BIZ NEW ORLEANS / AUGUST 2020 / CADE BRUMLEY
A TA L E OF FOUR BUSINESSES
Hospitality challenges continue pg. 30
H O L LY W O O D MEETS H A N DWA S H I N G
A Slidell companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pivot pays off pg. 60
Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley
SCHOOLS PUT TO THE TEST COVID-1 9 CH ALLE NGE S NE W S TATE SUPE RINTE NDE NT
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
August VOLUME 06 ISSUE 11
FROM THE LENS
06 EDITOR’S NOTE 07 PUBLISHER’S NOTE
REAL ESTATE + CONSTRUCTION. . .......... 24
Local professionals battle with a new reality while remaining hopeful.
IN THE BIZ DINING........................... 14
Pepper Baumer’s road to become president of the Crystal Hot Sauce empire began at birth.
Substance abuse treatment providers battle increased demand during the pandemic.
TOURISM. . ...................... 16
DINING + ENTERTAINMENT......... 30
After providing emergency grants to over 4,780 workers, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation has moved to assisting with the pandemic’s long-term repercussions.
A look at the challenges of four different local dining and events businesses
WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................60
SPORTS .. ....................... 18
Even without the uncertainties of COVID-19, the Saints and Tigers look ahead to challenging seasons, including what could possibly be Brees’ last year. ENTREPRENEUR.......... 20
Is full-time workfrom-home really a sustainable option?
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
LookFar and Club Discovery make coworking extra cool in a creative space on St. Claude Avenue
GUEST. . ........................... 32
Looking to streamline your operations while saving some cash? There’s never been a better time to make a smart software investment.
A Slidell film special effects company has pivoted to create mobile handwashing units and business is pouring in. ON THE JOB..........................................................................64
No Cliffsnotes for COVID-19 New state superintendent of education crams for his biggest test yet — reopening schools
ON THE COVER Cade Brumley, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Portrait by Greg Miles
Should She Stay or Should She Go?
Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George
AND TO CONTINUE THIS (ALTERED) SONG LYRIC FROM THE CLASH,
“If she goes will it be trouble? If
she stays will it be double?” That’s been the gist of the discussion between my husband and I over the past month when it comes to whether to send our daughter back to school in August. Spring wasn’t fun, for anybody. I’m sure we were far from alone in those first few weeks spent trying to hold it together for our child, while struggling to explain in the gentlest way we could what was happening, which involved a lot of “Well, nobody knows.” At the same time, we were restructuring our own work, and, for me, that included adding teaching fourth grade in French — a language I don’t speak — to my daily list of things to do. Suffice it to say, when school ended for the year, nobody was sad, even knowing we were likely facing a long summer of no camps, trips or childcare. And now as I write this, one month away from when school is supposed to start up again, I’m anxious. We’re all anxious. This is understandable as anxiety is caused by uncertainty about the future and that’s all of us right now. More than anything I want to put my kid back in her uniform, pack up that kitty lunchbox and backpack and send her out to be a real student, and kid, again. I’m aching for her to reunite with her friends, run around the playground and hear French from real people again, not just cartoons on Netflix. I worry about her mental health, and that of all kids right now, but I also worry about the physical health of our whole society. It feels so wrong that those two things can’t be met with the same decision, but right now that’s likely the case. By the time this magazine comes out, hopefully a lot of questions will be answered about what school will look like, at least in the beginning, but that won’t stop the anxiety because this situation will still be far from over — and I will likely still be trying to teach math, at least part-time. To all the employers reading this who are remaining flexible in this time when parents need it most, I want to express my heartfelt thanks. The one thing that has been made clear is that the only way we’re going to get through this is by taking action to care for others in whatever way we can. Happy Reading,
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in mid July, we are forecasting and planning for the fall and end of the year, while also beginning to work on our plan for 2021. Last month, we began making adjustment to staff, office space and workflow in order to make our business more streamlined and efficient, as well as develop a more robust business plan. Like you, everything is being evaluated as we ask ourselves how we can work smarter and creatively execute new ideas to extend to our readers our awardwinning content. I’m proud to say we have now added podcast and video interviews in order to offer our readers a new way to hear and see the people making news in New Orleans. We have also revamped our websites, so I invite you to visit BizNewOrleans.com and MyNewOrleans.com to check out the latest and greatest in business, and life in general, here in Southeast Louisiana. For the most part, the teams at Renaissance Publishing continue to work from home and gather weekly on Zoom meetings to share ideas and update each other on workflow as we all endeavor to move forward together. Be safe, and hope to see you soon in person. Todd Matherne
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BIZ NEW ORLEANS
In The Biz BIZ COLUMNISTS SPEAK OUT
DINING Pepper Baumerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s road to
president of Crystal Hot Sauce
TOURISM Louisiana Hospitality Foundation
assisting with the pandemic long term
SPORTS Saints and Tigers look ahead to
ENTREPRENEUR Is full-time work-fromhome really a sustainable option?
IN THE BIZ DINING
A Crystal Clear Legacy Pepper Baumer’s road to become president of the Crystal Hot Sauce empire began at birth. BY POPPY TOOKER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E 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.
AT 31, PEPPER BAUMER MAY SEEM A LITTLE Martin shared the business financials with young to be at the helm of a near century-old him as Baumer learned the art of negotiation, company, but in the eyes of all who know silently sitting in on company conference him, he was the perfect choice when last calls. Every afternoon at 3 p.m., he and his fall he stepped up to become president of great-aunt Ella would pore through The Wall Baumer Foods. Street Journal together, discussing business His fitting moniker predates birth, when situations from every angle. “In essence, his grandmother, Dottie Brennan, decided I received the equivalent of an MBA at if her daughter, Brenne, and Al Baumer Jr. Commander’s, with Ti and great-aunt Ella were to have an Al III, she would call him serving as my professors,” Baumer said. “Pepper.” The predestination of Pepper’s But even as a small child, Baumer had name originated in 1923 when his paternal been quick to insist, “One day, I’m going to grandfather, Al Baumer Sr., purchased Mills be in the hot sauce business.” Fruit Products, a company chiefly known After two years at Commander’s, Al for snoball syrups. Within the company’s Baumer Jr. welcomed him into the family archives, however, Baumer Sr. discovered business. There, he would work alongside a formula for Crystal Pure Louisiana Hot many long-time employees of Baumer Foods. Sauce. It was a discovery that would change Al Jr. quickly informed his son that intellithe family’s destiny. That simple combination gence and a strong work ethic would not be of stone ground cayenne, vinegar and salt enough to make it in the family business. still dominates the company’s sales today. “You’ll have to earn their respect as a Al Baumer Jr. began working in the person,” he advised. family business at the tender age of 10. Soon Baumer Foods Vice President of after, his dad was cited by the U.S. Labor Operations Doug Wakefield and Vice Department, when an official spotted the President of Sales Michelle McDaniel attest precocious youngster working the company’s he’s done just that. switchboard. From running the production “You can tell a lot about people from their line to operating forklifts, loading railroad questions,” said Wakefield. “He asked a lot cars and even driving 18 wheelers, Al Jr. did of questions.” it all before assuming the reins at Baumer “He’s listened, learned and respected Foods in the 1980s. everyone’s position and years of experience,” Tragically, Pepper Baumer lost his mom, added McDaniel. Brenne, to a sudden heart attack in 2004. McDaniel said she has fond memories Baumer remembers the entire Brennan clan of Baumer as a toddler who would always providing support. “When I lost my mom, visit her desk for the strawberry jelly cookies I gained eight moms,” he said. Throughout she kept there. When teased about it back high school, countless time was spent with then, she’d say, “One day, he’s going to be cousins under the watchful gaze of the my boss!” The day he arrived to work at Brennan aunts and uncles. Baumer, McDaniel was ready with a bag of His closest advisor has been his aunt, Ti jelly cookies. Martin. After Baumer graduated with a Martin has high expectations of Baumer degree in restaurant and hospitality manage- Foods’ young president. ment from the University of Alabama, “I fully expect Pepper to be a force in his Martin recommended he intern at the Idea industry and in his city,” she said. “He has Village and with Mark Romig at the New the fire in his belly to push his business and Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp. to beloved brand, along with the heart to help learn about entrepreneurship and the city. and lead our community. He is one of my When he asked for a job at Commander’s life’s greatest joys.”n Palace, she warned him, “You’re starting at the bottom. You’ll be first in the dining room and the last out.” Eventually, Baumer’s hard work and enthusiasm were rewarded with a desk in Martin’s office. “He would work mornings with me and evenings in the restaurant,” she remembered. “Countless times, he would stand behind my Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, desk and say, ‘Question?’ He’s like a sponge, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and with remarkable intellectual curiosity.” Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.
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IN THE BI Z TOURISM
With a Little Help From My Friends After providing emergency grants to over 4,780 workers, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation has moved to assisting with the pandemic’s long-term repercussions. BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Post Office was significantly behind for an unknown amount of time. Now I’m managing the inquiries from people that said they haven’t gotten their check yet.” Kelley said many of those people have been evicted or had to move in with family members, both causing further delays in receiving their checks and showing how much help hospitality workers need. One crisis grant recipient shared her story anonymously. “When the schools closed down, I had to remove myself from the schedule to take care of my 5-year-old, then our dining room shut down days later,” the recipient said. “It’s been hard to deal with the stress and financial stress while trying to stay positive for your child and learning how to teach Pre-K without bursting into tears. Thanks to the grant, I can breathe a little easier, especially since schools have also shut down hot lunches for kids locally. We’ll get through this together.” Now that applications are closed for the COVID-19 crisis grants, the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation is continuing to support their stakeholders through more holistic means, directing people to the United Way’s weekly webinar series, “15 Minutes of FAME” (Financially-Aware, Motivated and Empowered Financial Capability) which provides individuals with the skills needed to keep finances healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar is conducted each Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT at facebook.com/ UnitedWaySELA, and recordings of past webinars are available online at unitedwaysela.org/15-minutes-fame. The foundation is also conducting a hospitality survey that has identified the ongoing needs of industry workers impacted by COVID-19. Just a few include child care, underemployment, mental health resources, healthcare, safety at work/fear of contracting the virus and legal assistance for evictions and bankruptcy. “When the Pandemic Response Fund gives out its last pennies, the need for help isn’t going away. So how do we transition? What’s next for Hospitality Cares?” asked Kelley. “We are pivoting to our non-pandemic work and that’s really where we are focusing now. The Crisis Grant Program is still the work of the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and is serving the non-COVID emergency needs of the industry.” To learn more or apply for a nonCOVID-19 related crisis grant, visit louisianahospitalityfoundation.org. n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E 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 BizNewOrleans.com.
IN 2019, NEW ORLEANS WELCOMED 19.75
million visitors, and it would not be a stretch to assume nearly every one of them ate in one of our renowned restaurants, or at least grabbed a late-night poor-boy at Verti Marte. Our cuisine is a major draw for tourists, whose loss has left hospitality industry workers financially crippled. One organization striving to help those workers is Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. A nonprofit that provides crisis funding to hospitality workers year-round, the foundation is specially qualified to step up in these challenging times. Louisiana Hospitality Foundation’s mission is to serve as a resource for hospitality workers, and as such provides workforce development, access to education and grants to workers in times of crisis to cover unexpected expenses like housefires, medical bills, high utility bills or funeral service assistance. When COVID-19 closures began impacting the income of those workers in March, the foundation partnered with United Way of Southeast Louisiana to create a Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund. The new fund was designed to provide immediate financial assistance in the form of $500 grants to those impacted by the pandemic. The program raised more than $2.4 million to support workers with living expenses such as housing, transportation, child care, health care, groceries and utilities. Jennifer Kelley, executive director of the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, said the funds donated originated from foundations, corporate gifts and individual donations. Third-party fundraisers from companies including New Orleans-based Neat Wines, which donated $1 from every bottle of wine it sold in Louisiana, and Dirty Coast, which donated a portion of its proceeds through its Screens For Good program, also contributed to the fund. “The need was a volume we’ve never dealt with before,” said Kelley in early July. “Over 6,700 applications were filed, and the program has funded 4,780 applicants to date. To keep the integrity of the program with that volume was a lot of work.” Applicants could file online or use the phone assistance service available by dialing 211. The foundation worked past challenges such as applicants who did not have access to online tools or bank accounts for direct deposit. “We struggled just to fulfill the awards,” said Kelley. “If we didn’t have someone’s direct deposit information, we had to issue a check and that check had to be mailed to the address on the application. The U.S.
IN THE BIZ SPORTS
Holding Out On Hope Even without the uncertainties of COVID-19, the Saints and Tigers look ahead to challenging seasons, including what could possibly be Drew Brees’ last year. BY CHRIS PRICE
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
dollars this year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bleeding will likely continue into the fall. Normally, this August column would focus on the excitement of the coming football season in Louisiana, but, as with all aspects of current life in the United States, we’re not in normal times. As some other nations have begun to reopen, the United States has been bogged down in superfluous political arguments over how best to deal with the medical emergency and its impact on our society. For months, Americans have been warned to take proper precautions in order to contain the disease and limit its devastating impacts. Somewhat tongue in cheek, the return of football has been dangled as the coming treat for good behavior. Now that we’re on the doorstep of the 2020 season, there is no certainty that life, much less football — at any level — will return as normal. There are too many variables that could impact players, coaches, teams, conferences and leagues. Ultimately, a balance must be reached between safety and the desire to return to normality. Unfortunately, there are more questions than applicable answers right now on how to do it safely. A surge in cases across the country last month, following a reduction in safety protocols, doesn’t bode well for those looking to football as an escape from the real-world problems that seem to be piling up around us. Because there is no established pathway to ensure safety, expect fall sports to be affected by COVID. I don’t see a way that teams and fans can go forward in the way that we’re used to. Sadly, I think audiences will be limited, if allowed to attend at all. There is also concern that some games could be eliminated in order to shorten schedules. Both will have a domino effect on teams’ bottom lines as ticket, merchandise and concessions sales are guaranteed to take a hit. That hit will extend to restaurants, hotels, attractions and shops that cater to fans and look forward to the football season’s economic impact. State and local governments will also be affected as the taxes usually collected on football-related spending will simply not be in play. There are also concerns about players, coaches, staff and officials contracting the disease and being forced to quarantine. If a team’s star player — say Kansas City’s $500-million-man, quarterback Patrick
Mahomes — is forced to sit out games, how will that impact his team and its hopes for success? Selfishly, I have been looking forward to seeing LSU raise its fourth National Championship banner above Tiger Stadium and seeing how they will respond to sending so many star players on to the NFL. Without fans in the stands, will Death Valley be the same? Or will a lack of support from the stands make the Tigers toothless when an emotional lift is needed? With this possibly being Drew Brees’ last season, I want to see him, and the Saints, come back from a third consecutive season-ending playoff disappointment and rise to the top of the NFL again. With Tom Brady’s surprise offseason move to Tampa Bay, previous backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater joining Carolina, and the enduring rivalry with the Atlanta Falcons, there will be heightened attention paid to the NFC South and its potential for drama. The NFL’s schedule makers are expecting a big season from the Saints. New Orleans has only five of their 16 games scheduled for the traditional noon start. Four of the team’s games are currently set for prime time. The remainder of their contests are set for Sunday afternoons, which often carry a national broadcast. The Saints are looking for their fourth consecutive NFC South championship. Because they’ve proven themselves as one of the league’s best teams, they’ve “earned” one of its hardest schedules. Even without the pandemic in play, it is set to be an arduous season. With it, there are many unknown variables that could impact the schedule and the teams. Assuming the Saints play a 16-game regular season, it may be tough for the team to post another 12-plus win season; however, I believe they’ve got the coaches and players in position to win the division again, qualify for the postseason, and make another push for a Super Bowl championship. With COVID-19, the 2020 season will be surely be one for the history books, and I believe the Saints have the opportunity to make it memorable for all the right reasons. n I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E 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 BizNewOrleans.com.
THE SPORTS WORLD HAS LOST BILLIONS OF
IN THE BIZ ENTREPRENEUR
Home Alone Is full-time work-from-home really a sustainable option? BY KEITH TWITCHELL
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
For some startups and smaller businesses, reducing or eliminating office costs is an attractive option. That said, there are many questions to be answered as this shift takes place. How does a company monitor employee productivity? If employees are using their own equipment and supplies (i.e., printer and paper), will they be reimbursed? How will this be tracked? Can employees who work at home claim certain tax deductions? If a small business becomes home-based but employees join the owner at his/her house to work, is this compliant with city codes? Both tax and land use regulations may need to be revisited to accommodate this new paradigm. Ultimately, Meyer anticipates “less density in the workplace, with people working in shifts or on alternate days.” She said she is confident in the long term that co-working spaces like hers will benefit from the fact that people will want to get out of their houses soon, and small businesses in particular will see the benefits of low-cost, full-amenity workspaces. While businesses continue to weather the challenges of the pandemic, the advantages of flexibility and cost reductions provided by options like a co-working space are substantial. How many will opt to take advantage of them remains to be seen. n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E 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 USED TO BE THAT OPENING UP A BRICK AND
mortar business was one of the first great milestones for an entrepreneur. Whether a shiny new shop or formal office, the act of securing a location made a statement that a fledgling endeavor had finally reached beyond the boundaries of its creator’s home to become a “real” endeavor. How things have changed. Even as pandemic restrictions are easing, companies large and small have begun making what has been a temporary workfrom-home situation into a permanent change, while others are reducing the number of days employees will be in the office. With everyone from law firms to tech firms to ad agencies shifting at least partially to home-based operations, what does this mean for the future of the office building? Recently I spoke about this with Pamela Meyer, community director of The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center. A co-working space, The Shop offers private offices, communal work areas, shared meeting rooms and other shared facilities. “Things are definitely changing,” Meyer said, adding that she feels virtually all types of businesses – including her own – are going to seek and implement considerably greater flexibility than existed pre-COVID. “People may not come into the office every day, but most need more than just what they can get from working at home,” she elaborated. “They need meeting space. They need to network. They want some social interaction.” Meyer said that since it’s only been a few months since the move to work from home, there is still a certain novelty to it for many people which may peter out as time goes on. “The productivity may not sustain after the crisis stage has passed,” she said. Meyer said The Shop is considering more options for its tenants, or members as they are referred to. One example may be offering access to meeting space on an as-needed basis. Another would be allowing two businesses to effectively share a membership, with people trading off days of working in the office space and at home. Even in more traditional offices and office buildings, more flexibility is going to be the hallmark for at least a while. Staggered shifts to reduce the number of employees in the office at any one time are now common. As noted above, many firms are allowing staff to work at home part-time.
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Perspectives HOT TOPICS IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA INDUSTRIES
REAL ESTATE+CONSTRUCTION Local professionals battle with a new reality while remaining hopeful
HEALTHCARE Substance abuse treatment providers struggle with increased demand during the pandemic
DINING+ENTERTAINMENT A look at the
challenges of four different local dining and events businesses
GUEST Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s never been a better
time to make a smart software investment
PERSPECTIVES RE AL ESTAT E+CONST RUC T ION
Delays and Uncertainties Plague Commercial Construction Local professionals battle with a new reality while remaining hopeful BY JAMES SEBASTIEN
WHEN THE SHUTDOWN WAS IMPLEMENTED,
many businesses reduced to skeleton crews in order to reduce social contact, but with the move to Phase 2 guidelines, commercial construction is among those industries that have ramped back up while enacting safety protocols. “We require masks except when people are in their own offices by themselves,” said Robert Wolfe, president and CEO at Robert Wolfe Construction, a commercial and residential construction company headquartered in Gretna. “The field practices the social distancing rules and we have been sending out information to educate our suppliers and subcontractors.” Some of the steps Wolfe has taken include changing schedules on jobs to ensure proper social distancing between crews and delaying crews around projects where there’s a high-risk population occupying space. Ryan Gootee, president and CEO of Ryan Gootee General Contractors, whose recent and current projects include The Sazerac House and the new headquarters of Fidelity Bank, said the firm has adopted similar new protocols and safety procedures based on guidelines issued by the CDC: “Safety is a part of our culture and this just created another layer,” he said. “In the office, we have implemented a rotation schedule to reduce the daily headcount and have allowed people to work from home whenever they want.” Still, the commercial construction sector has experienced many project delays and obstacles to obtaining materials, permits and inspections. Material scheduling — especially items manufactured outside of the state or
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
COVID-19 will hopefully be under control with effective treatments and vaccines sooner rather than later, but it will have long-lasting operational changes that we must be diligent about and monitor going forward. Ryan Gootee, president and CEO of Ryan Gootee General Contractors
country — and labor force scheduling are some of the major issues Wolfe said his team is currently dealing with. Commercial construction, Gootee explained, is tied to a wide variety of other industries. “Locally, the double hit to oil and gas, along with tourism, is obviously the biggest concern,” he said. “Oil and gas are trickledown economic drivers for us, but tourism is a direct link since hospitality is a large part of our portfolio.” Gootee said he has at least four projects on hold but is optimistic they will get back on track. Bryan Hodnett, partner and vice president of business development at DonahueFavret Contractors — a commercial general
contractor headquartered in Mandeville — said his company has also been experiencing slowdowns on projects in sectors like hospitality, retail and multifamily, but medical and institutional projects have remained strong throughout the pandemic. He noted that second-quarter business was down but is now beginning to pick back up again. Likewise, Chris Combs, owner of CM Combs Construction, another commercial general contractor whose notable projects include the completion of the Horatio Alger American Spirit Bridge for The National WWII Museum, remains hopeful. “In March, April and May, we saw a notable drop in the number of RFPs (request for proposals) advertised,” said Combs.
“June has been an improvement, and it looks like things may be improving in July, as well.” The future of RFPs, however, like the economy as a whole, remains uncertain. “We are seeing signs of increased competition and contractors taking on more risk to build up their backlog since no one truly knows what lies ahead and how long that uncertainty will last,” Gootee said. “The saying ‘Time will tell’ aptly applies to construction. We are a lagging industry. What happens today typically doesn’t present itself for several months down the road. Q3 and Q4 of 2020 will be interesting, to say the least.” A new nationwide surge in reported cases of Covid-19 cases as of mid-July has not helped. “As the second wave of COVID makes it through the country right now, there will be more uncertainty,” Hodnett said. “This will be challenging for the New Orleans economy because of the heavy reliance on tourism and hospitality.” “COVID-19 will hopefully be under control with effective treatments and vaccines sooner rather than later, but it will have long-lasting operational changes that we must be diligent about and monitor going forward,” Gootee added. “Estimates are anywhere from two to four years for the industry to rebound,” Hodnett said. “This will have a huge ripple effect on the ancillary businesses supporting and feeding off of the hospitality sector, as well as the availability of capital. We are hearing about banks tightening up on lending requirements, which will make the economic recovery rebound that much harder.” Hodnett added that despite the tough times he feels confident that activity will be strong by the end of the year, noting, “There is a significant amount of money on the sidelines waiting for the smoke to clear.” For now, many companies still remain busy, and hopeful. “We were fortunate to pick up two large projects during the COVID quarantine,” said Hodnett. “One was a large buildout for a medical client, which we completed in only a few weeks. Another is a historic renovation of a school building that we are just about to break ground on.” Robert Wolfe Construction is relying on diversification. “Because of our diverse nature (real estate brokerage, development work, and our commercial, residential and elevation divisions in construction) we always have projects in our pipeline,” said Wolfe. Gootee remains focused on his existing projects. “Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve started four projects and have three more that will kick off within the next month,” he said. “There are other projects that we are actively working on that won’t start until 2021, which is promising.” n
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Estimates are anywhere from two to four years for the industry to rebound. This will have a huge ripple effect on the ancillary businesses supporting and feeding off of the hospitality sector, as well as the availability of capital. Bryan Hodnett, partner and vice president of business development at DonahueFavret Contractors
PERSPECTIVES HE ALT HC ARE
From Bad to Worse Local substance abuse treatment providers battle increased demand during the pandemic. BY KEITH LORIA
AS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO
rage, its negative impacts on the economy and society — including rising rates of unemployment and evictions, loss of social interactions and disruption of social services — have also spurred substance use problems. According to a recent study by American Addiction Centers, the largest network of rehab facilities in the nation, out of 3,000 Louisianans who lost their job due to the pandemic, more than 1 in 3 (36%) admitted they have been drinking more than usual. This would come as no surprise to industry professionals like James Buras, director of business development for Covington Behavioral Health Hospital — a
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
provider of psychiatric inpatient and outpatient treatment for men and women with mental health conditions — who noted that the quarantine’s effects have raised levels of loneliness and depression in individuals regardless of their employment status. The result, he said, has been a spike in alcohol and drug use, as well as self-harm and suicidal behavior over the past months. “In the state of Louisiana, we have seen liquor sales go up 20% so far this year,” said Buras. “Those who may have used alcohol or drugs prior to COVID-19 as a stress reliever have now found themselves consuming larger quantities more often and not realizing they are becoming addicted.”
Louisiana was already home to one of the fastest-growing substance abuse problems in the United States. James Buras, director of business development for Covington Behavioral Health Hospital
Buras said this rise in consumption is only exacerbating what was already a serious problem. “Louisiana was already home to one of the fastest-growing substance abuse problems in the United States,” he said. “Year over year, we have seen a rise in addiction and treatment in adults and adolescents in the Greater New Orleans area.” About a month after the stayat-home order was first enforced, Covington Behavioral Health began to see a significant increase in admissions as hospital emergency rooms, now dealing with an influx of COVID-19 patients, were no longer able to accept psych or detox patients. COVID-19 reached beyond admissions, though. “The quarantine has created a massive expansion of telemedicine service across all medical fields,” he said. “Medical detox treatment requires patients to be in an inpatient setting for medical observation and treatment by a physician, so we have had to limit access to the facility to essential employees and put in place a strict COVID-19 screening process prior to admission to protect our patients. We have changed our visitation to a telehealth platform.” The hospital has also moved its intensive outpatient program (IOP) to a larger facility to allow for social distancing, as well as begun to offer IOP groups on telehealth platform for those individuals who don’t feel comfortable attending in person. Rochelle Head-Dunham, MD, executive and medical director for Metropolitan Human Services District — the local governance entity tasked with service delivery for persons suffering from addictive disorders — said MHSD has also made a big move to telehealth. Before COVID-19, the organization did not provide any services via telehealth. They now offer 70% of their care this way. Walk-in and face-to-face services are now reserved only for medication injections, physician emergency certificates (PECs) and physician determined urgent or emergent services. Head-Dunham said MHSD has not experienced a drastic shift in numbers of those seeking substance use services over the past few months, but she expects that to change.
“Roughly 17-20% of our services have been for substance use treatment per our historical data pre-COVID,” she said. “The 2020 third quarter (April-June) indicates 17% of the requests for services have been substance related. This time period also aligns with the roll out of our Suboxone office-based opioid treatment program. Numbers have been low and the rollout slow.” Nonetheless, she said she sees an increase in patients as “very likely, particularly since we plan to continue offering at least 50% of our services using the telehealth platform. Also, with the projected downward turn in the economy due to unemployment and withdrawal of federal stimulus support, coupled with the social unrest around racial issues, these stressors will likely compound the emotional impact.” Individuals with a history of mental illness and/or substance use issues are particularly vulnerable to increased stress. “Resiliency is very much the product of our ability to problem solve, exercise good judgement and avoid knee-jerk decisions,” said Head-Dunham. “These abilities are the function of a healthy prefrontal cortex. Without it, as in the case of a history of moderate to severe substance use disorders, even if abstinent, the brain can be hijacked by thoughts and environmental cues, compounded by high stress, to foster substance use to escape.” Patrick Waring, MD, founder of the Pain Intervention Center in Metairie, specializes in treating spine-related pain without opioids. His concern lies in addiction issues that can result from what he sees as turning to a quick fix for chronic pain. “Chronic pain is stressful and often leads to chronic anxiety,” Waring said. “If highquality interventional alternatives to opioids are not offered, not available, or perceived to be unavailable — as often was/is the case during this pandemic—then the easy solution of ‘writing a pain pill script’ is used too often by providers with the unfortunate result of opioid addiction.” Quarantining is a challenge to everyone’s resiliency and is one of the chief reasons why addiction is rising in the wake of the coronavirus. “The longer there is uncertainty in the future with COVID-19 quarantine, isolation, social distancing, testing and treatment,” Buras said, “the more likely we will continue to see a rise in people abusing substances to cope with the underlying anxiety and depression.” n
KNOW THE SIGNS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE According to American Addiction Centers, signs of substance abuse can include: Tremors Bloodshot eyes and constricted or dilated pupils General drowsiness during the workday or falling asleep on the job Being late to work Drop in job performance and increased errors Mood swings and angry outbursts Isolation and withdrawal from the team Forgetfulness and impaired concentration Panic attacks Paranoia
PERSPECTIVES DINING+EN T ERTAINMEN T
A Tale of Four Businesses A look at the current challenges faced by four different local dining and events businesses. BY JESSICA ROSGAARD
AS LOUISIANA EXPERIENCES VARIOUS PHASES
of reopening, the dining and entertainment industries are having to rethink how they do business. Part of the survival plan for the industry is learning how to shift gears. THE EVENT PLANNER
Susan Zackin is the owner, lead planner and creative director at Z Event Company, a luxury wedding and event planner. After all of her events for March and April were canceled, she decided to try something new. “In May we did a drive-in movie theater in Jefferson Parish and we showed the movie ‘Grease,’” Zackin said. “I just felt like we needed to entertain the community; everybody was ready to get out of their house.” Zackin said the ripple effect of the pandemic is felt at every level of hosting an event. “We presold a lot of the food for the movie event because vendors don’t have other events, so it’s not like they can just put leftover product in the inventory and sell it the next day,” she said. “It just presents whole new challenges of having this business at this time.” Zackin said another key to survival for her right now is flexibility. “The goal is to not cancel events, because at least you have some hope for revenue on the books,” she said. “And you don’t want to have to give back money, because that’s what really hurts everyone in this industry.” She added that her vendors have been more accommodating when it comes to changing event service dates without penalties. THE ENTREPRENEUR LAUNCHING TWO NEW RESTAURANTS
Opening a new restaurant is challenging enough during normal times, but Michael Gottlieb leveled up on that challenge when he opened The Anchor at Tchefuncte’s during Phase 2 of coronavirus reopening.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
With guest safety and staff safety being the most important components, we’re focusing on the dining experience and trying to make sure that we’ve got that really nailed down before we try to incorporate live music. Ivy Robinson, director of sales at BB King’s Blues Club
“We feel fortunate to be able to do this, especially during these times,” said Gottlieb, who serves as executive chef and director of operations at the restaurant and bar that opened June 26 on the riverfront in Madisonville. “We want to do the best practices. We want to be safe for everybody. We want everybody to feel comfortable when they come in and we want everybody to understand that we’re taking the steps necessary to make it a safe space for them.” Those necessary steps include single-use paper menus, sanitizing chairs and tables between guests and extra social distancing protocols. “If it’s supposed to be six feet between tables and 10 people; we’re going with 10 feet and eight people,” Gottlieb said. “The bar seats 30 people, and we only have eight barstools that are extremely well spread out. We’re taking it to the extreme.” While The Anchor at Tchefuncte’s has been operating at 50% occupancy for Phase
2, Gottlieb has been working on opening a second, much more upscale restaurant called Tchefuncte’s just above The Anchor. “We want to make sure it’s the best experience it can be when it opens, and it’s very difficult to do that while social distancing under the current criteria that we have to meet,” Gottlieb said. THE LOCAL FAVORITE EATERY STRUGGLING TO STAY THE SAME
Sala in Lakeview was closed for two months due to the coronavirus shutdown. When it came time to reopen the neighborhood spot, maintaining the familiar experience for customers was important for co-owner Joe Riccobono. “We still use linen napkins and real silverware instead of paper and plastic,” said Riccobono. “We use real menus instead of just printed out paper, we just sanitize them between each use. It was an important step to try to have that feel of being Sala — being the same place that people remember.”
PHOTOS: FACEBOOK.COM/SALALAKEVIEW; FACEBOOK.COM/THEANCHORMADISONVILLE
Sala opened at 25% capacity and increased to 50% as government regulations allowed. As of mid-July, the restaurant had brought back most of their dinner and brunch hours but was still not open for lunch. Riccobono said there have been a number of challenges with reopening, including supply chain issues. “In some cases, products that were a staple of our menu skyrocketed in price and we had to weigh whether we just temporarily remove those items, or in some cases I had to go up on prices,” he said. Ordering kitchen essentials has also been a challenge. “Not only are we operating on limited staff and limited hours, but so are all of our suppliers,” Riccobono said. “Even when it comes to being able to place orders – some of the salespeople I’ve been working with were furloughed, so I’m now dealing with their manager directly instead of the sales staff that would normally be doing calls that knew me, knew my place.” Deliveries, he added, are also more sporadic. “Companies have less business and fewer drivers, so they’re knocking it out and maybe finishing up their day by 1 p.m. and we don’t even open up till 3 p.m.” To handle the changes, Riccobono said he has been running back and forth to his restaurant to accept deliveries before his staff arrives. Having to do some extra juggling is worth it, said Riccobono, if he can accomplish his main goal. “I just want them to have the type of experience they were used to having, and the one that they actually came out for now — to feel back to normal.”
In May we did a drive-in movie theater in Jefferson Parish and we showed the movie ‘Grease.’ I just felt like we needed to entertain the community; everybody was ready to get out of their house.
to diners on September 1, at whatever capacity is allowed at that time. “We’re lucky to have a lot of space to use,” Robinson said. “We also have more of an open-air element in the sense that we can open up all of the windows and doors on the Decatur side. We’ve also got a French Market entrance, and we have a nice expansive balcony, so we can spread things out and make sure that everyone is comfortably distanced.” Robinson’s primary focus prior to COVID-19 was events — the location hosted convention, corporate and wedding rentals. Most of those have been canceled, but not all — and Robinson said she’s seen some interest in holiday bookings later in the year.
“I think our procedures are going to be changing a good bit certainly from what they were,” she said, “but, really, right now is just managing expectations and making sure our communication with the client and with the guests is very clear about what is expected so we can make sure that everybody is as safe as possible.” As for what the future looks like, Zackin, Gottlieb, Riccobono and Robinson all say they’re hopeful that business will eventually return to normal. In the meantime, flexibility is key — managing expectations, putting one foot in front of the other, and prioritizing safety for staff and customers. n
Susan Zackin, owner, lead planner and creative director at Z Event Company
THE MUSIC VENUE WAITING FOR THE MUSIC TO RETURN
The normal scene at BB King’s Blues Club includes live music, but the restaurant and entertainment venue on Decatur Street is still working on a plan to bring that back. “Right now, the live music piece is a pretty significant challenge because there’s not a lot of guidance around that element,” said Ivy Robinson, director of sales at BB King’s. “With guest safety and staff safety being the most important components, we’re focusing on the dining experience and trying to make sure that we’ve got that really nailed down before we try to incorporate live music.” BB King’s opted to extend their reopening timeline to better prepare their staff with a new set of standard operating procedures. The restaurant is planning to open its doors
(left) As of mid-July, Sala had brought back most of their dinner and brunch hours but was still not open for lunch. (right) The Anchor at Tchefuncte’s opened June 26 on the riverfront in Madisonville.
Now is the Time to Upgrade Your Software Looking to streamline your operations while saving some cash? There’s never been a better time to make a smart software investment. BY KYLE MALONE
AS BUSINESS PURCHASING HAS DROPPED,
software companies have continued to provide incentives in response to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The result is that businesses now have a unique opportunity to get some great deals on software designed to help with a wide variety of problems. Let’s look at a few of the most common challenges that have come about as a result of the pandemic along with the software opportunities out there to help. More information is available on all these subjects for free at Solugence.com.
WORKING FROM HOME
The tools have never been better or better priced to enable employees to work from home. VIRTUAL COLLABORATION
Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have ongoing promotions that allow businesses to use their collaboration tools for free, whether that be video conferencing, oneon-one video messaging, instant messaging or collaborating on documents, etc. The ability to maintain a high-level of communication is crucial right now, and current software makes it easy. PAYING THE BILLS
As much as we wish there weren’t, there are still bills that need to be paid. If your processes in a pre-COVID-19 world included opening mailed invoices or getting signatures and mailing checks, you likely ran into a few roadblocks with the stay-at-home orders — you are far from alone. As a result, accounts payable automation tool usage has skyrocketed, driven by the fact that these solutions typically enable remote processing, electronic signatures and electronic storage, which means little to no physical handling of bills or payments.
If cutting costs is a focus, it’s a good time to find savings on software. REPLACING / RE-NEGOTIATING SOFTWARE USING MARKETPLACES
Search engines and word of mouth aren’t the only way to find software solutions these days. Software marketplaces make finding pricing information, reviews and best-fit solutions incredibly easy compared to past
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
years. This is easily obtainable information to help you identify cost-cutting opportunities by re-negotiating your existing software and/or replacing it with something lower priced. MANAGING INVENTORY
“IoT” (internet of things) and machine learning are two terms that are far from new in the tech world, but accessing this type of technology for inventory management purposes has become increasingly easier. Now businesses can make decisions on the correct amount of inventory to maintain based on data available inside and outside of an organization, which can lead to less shrinkage, less downtime and lower costs. MANAGING WORK HOURS
Sticking to the theme of saving money by utilizing improved analytics tools for business operations, resource-scheduling software options have grown tremendously over the past few years and now include the ability to predict required work hours and utilization based on projects, jobs, available skillsets, skill development and much more.
Kyle Malone is a CPA and a business owner living in Madisonville. He recently launched Solugence, a company that helps businesses quickly find financial software that best fits their organization. For more information, visit Solugence.com.
CONSOLIDATING SOFTWARES WITH CLOUD ERP
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems contain modules, functionality and tools to accommodate many different aspects of an organization. With an ERP, accounting, operations, sales, inventory, marketing and HR can all be available under one “software umbrella,” thus bringing down the overall software costs for an organization while reducing integrations between systems and providing a system that is easier to maintain overall. The good news is, ERP systems on the market these days no longer require years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement. Cloud and SaaS (software as a service) software have changed the model and made ERP solutions available to organizations of all sizes.
If resources and time allow, now is the time to fast-forward your technology. I’ve seen discounts at the 50% level in some areas, with the opportunity to lock in that discount for extended periods of time. These lower prices yield a quicker ROI and result in long-term savings in both dollars and time spent on business processes. The opportunities are there. n
NO CLIFFSNOTES FOR COVID-19 N E W S TAT E S U P E R I N T E N D E N T O F E D U C AT I O N
34 BIZ NEW ORLEANS AUGUST 2020
CRAMS FOR HIS BIGGEST TEST YET â&#x20AC;&#x201D; REOPENING SCHOOLS.
BY RE BE CCA F RIE D M A N P O RTR AIT S BY G R EG M I L ES
DID YOU KNOW? LOUISIANAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OVERSEES 1,400 SCHOOLS, EDUCATING A TOTAL OF 716,416 PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
36 BIZ NEW ORLEANS AUGUST 2020
NE OF COVID-19’S MOST PUNISHING EFFECTS HAS BEEN ITS PROFOUND DISRUPTION TO SCHOOL SYSTEMS. Questions over how to ensure safe schooling have only multiplied since students left campuses in mid-March with no certainty about when they might return. Those closures brought an abrupt shift to remote learning that worked well for some, but not others. As parents suddenly added home-schooling to their list of responsibilities, educators fought to keep students engaged, including many without technology resources. As a new school year dawns, Louisiana’s recently appointed superintendent of education, Cade Brumley, is leading a massive operation to reopen schools across the state. In June — the same month Brumley joined the state department — the department released “Strong Start 2020: School Reopening Guidelines & Resources,” a road map for guiding districts through COVID-19 schooling scenarios. These guidelines include models for in-person, virtual and hybrid learning, as well as recommendations for face coverings, daily temperature checks and social distancing everywhere from school buses to classrooms. In an interview with Biz New Orleans, Brumley discussed the tough assignment of getting back to school safely.
What were the guiding principles behind the Strong Start 2020 recommendations? We released Strong Start 2020 after a ton of conversations with individuals who are experts on the virus — medical professionals — but also educators and school leaders who are experts on what it will look like to operationalize this guidance in a school system. The department of education in and of itself does not necessarily have the authority to mandate to local systems, but we do feel like everything in our plan is sound guidance for local school systems to follow. We believe our schools need to be in operation. Now, what that looks like will depend on the virus, so we wanted to craft guidance that gave systems the ability to know how to operate under the different phases that the state might be in. We wanted to avoid the political context around the virus but simply rely on what our trusted medical officials are saying about this virus and what we know about how to operationalize this on the ground in schools. I do think it's important that [Strong Start 2020] evolve because we're going to learn more about this virus. We are just making decisions in real time based on the information we have.
Recent surveys of parents, teachers and community members in Jefferson and Orleans parishes revealed differing opinions on the best models for reopening. Will individual districts shape their own models? I hope so. I've led a school system in north Louisiana [De Soto Parish] that was a smaller, more rural suburban system, and I've led Jefferson, which is the largest in the state in an urban setting in south Louisiana. They're different school systems. And I encourage systems to get feedback from their communities to make decisions. The survey in Jefferson [showed] the overwhelming majority of people want there to be school in congregate, whereas a similar survey in Orleans [asked for] more of a hybrid or online model for students. So, the system has to take into consideration the feelings and the opinions of the community in which they serve. Our guidance provides a roadmap… but local school systems are working to make good decisions.
LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY
BLACK ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED
HISPANIC MULITPLE RACE (NON-HISPANIC)
LOUISIANA PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT POPULATION
ASIAN AMERICAN INDIAN HAWAIIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER
Will schools offer before- or after-care options to help working parents?
The American Academy of Pediatrics put out a report last week basically encouraging school systems to go back to school. It talks about the various reasons why — the social experience, learning loss, just a ton of different reasons. So that's something that we looked at. Kids need to be in school for learning. Now, what school looks like — it could be in congregate form or hybrid or fully remote. It's going to depend on the local setting. But in Louisiana we have so many parents that have to go to a physical job. They don't have the luxury of saying, ‘OK, I'm going to stay home because my kids need to stay home.’ It's a real problem for many parents in our state if schools are not in operation in the normal way because if they can't go to work, then they're unable to meet the demands they have. So, we certainly have to consider that with any decision that we make.
That's going to be a local [decision]. But, it's important because the CARES money [federal aid to support schools through the pandemic] that school systems have already received can be utilized for before and after care, weekend programming, even summer programming. So, in Jefferson, for instance, I know that funds were set aside… to help provide for instructional recovery during the school year, which could include afterschool programs, weekend programs or the like.
Do you foresee a great need for instructional recovery, or catching students up academically? I've always been really concerned about summer learning loss. You have two months in the summer when kids aren't at school, and that has a negative impact on students. Sadly, it has a more significant
impact on students who can least tolerate that impact. So, when we think about this situation where basically you have a double summer, we can't be naive to think that there isn’t learning that needs to be recovered. But systems don't need to spend an entire year in remediation. I think you have to remediate as quickly as you can, but then at some point, you have to make the conscious decision to jump to content that is on grade level. Because if you don't by a certain point, then you're just perpetuating this continuous cycle of remediation where students are not on grade level. I think when school buildings were closed in March, you did see a wide variance in schools filling in gaps for kids and families. Some systems did that really well, others not as much, but I think that across the board, systems and educators learned a lot during the spring about how to do this in a better way. And I am confident, and frankly impressed, by a number of the innovative ways of thinking through education that I've seen over the last few weeks especially.
American Indian 4,418 (.61%) Asian 11,508 (1.61%) Black 305,377 (42.63%) Hispanic 59,975 (8.37%) Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander 630 (0.09%) White 313,911 (42.82%) Multiple Races (non-Hispanic) 20,597 (2.88%) 4.08% of Louisiana students have limited English proficiency 70.59% are economically disadvantaged
SOURCE: LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION STATISTICS AS OF FEB. 2020.
How does the pressure to let parents get back to work weigh on your decision making?
STATE PERFORMANCE SCORES 2018/2019
S TAT E L E T T E R G R A D E – B
DISTRICT PERFORMANCE STATEWIDE (70 TOTAL DISTRICTS):
A B C DF
Ascension, Cameron, Lafourche, Plaquemines, Vermilion, Vernon, West Feliciana, Zachary Community School District, Central Community School District
including Orleans and Jefferson parishes
Have districts made a greater effort to ensure that all students have access to technology needed for remote learning? Without a doubt. I think that we will probably be in a place where on the first day of school… three quarters of our students will be one-to-one [with access to an internet-ready device] in the state. I think you will see that number increase rapidly. Connectivity is a bit more of a challenge because some locations in the state — albeit very few — even if you could afford to connect, there's not an option to connect. I know that schools throughout the state have really prioritized this to make sure that they are oneto-one for all of their students.
38 BIZ NEW ORLEANS AUGUST 2020
The Strong Start 2020 plan strongly recommends mask-wearing for third grade and up (including teachers and staff). What has the response been to this recommendation? I mean, people have their thoughts and feelings around that, but I'm trying to base my opinion on what medical experts are telling me. And if you have a conversation with officials at the department of health or the experts at Ochsner or Children's Hospital, these individuals are going to strongly urge you to have students in a face covering. So again, while we recognize that this is a political flashpoint, at the same time, it's pretty clear for us. The medical experts are saying wear face coverings. So that's why we included that in a recommendation.
What happens if parents object? Do individual schools or districts have the power to enforce a mask policy?
SOURCE: LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – UPDATED 2/12/2020.
1 DISTRICT St. Helena Parish
I think you treat it like a school uniform decision. Local school systems have rules around the color of a shirt, or if shorts or blue jeans can be worn. I think you have to enforce it in those ways if you make the choice that you're mandating a face covering within your school system.
Prior to taking over this job you served as superintendent of schools in Jefferson Parish for two years. How did that role prepare you for this challenge? I think I came into this role with some degree of credibility in terms of managing COVID-19 because I had been managing it for three months in the largest school system in the state. We responded in Jefferson very aggressively and very early to concerns around COVID-19. I think we were one of the first systems, if not the first, to cancel field trips and assemblies. When the governor came in and closed school buildings on March 13, we took action immediately. Within a matter of a few days, we stood up online resources for every grade level, which included resources for diverse learners, students with exceptionalities, gifted and talented, and language learners. But we also printed probably near 100,000 paper-based learning packets for students who did not have a device or access. We loaned out nearly 5,000 Chromebooks to students. We served probably 1 million lunches curbside in a grab-and-go setting. We opened up a homework-help line in multiple languages. We opened a mental health call center for individuals to have a trained mental health professional hear their concerns. We did a lot in Jefferson in a short period of time in very uncharted territory, and I think we did a good job.
WE CAN’T BE NAIVE TO THINK THAT THERE ISN’T LEARNING THAT NEEDS TO BE RECOVERED, BUT SYSTEMS DON’T NEED TO SPEND AN ENTIRE YEAR IN REMEDIATION.
As father to two school-age children, have you experienced this educational upheaval on a personal level? Yep. I have two sons, and they attend public schools in Louisiana. So, every decision I'm making, I'm approaching it as a dad as well and thinking about how does this impact me? How does it impact my children? Because like every parent, I want my kids to be safe. But I also know, having had my boys home since the middle of March, it's going to do them, and us, a lot of good if they can go back to a physical school.
Once we reach the other side of this crisis, what do you hope Louisiana's educational system will have gained? Over this next year, we're going to see so many innovations develop, and I would encourage educators to keep their eyes and ears open for models that are developed for best practice and then steal those ideas and use them as their own because we're all learning so much right now about how to educate in a global health pandemic. Once we get beyond, or to some degree through COVID-19, there are some things that really matter to me. I think that early childhood education is the greatest educational challenge we'll face in our generation. I want to make sure that we do more to ensure that every child is on grade-level reading by the end of third grade. Studies will show a child who's not on grade level by the end of third grade is [many] times more likely to be a high school dropout. I think a renewed emphasis on career education, technical education, is important so that students are graduating from high school ready to go into a high-wage job. For students choosing the college route, this means looking at how we can expand dual enrollment options in our high schools that help make an authentic connection between our local colleges and universities and our high school students. So, as far as student outcomes, those are some things that really matter to me. In terms of workforce, we have to invest in building up the teacher profession and then building capacity within aspiring school and system leaders. I'm a Louisiana native, so I want nothing more than to see this state advance and to hear people talk about Louisiana in a new, more positive way, when we talk about educational outcomes. n
FINANCIAL EXPERTS SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES, GROWTH AND PASSION FOR THEIR INDUSTRY
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Jefferson Financial Federal Credit Union EQUAL HOUSING LENDER When the Jefferson Financial Federal Credit Union was first chartered in 1966, running from a second-floor office space above a local florist shop, its primary function was to serve the employees of the Jefferson Parish School System. Five decades later, the intervening years are marked with leaps and bounds that have further solidified Jefferson Financial’s role as an institution that exists to serve and advance the community. The member-owned, not-for-profit credit union is now comprised of more than 50,000 members across six Louisiana parishes and six Alabama counties, making it the third-largest credit union in the region. “The financial industry has been consolidating for over 30 years, but Jefferson Financial continues to be a significant, growth-oriented company dedicated to serving our members and educating others about the benefits of credit union membership,” says Mark Rosa, CEO. Members will find many of the same services offered by traditional banks, like online and mobile banking, auto and mortgage loans, VISA® Credit Cards and more, with notable benefits and assets that help to elevate Jefferson Financial’s membership value.
“One of the top perks of belonging to a credit union is that you have the opportunity to earn higher yields on savings and borrow money at lower financing rates,” Rosa explains. Since the institution is member owned, Jefferson Financial’s mission is supplemented by community action to give back to current and future members. They remain active in their support of several local non-profits, local governments and Chambers of Commerce, contributing resources and skills to ensure continued growth and prosperity for the communities they serve. In 50 more years, the credit union stands to be even greater than it is today, and while the specifics of technological and institutional advancements are impossible to predict, one thing is sure: Jefferson Financial will always be there to guide their members toward financial success. CONTACT 7701 Airline Drive · Metairie (504) 348-2424 jeffersonfinancial.org
Bienville Capital Group FINANCIAL PLANNING TEAM Financial success doesn’t happen by chance: it is the result of careful and deliberate action and decision making, which is why Bienville Capital Group(BCG) is committed to helping clients navigate the complexities of spending and investments. By helping individuals and businesses set a blueprint for long-term goals, they demonstrate that financial success instead becomes a choice, one backed up by expert action and resources. “Our focus is on the behavioral finance aspect of investing,” says Lead Partner Emmett G. Dupas III. “As humans, we are prone to making emotional decisions with our money and investments that can lead to inefficient outcomes. We believe conquering these behaviors plays a larger role in successful retirement planning than any other action.” An affiliate of Northwestern Mutual, BCG advises on more than 125 retirement plans with approximately 8,000 participants, in addition to working with 250 individual families on personal wealth management. The team’s tireless efforts have earned them industry accolades that demonstrate not only talent and proficiency, but serve as a testament to the results they’ve helped their clients achieve. PLANADVISER magazine has named Dupas one of the Top 100 Retirement Plan Advisers in the country six times, and he’s earned a spot in the New Orleans CityBusiness Money Maker Hall of Fame. Accolades aside, however, the BCG team remains motivated by one thing: transforming people’s lives and helping them shape stronger, brighter futures. “Helping participants in establishing their retirement goals and seeing them through it provides great satisfaction for our team. The passion 42
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comes from caring about who we work with in attaining their goals and objectives based on their risk tolerance,” Dupas says. “Our team takes great pleasure in helping individuals, as well as companies, and being able to impact people’s lives in such a positive way.”
TOP ROW: Cristin D. Hand – Director of Business Development; Emmett G. Dupas III – Lead Partner BOTTOM ROW: Dylan Hoon – Associate Partner; Mojdeh Efatian – Client Relations Manager; Shannon Navarro – Operations Manager
111 Veterans Mem Blvd., Suite 940 . Metairie . (504) 620-4801 . bienvillecapitalgroup.com Emmett G. Dupas III uses Bienville Capital Group as a marketing name for doing business as representatives of Northwestern Mutual. Bienville Capital Group is not a registered investment adviser, broker-dealer, insurance agency or federal savings bank. Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) (insurance) and its subsidiaries. Dupas III is an Insurance Agent of NM and a Registered Representative of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (securities), a subsidiary of NM, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser and member FINRA and SIPC.
Home Bank BUSINESS AND PERSONAL BANKING PROFESSIONALS Home Bank just celebrated its 112th anniversary, but the bank is anything but old fashioned. Through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic, Home Bank has not only remained strong and stable as an institution but has helped countless families and businesses plan, manage and grow their finances. Central to the bank’s culture are integrity, innovation and a commitment to service, and these values have become even more fundamental in recent months. Home Bank’s dedicated team made it their mission to help businesses minimize the impact of changing social protocols and operational regulations, working hand-in-hand with business owners to secure funding through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. “Our team of experienced bankers offer exceptional service and advice, and we’re there when it counts,” says John Zollinger, New Orleans Market President. “We understand the perspective of small business owners and the importance of finding solutions that make their lives better. With every loan funded, more jobs could be saved, layoffs avoided, and livelihoods sustained.” Additionally, the implementation of new technologies has allowed Home Bank to deliver essential services like online banking and account management to the palm of a customer’s hand. Digital resources like Zelle®
enable instant person-to-person payments and transfers, while Positive Pay protects businesses from check fraud. Bankers are even available to conduct free financial checkups, providing a comprehensive look at a customer’s financial situation to inform high-level, results-oriented decisions and investments. Home Bank continues to exemplify the highest standards of service, convenience and security for communities across South Louisiana and Western Mississippi. Their bankers are more than just trusted financial partners — they’re friends and neighbors who keep us moving forward, which is why they live by the motto, “Good for business. Good for life.” Jefferson Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony held on October 4, 2019 at Home Bank’s new Clearview Branch located at 1105 S. Clearview Parkway, Elmwood, LA 70121
CONTACT 1600 Veterans Blvd., Metairie (504) 834-1190 · home24bank.com
Keesler Federal Credit Union FEDERALLY INSURED BY NCUA As one of the largest credit unions in the Southeast, Keesler Federal Credit Union boasts a wide footprint and roots that run deep. The institution was started in 1947 with a shared vision to create a financial cooperative that benefits all members and puts people first. Now, with 40 branches and 250,000 members worldwide, that vision remains the same. “We want to be the leader in convenient banking,” says VP of Retail Operations Josh Brown. “Our goal is to reimagine and enhance the member experience.” To accomplish this, Keesler Federal has embraced innovation and constantly strives to refine and expand their technological offerings. The credit union has rolled out a new online and mobile platform that allows for 24/7 remote banking, equipped with credit score monitoring and financial wellness tools. For those members who still wish to visit a physical location, Keesler Federal continues to provide high-quality service with convenient appointments at each of its branches, including new locations in Mid-City and Metairie. Relationships always come first at Keesler Federal, both with its members and with the partners who help them revolutionize the member experience. Notably, the institution has partnered with Kasasa, an awardwinning financial technology and marketing services company, to offer high-interest, high-reward checking accounts.
“Financial institutions have embraced the use of digital transformation to aid in their quest to appeal to growing consumer expectations,” says Brown. “Utilizing fintechs and technology can help to further deepen the member relationship, and understanding consumer habits and creating an experience centered around the individual is critical to our financial institution’s success.” Success, for that matter, is what Keesler Federal aims to help every individual achieve. Whether saving, spending, or borrowing, they’re here to guide members toward financial well-being, because when you join Keesler Federal, you’re part of the family.
INTRODUCING OUR NEW METAIRIE BRANCH TEAM MEMBERS!
(PICTURED ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT): Sydnei Greenwood, Judy Chopin, Lorie Lund, Shantell Thomas, Tessa Anderson, Candace Williams, Jill Jennings, Diondra Robair
LOCATIONS IN MID-CITY AND METAIRIE
CONTACT 888-KEESLER (533-7537) kfcu.org
Metairie Bank MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER Since its founding in 1947, Metairie Bank has been more than just a trusted financial institution: it has been a trailblazer, marking several “firsts” that set the standard for regional banking and pushed the community to new and greater heights. As the first bank on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish, the company helped to establish Metairie as a self-sufficient township. Years later, it became the first bank in the area to have a website on the Internet. President & CEO Ron Samford says those achievements, and many others since, are part of a deliberate effort to stay abreast and ahead of innovations in banking technology. In fact, technology is just one crucial component of a larger mission to provide impeccable personal service and to foster community enrichment. Metairie Bank strives to give each person the tools and support they need to accomplish their financial goals with safety, security and ease. Their smartphone app features Mobile Xpress Deposit, allowing users to remotely deposit checks while cutting-edge security features protect data and financial information. Specialized card controls and alerts also make it easier than ever to manage and monitor transaction activity. Outside its own doors, Metairie Bank is committed to keeping the community vibrant. They offer financial and volunteer support to several local
nonprofits, including the mentoring program Each One Save One, Youth Service Bureau, Children’s Hospital, Monster Mash at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Jefferson SPCA and Jefferson Performing Arts Center. More recently, as part of the CARES Act in response to COVID-19, Metairie Bank originated 875 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $52 million to local small businesses, helping to save 6,500 jobs. “I’ve never been prouder of our bankers,” Ron Samford says. “That was more than a community enrichment effort — it was for community survival.” FRONT ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT): John LeBlanc, Marina Manzanares, Ron Samford, Victoria Picard, Paul Myers BACK ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT): Ronshawn Williams, Staci Bonura, Matthew Thomas, Scott Schellhaas, Mike Gennaro, Shonda Treaudo
CONTACT 3344 Metairie Road · Metairie (504) 834-6330 · metairiebank.com
Liberty Bank and Trust MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER At Liberty Bank and Trust, “Liberty” is more than just a name — it’s a mission. Cemented in 1972 by founders Dr. Norman C. Frances and Alden J. McDonald, Jr., Liberty Bank has helped countless individuals and businesses achieve financial freedom by providing services and resources largely dedicated toward supporting underserved communities in the Greater New Orleans area and beyond. Liberty Bank has blossomed from those humble roots into a full-service bank that encompasses a wide range of clients and industries across the country. Notable among them are financial and medical service professionals, owner-occupied real estate, churches, non-profit organizations and many more. Now with over $600 million in total assets, Liberty is the second largest African American-owned banking institute in the country. It has also seen tremendous growth in its commercial lending division, as part of the bank’s tireless efforts to invest in business and community development. “In Liberty Bank’s early days, commercial lending made up less than 10% of our loan portfolio,” says Matthew T. Sims, Senior Vice President. “With the growth in minority-owned businesses and a wider target market for our commercial lending products, our commercial lending portfolio is more than 60% of the bank’s overall loan portfolio today.” Liberty Bank maintains a strong online presence with convenient digital banking tools, ensuring that customers are supported even in
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areas without physical locations. And no matter how much the institution expands, it never strays from that original mission to uplift underserved individuals and communities. “While many of the larger financial institutions are getting away from local decision making, Liberty is proud of the fact that it keeps its loan decisions tied to the community where the request originates,” says Sims. “This allows us to respond to our clients in a timely fashion and to make decisions that are more informed with knowledge of the client and community we are serving.”
LEFT TO RIGHT: Matthew Sims, Senior Vice President; Ronald LeCompte, Senior Commercial Banking Officer; Terri Baptiste-Franklin, Vice President, Commercial Lending; Ronald Carrere, Vice President, Commercial Lending
CONTACT 6600 Plaza Drive . New Orleans (504) 240-5100 . libertybank.net
Thomas J. Exnicios, CPA, CGMA HANNIS T. BOURGEOIS, LLP
CONTACT 650 Poydras St., Suite 1200 New Orleans (504) 274-0200 · htbcpa.com
When a client comes to Tom Exnicios for their accounting needs, they can rest assured that they’re receiving the most comprehensive, experienced counsel available. Throughout his decades-long career, Exnicios has learned to approach complex financial decisions from every possible angle, combining the knowledge he’s garnered through his time as a public accountant, community banking executive and operations expert to find the most effective way forward. “My wealth of business knowledge, combined with a broad understanding of my client’s needs, position me as a trusted advisor and enable me to work with clients to obtain their goals and achieve financial success,” Exnicios says. “With
me, there is no distinction between ‘big and small’ clients when it comes to quality of service.” That determination, along with his knack for understanding and communicating with all types of people, have quickly propelled him through the ranks of Hannis T. Bourgeois, LLP. It all comes back to Exnicios’ self-proclaimed mission to “make our community a better place and inspire those who work with myself and our firm.” Never one to settle, Exnicios maintains a passion for growth and looks forward to innovation in technology and data analytics, which will further allow him to uphold his standard of excellence, even in an unsteady economic climate.
Celeste McDonald, CPA, CFSA POSTLETHWAITE & NETTERVILLE No matter what changes the financial industry or the world at large may undergo, Celeste McDonald’s mission always remains the same: “My primary focus is providing the highest level of quality client service possible, and serving as a business resource to help my clients achieve their goals.” As a Director in Postlethwaite & Netterville’s Accounting and Assurance Services Group, McDonald guides Greater New Orleans area companies of all sizes and industries through financial statement audits, compliance audits, and other services. Her every decision is informed by years of educational and professional experience, including roles as an external auditor, internal auditor, and business processes consultant.
That P&N has pivoted toward remote operations and digital tools is simply another learning opportunity for McDonald, who seeks to continually expand her breadth of knowledge and understanding in order to lead clients with confidence and assuredness. “Our firm has been at the forefront of assisting clients in a constantly-evolving business landscape. We have held various educational webinars related to accounting and auditing, compliance, remote work insights, economic relief programs and crisis management,” McDonald says. “New technology and opportunities for automation are improving our ability to analyze data more efficiently and effectively.” Change might be inevitable, but as for McDonald, she’ll always be there to meet it with an open mind and a helping hand.
CONTACT 1 Galleria Boulevard, Suite 2100 Metairie (504) 837-5990 . pncpa.com
BUS INE SS E S DI S CUSS TH EIR ROAD TO RECOV E R Y
UNPR ECEDENTED TI M ES CAL L FOR UNPR ECEDENTED M EASUR ES. As our city, our state and the world
adjust to ever-shifting standards of normalcy, businesses are finding innovative ways to adapt and position their teams for continued success. While the road to recovery may be paved with uncertainties and challenges unique to each industry, one thing is certain: New Orleans is no stranger to resiliency, and our professional community has all the expertise, prowess and determination needed to emerge stronger and more prosperous than ever. In this exclusive section, Biz New Orleans asked business leaders about their tactics for readjusting, working remotely and staying focused on their corporate missions during the historic COVID-19 pandemic.
A Clear er Path
S P ON S OR E D
B I Z F O R W A R D : T H E R OA D TO R E COV E R Y
R E A L E STAT E
Results, Not Excuses Even in the face of challenges, quality must never suffer
WHEN Y OU’ R E LOOK I NG FOR A NEW
home in New Orleans, you want a real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of the city, someone with a passion for the people and communities that make this a place like no other. Look no further than Stacie Carubba. A New Orleans native and a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy and Louisiana State University, she’s dedicated her life to helping families find the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood. In the way some people have an eye for art, Stacie has an eye for real estate. That should come as no surprise — she grew up working in her family’s civil engineering and construction business, which uniquely enables her to visualize every home’s potential from the moment she steps through the front door. Even in a pandemic, Stacie’s top priority is helping her clients find the home of their dreams, and she won’t stop until every one of those dreams becomes a reality. In what ways are you thriv ing and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19? I have always been forward thinking and have tried to carve my own path in the real estate industry when it comes to traditional practices of business. Virtual tours and appointments have been a staple in my business for years, but throughout the pandemic, I have refined my process to implement social distancing practices and
additional sanitation measures. Additionally, I have increased my level of communication and data reporting I provide to my clients in an effort to deliver a sense of comfort and security through detailed information. Now that Louisiana and the City of New Orleans have entered Phase 2 re-opening, the real estate industry is booming again. With interest rates at a historic low, it is a great time to buy or start an investment portfolio. It is also an advantageous time to sell because the available inventory is low in comparison to the amount of demand. How have you maintained a sense of company culture? Not too much has changed for me as far as working remotely. I’ve always worked from home, and most of my work is done at properties, meeting with clients and prospective buyers and sellers. I am self-employed and have one part-timer, Claire, working with me, and I just hired another team member last week. Throughout the pandemic, I wanted to maintain a sense of normalcy with Claire by continuing to grow and develop future plans and ideas while we had the “down” time during March and April. I also wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to maintain her salary and pay because she is a valuable asset to my team. Are there any lessons you have learned? Any new technology you’ ve embraced? The pandemic has taught me gratitude. Real estate is a very personal business built on lasting relationships and trust. Without those deep-rooted connections with my clients and colleagues, my business would not have been able to survive. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think the pandemic has taught me a lot about myself and what is important. Every day I wake up grateful for the opportunity to do what I love in my favorite city on earth. Real estate is more than a profession to me: it is a lifestyle.
Real estate is more than a profession to me: it is a lifestyle. STA CI E CA R U B B A TOP PRODUCING AGENT
ATHENA REAL ESTATE 118 W. HARRISON AVE. • STE. 301 • (504) 434-SOLD • STACIE@STACIECARUBBA.COM
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B I Z F O R W A R D : T H E R OA D TO R E COV E R Y
T E C H N O LO G Y
The Future of Frontline Defense Non-invasive temperature solutions help manage and mitigate risk.
CHANGI NG TI M ES CAL L FOR CHANGI NG
technologies, and as society adjusts to new standards of safety, DigiTHERM is helping to provide peace of mind with its innovative new products. The DigiTHERM Infrared Body Temperature Scanning Kiosk was created to serve a wide range of industries, including hospitality and education, in order to detect elevated body temperatures and protect against the spread of viruses. The touchless kiosks are simple to use, yet complex in their design: one at a time, employees and patrons are scanned by a handsfree, Level D medical grade thermal sensor. Any temperatures over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit trigger an alert, enabling employers, restaurants and venues to effectively and immediately detect potential hazards. In this way, DigiTHERM is leading the charge toward providing a sense of safety and security to businesses, organizations and educators nationwide. In what ways are you thriv ing and pushing forward as a business during COVID-19? We are pushing forward not in spite of COVID-19, but because of COVID-19. I had the virus in March and had time to think about how the industry I’ve worked in for 30 years, hospitality, will be affected. Temperature checking of convention attendees or corporate clients entering ballrooms for events was my first thought; festivals and concerts were my second thought. Because of that, and through research
of available technology, we began DigiTHERM as a tool to help not only venues, but also attendees feel a little safer knowing that at least no one around them has a high temperature. We understand that people can still have the virus and not have a high temperature, but felt that addressing those who do have a temperature would be the first line of defense. Are there any lessons you have learned? Any new technology you’ ve embraced? Through research and marketing, we have found that this technology not only works for the hospitality industry, but also for the medical community, law firms, retirement homes and, most importantly, educational institutions. We are now supporting several local high schools with temperature checking of students when they arrive for school. This allows for less staff to take hand-held temperatures of every student, saving time and money for the high schools. It also keeps the temperature takers socially distant from the students, and we have found that we can process around 15-20 students a minute. After manufacturing the kiosks locally, we had to address how restaurants and caterers would do contact tracing of all customers. For those restaurants that don’t take reservations, we created Safe-Trace, which is a fast, secure, cost-effective solution for businesses to collect patron information per city COVID-19 guidelines and utilize the data for future marketing initiatives. Do you anticipate your business w ill change in any way when the community opens back up? If so, how ? We do anticipate an increase in sales when the community opens back up because more people will come in contact with our infrared temperature scanning kiosks and become more comfortable with the process. The kiosks are there for their peace of mind and the establishment that they are entering. These kiosks are independent of each other and are not connected to Wi-Fi or the cloud. They are not storing names and information; they are merely taking your temperature hands free and non-invasively. This, along with wearing masks, is what our immediate and distant future will encompass. We are trying to make everyday operations easier, safer and more efficient for everyone involved.
We are trying to make everyday operations easier, safer and more efficient for everyone involved.
DAV I D R OM E CO-OWNER
DIGI-THERM 1461 N. CAUSEWAY BLVD. • STE. 13 • MANDEVILLE • (504) 233-2166 • DIGI-THERM.COM
B I Z F O R W A R D : T H E R OA D TO R E COV E R Y
CO N ST R U CT I O N
A People-First Approach Developing strong connections is the best way forward
CO N S T R U C T I O N P R OJ E C T S O F A N Y K I N D
are a major investment, so Mayer Building Company strives to provide reliable, high-quality service and expert guidance from the moment they meet a new client. Their capabilities span all aspects of commercial general contracting, retail construction, historic renovations, design/ build projects and more. The team’s years of collective experience and dedication ensure they can make any customer’s vision a reality on schedule, on budget and with no unexpected surprises along the way. Behind the scenes, Mayer Building Company boasts a supportive, unified work environment, which poised them for continued success even when COVID-19 disrupted traditional methods of meeting, collaborating and building. In the same way they tackle any project, Ryan D. Mayer and his team have set their sights on the future, moving onward and upward as they go. In what w ay s are you thriv ing and pushing for w ard as a business during COVID-19? In the early days of the pandemic, I made a list of goals for both myself and my company to focus on in the event we had downtime. As you can imagine, there was downtime. Among other things, I wanted to seek and obtain a new Mississippi license, OSHA 30 Hour professional certification, publish a couple of trade articles, maintain or try to maintain current staff levels, secure government assistance, increase my bonding capacity, tune up my online presence and newsletters, develop a new sales strategy to fit with the times, make charitable donations (even if minor), and spend most of my time focusing on people, not projects. I’d say the completion rate is at 85-90 percent. The net
result is that these accomplishments not only made me a stronger leader, but also allowed for deeper connections to my stakeholders. How hav e you maintained a sense of company culture? Along with the personal and professional objectives I identified, I asked my staff to cultivate their own goal lists for our company. I’ve also expressed to each and every one of them my gratitude for “sticking it out” with me. Our company culture is based on fairness above most everything, and during trying times, fairness always serves well. Other than that, we have been in the business of expressing gratitude to customers, trying to find out what will be helpful to them and accommodating those requests. Lastly, while the conventional construction technician doesn’t necessarily convey a “picture of health,” times like these helped us pay more attention to regular workaday best practices of hand washing, eating healthier and effectively using PPE. What has been your ex perience w ith the change to remote w ork ing? Administratively, we had a smooth transition, but unfortunately, actual construction work cannot be done remotely. We excelled at maintaining CDC guidelines at our job sites, and our work schedules were adjusted for limited crews or trade-by-trade mobilizations. Our owners were apprised of (and appreciated) this adjustment. At one time, we had a person call in with a fever, so we shut down the job for a recommended period, disinfected surfaces with a qualified vendor, re-mobilized and still managed to complete the job to the customer’s satisfaction. I’m particularly proud of how we handled that. Do you anticipate your business w ill change in any w ay when the community opens back up? If so, how ? I sure hope so. Change is good! I hope my staff is more tightly woven; I hope my subcontractors and vendors know I appreciate them; I hope my owners and design colleagues get a more robust sense of our customer advocacy. We’ve made some in-house promotions, and we set goals to participate in at least one additional staff volunteer day and one additional team-building day per year. More systematically, we’ve already streamlined our Bid Solicitation program and CRM, and we tuned up IT and online marketing. We hope to find a good, cheap cloud-based project management software by 2021.
During trying times, fairness always serves well.
RY AN D. MAYER OWNER
MAYER BUI LDI NG COMPANY 1000 NORTH BROAD STREET • NEW ORLEANS • (504) 315-8423 • MAYERBUILT.COM
B I Z F O R W A R D : T H E R OA D TO R E COV E R Y
G I F TS & R E TA I L
The Gift of Generosity Bringing people closer, one gift at a time.
W H AT STA R T E D W I T H A S I NG L E H A ND M A D E
fruit basket in 1995 soon blossomed into a thriving business that has shipped custom gift baskets — and lots of love and smiles — all over the world. From client gifts and employee recognition to birthdays and other special occasions, The Basketry’s dedicated team hand selects each item that goes into their specialty gift baskets, ensuring that they arrive with a touch of kindness, a sprinkle of creativity and a burst of magic. The concept is inspired by owner Kristi Brocato’s passion for giving gifts that are simultaneously beautiful, thoughtful and personal to both the giver and the recipient. Those same values have made The Basketry’s services even more important in recent months, as friends, families and businesses find new, socially-distant ways to show their gratitude. Luckily, building bridges and making connections come naturally to Brocato, so no matter what message or feeling someone wants to express, she’s got a basket worth a thousand words. In what w ay s are you thriv ing and pushing for w ard as a business during COVID-19? Since March, we have had record sales. While we lost almost $40K going into March, we had a huge order for virtual meeting gifts that helped make up for the loss. Since COVID-19, our customer base has grown along with our website sales. Our clients are sending more gifts to employees for working at home as well as for virtual meetings. During this time, I find our customers more generous and thoughtful. We are fortunate that we already had a great website along with a successful digital marketing strategy, but we have made quick changes in-house to adapt to the new times.
Any new technology you’ ve embraced? Our website chat feature, Podium, has been a game changer. Customers are able to communicate with us through our social media and website, which allows us to help them 24/7. Without this technology, we would rely strictly on phone and email, so this allows us to reach more people. Do you anticipate your business w ill change in any way when the community opens back up? If so, how ? I am hoping that our new customers remain loyal to us as other businesses open up. We go above and beyond to create the most beautiful gifts with exceptional service. We celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and that says a lot about the company and our team.
We go above and beyond K R I ST I B R O CATO OWNER
THE BASKETR Y 12337 HIGHWAY 90 • LULING • (504) 309-7935 • THEBASKETRY.COM
From our Biz team to yours, we thank all those for sharing your stories our readers over the last few months!
BIZ FORWARD B USI NE SS E S D I S CUSS T H EI R R OA D TO R ECOV ER Y
From The Lens SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA BUSINESS IN FULL COLOR
WORKSPACES LookFar and Club make coworking extra cool in a creative space on St. Claude Avenue
WHY DIDNâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T I THINK OF THAT A Slidell film special
effects company pivots to create mobile hand washing units
ON THE JOB Water scientists with Pontchartrain
FROM THE LENS GRE AT WORKSPACES
Culture Club LookFar and Club Discovery make coworking extra cool in a creative space on St. Claude Avenue BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
The coworking space Club Discovery (2831 St. Claude Ave.) gets its name from one of the nightclubs the building was home to in the late ’80s through the early 2000s. Many of the club’s original design elements were incorporated into the space.
CREATING A “COOL” CULTURE IS IMPORTANT Reade said. “You want a comfortable space, to Christopher Reade, president of the but you want it to have a vibe where people technology company LookFar and Club want to hang out there. The whole aesthetic Discovery coworking space. The St. Claude is designed around comfy and homey, even Avenue coworking space Club Discovery, though it’s cutting edge. The idea behind launched in 2018, got its name from one of that, which Google kind of pioneered, is to the nightclubs the building was home to in get people to never want to go home. There’s the late ’80s through the early 2000s. Many food, a pool table, a kitchen, a back deck and of the club’s original design elements were a back patio, a dance floor with a lounge area incorporated into the space. — all reasons to want to hang out.” “We are focused on entrepreneurship, The dance floor is one of the elements of small businesses, being tech forward and we the original design that Reade made sure to are also located in a cool, funky part of town,” keep in play during the extensive renova-
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tion of the circa-1890s building. He said the building was for the most part a shell, and every step of the process uncovered a new challenge. “For instance, on the dance floor, we preserved it and repaired it, but that meant we literally had to tear up every strip of the wood,” he said. “We had to put the subfloor in and then reinstall it. In the bathrooms on the second floor, the slab that that building is sitting on is just about 16 inches thick, which is significantly thicker than you would expect. While coring through that
The dance floor is one of the elements of the original design that Christopher Reade, president of the technology company LookFar and Club Discovery coworking space, made sure to keep in play during the extensive renovation of the circa-1890s building.
to run plumbing for the bathrooms we burned out four different blades. There was a lot of tough stuff to get through. There was nothing functioning in this building.” The project cost approximately $1 million and required working closely with the Historic District Landmarks Commission. “They were really nice and really helpful,” Reade said. “However, learning how to do that process — for example, they meet once per month, so if you find out you have to do something, you have to wait 30 days — was challenging. They gave us better suggestions. I originally had a gallery with poles down on the street and they suggested instead an awning and I think they were right. It was just the nature of the process was frustrating. It’s slow and it’s got a lot of rules.” As a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns, Reade said he rebated April rent payments to Club Discovery members and has been working with them as much as possible since that time. In mid-May however, he saw an increase in tour requests for the coworking space. “Around the end of July or beginning of August, we might be full again,” he said. “It has been surprising to me.” Reade started the company under a different moniker in 1995 and it has undergone a few iterations through the years,, as well as weathered Hurricane Katrina and more than one economic downturn. Navigating the pandemic and its uncertain business climate has brought about a new set of challenges, but Reade continues to work toward building a like-minded community. “One of the things we try to do, for example — and we had to stop this for COVID and I’m trying to figure out how to restart it — we bring in food on Thursdays for free,” Reade said. “We did Pizza Delicious, Red’s Chinese — always local. Food is a great way to get people to let their guard down. Everything we do is to try to cultivate a positive attitude and it’s contagious and either people stay away because that’s not what they are into or they align to it.” Allowing community to use the space for free, member programming, such as seminars, and, as Reade says, “through 100 different things and all of them cumulatively,” are in play to help promote a positive atmosphere for both LookFar employees and Club Discovery members. For now, like all business owners, Reade is focused on adapting to the uncertainty wrought by COVID-19. While pleasantly surprised by the uptick in membership and interest in membership, he attributes it to his philosophy, “There’s only one coin you can buy loyalty with, and that’s loyalty,” Reade said. “You have to be kind.” n
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
“You want a comfortable space, but you want it to have a vibe where people want to hang out there,” said Reade. “The whole aesthetic is designed around comfy and homey, even though it’s cutting-edge. The idea behind that, which Google kind of pioneered, is to get people to never want to go home. There’s food, a pool table, a kitchen, a back deck and a back patio, a dance floor with a lounge area — all reasons to want to hang out.”
AT A GLANCE BUSINESS NAME
LookFar and Club Discovery coworking space. LOCATION
2831 St. Claude Ave. #201. DESIGN
Floorplan/layout by Scott Ridder of Ridder Mayer; Lighting design by Kirsten Hanrahan; Interior by Christopher Reade, LookFar staff and Tim Clark of Rooster Construction. DATE OF OPENING
Original company, 1995; LookFar in its current iteration, 2015. Moved into current space in 2018. SIZE
Total 10,500 square feet; LookFar offices use about 4,000 square feet PERSON IN CHARGE
Christopher Reade, president; Hannah Giavotella, community manager of the coworking space Club Discovery.
FROM THE LENS WHY DIDN’ T I THINK OF THAT ?
Cleaning Up A local film special effects company has pivoted to create mobile handwashing units, and business is pouring in. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
W H E N C OV I D - 1 9 S T R U C K T H I S S P R I N G ,
Slidell residents Lisa and Matt Kutcher’s special effects company, Spectrum Effects — founded in Hollywood in 1993 with a move to New Orleans 11 years ago — was among the casualties. “Spectrum Effects was as busy as ever, working on six shows filming in Louisiana when COVID-19 struck the film industry and shut it all down,” said Lisa Kutcher.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
“My husband, Matt, literally can’t sit still. He decided a week into the shutdown to design and build mobile hand washing trailers. So along with our sons, [Matthew James and Zack], Matt went to work in the hopes of having a great final product to assist in getting the film industry and our community in general back up rolling.” On May 21, the Kutchers completed their first trailer inside their 14,000-square-foot
workshops, located on the northshore in Slidell. It took just three weeks to move from concept to the final product. More than just a family affair, the Kutchers were assisted by more than eight technicians in their new business venture, which they call Clean Hands Solutions. “My husband’s crew is a super loyal and talented group of guys,” she said. “And since they were out of work anyway due to the
This spring the Kutcher family pivoted from their film special effects company to launch Clean Hands Solutions with the goal of providing mobile handwashing stations to hospitals, events, productions and more in response to new COVID-19 health guidelines.
shutdown, they mainly volunteered their time to help get this up and running.” As of mid-June, Clean Hands Solutions had 22 Mobile Health Hub trailers, with more currently in production. The trailers are available with 10, 12 or 16 hand washing stations, and feature privacy partitions at each sink, stainless sinks and fixtures for easy sanitization. They can be configured for as many as 1,800 washes or for constant service to provide unlimited washes. It took 18 days for the original prototypes, and another eight weeks for five additional units. Each trailer, which takes up only the area of two parallel parking spaces, is equipped and ready to be shipped anywhere in the United States, and orders have already been streaming in. “Any business or event that will be interacting with a large number of people [will benefit from using Mobile Health Hubs],” Lisa Kutcher said. “We have had more requests than we can accommodate from producers in the film industry once
productions are given the green light to go, but to our surprise and delight, many other businesses in New Orleans and all over the U.S., actually, such as event planners, have reached out and requested our mobile handwashing trailers.” The cost to rent the trailers varies by the model and rental time, with weekly rentals, 10-week minimum rentals or 10-month minimal rentals available. The units are also available for purchase. Clean Hands has used the company’s special effects and film contacts to get the word out, as well as reaching out to wedding and event managers across the area and beyond. Several film productions have already placed deposits to reserve units when filming resumes. Clean Hands is currently in the process of expanding the model lines, innovating the trailers and fine-tuning the business to provide the safest hand washing experience. “We are in the process of designing and producing three- and four-station hand-
washing units,” Lisa Kutcher said. “The first line of defense against the spread of germs is hand washing. I know this for a fact, being a neuro-critical care nurse for over 20 years. Historically, our special effects team has been known as the ‘problem-solving guys,’ and we will continue to come up with practical and safe ways to assist our community in any way we can.” As Louisiana and the country move toward reopening, Kutcher noted that the businesses will continue with the times. “We are a family-owned and -operated business just as our special effects company is,” she said. “When the film industry returns, the Kutcher guys will get back to blowing up stuff on set and I will be running Clean Hands Solutions as my primary role. We can help hospitals during their high capacity times. We can help FEMA with rapid response. And when the Saints start, we will be at Championship Square supporting our Saints.” n
Each Mobile Health Hub is available in 10, 12 or 16 handwashing station sizes, and features safety partitions, stainless steel sinks and fixtures. All can accommodate 1,800 washes, or can be configured for unlimited handwashing service.
Our special effects team has been known as the ‘problemsolving guys’ and we will continue to come up with practical and safe ways to assist our community in any way we can. Lisa Kutcher, co-owner, Clean Hands Solutions
PUBLISHERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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 Generalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Office at 1-800-273-5718.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
FROM THE LENS ON THE JOB
Water Watchers Is it safe to go swimming or boating this weekend at Fontainebleau Beach? The Tchefuncte River? Pontchartrain Beach? Since August is National Water Quality Month, we thought we’d highlight the little-known work done every week to keep us safe. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
EVERY TUESDAY FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS, PONTCHARTRAIN
Conservancy (known as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation prior to a rebrand on June 24) has been sending water quality scientists out to 12 area recreational sites to take water samples that test the water for levels of bacteria, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature and turbidity (cloudiness). Results from the tests — like the one seen here being performed in July at Lake Pontchartrain by Water Quality Specialist John O’Donnell — are published every Friday on the conservancy’s website. Want to swim safe? Before you take a dip, take a look at ScienceForOurCoast.org. n