross offers higher educational training for a different type of food career. Four years ago, Holy Cross created their food science program, offering a bachelor’s of science in food science, food business and culinology. Culinologists blend culinary arts with food science, a career that doesn’t include the long hours and low pay of typical restaurant work. On average, the starting salary for food scientists is $55,000. Darryl Holliday, UHC program director, reports job placement is a major focus. “New Orleans has many major food manufacturing businesses like Zatarain’s and Smoothie King eager to work with our graduates. Food science is a growing field and we’re preparing students here for the future.” n Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.

i llust rat i on by Ton y H eale y

A native New Orleanian, Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.

If a stovetop appeals more to you than

a desktop, a culinary career might be the way to turn your passion into profit. With the opening and expansion of educational programs designed for budding chefs, food scientists and culinary entrepreneurs, New Orleans has become a great place to move into the culinary arts. Founded in 1921 as a trade school for young boys, Delgado Community College offered culinary training from its earliest days. Today, it ranks in the top 20 of nationally accredited schools, offering certificates of technical studies in culinary arts, pastry arts and culinary management attainable in nine months, as well as two-year associate degrees. With a low student-teacher ratio in hands-on cooking classes, last year Delgado graduated 30 students into the local workforce. Nationally, vocational cooking schools are closing their doors, with Le Cordon Bleu shuttering 16 campuses across the country in 2015. A number of lawsuits ensued as students found themselves with a huge debt burden due to student loans without the ability to complete the education. The entire value of culinary education has been called into question as entry-level industry jobs continue to pay low wages while tuition costs are high. Delgado has always been an affordable option for in-state students, with a year’s tuition averaging just over $4,000. But, according to Delgado’s statistics, over 60 percent of students require three years of attendance to reach graduation. In June 2019, the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) graduated its first class of 19 students. With curricula designed by the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, NOCHI aims to be an affordable fast track into the industry. In merely 100 days, students receive certification in either culinary or pastry with tuition averaging about $14,750. The new nonprofit institute was founded by Brennan family cousins Ti Martin, Dickie Brennan and George Brower (also Dickie’s brother-in-law), owners of multiple fine-dining establishments in the city, with the intention of creating a skilled, local workforce. “My entire career, I have watched goodhearted people who get a first job as a / 25

In The Biz to u ris m

Oui, I Do Opportunities for growth in New Orleans as a destination wedding market By Jennifer Gibson Schecter

26 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Wedding Chapel, created The Louisiana Wedding Association to promote New Orleans and other Louisiana locations as premier destinations for nuptials. Talavera says nationally there were 500,000 destination weddings last year, but Orleans Parish hosted only 4,000 of them. “If we increased the number, that means more money,” he says. “[Couples] bring a lot, and they bring people, and they come back. So that would increase economic impact exponentially.” Talavera has worked to make weddings in New Orleans easier for out-of-town couples. In 2003, he lobbied state lawmakers to reduce the 72-hour marriage license waiting period to 24 hours in Orleans Parish under Senate Bill SB565. Then, in 2018, House Bill 747 made the 24-hour waiting period the law statewide. For comparison, quickie wedding capital Las Vegas issues approximately 2,000 wedding licenses each week, but New Orleans issues 74. I, for one, think drive-thru windows are for daiquiris, not weddings, but there are definitely economic benefits to increasing the number of weddings that occur in New Orleans. New Orleans and Company, New Orleans’ destination marketing and economic development organization, has recognized this as well and has dedicated an entire section of its website,, to wedding-planning resources. They even offer complimentary wedding-planning assistance for out-of-town couples and were honored by The Knot with a Best of Weddings 2019 award. Wedding planner Capone sees the draw of New Orleans every day. “I tell couples, when you go online and search invitation acceptance rates, they are 80 percent for local weddings and 50-60 percent for destination, but I tell people to plan for 80-90 percent for New Orleans destination weddings,” explains Capone. “People want a reason to come here and because of that they are going to take extra days off of work to extend their stay and take time to explore the city.” n

i llust rat i on by Ton y H eale y

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on

We Americans seem to be losing some

of our rituals. The casual way we approach important things, the prioritization of pop culture and the dwindling numbers practicing a formal religion leave many of us without cause or desire to mark milestones. But the wedding, even if non-religious, even if it’s a third go-round, remains a ritual that brings together a community… and it costs money to feed those people. According to wedding industry leader The Knot, the average cost of a wedding nationally in 2018 was $33,391. With money like that being invested in a couple’s big day, there is a real opportunity to use the allure of New Orleans as a destination for weddings and bring those dollars here. Three Little Words is a local boutique wedding-planning company that specializes in helping out-of-town couples create their dream New Orleans wedding. Owner and wedding planner Sam Capone says approximately 60 percent of her clients live elsewhere and are planning destination weddings in New Orleans. “It’s unique and interesting that the wedding industry here is majority locally owned small businesses, and also majority women-owned,” says Capone. “Your average couple is hiring at least 10 different businesses and sometimes a lot more.” Destination weddings can be especially advantageous for hotels. Capons says most of her destination clients want to plan their events and stay in the French Quarter, so she works closely with hotels there to create room blocks for an average of 150 guests. Because destination weddings typically have events planned over the course of several days — often including welcome receptions before the wedding and a formal brunch the day after — guests are staying in hotels for three nights or more. “There’s a surprising amount of guests who stay at hotels and not AirBnB,” says Capone. “People are coming here for a special occasion in a special city, so they don’t mind spending the extra money to stay at the hotel with the wedding party.” The romance of New Orleans is a draw for couples, and others in the industry are working to attract more weddings to our city. The Rev. Tony Talavera, renowned as the officiant at the French Quarter / 27

In The Biz s por ts

Passing the Torch New Orleans now has one sports icon and another in the making. by chris price

28 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Orleans right now. We’re in the dog days of summer, but the thoughts of many New Orleanians are on the coming autumn. Training camp is in full swing for the New Orleans Saints, and excitement for the 2019 season is growing exponentially by the day. A few weeks after the Saints kick-off, the New Orleans Pelicans will tip-off their new season with a new look and squad. Right now, there are no marks in either the win or loss columns for each team. Anything is possible, and expectations are on the rise. Saints fans have been waiting impatiently for the start of the coming season since Jan. 20, when the team was the victim of a non-pass interference call that, if called, in all likelihood would have sent the Saints to the Super Bowl. All of the emotion from that debacle has been transferred into expectations for this year. The team is stacked, healthy and ready to roll. The Saints are expected to again be one of the league’s top teams. After exiting in the NFC Divisional Round and NFC Championship Game the past two seasons, many think New Orleans can take the next step and get back to the Super Bowl a decade after making their first appearance in the NFL’s championship game. Drew Brees, 40, returns for his 19th NFL season and 14th with the Saints. During his time in New Orleans, he has blistered opposing pass defenses. Last season he became the NFL’s career passing yardage leader. He enters the 2019 season 19 touchdowns behind Peyton Manning, the NFL’s career passing TD leader. Brees has averaged 33.8 touchdowns each season he’s worn the black and gold. Even with his lowest total, 23 in 2017, it seems he’ll claim the crown this year. If Brees claims the two top career records for NFL quarterbacks — much less if the Saints lift another Lombardi Trophy — it begs the question of whether this might be his last season to play. Some fans think he showed his age as the 2018 season progressed. In the last five games of the season, he only had one game with more than 300 yards passing (326 against Pittsburgh in Week 17). In the four previous weeks, Brees threw for 171 against Atlanta, 127 against Dallas, 201 against Tampa Bay, and 203 against Carolina. The Saints went 4-1 during that stretch. The wins kept fans pumped, but it did raise concern.

While no Saints fan wants to see Brees’ career come to an end, he may have tipped his hat this offseason. When the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Brees sent Williamson a framed, autographed jersey on which he inscribed, “To Zion — Passing the torch to you! Who Dat!” There is no doubt that Williamson will become the face of New Orleans sports when Brees retires. Thanks to the NBA’s global audience, he has world-wide recognition, and as the new face of the franchise, he ensures New Orleans will get publicity almost anytime his name is mentioned. Brees, an 11-time Pro Bowler and sure-bet first-ballot Hall of Famer, will add to his legacy this season, and in October, halfway through what may be his final season, Williamson will begin what is expected to be an iconic career. Wouldn’t it be something if the passing of the torch included Williamson seeing its bearer go out on top? n

by the numbers

Rewriting the Record Book

Drew Brees became the NFL’s career passing yardage leader last year. He enters the 2019 season 20 touchdowns away from becoming the league’s career passing touchdown leader. NFL’s Career Passing Touchdown Leaders

Rank Player TDs Years 1 Peyton Manning 2 Drew Brees 3 Tom Brady 4 Brett Favre 5 Dan Marino 6 Philip Rivers 7 Ben Roethlisberger 8 Eli Manning 9 Fran Tarkenton 10 Aaron Rodgers

539 520 517 508 420 374 363 360 342 338

1998-2015 200120001991-2010 1983-1999 2004200420041961-1978 2005-

NFL’s Career Passing Yardage Leaders

Rank Player Yards Years 1 Drew Brees 2 Peyton Manning 3 Brett Favre 4 Tom Brady 5 Dan Marino 6 Ben Roethlisberger 7 Eli Manning 8 Philip Rivers 9 John Elway 10 Warren Moon

74,437 71,940 71,838 70,514 61,361 56,194 55,981 54,656 51,475 49,325

20011998-2015 1991-2010 20001983-1999 2004200420041983-1998 1984-2000

i llust r at i on by Ton y H eale y

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at

There’s an electricity in the air in New / 29

In The Biz en t er ta inmen t

Hamilton, and Now Evan In between “Hamilton” performances, the Saenger will host another hot Broadway ticket starring a much lesser known, but powerful character. by Kim Singletary

30 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

2020. As my daughter has, fortunately, yet to hit the “Mean Girls” stage, I think I’ll be taking a girlfriend to that one when it’s here March 17-22. After scoring both “Hamilton” for a second time and now “Dear Evan Hansen” so soon after the launch of the national tour last year, it seems the powers that be at Broadway are pleased with the New Orleans market. I recently reached out to Sam Voisin, who became general manager of both the Saenger and Mahalia Jackson Theaters this past January. A native of South Louisiana, Voisin has deep family roots in Greater New Orleans. His 25 years of experience in the arts and entertainment arena include serving as the director of sales at the CAJUNDOME and as a regional vice president for SMG, where he oversaw 17 entertainment venues totaling $1 billion in assets and $30 million in revenue in the Gulf South region, including the New Orleans area. First, I wanted to know how the Saenger chooses which productions to pursue each season. “I would say the most important factor would be our surveys, which is where we find out which titles resonate with the public,” says Voisin. “Other factors are timing and when the venue is available, as well as how well the show performed in New York.” Voisin says interest in Broadway at the Saenger has “grown exponentially over the years,” which means good seats will just get harder and harder to get. Renewing subscribers for this season, however, will receive priority seating to “Hamilton” for the 2020-2021 season. “On average, in the 2017-2018 season, subscribers saved 21% off day-of-show pricing,” says Voisin. Voisin shared one last note that may be of particular interest to businesses. “The Saenger Theatre has a premium club seat program available, which is great for businesses or individuals who like to entertain,” he says. “It includes tickets to every show at the Saenger Theatre, access to our Grand Suite Lounge and valet parking.” To inquire about club seats, call (504) 287-0372 or email n

i llust rat i on by Ton y H eale y

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.

For those who weren’t able to grab a

seat during the three weeks of sold-out performances of “Hamilton” this past spring—or who saw it and can’t get enough— you’ll have another chance when the show returns to the Saenger Theatre for the 2020-2021 season. In the meantime, a newer Broadway darling is on its way. After opening on Broadway in Dec. 2016, “Dear Evan Hansen” took home six of the nine awards for which it was nominated at the 71st Tony Awards in 2017. They were big wins too — Best Musical, Best Score, and both Best Actor and Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2018, the show also grabbed the title of Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammys. (Incidentally, Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda took home his third Grammy that night for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney feature film “Moana.”) Praised by The Washington Post as “One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history,” and “a cultural phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times, “Dear Evan Hansen,” like “Hamilton,” deals with some heavy drama, only this kind centers around teenagers and parenting in the 21st century. Evan Hansen is a teen battling social anxiety who just wants to fit in when he becomes involved in the aftermath of the suicide of one of his classmates. The challenges of single parenting, communicating with a teenager, and parenting and growing up in the age of social media are all themes of the play, which has understandably struck a chord with a wide population of viewers. “Dear Evan Hansen” makes its market debut as part of the Hancock Whitney Broadway in New Orleans 2019-2020 season Nov. 5-10. It will be the second show in the season, following one of two season options, the return of “Wicked” Oct. 2-20. The other will be “Jersey Boys.” Rounding out the returning hits this year are “Miss Saigon” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” As someone with a young child, I’m particularly excited for three of the four other shows making their debut in New Orleans this season: “A Christmas Story, the Musical,” Dec. 17-22; “Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Feb. 11-16, 2020; and “Anastasia,” April 14-19,

In The Biz en t repreneu r s hip

Don’t Let the High Temps Get You Down A few tips to help businesses survive the height of summer by keith twitchell

32 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Stop the bill spike.

It’s not a joke that summer utility bills cause real problems for a lot of businesses. Fortunately, Entergy and other utility companies offer programs where you can average out your bills for the past year and pay that amount each month instead. Level billing provides some cash flow predictability, which can be helpful with budgeting. Much better, though, is to reduce your summer cooling bills. So, keep that thermometer set around 78 degrees: it will save a significant amount of money, compared to the typical 70 to 72 degrees that most buildings seem to prefer, and it’s still plenty comfortable. It’s actually healthier as well; no one likes going from steaming to freezing every time they go through the door, and bouncing between these extremes makes people more susceptible to summer colds (not good for staff productivity, either). Using curtains or shades to keep the sunlight from blazing in also significantly reduces cooling bills. Turn off lights in rooms not in use, and you may want to conduct a general review of the energy efficiency of any appliances as that can result in year-round cost savings. The Mediterranean custom of midday siestas has never taken hold around here, though there are some local businesses that do close down for a couple hours at lunch time. This may be just as well, because given our celebratory culture, siesta hour could easily bleed into happy hour and then the whole afternoon is lost. However, for businesses with more flexibility in terms of hours of operation, or for staff working remotely, staying shuttered during the heat of the day in summer months may be worth considering.

Of course, you could always just install a pool and let your staff work in it — just be careful to avoid computer-induced electrocution. Manage the malaise.

Even as utility expenses are going up, many businesses experience summer revenue doldrums. While this is most true in the retail and restaurant fields, other industries face the same problem. Some of the slowdown has to do with customers being away on vacation, but there’s also just that general heat-induced malaise that keeps people from doing much of anything that requires movement. Overcoming this can be viewed as a creative marketing challenge. For example, certain restaurants offer some pretty nice summer deals to draw diners out of their nice cool homes. So, what can your business do to entice customers to brave the heat? A few creative options include: • Offer a free bottle of water for all customers — hydration is important! • Pass out hand fans with your logo and website URL on them. • Give all customers a coupon for a bag of ice at one of our local grocery stores. • Have a prize drawing for a free one-week vacation in Antarctica. If all else fails, you can always host a pop-up snowball stand in your store or office. Nothing attracts New Orleanians in summer like shaved ice and syrup! n

i llust rat i on by Ton y H eale y

Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.

It was a bad sign when the thermometer

crept up to the 90s by the end of May. Now it’s August, the sidewalks are melting, tempers are flaring, and many entrepreneurs are struggling with the effects of the summer heat. This is the perfect time to look at some ways you can beat the heat, so grab something cold and read on.


As the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs, EO helps transform the lives of those who transform the world. EO Louisiana is the fastest-growing chapter in the global EO Network.



In The Biz e t iq u e t t e

Anger Management Keeping your cool when clients and customers lose theirs by Melanie Warner Spencer

Even the most customer service-oriented

Apology Accepted The customer is always

companies occasionally have to field angry calls and emails. There is simply no way to please everyone all of the time. At times, a person might simply be having a bad day and taking it out on you, your company or a member of your staff. When it happens—and it will happen—there is a right way and a wrong way to handle the situation. With the correct strategy, it’s possible to turn that angry client or customer into one who remains loyal to your company for a lifetime.

right, even when they aren’t, so offer an apology. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry you are unhappy with [insert product, service, situation here]. Let’s see what we can do to make it right, OK?” We’ve all been in a similar position, so tap into your empathy.

Calm, Cool and Collected When the person

on the other end of the line comes out of the gate swinging, it can be a challenge to keep your cool. Most of us immediately put up our defenses and prepare for retaliation. This is a natural response, so don’t be too hard on yourself for having that reaction. At the same time, with practice, you can train yourself to act, rather than react. Begin deep breathing or take a deep breath as soon as you realize the person is angry and before you attempt to respond. (You may want to mute the call or hold your hand over the phone receiver while you are doing this so the other party can’t hear it.) The same goes for when you are responding to an email. If the person has successfully gotten your shackles up, give yourself some time to process the content of the email and find your calm center before responding. Be sure not to wait too long, however, because that could exacerbate the situation. Responding by later that day or the next day is a good rule of thumb. For angry callers, the more calm, quiet (but not inaudible) and soothing your voice is, the more likely you are to diffuse the other person’s anger.

34 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

practice mindfulness Once you’ve successfully calmed down your customer or client and resolved their issue (or have the solution in motion), treat yourself to a break. These types of interactions can get the blood pumping and the endorphins ramped up, so take a few minutes to regain your equilibrium.

Again, it might take a little practice to keep from having a knee-jerk reaction to someone yelling at you on the other end of the phone or receiving an all-caps email. Being aware of your own mind-body reaction and taking the above steps will go a long way in turning the conversation around and hitting the reset button on your relationship with the client or customer. Don’t be surprised if, at the end of the interaction, he or she is apologizing to you. n

i llust rat i on by Ton y H eale y

Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to

Listen Up The most effective thing you can do in this type of situation is to listen. The person on the other end of the call or email wants to vent, so let them have at it. When they are done, use everything you ever learned about two-way communication skills and offer up a summary of what they’ve said to you. Begin with, “So what I’m hearing, Mrs. Wilson, is…” Be sure to let them know you sympathize with their situation. This works on the phone or in an email.

Problem Solving Provide a solution or ask the customer or client what they’d like to see happen. In some cases, all they want is to be heard, so they may not have any solution in mind. Be prepared to find a realistic solution if they want something done, but can’t think of anything on the spot. / 35

In The Biz m a rke t in g

By Any Other Name Three important tips for navigating a rebranding by Julia carcamo

36 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

“Should we rebrand?” “Did you see so and so? They rebranded.” For several reasons, businesses will eventually reach a point where the discussion is about rebranding. Although a rebranding is most visible through the use of a new name, logo, tagline or some variation thereof, an actual rebranding should begin with a strategy meant to communicate a change in the business. The visible elements codify a differentiated identity in the minds of customers, employees, competitors, investors and other stakeholders. Social media has made these changes highly visible. Most of the “rebranding” we read about is not much more than a logo tweak or what I like to call a brand refresh. This open channel to companies has allowed everyone to judge the slightest efforts companies have undertaken, but unfortunately, the audience can often be more critical than appreciative. The reason is simple: They are being exposed to a visible change and not an experiential difference (which hopefully exists). As marketers and business owners, you must understand WHAT you ultimately want to accomplish, the steps to reach your goals, and frankly, if you want to or need to rebrand at this time. These points need clarification before you fall into a vortex of commentary. Rebranding should not be your go-to simply because you’re tired of your logo. However, if your target audience has or is changing, you’d be smart to change along with them. If you’ve made significant changes in your operations, rebranding might also be the right strategy. However, if you’re thinking of simply changing your logo and calling it a rebrand in the hopes of saving a business, I beg you to stop right now. Radio Shack’s failed “rebranding” effort should be a cautionary tale for us all. The 98-year-old consumer electronics chain announced a rebrand during a Super Bowl, but the problem with “The Shack” was one of strategy. The retail technology leader lacked brand focus, which would have allowed them to see and react to consumer changes. Fundamental operational changes were never made to support the rebranding.

You have to go “all in” when you rebrand, but there are specific steps that will help you navigate the process.


An essential first step is to set meaningful, measurable goals and determine a baseline measurement. Conduct research to understand the brand from both an external and internal perspective. Evaluate existing marketing strategies, materials, media and communications.


Know your goals.

Lather up! A SWOT analysis is a great

way to understand the market, but I’ve started working with a new approach borrowed from a friend called a SOAP Note. This tool — used by healthcare providers to document notes about a patient in a consistent way, allows you to rethink the market because it forces you to look at it in a very different way. The process will enable you to review Subjective inputs (such as the ones you collected in the previous step) as well as Objective observations to formulate Assessments and Plans.


While this portion of rebranding may seem like the “fun part,” it can also be the most difficult, because strategic development requires solid business-based direction. You must first clearly understand what you’re trying to communicate with your new graphics and language. Use focus groups during the development stage to glean stakeholder reactions and interpretations of your new look and feel. This type of process can be quite eyeopening, but it also requires more than sitting behind a two-way mirror. As you work through focus groups, your creative team will be adapting the graphics and language to reflect the most appropriate input. The next group will see something slightly different, and so on. Within a handful of groups, you’ll have your new look and feel. Finally, ensure you have developed a proper brand style guide that will assist your staff and vendors in the appropriate application of the new brand elements. Rebranding takes many moving parts to go from considering rebranding to a successful launch, but with careful planning and attention to detail, the benefits can be significant. n Get creative.

i llust r at i on by Ton y H eale y

Julia Carcamo is president and chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates, specializing in brand and marketing strategy. She is also the co-founder of espNOLA, a Hispanic marketing and engagement agency. Learn more at and

“We need to rebrand.” / 37

hot topics in southe ast Louisiana industries

perspectives TECHNOLOGY  /  healthcare  /  REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Local professionals share how technological advances are changing the fields of construction and architecture.

Perspectives t echnolo g y


New Apps You Should Know Local entrepreneurs are putting the solutions to common problems right in the palm of your hand. Jessica Rosgaard

We’ve all heard the phrase, “There’s

an app for that.” But while there are currently over 2.2 million apps available for iOS and 2.6 million for Android, that doesn’t mean there’s an app for everything.

40 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

Biz New Orleans caught up with some local entrepreneurs who are using technology to make things like renting an apartment or visiting the doctor a much more painless experience.

If you’ve ever been a landlord or a renter, you may have experienced some problems settling the security deposit. As a landlord, Marco Nelson had issues with some tenants. At the same time, some of his friends were having problems with their landlords. “I was thinking, ‘How can I solve this problem?’ and documentation seemed like a no-brainer,” he says. Nelson, an app developer, pitched the idea to some classmates when he was starting his MBA at Tulane University. One of those classmates, Lydia Winkler, was in the process of suing her landlord over a security deposit/property damage dispute. She won her case using time-stamped photo documentation. The two combined their experience and launched RentCheck — a mobile app that standardizes move-in and move-out property inspections to help landlords and renters determine the deductions on security deposits — in April, 2018. A landlord or tenant can download the free app and enter information about the property — including the address, and how many bedrooms and bathrooms. The app then provides a guided walk-through to help both parties document the property. “For example, it will say, ‘Stand in front of the refrigerator and take a photo of the fridge’,” explains Nelson, “and it will ask specific questions about the fridge — are there any scratches, any dents, do the doors open properly, does the light turn on in the fridge?” Those guided prompts cover the entire house. Nelson says, depending on the size of the property, users can expect to take about 50 photos, noting the condition of features like countertops and toilets. The landlord and renter then agree on the documented condition of the property and run the same procedure during move-out. Nelson and Winkler worked with property managers and landlords to make the app as comprehensive as possible.

“It’s done in the same manner every time so it’s really easy to compare apples to apples and not a bunch of random photos or a piece of paper that somebody scribbled on at move-in and move-out a year later,” says Nelson. RentCheck currently boasts about 1,000 users from all 50 states. Nelson says he hopes the app will become a standard in the rental process. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a fair and transparent process for both sides,” he says.


The idea for this app started when Sam Stein and a few of his friends from Tulane (Cary Greenwood and Noah Stambovsky) decided to create a spreadsheet of happy hour deals around town. Convinced they had created something that more people could benefit from, the database soon became an app that was released this past fall. “You can find every single happy hour in New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” says Stein of the app Drinker’s Edition. “You can look at the most popular happy hours based on crowdsourced data, and you can look at a map view to find what’s closest to you right now.” The data was, and still is, collected the old-fashioned way: by calling local bars and restaurants and asking for the information. “We really pride ourselves on doing that because we care about the data we put out, and when people scroll through our app, we want them to feel comfortable that we’re giving them accurate data,” says Stein. / 41

Thanks to the app’s popularity, patrons and restaurateurs now reach out to Drinker’s Edition with an update if a happy hour deal has changed. One thing the app doesn’t have is public reviews, such as on Yelp. Stein and his co-founders all work in the restaurant industry and know that one, perhaps exaggerated, bad review can damage a business. User feedback is restricted to the ability to “favorite” a happy hour. The more times a happy hour has been favorited, the higher it will rise on the popularity rankings. For now, Drinker’s Edition is free, and consulted about 10,000 times per month by 3,500 regular users. For $5 a month, users can upgrade to a premium account and receive special deals at participating venues. Stein says the team is in the process of developing a portal for bars and restaurants to update their own information, and they hope to expand to other large cities across the country. DOCPACE

Shelby Sanderford was an undergrad working in the president’s office at a Dallas hospital when she observed systemic frustration from patients, providers and hospital administration. “There was an inability to reach patient satisfaction scores, and that causes these big health systems to lose millions of dollars every year through their Medicare reimbursement,” she says. When Sanderford discovered that wait time is one of the biggest factors that contribute to patient satisfaction scores, she developed a way for doctors to better communicate with their patients: an app called DOCPACE. “We’ve taken the airline model for flight status and applied it to healthcare,” Sanderford says. “We send text notifications prior to a patient’s appointment and notify them of a delay so that they don’t have to wait in the waiting room.” Taking the airport model a step further, when patients arrive at the doctor’s office, they can check the status of their appointment on a HIPAA-compliant monitor in the waiting room. The cloud-based system is suited for an iPad and integrates directly into the scheduling platform used by doctors’ office. 42 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

“We’ll just pull their schedule for the day and the system keeps track of the flow of patients throughout the day,” Sanderford says. “We’ll time stamp when patients have completed their appointment and that will trigger our algorithms to calculate a delay time.” A doctor’s office can determine whether to send out text notifications to alert patients of long delays — like 15, 30 or 45 minutes. DOCPACE charges practices a monthly licensing fee and has a few pilot sites running, with the goal of adding two new clients to the system each month. “This product not only helps save patients’ time,” says Sanderford. “It creates a lot of value for the practice by increasing patient loyalty that ultimately leads to increased referrals, increased ratings and reviews.” SCANDY

Charles Carriere and his team at Scandy want to take your 2-dimensional photos and video into the future by allowing for high resolution, full-color 3-dimensional scanning on mobile phones that have depth sensors, like the Apple iPhone X. “Right now, most of the content consumption we do happens on a 2-D screen, so there’s no significant advantage to having 3-D content unless you’re going be in a virtualreality game,” Carriere says. “But we believe the ability to create 3D content is going to be more meaningful and more important down the road.” Carriere says Scandy Pro is something of a niche product; the target audience consists of hobbyists, creators and others who have a need for 3D scanning. “You can certainly use it to reverseengineer products in certain situations,” Carriere says. Scandy Pro is part of a larger business model that includes STL Maker and Cappy AR — all available at different price points and able to capture 3D scans at different levels for various uses. “We have an app in beta right now that’s able to capture a moving 3D scan or a volumetric video,” says Carriere. “We’re very excited about the ability for that to be used as a content creation tool for folks who are trying to move to the next medium.” n / 43

Perspectives he a lt hc a re

Leaving the Lines Behind The “Brotox” phenomenon is alive and well in New Orleans. By James Sebastien

Since 2010, the number of men

receiving Botox injections in the United States has increased by 27 percent — a phenomenon that has led to the creation of a new term: Brotox. According to Dr. Mace Scott, medical director and owner of Chronos Institute Med Spa in Metairie, Brotox is a part of an overall increase in men using cosmetic procedures. “The greatest increase seems to be among men between ages 30 and 60,” he says. “Men are increasingly becoming more concerned about their skin and the appearance of aging. This could potentially be due to the growth of social media and the selfie phenomenon.” “Everyone wants to look their best and we live in a visual world,” says Jamie Gonzales of Botox Bar, a new company that celebrated its launch in Slidell on July 18. “More and more men care about their appearances and have begun to understand that taking good care of their skin and utilizing injectables like Botox can help them maintain a healthier, more vibrant look. Men having ‘a little work done’ isn’t stigmatized the way that it once was.” In addition to just looking good for friends and family, or while battling it out in the dating scene, men are also seeing the drug as a way to get a youthful edge over competition in order to advance their careers.

44 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

“Typically, our female patients get Botox to appear younger while men get procedures done because they want to maintain competitive in an increasingly ageist workplace,” says Sarah Balladares of Botox Bar. “Overall, our culture has shifted the ‘norm’ of a man’s look,” Gonzales says. “In years past, men have long worn their wrinkles and sun damage as a public badge of endurance, hard work, experience and sacrifice. High-profile celebrities like Robert Redford rocked their creases for decades and built a psychological baseline that it’s better for men to remain au naturel. Now, the forehead lines are decreasing and our ‘normal man’ is shifting from Robert Redford to Rami Malek.” Dr. Kyle Coleman, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Etre Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center, says that his recommendations for the use of Botox with men tend to differ from his female clients. “With men, we generally recommend treating the frown line more aggressively and everything else less aggressively to achieve a natural look and not change the shape of their brows,” he says. In addition to a more subtle approach, men tend to prefer botox over surgery because the effects are temporary, lasting only three to four months. “The nice thing about Botox is that it slowly wears off,” says Dr. Kelly Burkenstock of Dr. Kelly Burkenstock’s Skin Body Health. “It does not cause any aging or damage and it’s reversible, so if you have a complication it’s not forever. It’s not permanent like surgery.” While the treatment works the same for everyone, Dr. Burkenstock says men require a specialized approach and an experienced hand. “Your provider must understand how male facial anatomy impacts the amount of botox needed for a satisfactory result without overcorrecting,” she says. “For best results, look for a physician with considerable knowledge of facial anatomy and experience in male aesthetic procedures. Well-trained cosmetic

physicians inject with optimal precision and finesse to achieve subtle, symmetrical results.” Catering to a Different Demographic

Businesses like Chronos, Etre Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center and Botox Bar have approached this new age of man by attempting to combat preconceived notions and help each individual achieve a level of desired confidence. “We [at Chronos] cater to men specifically in the different therapies we offer for testosterone optimization in our office,” says Dr. Scott. “We can couple this treatment with a workout membership in our fitness center and personal training. Then you can get your Botox and laser treatments all right in the same facility.” Catering to the busy professional, Etre Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser

Center offers lunchtime appointments and tailored treatments. “We carry products in skin care that are great adjuncts in males,” says Dr. Coleman. “Because we do both noninvasive and invasive procedures, like liposuction, we are able to tailor the appropriate procedure to the person, avoiding the one-size-fits-all mentality that can be found at some offices.” For those uncomfortable with the idea of stepping into a spa-like environment, Botox Bar offers services at a range of locations, like barber shops, where men may feel more at ease. “By doing this, [the men] are in an environment that’s already comfortable for them in a place they have established relationships,” says Balladares, “and they don’t have to worry about walking through a doctor’s office where they might see all of their wives’ friends.” n / 45

Perspectives re a l e s tat e & cons t ru c t ion

It’s hard to imagine, but only 20

Do You See What I See? Local architects share how their favorite technological advances are allowing them to work more accurately and efficiently and share their vision more effectively with clients. By Keith Loria

46 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

years ago, many architectural designs and construction documents were still drawn by hand. Now a majority of the work is done using 3D models and augmented reality. “One of the critical issues today is fair housing,” says Doug Matthews, owner of residential and commercial construction firm Matthews Construction & Renovation LLC in New Orleans. “And one way technology is making housing more affordable is by building modular homes in a factory setting using robots to do the framing.” Graham Hill, senior project manager for New Orleans-based Concordia Architects, says technological advances are also allowing architects to work more quickly, accurately and efficiently, all while increasing the capacity to collaborate. “Things are always changing fast within the field of design technology, but in some ways the construction industry lags behind because traditional construction means and methods are tied to large industries and supply chains of materials and manufacturers,” says Hill. “This lag creates a huge opportunity for innovation by moving from traditional design-bid-build delivery methods to IPD (integrated project delivery), where contractors are engaged early as a critical part of the design team.” At Concordia, building information modeling (BIM) has become the office standard at Concordia Architects for producing drawings like construction documents, photo-realistic renderings and even 360-degree walk-throughs that can be navigated in virtual reality. “BIM works so much better than traditional 2D drafting because by modeling in 3D, you can better understand how building systems interact and how they can be more effectively integrated,” Hill says. Michael Lachin, AIA, owner of New Orleans-based Lachin Architects, lists computer-aided drafting and digital technologies like virtual reality that allow people to experience designs and architecture even before they are / 47

built as the biggest game changers for the industry. “We are able to create virtual tours to show people what the building looks like from any angle imaginable,” he says. “They can also virtually walk around and through the buildings to get a sense for spatial relationships, the sizes of spaces and even the colors and textures of the materials being used.” The Rise of 3D

John F. Dalton Jr., AIA LEED AP, principal for Marrero-based Dalton Architects, says 3D virtual-modeling tools have improved over a short period of time and are becoming more user-friendly. “It’s fantastic, and the construction industry is embracing it just as much as the design industry has,” he says. “It’s truly a great time to be an architect.” As someone who considers himself “old-school,” Dalton admits that it took him a while to become comfortable with some of the new technology, but says he’s now able to create quick models and concepts to present to clients to work through the design process a little faster. “Many people have difficulty imagining space in three dimensions,” he says, “but when we can quickly model something, we can provide them with a representation that will help drive their decision-making process.” For example, Dalton Architects used a laser scan of a project on Canal Street — where it was converting three 100-plus-year-old buildings into a new apartment complex — to help determine the plumbness of eight-story masonry walls and how level the floors were. The scan also showed the location of existing beams and joists, which helped the architects locate the bathrooms and plumbing stacks and confirm the sites’ measurements. Concordia is currently working on a renovation and addition to a large historic masonry building in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. “For this project, we are using 3D laser scanning to document the existing building and build a digital point cloud that shows every surface, crack and crevasse of the original structure,” Hill says. “This allows us to more accurately design around all the irregularities and unique aspects of the existing building, thereby 48 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

improving our ability to preserve the old while integrating the new.” In another architectural realm, Jonathan Swanson, senior landscape architect with Mullin Landscape Associated in St. Rose, says he often uses Land FX, a CAD plug-in, which helps him stay current with what’s trending in landscape architecture. “Land FX simplifies and expedites the technical drawing process because each module of a system is already saved into the program,” he says. “It takes the legwork out of having to build each component and [the company] constantly offers online training.” Staying on Top of Things

Reading, researching and paying attention to the development of new technologies allows architects to stay on top of the newest trends and see what’s upcoming. “In today’s 24-hour news world, it’s not difficult to find information or see new research coming out,” Dalton says. “It pretty much comes to you through social media, email newsletters and other marketing.” Swanson says he keeps up to date on advances through training webinars and community forums that enable him to have discussions with other designers and YouTube. “I also like to subscribe to podcasts and email lists,” he says. “These offer random bits of insight when least expected.” Mighty Machines

When it comes to envisioning future tech, Dalton says he’s ready for the kind of technology currently only seen in movies. In the “Ironman” films, scientist Tony Stark frequently uses his hands to manipulate a hologram projected into space. Dalton can see how something similar could be used in an augmented reality scenario where clients and contractors could walk through a building or space without wearing special glasses or equipment. Could this be a reality for future architects? It may be only a matter of time. “Tech is constantly pushing architecture towards the future,” says Swanson. “The industry is continuously advancing by the minute, every single day.” n / 49

Unapolo 50 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

by kim singletary portraits by adrienne battistella

The president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance, Quentin Messer is not afraid to play favorites. In his second sit-down with Biz New Orleans, he shares how NOLABA is re-imagining economic development and what it’s going to take to secure New Orleans’ economic future.

getically N e w O r lean s / 51

Biz: How does NOLABA differ from organizations like JEDCO and GNO, Inc.? QM: We’re actually pretty similar to JEDCO or St. Tammany Corporation, because JEDCO and Jerry [Bologna] and his team are focused only on Jefferson Parish and [Chris] Masingill over at St. Tammany Parish Corporation is focused on St. Tammany Parish. GNO, on the other hand, has to be agnostic across 10 parishes in Southeast Louisiana, so it can't play favorites. It can't favor Jefferson over Orleans over St. Tammany over St. Bernard over Washington, whereas we at the Business Alliance are exclusively, and I think everybody understands, unapologetically, ensuring that New Orleans has a seat at the table.

t's been a big year for the New Orleans Business Alliance and Quentin Messer. Since he became president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance—the official accredited economic development organization for Orleans Parish—on July 1, 2015, Messer’s job has been to lead a team in championing New Orleans to businesses around the globe. It’s something the organization has been doing since its founding in 2010, but over the past year, things have really been moving and shaking. Amid a lot of staff changes—seven of the 29 professionals at NOLABA have been hired in the past year, including the state’s only biomedical economic developer and a developer focused on the food and music industries—the nonprofit launched a Workforce Leadership Academy with the Aspen Institute, created a Community Development Finance Certificate Program through a partnership with UNO, hosted 40 urban specialists from around the globe as they examined issues specific to the city and launched a new business growth initiative called InvestNOLA to accelerate the growth of businesses owned by people of color, to name just a few things. NOLABA has also garnered some impressive accolades on the national scene. This past October, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) named the organization the winner of a Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award for its New Orleans Health Innovators Challenge, and this past May, Messer was recognized as one of the Top Economic Developers for 2019, by Consultant Connect, in part because of his innovation in the field. A lot has changed since we first sat down with Messer for the November 2016 issue of Biz New Orleans, so this month we asked Messer to join us again and share his views on the city’s future, including what, exactly, we should be learning from the Texans.

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Biz: A lot has happened since NOLABA was founded in the post-Katrina landscape of 2010. How has the organization also changed? QM: I think the biggest change is that we are now focused on economic development re-imagined. When we first came about, it was about traditional economic development focused on business attraction retention, perception management. Basically, about how people perceive the business environment here in New Orleans. Today, with economic development reimagined, we really look at the place, the individual. We try to think about how our work improves the lives of each one of our friends and neighbors here in Orleans Parish. Biz: NOLABA currently focuses on four core areas: business attraction/retention, talent and workforce development, small business growth, and strategic neighborhood development. Why those specific work streams? QM: I think over the past nine years the population everybody wants to win, the college-aged millennial population, has basically signaled to employers, to economic development organizations, that their decisions about where they're going to take their talents, where they're going to grow their careers, where they're going to grow the next great companies is going to be based upon cities that engage their total self. This means it's not just sufficient to have great jobs, you've got to have an interesting place in which to live. You've got to have vibrant neighborhoods. You also have to have a community that cares about the least of its citizens. I think all of us, whether you're a millennial or not, are sort of drafting off millennials and saying, ‘Hey, there's more to life than just sort of work.’ Obviously, that's critically important, but we’re looking at more of a holistic approach. We believe those four work streams when we execute them well, will make New Orleans much more competitive than it's been in the past. Biz: What are New Orleans’ biggest strengths, besides being a fun place to visit? QM: I think there are three strengths. You alluded to one of them: People want to be here. New Orleans is one of the few cities where people will come without a job to live. People will come and take maybe a 15 to 20% discount on their salary desires just to be here. That is a rare commodity and should not be underappreciated.

Favorites Favorite book? Can I only name one? “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin. If I had a second, it would be Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” Favorite TV Show? Can I only name one? “Meet the Press.” If I had a second, it would be “Cuomo Prime Time.” Who do you look up to? My father, Quentin Sr. He is no longer physically present with our family, but he was a tremendous human being and I will never measure up to him. Biggest life lesson learned? From my wife, Dr. Kenya LeNoir Messer: Speak life into every situation, and consider the timing of everything that you say (meaning, does it need to be said then and there?) Best advice ever received? From my mom, from “Hamlet”: Always remember, “To thy own self be true.” Hobbies? Sadly, none in the traditional sense. A lot of interests but nothing outside of faith, family and work in which I have invested consistently time, talent and treasure. Daily habits? Reading the Bible, WSJ, Politico. com, Biz New Orleans, and ESPN. com and listening to an up-tempo song prior to starting my day. Pet peeve(s)? Throwing folks under the bus. Pass the credit [but] shoulder the blame alone. What are you most looking forward to in the next year? Having a Super Bowl parade! From an economic development perspective, demonstrating real, tangible financial benefits from reimagining economic development (e.g., more small businesses showing increased profit and revenue growth, higher labor force participation rates and announcements for new capital investment in our city). / 53

Second, we are a brain magnet. I don't think people fully appreciate that, so one of our opportunities is to talk more about the fact that we are a center of learning. We are an intellectual center. We have two medical schools physically in Orleans Parish proper, plus the Ochsner Queensland physician training right across the parish line. Plus, there are almost 30 to 40,000 young people pursuing an associate's or bachelor's degree here in Orleans Parish in an academic school year. We have two law schools, three business schools; I mean, that's a lot of intellectual horsepower in a city. Companies' capital tends to go places where there's smart people and there are a lot of smart people in New Orleans. Finally, in terms of looking at how the economy benefits everyone, I think there's been undeniable economic progress over the past decade. Now, I think we're all focused on how we make sure every New Orleanian feels that. There are very few cities that are consciously leaning in the way that we are in New Orleans and I think that's highly attractive.

re-imagining what it meant to be an economic development organization, and I think over the course of 2018, and maybe the first quarter of 2019, we began to say, ‘Wait a second, we've got four work streams—business attraction retention, talent and workforce development, small-business growth and development, and strategic neighborhood development—and if we can be effective across all four of those work streams, and realize that all four of them are critically important in order to grow the economy, in order to enhance the economic security

Biz: On that front, post-Katrina, there's definitely areas that have not rebounded in the way that the rest of our city has. And I'm assuming that's what you're talking about—spreading that a little further? QM: I agree with you. I would only phrase it slightly different. I believe everyone, if you sat objectively, has benefited postKatrina. I think when you start talking about relative benefit is when I think you begin to realize that while nothing is ever going to be 100%, if you're in Algiers or New Orleans East or Gentilly, you may feel that some of the amenities that were here pre-Katrina have not returned to your neighborhood. One of the things that we are very cognizant of today are some of the non-skill challenges, like public transportation, that prevent people from fully participating in the economy as they would like to. I am unapologetically optimistic about the future in New Orleans. We are on a undeniable, upward trajectory. Now it’s just about how we make sure that we get everybody on the field. I mean, I'm a big sports fan and I think for too long, New Orleans was playing 7 and 11 when we got to the field of economic play, and that we can't continue to do. I think everybody gets that.

New Orleans is sexysmart. We're never not going to be interesting. We're never not going to be fun. But trust and believe we are deadly serious about getting the business of business done.

Biz: When you say economic development reimagined, what are you talking about? QM: On January 1, 2018, we integrated the former network for economic opportunity, and we brought over greater capacity in talent and workforce development and in-place strategic neighborhood development. When that happened, that began sort of

54 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

of all New Orleanians, then that's really a different type of economic development.’ That's really reimagining what it means to do economic development. We're still unapologetically focused on attracting capital, financial human capital. We believe in the power of capitalism, we believe in the power of entrepreneurialism, but we are also in a city that's majority person of color and female and the entrepreneurial class has to reflect the demographics. We believe you can do that without compromising quality, without compromising adherence to free market principles. You just have to be much more creative about getting everybody on the table. Biz: What are some of the things NOLABA has been doing recently to bring different groups to the table? QM: We are doing things in each of our four work

streams. We had an event with NASA, rocketing new revenue; that was tremendously successful and really focused on two work streams —small business and business attraction/retention. NASA's presence at Michoud is one of those tremendous assets that I don't think that we have fully leveraged, and one of the things that we've dedicated ourselves to for the remainder of this calendar year and into the future is how to do that. We also just completed the second year of the New Orleans Health Innovators Challenge, which encourages digital health startups to bring their solutions to New Orleans. [This year’s winner, a California-based company called MedAux, has since said it is considering New Orleans as a headquarters.] Not only is doing an event like this good for diversifying our local economy, it's also good for just the life of our city. We lose a lot of productivity from the fact that people are not able to fully give their best selves at work because they're dealing with conditions that could be wholly treatable or monitored with advances in digital health and medical technology. So, not only does focusing on this area make good business sense, it makes good sense in changing people’s lives. Biz: There’s a lot of focus on big companies coming in, which is wonderful, but NOLABA also focuses a lot on small business. How big is small business? QM: Small business is the biggest single employment engine for the local economy. Most people employed in New Orleans are employed by smalland medium-sized businesses. Every Google, every DXC Technology, every Amazon started as a small business. So, if you want to be successful, if you want to have a thriving economy, if you want to have greater local spending, you have to be focused on small business. That doesn't mean that we're not going to go out and try to compete and try to get more DXC Technologys or more GE Digitals, we certainly are. But we believe that whether it's Lucid, whether its Taurus, whether it's Turbo Squid, whether it's, you know, Lawn Doctors; there are a lot of great businesses who are on the precipice of becoming $50, $100, $200, $300 million companies. We've got to make sure that we provide them with access to management expertise, financial capital, as well as market intelligence. And that's some of what we announced when we announced the Small Business Tool Boxes. It's not just a small business tool box, but it's a tool box of resources that could be beneficial a business of any size. Biz: Let's talk a little bit more about these Small Business Tool Boxes, which launched during your last annual meeting this past June. What types of things do they help with? QM: We have three free online tools. The first is the Business Insight Tool, which is a comprehensive

business information resource. We're one of only two American cities—the other is Seattle—that has a tool of this robustness and capability. The second tool is the Crescent City Biz Connector—a mapping tool that categorizes resources for services that help small businesses identify technical assistance providers appropriate for them. For instance, a small-business owner may be great at marketing, but not the best at financial book keeping. You may be great at customer service, but you may not be as fluent with how to go out and get new business. We want to make it easier for companies to find those technical assistance providers that can be most beneficial to them. The third tool is the Opportunity Portal. This tool helps entrepreneurs of color and women identify opportunities for procurement with the city's office of small business, including supplier diversity as well as procurement programs from Orleans Parish School Board, to the Port of New Orleans, to Woodward Design Build, to New Orleans and Co., to the Morial Convention Center, to companies like Entergy. It basically says, ‘Here's what you need to do in order to be ready to take advantage of these procurement opportunities.’ Essentially, if you can demystify the playbook of what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur, successful in the free market, then you can allow people to be incredibly competitive and thrive. Biz: When you spoke with us a few years ago, you said one of the biggest issues that New Orleans has is a perception problem. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Have things changed at all? QM: I think it's improved tremendously, but you know, perception lacks reality. I think perception is two-fold: there's external perception and there's selfperception. Externally, we have made strides in getting people to realize that New Orleans is business-friendly. We're open to business. We're committed to the free market. We're committed to making sure that's it’s an easy and open place for capital. And that matters for small businesses too—it's not just big companies that are looking for places that have business-friendly policies. I still think our biggest opportunity for improvement on perception, however, is with our self-perception. If you've ever sat next to a Texan on an airplane and you don't have on noise-canceling headphones, they're going to try to convince you to move to Texas. They just are evangelistic about the wonders of Texas. No knock against Texas, they have done a tremendous job, but we are a city that's given birth to jazz, to Creole cuisine. We are a city that has a wonderful time celebrating family, faith, spirituality. We have a vibrant entrepreneurial scene. We have a tremendous higher-ed community. I can't think of another city that has all of this and is also

walkable, where you don't have to sit in traffic for an hour and 15 minutes. New Orleanians are very humble, but there comes a point where you have to own and tell your own story. Each and every one of us has to be an ambassador for our city. Folks in Texas do it all the time. And you may say well, that's just corny, but there's tangible proof that Texans have said this so much that the rest of the world believes there's something magical happening in Texas. Look at the population trends. Look at the migration of capital to Texas and I'm not just talking about one part of Texas.

It is a part of the psyche. I think that we have to feel the same way and I think we will. I think increasingly we will. Biz: What is NOLABA doing in terms of battling this perception problem? QM: One of the things is that we’ve created something called the Economic Development Ambassadors Program, where we're providing information to folks so they feel more comfortable telling the full story of who we are as it relates to the economy and the opportunity that exists for people to realize their entrepreneurial dreams in this city.

Another thing we’re doing relates to something I like to say, and that is New Orleans is sexy-smart. We're never not going to be interesting. We're never not going to fun. But trust and believe we are deadly serious about getting the business of business done. On that note, New Orleans in the Center is a programming that we do with Aspen Institute—one of the most highly esteemed think tanks and thought leaders globally on multiple issues—where Aspen comes to New Orleans every year. Last year, they looked at the changing nature of work and what automation would mean toward the workplace of the future. Both local thought leaders and leaders from all over the world come and discuss these ideas and help us as a business alliance think about what this means for our work. We think that's just only a small way of sort of beginning to get people to see New Orleans in its full richness in 3D, rather than in sort of flat 2D image that we sometimes have nationally and internationally. Biz: Any final thoughts you’d like to share? QM: There are no silver bullets. You're not going to do a quick hit. You have to be about the business and about the grind and about sort of trying to move the needle forward day after day, month after month, year after year, generation after generation. I remember growing up when the state of North Carolina was just tobacco and maybe people went to the beach at Wilmington and Cape Hatteras. Now, it’s about financial institutions. It’s about the Research Triangle. It's about innovation. That started in 1959—60 years ago. You look at Nashville, Nashville has become a tremendous healthcare, IT and health mecca, but that work started in the ’70s. In New Orleans what we've been embarking on started you know when folks like Matt Wisdom at Turbo Squid and Patrick Comer of Lucid said, "Hey, we're going to grow a great technology company here in New Orleans." That started in the 2000s. It hasn't even been 20 years yet. But they have been at it, they weathered the storm and they inspired others to take a leap of faith. And I think that that's critically important— getting people to buy into something that's going to last across political administrations. We may not be the full beneficiaries, but it’s about getting people to understand the need for collective investment in our future. At NOLABA we think we can be an important voice, but certainly not the only voice, in help making that happen. / 55

The Xavier Way

Propelled by a centu old mission, Xav University of Louisia is ushering in the ne workforce—and putti a record number of bla students in medical scho By Topher Balfer

56 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

uryier ana ext ing ack ool.

The Xavier Way Propelled by a century-old mission, Xavier University of Louisiana is ushering in the next workforce and putting a record number of black students in medical school. By Topher Bal fer

“Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you won’t be here next year.” This legendary line was supposedly delivered by a Harvard law professor to his class of first-year students, and whether or not that mythos holds any ground in reality, the sentiment has lived on, echoing through introductory courses nationwide. It might have originated as a pessimistic adage meant to intimidate incoming students, or a warning about the dedication required to successfully navigate the impending workload. But it can also be seen as a peripheral reference to the retention crisis currently plaguing American colleges and universities, with first-year student retention percentages falling well into the 50s and 60s at some major institutions. Research shows that while poor student performance and coursework intensity certainly can be contributors to low retention, these are not the only factors. It’s just as common for students to leave school because of financial stress, lack of preparation from early education, or an imperfect fit with a learning environment that doesn’t meet their needs. That’s not a problem at Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Reynold Verret says that while there might be a decline in national retention

trends, the opposite is true at Xavier, where he has served as president since 2016.

Xavier’s first-to-second-year retention has climbed by 3%, and the size of incoming freshman classes

In fact, Verret says the key to creating a confident, qualified workforce—and consequently creating an engaged group of students who will return for a second year and further—lies in the century-old mission laid down by the school’s founder, St. Katharine Drexel, a philanthropist and nun who created what remains the only Catholic and Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the United States.

has grown by 20% year over year as of fall 2018—the school’s highest numbers in eight years. Even more impressive is Xavier’s role in putting the second-highest number of black students into medical school out of every undergraduate college in the country. According to career experts from, who measured employment rates for students 10 years from enrollment, 93.46 percent of Xavier graduates successfully enter

Louisiana’s workforce—a figure that exceeds all other universities in the state. Xavier’s efforts in workforce development reach back to the college’s inception. Xavier established the first college of pharmacy in Louisiana, even at a time when its graduates couldn’t be licensed in this or any other Confederate state. It has consistently focused efforts on serving underprivileged minorities. And when damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita posed an existential threat to HBCUs along the Gulf South, Xavier leaders held a key role in organizing a coalition that worked with Congress and the US Department of Education to have $388 million in loans forgiven for affected HBCUs. Xavier graduates from all walks of life have served the local and national communities in significant ways—with notable alumni including Alexis Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Having a quality education is the fundamental element to creating a just world,” says Verret. “We send out our students with a service to our mission. True career preparation is about giving students the highest level of learning so that they are able to think deeply about complex issues.

The Saint That Started It All

In 1915, St. Katharine Drexel was approached by Archbishop James Blenk of New Orleans to discuss the lack of higher-education available to Catholic African-Americans. At the time, Drexel had already established The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which was committed

to the plight of Native Americans. The sisters had learned of the treatment of Native people in the West and, disturbed by the intentional denigration of their culture, hoped to empower them with education and faith. Drexel and her fellow nuns became equally passionate about

58 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

extending this care to former African slaves and their descendants, whom they felt were still suffering from the effects of commodification. Following a simple mission—to create a more just and humane society—Drexel purchased the former Southern University

building and surrounding properties, renaming the institution in honor of missionary St. Francis Xavier. To this day, Xavier remains the only American college to be founded by an Americanborn saint, and it is the United States’ only Catholic and Historically Black College or

University (HBCU). That’s not to say that students necessarily have to be Catholic—in fact, Xavier University President Dr. Reynold Verret says that to limit the student body to one religion or race would go against Drexel’s mission. “It was written by Mother Drexel that we will educate people,

of whatever faith or denomination, and we will minister to their spiritual improvement, but we will not proselytize,” he says. “That was her mission, and that’s what we continue to do.”

When they leave here, they will have high expectations of themselves and they won’t feel intimidated by any challenges that come before them because they've been challenged here already.”


Xavier’s growing numbers in enrollment and retention are the result of a multi-layered recruitment strategy that starts with sharing the story of the school and which is designed to result in the creation of confident and competent workers who will continue to give back to the community. The university reaches into markets including Maryland, Washington D.C. and Chicago to bring in prospective students of all ages. Recruiters target high schoolers with superlative achievements and focus additional efforts on black males—who, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, represent the demographic least likely to pursue higher education due to a lack of black male role models in K-12 public schools. Perhaps even more instrumental to the university’s growth is its acceptance of students that other colleges might turn away due to lower ACT and SAT scores. Dr. Verret says the school welcomes these applicants with the confidence that Xavier has the resources necessary to nurture and lead each one to success. The university’s updated Common Core curriculum has been tailored to encourage transfer students, especially those from community colleges. These new core standards make it easier for students to transfer existing credits, reducing the need for repeat classes or even repeat academic years. “Not every student that comes through our doors has received the education that he or she deserves,” says Dr. Verret. “Intentional work is being done to help entering students

Dr. C. Reynold Verret became president of Xavier University in July 2016 following a unanimous vote by the board of trustees. After immigrating from Haiti in 1963, he pursued extensive education, attending Columbia University for his undergraduate degree and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his doctorate in biochemistry. Verret also completed an MDP program in higher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. No stranger to leading HBCUs to success, Verret served as the provost and chief administration officer at Savannah State in Georgia before taking on his current role.

who may not have had the right precollegiate preparation. We welcome students that fit in a broad range of ACT and SAT scores, because it’s very often that expectations are tied to a numerical score. Some students have scores that would compete with the elite Ivies, then there are others in the lower percentiles, like the 18 to 20 range.” By creating an elaborate network of support, Xavier’s educators seek to initiate a shift in perspective: What a student might perceive as an insurmountable obstacle at another university is presented as an opportunity for self-growth at Xavier. “What sets us apart is engaging students,” Verret says. “The faculty and the associated staff are committed to these students because they may come in with different chinks in their armor. It’s important to us that they are not defeated by their first class in math, chemistry or whatever they take. Those introductory classes become an opportunity to discover those chinks in their armor, and we speak about what repair looks like and give them a path forward.” The path forward is key. Verret says that instead of setting its students on a linear career trajectory, Xavier grants them the freedom to carve their own way forward—even if that means they end up at a different destination than initially intended. “Our students are not just educated for a job,” he says. “They're really educated to shape a career. We could / 59

have a high-achieving chemist on the dean's list who chooses to go to law school. She's not following the traditional track of a chemist because her gifts call her to [do] something else. But what she's doing in chemistry will still serve her quite well. That is not unusual at Xavier. [Students] are educated to take on new and challenging roles, and that's the stuff that we contribute to the world.”

to establish the community as an educational destination. “Our students are helping to build the economy here,” he says. “There are Xavierites who graduate and remain to actually begin jobs and set up enterprises in this region. They are filling our schools. They are teachers and they are political leaders. There are Xavierites in government right here, like our mayor. They are an instrumental part of this community.”



In 2017, Xavier was named sixth in the nation for upward mobility, with the Equality of Opportunity Project reporting that 80 percent of the university’s graduates are able to advance from the bottom fifth of income distribution to the top three-fifths. Verret says this is part of the effort to make the city more equitable by creating a system in which individuals and families relocate to and remain in New Orleans, helping

When the Association of American Medical Colleges published its study of undergraduate institutions sending the most black applicants into medical school, only two Louisiana schools made the list. They were separated by 21 spots. At no. 23 was the Agricultural & Mechanical College at Louisiana State University, and at no. 2— outranked only by Howard University in Washington, D.C.—was Xavier University of Louisiana.

Released in October 2018, the AAMC’s study ranked each institution on total amount of medical school applicants, total amount of black or African-American applicants, and overall contribution to national percentages of black or AfricanAmerican applicants to medical schools in the United States. Of the 104 pre-med Xavier students applying for continued medical education, 91 of them were black—1.7% of the nation’s average. And while national trends show that the number of black males entering medical school—or even pursuing undergraduate education—continues to fall, Xavier pushes against that trend. AAMC data between 2013 and 2018 shows that Xavier is not only sending a substantial percentage of black students to medical school, but the university is producing a leading number of graduates. Only 11 other institutions came close to the 147 black students who attended Xavier and successfully completed medical school, outpacing several Ivy Leagues along the way.

“Historically black colleges continue to educate a significant number of the African leadership and talent in this country,” he says. “The AfricanAmerican community was deprived of much wealth, if you think about what happened in the ’30s and ’40s when the FHA excluded all African-American neighborhoods. Therefore, the value of African-American homes dramatically decreased, while the value of other homes in the country went sky high. That was intentional. So, there was a lot of wealth that did not come into these communities, and these schools do not have the same wealth of other schools in this country. “More than half of our students are Pell-eligible, which means that they are in the lower economic distribution of the United States,” he continues. “One of the great barriers to retention is a financial barrier. A small crisis in the family can become a financial disaster and could pull students out of school. It’s important to create resources for our talented need-based students to help them attend schools like Xavier, where they can accomplish great things. That's the challenge for us.”

xavier through the decades







The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (S.B.S.) are established by Katharine Drexel, who dedicated her life to working with Native Americans and AfricanAmericans. Drexel was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 2003.

Xavier founded as a college preparatory school by Katharine Drexel and S.B.S. in New Orleans on Magazine Street

College of Arts & Sciences established, creating the university

Graduate school established

Veterans return after World War II

Katharine Drexel dies

University moves to new campus on Palmetto St. (now Drexel Drive)

University widens academic options

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College of Pharmacy established Rev. Edward Brunner, S.S.J., serves as first president

Mother M. Agatha Ryan, S.B.S., begins 22-year tenure as president

Sr. Josephine Kennedy, S.B.S., begins 10-year tenure as president

On campus, the Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit provides an additional push in social impact. The Center is a public engagement endeavor by Xavier’s Division of Academic Affairs and is described as “a response to Xavier’s calling as a black and Catholic institution of higher learning.” Established in 2018, the center serves as a meeting ground for research and critical thinking on issues related to race, class and other oppressive systems. Such subjects include the K-12 public education system, environmental sustainability and criminal justice, with each topic being evaluated under both an academic and an ontological lens. “It's like this: The country is becoming more black and brown, and the majority of our talent are in places where we are not investing enough in education,” Verret says. “That talent will actually build our country and keep the United States a great nation. So, if we don't invest in the education of young minds and the K-12 pipeline, the country will be in a difficult place. When we build society, it's about building education in the early grades, and

making sure we get good results.” To that end, Xavier has implemented a doctoral program in educational leadership, an offering unique among other HBCUs. The three-year program is designed to train educators at the principal level and beyond, filling the need for effective leaders and role models in early education. That work is not just bolstered by Xavier itself—in June 2019, the university received a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation



First permanent residence halls, College of Pharmacy are built

Xavier introduces core curriculum

Sr. Maris Stella Ross, S.B.S., serves as president for three years S.B.S. order relinquish ownership to independent board of trustees (members of S.B.S. still serve on board) Dr. Norman C. Francis, a 1952 XU grad, named first lay president,begins 45-year tenure

Science complex constructed to accommodate influx of students majoring in the sciences Pope John Paul II addresses National Convocation at Xavier Surge in enrollment doubles student body Institute for Black Catholic Studies is established

to further hone the Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit’s efforts on racial equity and advancing community engagement. The university has also found a partner in Ochsner Health System, together launching a physician assistant program that earns graduates a master’s degree in health sciences and includes specialties like family medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine. Channeling efforts and resources in these directions, Verret says, is

1990s Library Resources Center and pharmacy addition constructed, giving Xavier a bold new presence in the city skyline, “Green Roofs” Xavier becomes leader in placement of African-Americans into medical school Living Learning Center, a contemporary co-ed living facility, replaces an old warehouse. Annex to science complex built

what’s currently necessary—these are what university leaders perceive as the greatest needs in the current societal framework. But that could change at any time, and he says Xavier will continue adapting in order to affect the greatest possible change. “Today, we know there are active needs in supporting K-12 education with great teachers,” Verret says. “In realizing the mission that was given to us by Mother Katharine, we’ll always be asking ourselves where a great Xavier education is needed. We will always be doing something that builds society. That is what drives our new programs, by finding the places where we can contribute significantly by educating students.” If all goes according to Verret’s plan, the university will be turning that Harvard professor's grim proverb on its head. Instead, a look to the left or right will reveal allies and supporters who will stand shoulderto-shoulder until graduation day, and together they will boldly lead a better and brighter workforce.



College of Arts & Sciences celebrates 75 years

Convocation Center and Annex are constructed

Katharine Drexel is canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II

Xavier Archway to campus completed

University Center and St. Martin Deporres Resident Hall are built Enrollment reaches all-time high of 4,100 Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans and Xavier campus in 2005 Xavier re-opens in 2006 Art Village opens

President Norman Francis retires after 45-year tenure Dr. C. Reynold Verret named president Xavier expands certificate, online, undergraduate and graduate offerings Xavier introduces new core curriculum Skyway over Washington Street Canal constructed

Tennis courts constructed / 61

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Geo Data specialist Fugro at work at the proposed LNG plant at Port Fourchon

From The Lens g re a t work s pa ce s

Room to Grow Real estate development and construction company Verdad’s new Warehouse District space features turn-of-the century architecture and location, location, location. by Melanie Warner Spencer photos by sara essex bradley

On April 25, 2019, real estate

development and construction company Verdad started moving into its sleek, new 8,200-square-foot Warehouse District offices at 201 St. Joseph St. Through its offices in Southlake, Texas; Denver, Colorado and New Orleans, Verdad serves the construction needs of a roster of highprofile, national clients including

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Popeye’s, Starbucks, Burger King, Taco Bell and 7-11. The company’s former space in the Lower Garden District housed the now 10-person New Orleans team for five years. The decision to move was two-fold. “As we started diversifying into new lines of business, we wanted to make sure we had the space to grow as needed,” says Joe Mann Jr.,

principal of Verdad. “In addition, we were presented the opportunity to invest in [a] building, which we felt was a great opportunity to own a piece of the evolving Warehouse District market.” For the new space, Verdad worked with Trapolin-Peer Architects, a firm known both for its work in new construction, as well as historic

renovation and restoration. The project included a two-story brick warehouse built in the early 1900s, as well as a connected five-story, mixed-use building with 2.5 floors devoted to parking. Verdad’s offices are on the second floor of the historic building. The interior is similar to the company’s former offices in terms of the industrial modern design, but

Verdad, a national real estate development and construction company, worked with Trapolin-Peer Architecture for the renovation of its 8,200-square-foot Warehouse District offices at 201 St. Joseph St. The two-story brick warehouse was built in the early 1900s and is connected to a new construction five-story, mixed-use building.

At A Glance

verdad Location

201 St Joseph St., Suite 200 Date of Opening

April 25, 2019 Size

8,200 square feet Number of Employees


Person in Charge

Joe Mann Jr., principal / 65

3,000 square feet larger, with more open workspace. It also boasts a few additional features and amenities. “We are still in the process of furnishing and decorating, but once complete, it will be an environment that lends to collaboration and a team approach,” says Mann. “The interior garage comes with covered reserved parking spaces, which is nice, and later this year, there are plans for a

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roof deck that will be an amenity for all tenants within the building.” Mann says that due to the company’s teams—which total 75 employees—being spread across three offices in three different states, one of the biggest challenges for Verdad is “cohesion and alignment across our footprint.” They combat these challenges by maintaining what Mann describes as a “team-

oriented and relentless… approach to performing for our partners.” “We are in the relationship business, and trust is paramount to our success, says Mann. “Our partner’s success is very personal to everyone on the Verdad team. Our culture is [also] extremely important to us and [we] have a work hard/play hard approach, supported by team effort both during and after work hours.

We are co-workers, but we are also family, and treat each other as such.” In the new space, wood beams and wood plank ceiling features soften exposed brick walls and polished concrete floors both visually and acoustically. Various meeting and office spaces are designed with glass doors and flooring tile in various shades of black, white and gray. Mann’s favorite aspects, however,

The space features wood beams and wood plank ceilings, exposed brick walls and polished concrete floors. Meeting and office spaces are designed with glass doors and flooring tile in various shades of black, white and gray. The company is still in the process of furnishing and decorating the offices.

are not surprising coming from a person who deals in real estate and construction. “The location in the Warehouse District and all of the activity that is happening around us,” says Mann. “Also, [I] love the age and the character of our building.” n / 67

From The Lens wh y didn ’ t i t hink of t h at ?

Doing the Dirty Work A first for the region, Schmelly’s Dirt Farm’s compost collection is rapidly expanding to serve local restaurants, hotels, farmers and growers.

Owner, founder and company administrator Nicola Krebill launched Schmelly’s Dirt Farm in 2014. A unique social enterprise, the organization provides farmers and gardeners with high-quality soil by composting waste from local businesses.

by Ashley McLellan photos by sara essex bradley

Nicola Krebill doesn’t mind getting

dirty. After years of boots-on-the-ground nonprofit work in Louisiana, Krebill saw the need to combine efforts with the New Orleans Food & Farm Network—which addresses the issue of food deserts and fresh-food access by establishing free backyard vegetable gardens—with the need for healthy soil for farmers and growers. The seed of Schmelly’s Dirt Farm was planted. Since its launch in 2014, the company has been picking up commercial food waste and compost, transforming it into rich composted soil, and then selling it to farms, growers and gardeners across the area. Krebill—who acts as owner, founder and administrator—and operations manager Susan Sakash, now helm a team of five part-time haulers who man the pick-up routes and perform on-site processing at the company’s headquarters in St. Bernard Parish. For the team, the inspiration to create and work at Schmelly’s is more than just a job, it’s about improving the community. “Growers know the benefits and importance of compost: It enables water and nutrient retention for healthier and more productive plants,” Sakash says. “Compost directly supports bioremediation, and is a way to clean toxic environments. Compost suppresses or stops erosion

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Did You Know? Sustainable materials management is defined by the EPA as “a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles.” (

and land loss, and compost collection and processing could build jobs. Nicola knew that if someone could start a local compost production company, growers could fill their empty garden beds and address crucial environmental issues facing Southern Louisiana.” As more attention is being paid to “sustainable materials management” over traditional “solid waste management” at both the local and national level, Schmelly’s Dirt Farm is on the forefront of finding new ways to create businesses that are profitable but also create much-needed

jobs at a fair wage while providing a valuable service for farmers and growers, and supporting the recycling and reuse of organic materials in a targeted way. “The cornerstones of our business philosophy are healthy soil and meaningful jobs, both of which support a healthy, vibrant community,” Krebill says. “For the past four years, we have been taking our time to build and offer waste-management services that never existed for businesses in New Orleans. Composting is also called ‘organics recycling,’ which describes exactly what we help our clients do: recycle organic

material. Since our start, Schmelly’s has diverted over4 million pounds of organic material from landfills and converted this material into healthy soil amendments for farmers and gardeners.” Schmelly’s compost pick-up list currently consists of 40 businesses from a range of commercial enterprises throughout Orleans and Jefferson parishes. This fall the company will be expanding its services to St. Bernard Parish. “Initially, we were mostly serving small businesses like restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores, but in the past year we’ve taken on bigger clients like hotels, offices and event venues,” says Sakash. “There is definitely a trend in the business community around sustainability and waste reduction goals, and we are excited that Schmelly’s can be part of the sustainability solution for area businesses.”

Pick-up fees vary from business to business, depending upon volume and frequency, and determining pricing has been a unique challenge for Krebill and Sakash, with Schmelly’s forging the way into unchartered business territory. “Our pricing is based on volume and frequency of pickup, while also factoring in transportation miles and other overhead costs,” Krebill says. “Starting a small composting company is literally starting an anomaly of a business: There’s nothing else like it.” For Schmelly’s, part of the job is to educate businesses and potential clients on several misconceptions about composting. “The two areas of concern we hear of most are that food scrap compost is extra work and that it’s smelly and attracts pests,” Krebill says. “These are issues that concern garbage in general, so I always try

What’s in a Name?

For this company, it’s a family thing. “Nicola’s greatgreat aunt, Elloise Schmelly, immigrated to the states with all of her possessions contained in two trunks,” says Susan Sakash, operations manager at Schmelly’s Dirt Farm. “She packed a crock pot full of worms and soil from her garden, rich with compost that had been made on her family’s farm for generations. To this day, billions of microorganisms thrive in our compost piles from the legacy of Aunt Ellie, continuing the decomposition and regeneration of life that has happened since the beginning of time.”

According to Krebill, Schmelly’s highquality, composted soil provides essential “water and nutrient retention for healthier and more productive plants.” Currently, the organization provides soil to community gardens and farms, but is in development for a retail product.

to highlight that the problem is not coming from compost, but rather poor material handling and being thoughtless about our waste. First, food loss and waste should be avoided at all costs. This happens through proper planning and careful management of our food resources.” Krebill has witnessed some great best practices by local grocery stores and restaurants to reduce their food loss, create efficient work practices around waste management, and improve waste separation and isolation therefore creating cleaner waste management areas. “Together we can make handling our waste lighter, cleaner, and much more sustainable,” Krebill says. While Schmelly’s does not currently provide compost pick-up to residential clients—it’s on the “to-do” list for the future—the company partners with the New Orleans Public Library and Compost N.O.W, which together provide a compost drop-off program at nine public library branches. After composting the materials, Schmelly’s provides enriched soil to community gardens and local farms. A retail product currently in development. “We’re hoping to begin offering Schmelly’s products in bulk and wholesale under trial contracts in the fall and a complete line of retail products in the spring of 2020,” says Sakash. This past April, Schmelly’s was awarded $40,000 in cash and over $43,000 of in-kind services by taking home the top prize at StartUp St. Bernard, a program of St Bernard Economic Development Fund (SBEDF) and the Meraux Foundation. The goal is to use the funds to increase the size and reach of the company. An expansion into St. Bernard Parish is expected to be underway later this summer. With the winnings, Schmelly’s is also hoping to tick off a few items from the company’s “wish list” of ideas. “The incredible in-kind services package is propelling conversations around developing a new organic waste MRF (materials recovery facility) in St. Bernard Parish,” says Sakash. “We have begun an initial feasibility analysis around a potential site. The cash award is being split between site development and equipment costs, hiring on a new part-time operations manager, and facilitated trainings around job safety and workplace diversity, equity and inclusiveness.” n / 69

From The Lens m a kin g a m atch: b us ine s s e s a nd nonprofi ts

Saving the Square The Congo Square Preservation Society invites you to move to the beat of their drums as they fight to preserve a sacred, historical New Orleans gem.

Every Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m., the Congo Square Preservation Society hosts informal drum circles at “Sundays at Congo Square” as a way to celebrate the cultural significance of this historical site.

by Pamela Marquis photos by cheryl gerber

“i like to go to Congo Square because I

always get to drum and take my shoes off and dance in a circle,” says Pinkie Harris, a 7-year-old student at Bricolage Academy. “The drums make my heart vibrate.” As a result of the efforts of the Congo Square Preservation Society, millions of people from all corners of the world have felt the impact of this spiritual place as they come to drum, dance, pray and honor their ancestors. Drumming Up Support

In 1989, Luther Gray, a revered local musician and founder of the bands Percussion Incorporated and Bamboula 2000, received a grant to provide drum workshops to the community. “We began offering drumming in Congo Square on Saturdays and it really caught on,” he says. “The Saturdays flew by and the grant was over, but we all wanted to continue our presence there. We also knew the park was in bad shape—there were hypodermic needles and trash everywhere —and we wanted to do something about that.” Along with other community members, Gray started The Congo Square Foundation, now known as The Congo Square Preservation Society, in 1989. The organization adopted the area through a Parks and Parkways program and became committed to cleaning it up.

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Did You Know?

Congo Square trivia Before the arrival of the French, the Houma Indians used the space for their annual corn harvest and considered it to be sacred grounds. In 1864, more than 20,000 people gathered in Congo Square to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, New Orleanians gathered there to commemorate President Lincoln after his assassination. The first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival took place in Congo Square in 1970.

Over the past three decades, the organization has done so much more than pick up trash. It has been the major catalyst in the resurrection and continuation of activities, advocacy and preservation of Congo Square, which, thanks to their efforts, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. “We didn’t own the property, so when we went to Baton Rouge, they told us we needed approval from the owner, the city of New Orleans,” Gray says. “Sidney Barthelemy was the mayor at the time,

and we had had no response from him until a story about our efforts ran in the Metro section of the Times-Picayune. We had his approval the very next day.” In coverage of the city’s tricentennial, noted that the site’s historic designation marked a triumph in the effort to acknowledge the vast and important cultural influence and contributions of African-Americans to New Orleans. Today, Congo Square serves as a meeting place and quasi village hall for many New Orleanians. It’s used for prayer vigils,


The Congo Square Preservation Society Mission

Preserve and foster respect for New Orleans’ indigenous traditions and historic places through cultural and educational programming. Undertake, support and promote research on Congo Square’s history and significance in the cultural and economic development of New Orleans and the world. CONTACT

900 N. Rampart Street (504) 410-5194 how to help

Purchase a membership:

Annual memberships are $25 for individuals, $50 for families and $100 for organizations. Benefits include discounts on Congo Square merchandise and events, invitations to special members-only events and vendor opportunities. Sponsor school field trips to Congo Square:

family gatherings, weddings, political demonstrations, music festivals and, of course, drumming. Every Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m., the society hosts informal drum circles at “Sundays at Congo Square” as a way to continue the traditions of so many years ago. “We usually have at least 20 drummers and many people bring their own drums and join us,” Gray says. “We also have drums we share.” “Congo Square is the one place in the city that welcomes all to drum and dance,”

The Faubourg Tremé Neighborhood Association recently awarded a $1,500 grant to offset the costs for four Tremé elementary schools to participate in the Congo Square Living Classroom Field Trips. The fee per student is $10. Come join the drumming on a Sunday!

says Alana Harris, program manager of New Orleans’ Office of Cultural Economy. “l frequent Congo Square to reconnect with my ancestors; The drumming is very healing and soothing when I’ve had a rough week. But more importantly, it’s a sacred place, sacred grounds that we must honor, protect and preserve as an homage to our ancestors.” At each session, as many as 150 to 200 people gather from all over the world to join in this experience. “Yesterday, we had people from such places as Ethiopia, New Zealand and Canada,” he says. “We are here every Sunday, unless it gets below 50 degrees or if there’s heavy rain.” preserving the past

the only meeting place in New Orleans where they could gather. “At times, as many as 600 slaves and free people of color congregated there, something unheard of in the rest of the country,” says Gray. “Also, the Spanish relaxed Code Noir and allowed slaves to set up markets, to sell and exchange items they had hand-made, gathered, grown or hunted.” Under the Spanish rule, all slaves were permitted to request contracts to purchase their own freedom and many used the money earned at Congo Square to do just that. “Congo Square is the birthplace of so much of our cultural history, from music to dance,” says Malik Bartholomew, owner of Know NOLA Tours, who brings visitors to the site three or four times Future plans a week. “It’s great to bring people here to connect them “We are looking into what can be done with those ancestral spirits. at the Municipal This is where African food, Auditorium,” says language, traditions, religions, Graves. “We are music and homemade drums, hoping part of it can be turned and other musical instruments, into a museum survived like almost nowhere honoring Congo else in the U.S.” Square. There’s

On a hot summer day, 10-yearold Winchester, a visitor from Atlanta, stands in the comforting shade of an ancient oak tree as he looks out over Congo Square. “This is where our ancestors once stood,” he says. “When I see those brick circles, I feel all the families that gathered here, and I think one of them so much rich drawing in the next generation might have been mine.” history here.” Beginning in the 18th century, Society launched its Congo on Sunday afternoons enslaved Square Living Classroom field-hands, domestic workers Field Trips. Designed for pre-K and free people of color gathered on a through college students, field trips are grassy square at the edge of the city known also open to tour groups, conventions, and as Place Congo. local businesses and other organizations. “Those who gathered there reflected the The 90-minute trips include a licensed population of enslaved Africans brought guided tour of the Louis Armstrong Root of Music Sculpture Garden followed by the to Louisiana,” says Denise Graves, administrator of the Congo Square Preservation Congo Square Drum and Dance Workshop. Society. “There were at least 18 different During these workshops, participants learn songs and dances and the history ethnic groups. The largest was from the Kongo-Angola region. There were also of the people who gathered in the square people from Haiti and Cuba and marrons starting in the 1700s. (runaway slaves living outside the city “We do 25 or 30 per year,” says Gray of limits) not only enjoying a day off but the field trips. “We would like to do more.” celebrating and preserving their respective Toward the end of the school year, the heritages and cultures.” Louisiana Department of Education holds standardized testing and classrooms with In 1724, Louisiana officials adopted the children who aren’t testing are required to Code Noir, or Black Code, a series of laws that, among other things, established be silent. The result is that many seek field Sundays as nonwork days for everyone trip options. During this time, Gray says in the colony, including enslaved Africans. the organization conducts multiple tours In 1817, Congo Square was designated as and see as many as 100 students a day. n / 71

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PUBLISHER’S NOTICE: All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Ace and the Louisiana Open Housing Act, which make it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. For more information, call the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-273-5718.

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From The Lens ON THE JOB

Digging In When it comes to creating a sustainable project, it all starts with the soil. The world’s leading Geo Data specialist, Fugro provides geotechnical, survey, subsea and geoscience services for clients— typically oil and gas, telecommunications cable and infrastructure companies—to help them construct

80 / Biz New Orleans / august 2019

buildings and infrastructure in a safe, cost effective and sustainable way. The company employs approximately 10,000 people in 65 countries, including through its offices in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Westlake, Louisiana.

Here, a marsh buggy-mounted drill rig is about to begin doing Geotechnical exploration and sampling at the site of the proposed LNG (liquified natural gas) plant at Port Fourchon. For more information, visit n