Biz New Orleans December 2020

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Back to School? Local colleges share their most popular programs P. 30



No Business Plan Required: Surprising tips from a local VC and startup coach P. 32






December VOLUME 07 ISSUE 03







Top tax advice for the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 REAL ESTATE + CONSTRUCTION. . .......... 26

Leading construction and architectural firms share what they’re working on now and their plans for the future

GREAT WORKSPACES.........................................................64

IN THE BIZ DINING........................... 14

L.H. Hayward is growing the family business for the future

EDUCATION.. .................. 30

Which higher education programs are most popular right now?

TOURISM. . ...................... 16

Business leaders share their tourism holiday wishes SPORTS .. ....................... 18

Sports betting, revenues coming to Louisiana ENTREPRENEUR.......... 20

Disadvantaged businesses are struggling for resources to survive

The new LABI Center for Free Enterprise in Baton Rouge offers space for collaboration, idea generation, relationship building, strategizing and just hanging out

GUEST. . ........................... 32

Do you really need an investor? How important is a formal business plan? Surprising tips from a local VC and entrepreneur coach.

WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................68


Looking to shop local without leaving the house? Welcome to My Hood Exchange. ON THE JOB..........................................................................72

Top 10 Business Stories in the Year of COVID-19

New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio is now one of only two teaching studios in the country to have an alternative glass blowing system designed for the age of COVID-19.

ON THE COVER Illustration by John Holcroft

Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot Associate News Editor Rich Collins Contributors Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jessica Rosgaard, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Melanie Warner Spencer, Jay Taffet, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell ADVERTISING Sales Manager Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Senior Account Executive Brennan Manale (504) 830-7298 Senior Account Executive Jessica Jaycox (504) 830-7255 RENAISSANCE PUBLISHING MARKETING Coordinator Abbie Dugruise PRODUCTION Manager Emily Andras Designer Rosa Balaguer CIRCULATION Subscriptions Jessica Armand Distribution John Holzer ADMINISTRATION Office Manager Mallary Wolfe Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231

2016 Bronze: Best Feature Layout 2017 Bronze: Best Daily Email 2017 Silver: Best Recurring Feature 2018 Gold: Most Improved Publication 2018 Silver: Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold: Best Recurring Feature 2019 Gold: Best Explanatory Journalism 2020 Silver: Best Recurring Feature

110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123 • Metairie, LA 70005 • (504) 828-1380 Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: one year $24.95, two year $39.95, three year $49.95—foreign rates vary call for pricing. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2020 Biz New Orleans. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the consent of the publisher. The trademark Biz New Orleans is registered. Biz New Orleans is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork, even if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in Biz New Orleans are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or owner.





Can It End Already? I’m sure you’ve seen the barage of memes (and T-shirts, and cups) rightly proclaiming this year to have been a… well, let’s say “challenging one.” Our esteemed Peter Ricchiuti expressed things very clearly and succinctly while being interviewed for our Top 10 Stories of the Year feature when he said, “COVID-19 has hurt the New Orleans economy worse than any city I can think of. The things we do so well —restaurants, festivals, hospitality, sports and even energy — have taken big hits.” Typically, our Top 10 would be where we mostly celebrate our region’s economic wins. Unfortunately, this year there were enough big challenges to easily fill every spot on the list. It’s been rough, and it still is, but in every area — whether its tourism, energy, hospitality, healthcare, or the array of small businesses that call this region home — we continue to fight. We continue to reach out with help, to innovate, to “Zoom,” to regroup, to brainstorm, to treat patients, to serve customers, to carry on the best we can. Stay tuned, because next month’s January issue is going to celebrate our region’s top executives who have been fighting that good fight, both for their own organizations and for others. I’d like to end this note in a positive way, with a suggestion for a unique and fun thing to do this holiday season. I recently discovered a local gem: New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio. During a scouting trip for our On the Job image this month, instructor Zach LeBlanc was kind enough to entertain my daughter by helping her make a glass pumpkin. While seeing my child wield a blowtorch was a bit daunting at first, the excitement she obviously felt was enough to ensure the Singletarys will be back at the studio soon. Maybe we’ll make some glass snowmen, or some ornaments, or maybe make casts of our hands using sand and hot molten glass. There’s no shortage of ways to support this 40-year-old treasure of an institution right in our own backyard.

Don’t Miss These Recent Biz Talks Podcasts



UPDATE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE Ed Webb, CEO of the World Trade Center, shares the highlights of Louisiana International Trade Day, which included the release of a new business platform designed to help small- and mediumsized businesses succeed.


THE FATE OF THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY How long can our local favorites survive? Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, shares his thoughts on what changes are helping restaurants survive and why you don’t hear about restaurant bankruptcies.

Happy Holidays Y’all. See you in 2021.






What will the Dome look like following its $450 million facelift? Trey Trahan, CEO of Trahan Architects, the firm leading the renovations, shares what excites him most about the changes and what’s next for the No. 1 design firm in the nation.



focuses on the top stories of the year — a year we all want to put behind us and move forward. This month also includes our “Inside the Industry” profiles, where 14 businesses give us insight on their companies. Our inside profile at Renaissance Publishing this year would look like a roller coaster track. Right out of the gate in the first quarter we started the year fast. In addition to great success from our core titles, we published a playoff program for the Saints and launched Region magazine for GNO, Inc., which will return in 2021. Continuing with the roller coaster analogy, this would be the part of the track everyone fears, the part where the course is tremulous with turns and flips enough to make you sick, and it did. Lets just say the second quarter was tough. As we came out of June and prepared for the run to the finish, we had to regroup and scale our business for the second half and make sure we had a plan for third and fourth quarters that positioned us for success going into the new year. As we came through the twist and turns, I am so proud of the staff as they have shined so bright. They have launched new blogs, podcasts and video series, published a cookbook, developed new systems and technology to connect everyone and redesigned magazines. Their work this year has been incredible. As we prepare for 2021, I look forward to the days when we can host events and bring people together for networking and celebration, all while learning from this past year and making our company better. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Todd Matherne




Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager

(504) 830-7252

Brennan Manale

Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7298

Jessica Jaycox

Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7255







DINING L.H. Hayward is growing the

family business for the future

TOURISM Business leaders share their

tourism holiday wishes

SPORTS Sports betting, revenues

coming to Louisiana

ENTREPRENEUR Disadvantaged businesses are struggling for resources


All In The Family L.H. Hayward is growing the family business for the future BY POPPY TOOKER





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.

In 2013, the Fresina family sold the busiL.H. HAYWARD, THE COMPANY SYNONYMOUS with New Orleans’ favorite Camellia Brand ness to the Dagostino’s, another well-known red beans, is on the move. Recent years Baton Rouge Italian food purveyor. When have brought great geographic growth Hayward heard the story of the family busito Camellia as its high quality, packaged ness, which again, went up for sale, he felt beans moved onto grocery shelves nation- that just like L.H. Hayward, this was another wide. But while creating a strategic plan family business that is inherently “part of for the future, Vince Hayward, president who and what we’re all about in Louisiana. and CEO of the company founded by his There was no way I could stand by and let great-grandfather Lucius Hayward in 1923, that brand and tradition go away.” Visually, Dagostino pasta is stunning, began to look for expansion opportunities with spaghetti lengths usually only seen beyond the bean business. Hayward’s first acquisition escaped the imported from Italy. Its full, 15-inch pasta notice of most. Those not directly working allows for both dramatic presentations in restaurant and institutional food service and fun, slurping opportunities. There businesses may never have heard of Gulf are 17 different varieties, many rarely seen Coast Blenders, a local seasoning company. on American grocery shelves — like Elena, Founded by C. J. Gallo, catering directly to the width of a fettuccine noodle with a sexy restaurants and institutional food service, ruffled edge reminiscent of lasagna. A feature of handmade pasta is its slightly this high touch operation often involves safeguarding chefs’ trademarked recipes rougher texture, which allows sauce to cling while custom blending them in quantities better. Dagostino’s award-winning sauce to guarantee flavor consistency in multiple adds even more authenticity to a spaghetti dinner. With a bright, fresh flavor, made with restaurant locations. Hayward’s acquisition approach may seem two specific varieties of vine-ripened tomaunconventional to those who strictly judge toes and field fresh basil, the sauce is offered opportunity by a P&L. “It’s all about trust in two styles: pezzo (chunky) and levigato and relationship building,” Hayward said. (smooth). “All made without using any ingre“Camellia Brand had done business with C. dients you can’t pronounce,” Hayward said J. in the past. When I heard he was ready with a chuckle. When it comes to new product developto retire, it seemed there was an opportunity there. Both Camellia and Gulf Coast ment, Hayward and his team have added a Blenders have an equal focus on quality particular touch of local whimsy. Crafted with a commitment to meet the needs and from the same, time-honored ingredients, demands of our consumers. For almost 40 Dagostino’s line now includes alligator, crawyears, they carved out a great reputation in fish and fleur-de-lis-shaped pastas perfect for tucking into Christmas stockings and the community we share.” Two years later, the acquisition has been a adding an emblematic Louisiana touch to success. Local clients like Drago’s, Reginelli’s family holiday casseroles. Reflecting on the responsibility he bears and New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company depend on Gulf Coast Blenders’ as head of the family business, Hayward service, while businesses like The Boiling said, “I couldn’t ask for a better job in life. Crab, a California-based operation, rely on I’m enjoying the journey of being a citizen the taste authenticity this New Orleans based of New Orleans and part of the fabric that makes up the community and the culture. company provides. L. H. Hayward’s most recent portfolio It’s my intent to make L.H. Hayward sustainaddition was again guided as much by heart able for the future and that it never makes as by head. The Fresina Family Macaroni the list of ‘ain’t there no more!’”n Company, founded in New Orleans in 1926 by Sicilian immigrants, produced pasta exactly as it had been done for centuries in Sicily. Eventually, the family business moved to Baton Rouge, where they continued to produce pasta in the traditional way. Created with only semolina flour and water, their Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, pasta is entirely handmade before being “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and hung to dry on rods in a wooden cellar. Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.




Maybe if We All Wish Hard Enough Business leaders share their tourism holiday wishes BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER

they come, they will safely support the hotels, in our lifetimes. While I am writing this, restaurants and bars of our great city. When Louisiana is still in Phase 3 COVID-19 leisure travel and conventions start to flow restrictions and I am researching local through the city more consistently, I believe companies that deliver gifts nationwide. I our hospitality workers will be back on the find myself wishing things were different and job doing what they do best!” looking forward to next year, when surely, Nic Clark, Owner, Civil War Tours of New things will be better. I think a lot of people probably feel the Orleans: same way, so I reached out to people in the “For Christmas, or my holiday wish, I would industry I have spoken with throughout like for the cruise industry in Louisiana to 2020 to ask them to share their “tourism open back up to full capacity, but even halfcapacity would be nice. I say this not only holiday wishes.” for the financial health of Civil War Tours of New Orleans, but for all the tour operators, Diane B. Lyons, CMP, DMCP, President, ACCENT New Orleans Inc., a DMC Network small businesses, towns and cities located Company: along the Mississippi River that provide “I am an optimist, always looking for oppor- services to the cruise lines. A single tour tunities, situations and most of the time boat pulling into port can make a massive finding them. I have adapted our events to difference for everyone both directly and better work with the needs of smaller groups. indirectly impacted by the guests who come We have created unique bespoke experi- and visit these communities that otherwise ences for the regional drive market, as well would not, if not for being on a cruise. And as staycation experiences that will continue with the oil and gas industry taking a beating in the post COVID-19 worlds. Our clients the way that they are, New Orleans and have asked us to create and connect them Louisiana need tourism now more than ever. with the local entertainment for virtual and hybrid meetings and fundraisers. Buddy Boe, cLED, CDME, Executive My Christmas wish is that we work Director, River Parishes Tourist together to think out of the box, to find Commission: creative ways to allow people to travel again “I hope when we each look back on our own soon. I wish that the tour, travel and hospi- 2020 journey, we are reminded that experitality industries in New Orleans and around ences, love and authenticity have always the world come back full force, like no one been and will be what matter as we move has ever seen! May we adapt and explore the forward. If so, 2021 will be strong for both new day and the new world of travel soon! tourism and our community.” Wear masks, wash your hands, avoid large Sarah Hester, Owner/Operator, Free groups and social distance.” T H I S I S A H O L I DAY S E A S O N U N L I K E A N Y

Tours By Foot:

“We offer a Creole Christmas tour every year I wish people knew about! But seriously, I wish more tourists knew there were other “My holiday wish for tourism is that our activities in Southeast Louisiana that do not hospitality industry, which includes thou- just include Bourbon Street and partying. I sands of people, along with our attractions, wish we could get back more tourists who hotels, restaurants, artists, musicians and enjoy culture, art, architecture and food.” those companies that support their work, share in a continued recovery and rebound, Emily Madero, President & CEO, French and have a safe and healthy year ahead for Quarter Festivals Inc.: “This year, our team is grateful to continue themselves, as well as for their families.” to deliver on our nonprofit mission by producing our virtual Holidays New Orleans Jennifer Kelley, Executive Director, Style Concert Series. It’s actually a wish come Louisiana Hospitality Foundation: “I wish that COVID-19 would vanish and true to continue to employ local musicians tourism would magically restart strong in and promote New Orleans culture during New Orleans on January 1, 2021. Of course, this challenging time! My holiday wish is that I know neither of these things is realistic, next year, when we’re together again, we can so my true desire is that people who are celebrate with a renewed sense of joy as well comfortable traveling will make plans to visit as appreciation for the extraordinary talent New Orleans sooner than later, and when and culture in our community.” n Mark Romig, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, New Orleans & Company:





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




Gaming on Games Sports betting, revenues coming to Louisiana BY CHRIS PRICE




Louisiana needs to raise all of the revenue it can without sticking a higher tax bill to the average citizen. Allowing sports betting won’t completely prevent it from crossing state lines, but it will keep a majority of it at home. In addition, it is likely to draw funds from Texas bettors who can’t wager in the Lone Star State. There is no doubt that many visitors in state on business and pleasure — especially during major sporting events regularly held in New Orleans, like the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship, the NCAA Final Four, Sugar Bowl and more — would take advantage of the opportunity to place a wager while they are in town. In addition, as experts say the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen over the winter, it must be taken into account that we don’t yet know the economic toll the virus will have on national and state governments, businesses and individuals. Shutdowns have been ongoing for nine months with no end in sight. Large businesses, like Shell, have announced closures. Hundreds if not thousands of small businesses have and will be affected, too. This will help the state and some businesses offset some of the losses endured during this time. Additionally, only those who participate will be taxed. Voter approval for sports betting this year follows Louisiana’s 2018 authorization to allow wagering on fantasy sports contests in 47 parishes. The Legislature set rules and tax rates for fantasy sports earlier this year and they are being reviewed by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. While Henry says he thinks sports betting could come as early as next year, Lt. Col. Mike Noel with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board believes it will be 2022 before all regulations are in place and a legal sports bet is made in the state. In the meantime, expect the state’s casinos to begin adding or renovating space to accommodate expected guests at their new sports books. n


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


hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to neighboring states, but legal sports betting is coming to Louisiana. In last month’s election, voters in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes approved sports betting within their borders, which could begin within two years. Statewide, the measure saw near two-to-one approval with 65% of the 1.3 million votes cast in favor. Locally, it received 76% of the vote in both Orleans and Jefferson parishes. While the bill did not have formal opposition, it wasn’t approved in nine parishes in north and central Louisiana. With voter approval, the state Legislature now needs to hammer out several details, including whether sports books will be restricted to physical locations or allowed online and how they will be taxed and regulated. Sports betting became legal on May 14, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that banned sports betting in most states. Since the law was reversed, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have joined Nevada — which allowed sports betting prior to the 1992 bill and was grandfathered in — in offering sports betting in some form. Seven states have approved sports betting but haven’t begun active operations, and six states have active bills on the issue. Mississippi and Arkansas started offering sports betting in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and many Louisianans have crossed the border to place a bet. Louisiana Wins, a 501(c)4 created “to educate voters on the importance of legalizing and taxing sports wagering,” said the state is losing as much as $330 million each year to Arkansas and Mississippi in legalized sports wagering. The organization promoted a state commissioned report by the Spectrum Gaming Group that suggests “Louisiana could generate between $237 million and $332 million in sports betting revenue annually.” “There is no need for Louisiana residents to drive to Mississippi to place a legal bet and have those revenues go to Mississippi,” said State Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, author and one of four sponsors of the Louisiana Sports Betting Parish Measures. “Clearly times have changed when it comes to sports wagering. People are going to do this. People are going to bet on sports events. This allows them to do it in Louisiana, and we can capture some of that revenue.” He’s right, and, while I’ve never been a gambler, I’m glad the measure has been approved.




DBEs Most At-Risk Right Now Disadvantaged businesses are struggling for resources to survive BY KEITH TWITCHELL





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.

ecosystem,” and it does not paint a pretty THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE THE HAPPIEST column you have ever read, but this is a picture. A quick summary from the accompaserious subject that needs to be understood nying press release: “The 2020 survey, which and addressed. I will do my best to find a few was expanded to more accurately reflect the city’s demographics, illustrates that Black, points of light along the way. We all know that in our region, the Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) pandemic has disproportionately impacted entrepreneurs in Greater New Orleans people of color, in terms of health outcomes, face clear inequities in accessing critical job losses, education issues and more. Now, resources to successfully grow their compaevidence is emerging that minority and nies. The report shows that startups with women entrepreneurs are being more BIPOC founders face important differences severely affected as well – and that situation in obtaining loans and investment funding was already deeply imbalanced before the and are less likely to have high revenue and profit margins compared with those founded coronavirus arrived. Estimates nationally are that 30% of by white entrepreneurs.” Among the key findings: small businesses will likely not survive the pandemic. Given how many of our • Angel investment was more than twice as likely to go to white-founded enterprises, businesses are tourism-dependent, that 23% compared to 11% of BIPOC firms. percentage will be higher locally. As one example, the Louisiana Restaurant • Bank loans had a similar disparity, at 16% to 8%. Association estimates that 30% to 40% of • 28% of white-owned startups took in local restaurants will not survive. revenues of $1 million or more, compared Restaurants are one sector where there is to 8% of BIPOC firms. a higher percentage of DBE (Disadvantaged To be clear, this data was compiled before Business Enterprise) ownership than average. One possible ray of hope specific to the the pandemic began. Given that many busirestaurant business locally was offered by nesses are currently seeking new capital, tourism industry leader Stephen Perry in an bridge loans and similar financing as they October Biz New Orleans interview, in which struggle to survive, it is fair to assume that Perry was explicit in stating that “those most the same disparities continue to impede able to survive are going to be the neighbor- DBEs. Indeed, per the PitchBook data, the inequity may be getting worse. hood restaurants.” In hopes of ending on a more positive By my observation, neighborhood restaurants are even more likely to be owned by note, I want to suggest that there are two women and people of color than the down- things that we everyday-type people can do town establishments, which include the large to improve this situation. First, challenge your bank. Ask to see restaurant groups like the Brennan family their data on business loans. If they are not and Emeril Lagasse. Access to entrepreneurial resources, most supporting local DBEs (and small businesses particularly funding, has long been a much in general), tell them you will take your greater challenge for female and minority accounts elsewhere if they do not provide entrepreneurs, and new data from PitchBook you with a specific plan for improving. shows that, specifically for women, venture Quick hint: Local banks tend to do much capital funding has regressed to 2017 better on this. Second, we all need to support all of levels. This is despite the fact that in the third quarter of 2020, overall VC funding our local businesses. Patronize your local has remained fairly stable compared to the restaurant, grocery store, hair salon, etc. – and make a little extra effort to visit those previous year. As always seems to be the case, the conse- owned by your neighbors who are women or quences of a crisis seem to be falling most people of color. Where we spend our money makes a difference. n heavily on those who are most vulnerable. This vulnerability is amply defined by a recently released study from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business. This is their second-annual “comprehensive overview of the region’s entrepreneurial



(504) 830-7252


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BANKING+FINANCE Top tax advice for the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021

REAL ESTATE+CONSTRUCTION Leading firms share what they’re working on now and their plans for the future

EDUCATION Higher education professionals share what programs are most popular right now

GUEST Do you really need an investor?

Surprising tips from a local VC and entrepreneur coach




Start early, plan ahead and be prepared for possible changes!


As the year-end approaches, it can be beneficial to plan this year and next at the same time to take advantage of certain strategies. If your situation has become more complicated, consider using a CPA to prepare your 2020 tax returns and to assist you into 2021. Begin looking for a CPA now to make sure they have ample time to prepare your returns.

Seek advice from your tax advisor and start planning now. Proposed tax policy should be considered in year-end planning discussions for 2020 to address whether it’s beneficial to reduce, defer or accelerate tax. Business owners need to assess 2020 profitability and cash flow to determine planning opportunities that could benefit them now or in 2021. Pay close attention to the due dates for making any necessary elections. Taxpayers in the higher brackets need to be prepared for tax rate increases and could benefit from reviewing investments and other revenue projections to see if there are opportunities to defer or accelerate tax.

The rules around COVID-19 issues have been constantly changing: Be prepared for that to continue. Working with a CPA to start planning now will help you be proactive and prepared to take advantage of anticipated changes.


What is your top tax advice for the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021?





My top tax advice for the end of 2020 is for taxpayers—especially those with businesses or individuals with complex tax issues—to speak with their tax advisor before the end of the year. There are things a taxpayer can do before the year ends to help improve their tax situation. There is no “one size fits all” approach to tax planning, so it’s important to meet with your tax advisor to discuss your situation and create a customized plan.

In general, the key is to defer income and accelerate expenses, which involves deciding when to purchase equipment, whether to enforce or delay collections and whether to pay expenses early.

After the CARES Act of December 2019, it may be prudent for people to consider converting Beneficiary IRAs to Roth IRAs given that the Stretch IRA has been largely discontinued. Given the volatility that we have seen in the market throughout this year, taxpayers may be able to take advantage of tax loss harvesting, realizing gains to offset any losses seen throughout the year. For those whose income decreased in 2020 such that they are now eligible to participate in a Roth IRA, it may be worthwhile to consider contributing retirement dollars there as opposed to a Traditional IRA. For 2021, we are keeping an eye out to see how the recent election will impact tax policy moving forward.

As we enter into 2021, I highly recommend starting the tax preparation process as early as possible. With all the new complex tax changes in effect for 2020, tax preparers will need additional information and time to complete 2020 tax returns.






For 2020, businesses should take advantage of CARES Act provisions such as loss carryback opportunities, full deduction of pass-through losses, and payroll tax credits and/or deferrals. Businesses also should think about timing of PPP loan forgiveness. They should also begin gathering 1099 information due in early 2021. Individuals should consider retirement withdrawals, increasing charitable contributions, and any personal losses that can be taken in 2020.




Staying Busy, and Hopeful

“The phone is ringing a lot,” Combs says. “There are a lot of people speculating, and some excitement building across a lot of prospective clients. There’s this anticipated flood into the market of projects to bid and money that’s just kind of been sitting on the side waiting for all of this to return to some sort of normal routine. The anticipation is that things are moving toward a more positive market for us.”

Leading construction and architectural firms share what they’re working on now and their plans for the future BY JESSICA ROSGAARD


including a renovation of the historic O.C. real estate and construction industries Haley School, and a renovation of the old appear to be closing out 2020 on a rebound Lighting, Inc. building on Tulane and and headed into 2021 with a positive outlook. Carrollton avenues. “It’s been a rollercoaster this year,” said “The owner has decided to restore the Melissa Rome, founding partner of Rome exterior to its 1920 appearance,” said Rome, Office, a full-service architecture firm. “which is really exciting because it was clad “Right when the pandemic hit, we had a lot in this stamped metal to make it look like of conceptual development work we were it’s a stone building, so we’re working on doing that kind of stopped dead in its tracks.” restoring that right now.” Rome added that projects already under For CM Combs Construction, based in construction kept going, noting that, “It’s Madisonville, the shutdown early this spring a detriment to all parties involved for came at a tough time. [them] to stop.” “We had a really good year last year (2019), Rome said having a variety of work has and a lot of the work wrapped up early in been key. “We like to keep things exciting, 2020,” said owner Chris Combs. “So right so we jump at the chance to do new types when we were attempting to load the boat of projects,” she said. again, the shutdown happened.” Currently, the company is working on two Fortunately, Combs says, few projects were park projects — a redesign of the George cancelled, but some were postponed. The Washington Carver Playground in New company currently has a number of projects Orleans, and BREC Airline Highway park in near completion, including a new kitchen for Baton Rouge, where Rome said the company the Alario Center in Westwego, the Audubon is “designing all of the architectural elements, Aquarium’s new shark tank touch pool exhibit, so there will likely be a kayak-launch and the canopy of peace above The WWII building with some rental space, a couple of museum, which Combs said will be finished educational pavilions, a maintenance lodge, before the end of the year. Longer term, the things like that.” company is working on a clinic for Enlighten Rome Office is also working on some Dental and new classrooms and a music low-income housing tax credit projects, building for Covington Elementary School.

After a tough spring, Kristian Sonnier said the phone is ringing at Ryan Gootee General Contractors. “We’re actually in growth mode, where back in March, I wouldn’t have said that,” Sonnier said. “We’re looking to hire people right now.” RG G C has a number of projects underway, ranging from historic commercial developments to luxury lifestyle apartment buildings. Projects include a historic renovation of the Fidelity Bank Building in the Central Business District, luxury condominiums on St. Charles Avenue at First Street, and a mixed-income multifamily development in the Bywater on Burgundy. RGGC is also transforming the former Norwegian Seamen’s Church on Prytania Street into a wellness center called the Santosa Center for Healthy Living. “It seems that there were a number of people who were planning to make capital improvements to their projects or invest in new projects pre-pandemic,” Sonnier said. “People who were well capitalized are taking this opportunity to double down on their investments and build, so we’re bullish moving beyond the pandemic.”






We’re actually in growth mode, where back in March I wouldn’t have said that. Kristian Sonnier, VP of communications and business development, Ryan Gootee General Contractors

One sector of the market that didn’t slow down this year is medical construction. Bryan Hodnett, vice president of business development at Donahue Favret Contractors, said an influx of federal money helped drive medical construction in Louisiana this year. “Last year, 73% of our projects were medical and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a similar number for this year,” Hodnett said. “With the technological advances that are happening in medical, you almost have to continuously evolve and continuously renovate your spaces to stay relevant. It’s a really competitive business out there.” Donahue Favret has done a lot of work for Thibodaux Regional Health System. Earlier





this year, the company built out a space for 30 ICU beds in 75 days — less than a third of the time it would typically take — in order to prepare for pandemic healthcare needs. “We’re excited about our relationship with Thibodaux Regional Health System; they’ve been expanding a ton,” said Hodnett. Woodward Design+Build is also doing a lot of business with the medical industry. They’ve wrapped up work on the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center expansion at Ochsner Medical Center and are looking ahead to projects that are just getting started, including an endoscopy center in Metairie, a surgery center in New Orleans, an urgent care facility and a pharmacy. Woodward Design+Build is also finishing up a mixed-use property, The Odeon at South Market. “It’s a 30-story building, the tallest building that’s been built in New Orleans in the last 30 years or so,” said Riley Kennedy, director of organizational development for the company. “Four stories of the building are dedicated to parking and retail, and then 26 stories of apartments.” Another big project for Woodward, set to be completed in May 2021, is the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, where the former World Trade Center building is located. SEEKING OUT NEW OPPORTUNITIES

The hospitality industry in New Orleans has taken a huge hit this year from the pandemic. Nick Moldaner, market leader at Palmisano — a commercial and civil contractor with a strong hospitality focus— said the company has expanded its reach. “There was somewhat of a pivot that we had to make,” he said. “There’s not much hospitality work on the books, so luckily we’ve been able to pick up a few housing projects that are going to help fill the gap.” Palmisano is finishing up a number of projects including The St. Vincent — a historic renovation of a boutique hotel in the Lower Garden District — the new Rouses Market on Freret Street, and a mixed-use, historic renovation at 623 Canal Street, a repurposing of an old building to retail with apartments above. Palmisano is also expanding its geographic footprint. “We always planned on being more regional, but that’s been accelerated,” said Moldaner. “From Shreveport to Pensacola, we’ll have projects running as soon as December. Once the pandemic hit, we started looking at what other markets we need to entertain and taking a stronger look at some of the opportunities that were coming our way in Shreveport, Lake Charles, Pensacola, getting out of that 60- to 90-minute drive.” n




Last year, 73% of our projects were medical and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a similar number for this year. Bryan Hodnett, VP of business development, Donahue Favret Contractors

THE FASTEST GROWING CHAPTER IN THE GLOBAL EO NETWORK IN 2019 EO Louisiana is a chapter in the Global Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

which is a peer-to-peer network of more than 14,000+ influential business owners with 195 chapters in 61 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond.


To engage leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.


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Which higher education programs are most popular right now?











Nunez Community College boasts a diverse roster of programs ranging from workforce development and business to nursing and even fine arts. Our newest programs are gaining popularity across communities as our college moves forward in the STEAM sector. At Nunez, students can learn to build rockets as an aerospace-manufacturing technician. They can contribute to environmental safety with wastewater management or coastal studies and GIS technology. Students who are simply in need of a workforce credential or valueadded certificate can select any number of noncredit courses in health sciences, industrial construction, safety or IT.



Delgado is the perfect choice for career-focused education. Nursing is our largest program with 869 students; in the middle of the pandemic, the program has gained over 130 students —up almost 20%. Allied health fields have also seen gains; enrollment in our Basic EMT program has almost tripled from 12 to 34, and our pharmacy technician program has grown over 75% from 18 to 32. We’ve also seen more modest gains of about 25% each in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Funeral Service Education, and Veterinary Technology. Business programs continue to be popular at Delgado; we’re seeing enrollment gains in accounting, human resources, and logistics. In the technical division, enrollment is up for commercial electrician and residential construction, among others.


The University of New Orleans Executive MBA program is meeting the needs of today’s busy professionals. With the weekend, hybrid format, students can achieve their MBA in just 15 ½ months no matter what their undergraduate degree specialty. Classes are on alternating weekends, typically meeting once or twice a month. This schedule makes achieving an MBA an attainable goal, without giving up a student’s career. Tutorials, meals and textbooks are included in the program tuition and the Executive Education administrative staff is always ready to assist students so that they can focus solely on their coursework. A new cohort begins each July, with the next cohort starting July 24, 2021.

There is always strong interest in our MBA programs and our 10-month Master of Finance and Master of Accounting degrees. We’ve recently introduced two new degree programs. The first is a cutting-edge Master of Business Analytics program that focuses on transforming large, extremely complex data sets into clear information managers need to make business decisions. Students use leading commercial software to master data visualization and quantitative business modeling and analysis. Another groundbreaking program is our new Master of Management with a specialization in Entrepreneurial Hospitality, the Freeman School’s first fully online degree. It’s a first-of-its-kind concept where students learn to apply successful hospitality industry principles and an entrepreneurial mindset to create and advance customer experiences in all industries.

Students increasingly come to Loyola to make a career in creative industries. We have one of the top music industry programs in the nation (as ranked by Billboard). English majors help edit a series of books for Bloomsbury press and find jobs in publishing. Our growing entrepreneurship major helps students learn by launching businesses, and many of our students come for the sciences, often to prepare for careers in medicine. We just announced a new undergraduate nursing program in partnership with Ochsner Health (pending approval from our accreditor). No one is more in demand now than nurses, and Loyola prides itself on teaching them ethics and empathy. Other new programs include majors in neuroscience and cybersecurity, a master’s in marketing and communications, and two new master’s degrees in environmental law and health care law.




The Art of Finding the Right Capital Fit Do you really need an investor? How important is a formal business plan? Surprising tips from a local VC and entrepreneur coach. BY JAY TAFFET


It’s colored by an array of definitions and terms, and stretched in all directions with investor expectation, preference and appetite. It’s a big mountain with a very elusive summit. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can navigate this climb with the right gear and perspective. Here are a few tips on where the path begins. Understand the terms. Startup capital is the genus, and angel investment, venture capital, and private equity are the species. Everyone has their own take on how to define each species, with a myriad of qualifying attributes related to capital threshold, business phase and market presence. However, all you need to know is capital is capital, and the rest is conversation. Just keep this in mind — the angel, simply a high-net-worth, accredited investor (per SEC Rule 501 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933) whom you may know personally or professionally, is typically the most accessible of all investors, and your best shot at finding an inspired capital partner who appreciates you, understands your industry and embraces the opportunity you’ve created. Focus on simplicity. Forget the business plan and venture presentation textbooks you may have digested; a capital pitch is a simple introduction of management, product and market. Put even more simply — who you are, what you want to do, and where you want to do it. Yes, you’ll need to tell this story in narrative and numbers, but never lose sight that you are selling you, your idea and your customer. That’s it.




Jay Taffet is a venture consultant and entrepreneurship coach, and the founder of Gracen Jules and Airfoil Angels. He is a long-time pilot and lives in New Orleans with his wife and two daughters.

And here’s the punch line: You represent about 90% of the investor capital pitch. You need to be enormously qualified and passionate, and clearly capable of converting your idea into a recipe that will sell your customer. Startup capital is patronage, and the patron is looking for a masterpiece. Examine your timing. The capital-raising process seems to have become a “rite of passage” for entrepreneurs. All venture founders want to join the big leagues of startup success, with the most visible metric of “success” being how much money you can raise. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Startup success is simply your ability to convert an idea into a profitable business that has strong growth potential to produce more profit. How you fuel the idea conversion and profit potential is irrelevant. In other words, if you have the best idea on the planet and you’re the founder who can get it done, but you don’t have the money to do the deed, then, yes, you need startup capital. But, if you have the best idea and you’re the right founder, and you’ve presold your product or service toward revenue that will underwrite the expense to do the deed in the very near future, then, no, you don’t need an investor. You simply need a bridge loan, from a bank or an investor, to get you over the hump.

Be leer y of selling ownership away because you think it’s the next step in your venture. If you can ring the bell without giving away the ladder, then definitely consider other funding options. Make it respectful. Raising capital for your venture is not an act of supplication. It seems that way because the startup world has morphed into that dynamic, but it’s just wrong. Founders need capital, and funders need deals, and the startup process should reflect this reality. Put another way, entrepreneurs and investors need matchmaking, and, just like the dating world, the process should be mutual and respectful. Thus, if you make your pitch to an investor or firm and you feel the least bit put out or dismissed, move on. The world is a big place and, now that you know that an angel investor could be the millionaire next door, you don’t need to feel the least bit limited in your search for startup capital. Always remember, you are the reason there is a startup capital process to navigate in the first place. It is you, your idea and your vision that put you in a place where a potential investor will find exciting opportunity. You have as much to give as the capital and the person behind it. n






our lives and economy. But if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also battled through a record-setting hurricane season. As a region that depends so heavily on tourism, trade, oil and gas, and small business, we continue to struggle. However, as you will also see in the following pages, we are also a region of resilience, a region of fighters accustomed to facing disaster head-on. This giant small town is all too familiar with what it takes to unite against a common enemy and then celebrate together on the other side. As we look back at what we’ve been through, and the challenges that still remain, we do so with the knowledge that there will be another side to this, and hopefully those days lie ahead in a brand-new year.




hen we look back on this past year, it can be hard not to see a seemingly never-ending array of challenges, beginning with the one word that changed everything: pandemic. Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Louisiana on March 9, New Orleans was hit hard and fast, quickly recognized as a “hot spot” for the disease. At one point in March, Louisiana was experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world and Orleans Parish had the highest number of deaths per capita of any county in the nation, while Gov. John Bel Edwards was warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed in a matter of days. Now, nine months later, the pandemic is still with us, still touching every part of


Top 10 Business Stories in the Year of COVID-19








Pandemic Pauses New Orleans Tourism


Normally, the only time Bourbon Street looks this empty is a few hours after the police have cleared the streets at midnight on Mardi Gras. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, however, quiet on the famed party strip has become just another “new normal” in a year with so many of them. The first case of COVID-19 in New Orleans was confirmed on March 9. On March 22, as cases grew to 837 statewide, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Similar moves were happening nationwide. White-collar workers began doing their jobs from home and many businesses — such as restaurants, bars, salons and gyms — closed their doors or changed their business models dramatically. Around the country, organizers canceled events that required large groups of people to gather in person. This included sporting events, conventions, meetings, concerts, festivals, cruises, weddings, funerals — and even church. In New Orleans, which more or less hosts large groups of people for a living, it was like COVID hit a “pause” button on an industry that, in 2019, attracted 19.75 million visitors and prompted spending of $10 billion, according to research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates. Experts estimate that, pre-pandemic, spending by visitors made up approximately 43% of the city’s sales tax collections. This makes sense if you consider New Orleans normally hosts more than 18 million visitors each year but has less than 400,000 permanent residents. It’s estimated that because of the pandemic the city has been losing around $200 million of visitor spending each week. As the dangers of the pandemic became clear (to most if not all), the New Orleans convention and meeting business closed up shop. Leisure travelers stayed home. Flights in and out of the city’s shiny new billion-dollar airport terminal, which had just debuted in November, dropped precipi-

tously. Port NOLA, which welcomed more than a million cruise passengers in 2019, suspended cruise operations through the end of October and possibly longer. Things got really real on April 16 when Jazz Fest officially pulled the plug for 2020. New Orleans doesn’t have the country’s biggest tourism sector. Las Vegas, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Orlando, Florida, are all bigger. But just like COVID-19 is more dangerous to people with pre-existing conditions, the pandemic was more damaging to a city like New Orleans, which is less wealthy than its competitors. That means there’s less private and public money in the state to support business owners and workers. It also means the state has the country’s lowest weekly unemployment benefits, which max out at less than $250. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 workers in New Orleans ordinarily make their living doing things that only need doing when the city is full of out-of-towners eating, drinking, schmoozing, sightseeing and sleeping it all off. The pandemic put a stop to all of it with shocking speed.

Although numbers for the fourth quarter of 2020 aren’t yet known, occupancy of the city’s roughly 25,000 downtown hotel rooms will be down more than 50% from 2019. In much of the spring and summer, occupancy in downtown hotels was actually in the single digits. If it weren’t for hurricane evacuees living temporarily in local hotels, the numbers would be worse. Many of the city’s 1,400 restaurants — especially those reliant on bustling hotels — have been scraping by with revenue from takeout or other special programs. (See more about restaurants below.) Even eight months after the pandemic began, many music clubs and bars are still closed up tight. Museums and attractions are operating with lower attendance and strict health protocols. The Saints were excited to finally have fans in the Superdome for an October game against the Panthers, but the total number allowed was only 3,000. Meanwhile, the businesses that support the industry — everything from linen suppliers to beer distributors, farmers

markets to the farmers themselves — are feeling the pain. The whole tourism ecosystem has been affected by the pandemic in ways that no one could have predicted and that will change it forever. Stephen Perry, CEO at destination marketing organization New Orleans & Company, said recently that the industry doesn’t expect to reach 2019 levels of activity until 2024. That leaves small business owners and unemployed workers alike waiting anxiously to hear about another round of federal or state aid. “COVID-19 has hurt the New Orleans economy worse than any city I can think of,” said Tulane business professor Peter Ricchiuti. “The things we do so well: restaurants, festivals, hospitality, sports and even energy, have taken big hits. How much longer can these entities hold on? The lack of a stimulus program could be the deathknell for a number of local businesses.” The good news is that even though the pandemic has already lasted longer than anyone would like, it won’t last forever. Many expect that after a slow recovery, the city will get back to the business of throwing the best parties in the world. “When the time comes, Port NOLA, along with our local tourism and hospitality partners, will be ready,” said Jessica Ragusa, communications manager of the Port of New Orleans. “We know that when the impacts of COVID-19 subside, New Orleans and Louisiana will still be a place people from all over want to visit.”

HARD ROCK HOTEL COLLAPSE – On Oct. 12, 2020, the one-year anniversary of the partial collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel, the project’s owner and developer, 1031 Canal Group, filed suit against multiple contractors and insurers. In August, the third, and final, body was recovered from the wreckage.

DREDGING FINALLY APPROVED – On July 31, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana and the Port of New Orleans signed an agreement to deepen the Lower Mississippi River to 50 feet, from the current depth of 45 feet. The $250 million project will stretch from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.


the needs of businesses and helped to keep the economy going.” Bankers had to overcome many challenges to do their part to get the program off the ground, said Taylor. “It was extremely difficult, and in some situations, faith and trust in the U.S. government had to be substituted for hard facts on some of the decisions bankers had to make to assure customers could quickly be helped,” he said. “The forgiveness process was very long in development but once released has worked reasonably well.” In the early days of the program’s rollout, it became clear that smaller community banks were faster than the big national banks at setting up systems to process loans. There were reports of bank employees working until the wee hours to get ready for launch. “I think that we’re fortunate that we’re not really a huge organization. We’re big but we’re not so big that it’s hard to get things done,” said John Zollinger, Home Bank’s market president, at the time. “Our executive management has thrown a lot of resources at this and taken people from other departments and moved them into areas where they can assist in assessing these requests.” Banks earn a fee of 5% to handle a PPP loan up to $350,000. For a loan between $350,000 and $2 million, the number drops to 3%. And it’s 1% for loans higher than that. Plus, banks will earn a 1% interest rate on loans not eligible for forgiveness under PPP rules. There are conflicting opinions about whether banks made too much or too

Louisiana Lenders Managed PPP Loans, a Lifeline for Small Businesses

On April 3, New Orleans lenders began accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program, a $669 billion business relief fund established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program, which stopped accepting new applications on Aug. 8, offered small businesses a potentially forgivable loan to cover the equivalent of two and a half months’ payroll expenses. A portion of the funds could also be used for rent, utilities and some other essential expenses and still qualify for forgiveness. Though the program is overseen by the Small Business Administration, it fell to the nation’s roughly 5,000 FDIC-insured banks to devise their own systems to process large numbers of applications quickly and make loans using their own capital — even if the approved loans are ultimately backed by the SBA. Robert Taylor, the CEO of the Louisiana Bankers Association, said that banks and other lenders in the state made 78,866 PPP loans for about $7.5 billion. “Compare that to a similarly sized state like Kentucky, where 50,655 PPP loans were made for $5.3 billion,” said Taylor. “Louisiana bankers did an extraordinary job in extraordinary times. They rose to


MEDICAL MARIJUANA EXPANSION – Effective Aug. 1, any doctor in Louisiana became able to recommend the use of medical marijuana for any debilitating condition. In June, Wellcana Group, Louisiana’s only grower currently selling cannabis, reported that it intended to discount prices for the second time this year.


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little from PPP loans. Some bigger banks, however, have announced they are donating any profits beyond their costs. Another PPP controversy erupted over the perception that big national restaurant chains like Shake Shack and T.G.I. Friday’s and even the Catholic Church had unfairly benefited from PPP loans designed to be a lifeline for small businesses. There were also worries that the program was reimbursing businesses to be open during a moment in the pandemic when there were no customers to serve, but adjustments to the rules seemed to have addressed most concerns. Now, at the end of year, the forgiveness process is well underway. “The proof is gonna be in the pudding when it comes to documenting the forgiveness part and sending us our money,” said Zollinger back in April. “But, in the meantime, we’ve been fairly well compensated to hold the money for a period of time.” Now, banks wait to see if they will be processing any more rounds of loans related to future federal aid while they ponder all the changes that came their way in 2020. No doubt, 2021 will provide more interesting twists and turns.




Oil and Gas Industry Sees Record Drop and Volatility


As the pandemic quickly brought the national economy to a standstill, the price of oil plunged to a record low. The cost to have a barrel of U.S. crude delivered at the start of 2020 was roughly $60. By May, that cost had dropped to negative $37.63. Analysts say most American producers need prices of at least $45 to $50 a barrel to break even. For much of the year, prices have struggled to get near half that number. An oversupplied market met with historic low demand due to stay-at-home orders, a reality that hit Louisiana hard as the state is home to the largest concentration of crude

oil refineries in the U.S. A report released in October by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association noted the state’s oil and natural gas industry was responsible for 249,800 jobs and $73 billion toward the state’s GDP in 2019. Since the pandemic, the industry’s extreme volatility has led to layoffs. At least four Louisiana companies laid off approximately 600 workers in April and by early June, Louisiana oilfield workers had filed more than 9,800 first-time unemployment claims, representing approximately 28% of the average employment for the industry across Louisiana in 2019. In early November, Shell announced it was shutting down its refinery in Convent, Louisiana — located midway between New

Orleans and Baton Rouge — after failing to find a buyer. Shell noted efforts to redistribute as many of the 700 full-time jobs as possible. There was some good news, however, as some companies announced expansions, including Renewable Energy Group, which announced a minimum $825 million capital investment in October to expand its renewable diesel refinery in Geismar, Louisiana. With the investment, REG will retain 66 existing jobs and create 60 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in another 321 new indirect jobs, for a total of 381 new jobs in the capital region and surrounding areas.


The New Orleans metropolitan area has been struggling for a while with an affordable housing crisis, but the current pandemic has now made the situation even more critical. As the region joined the rest of the world in orders to shelter in place, job losses became concentrated on those that could afford it least. In an article published in the October issue of Biz New Orleans written by Andreanecia Morris, the executive director of HousingNOLA, noted that more than 50,000 households were struggling to pay rent in New Orleans. That same month,

social distancing and maintaining habits like regular hand washing. In one effort to help, Mayor LaToya Cantrell put out a press release in October that the city of New Orleans was looking to recruit landlords to list vacant units and allow residents with housing vouchers to use them. “Right now, more than 1,600 tenants have housing vouchers, but they still don’t have a place to live, despite having over 19,000 vacant properties in the city,” said Morris. “We need landlords to see the opportunity here to not only get their units rented at a fair price, but also to do the right thing and help out our community. It’s time to match up the housing insecure with the vacant properties across our city, and the landlords are the glue that will bring it all together.”



Affordable Housing Crisis Reaches Critical Levels

HousingLOUISIANA released a report that warned the state was only months away from a housing foreclosure crisis, noting “when the CARES Act foreclosure protections expire as early as January 2021, Louisiana will need $140 million per month to stabilize homeowners” and “28% of Louisiana homeowners (nearly 110,000 households) were unable to pay their mortgage in September. Of that number, 36,000 of the households unable to pay their mortgage in September were located in New Orleans (representing nearly 10% of all owner-occupied households). Of those struggling the hardest, more than 50% make under $50,000 a year and are disproportionately non-white. The current pandemic also adds a dangerous health component as individuals without homes can have a harder time









Pandemic Threatens Restaurants but the Community Fights to Save Them


New Orleans was home to about 1,400 restaurants before the pandemic began. Indications are it will have less than 1,000 once the damage from COVID-19 is complete. 2020 presented a perfect storm for an industry that had been growing steadily in the 15 years since another disaster, Hurricane Katrina, remade the landscape. In March, the city’s $10-billion-a-year tourism business slowed to a trickle. The COVID-19 shutdown emptied out the hotel rooms, convention center and French Quarter. Many workers began doing their jobs from home, which meant quiet streets in the CBD. Plus, health restrictions activated in late March by the governor and mayor meant locals weren’t able to eat inside their favorite restaurants. So, an enterprise that was already high risk and low margins suddenly became unsustainable. The sudden drop in revenue meant it was difficult or impossible for restaurateurs to pay their rent or mortgages and other expenses, not to mention payroll. “Right now we’re having $17 days just trying to do takeout when we were having thousand-dollar days before,” said Jessica Knox, owner of Backatown Coffee Parlour, in April. The Paycheck Protection Program, which began accepting applications on April 3, was an essential lifeline for many restaurant owners, but those funds only covered payroll and other expenses for an eight-week period. Boosted unemployment benefits were helpful to out-of-work restaurant employees, but those funds have run dry. May 16 brought the Phase 1 rules that allowed restaurants to seat customers inside at 25% capacity. More phases with looser restrictions have followed, but tourists are still conspicuously absent. The permanent closing of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in July, meanwhile, sent shockwaves through the community when people realized that being iconic isn’t

Record-breaking Storm Season Slams Louisiana

enough to save a restaurant under these tough circumstances. So, many locals who are in a position to do so have made it a mission to support their favorite spots by ordering takeout — when that was the only option — or masking up and dining in. Several new delivery services, such as d’Livery NOLA, have made supporting restaurants central to their mission. And diners have been scheduling private meals served in restaurants or residences. The cooler fall weather, meanwhile, has made it easier for patrons to take advantage of the many new outdoor seating options. The city’s new parklet program offers grants to help businesses build more outdoor seating in front of their restaurants, often in repurposed parking spaces. The business community has also rallied to show support. The New Orleans Business Alliance has raised $1.35M so far in direct relief for 1099 workers. “The outlook for our industry workers is very grim,” said Jennifer Kelley of the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. “Predictions about when conventions and meetings will return have hotels letting go of staff that were previously furloughed. Everyone is waiting on edge for announcements about if Mardi Gras will happen or not. Phased reopenings are bringing back some of the workers, but we have a very, very long way to go still.” Quentin Messer Jr. of NOLABA said that he believes in the durability of the local restaurant industry but there are factors that will accelerate the recovery. “One, there must be federal aid specifically for the restaurant, bars and venues since COVID-19 attacked socialization, which is at the core of those industries,” he said. “Two, we need to reestablish consumer confidence in safe air travel, attending conferences and other large meetings safely. Three, we must demonstrate and message to the world that New Orleans is one of the safest places to visit. And, four, restaurants [must] explore other revenue opportunities.”

The phrase “cone of uncertainty” became a familiar one this year as Louisiana found itself within hurricane striking distance a record seven times in 2020. First, Tropical Storm Cristobal hit on June 7 as the second earliest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana. The storm landed just east of Grand Isle, causing flooding and power outages. Next was Hurricane Marco, which fortunately weakened to a tropical storm before landing near the mouth of the Mississippi River on August 24. Just three days later, Hurricane Laura hit the southwestern part of state as a devastating Category 4 that knocked out power to more than 600,000 and left more than 200,000 without running water. As a result, tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate, with roughly 10,500 finding shelter in New Orleans hotels. Continuing the record season of Atlantic hurricanes, Hurricane Delta hit as a Category 2 storm on Oct. 9, near Creole, Louisiana leaving nearly 700,000 Louisiana customers without electricity. While New Orleans was left largely unscathed by the season, the city’s luck ran out on Oct. 28 with the arrival of the third hurricane and fifth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana, Hurricane Zeta. Arriving as a Category 2, but nearly a Category 3, the fastmoving storm brought powerful winds that left 470,000 people lost power, a majority of whom were in metro New Orleans. One death was reported when a New Orleans man was killed by a downed power line. Only five days after the storm estimated insurance losses were expected to reach over $4 billion.

Since the pandemic began, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Gov. John Bel Edwards have made public safety — primarily, slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus — their No. 1 priority. Hence the stay-at-home orders that began in March and the gradual reopening of the economy that began in May and has continued throughout the year.


Business, Government Battle Over Pandemic Restrictions

Jeff Landr y, two longtime political foes, appeared together in March to tell Louisianians they needed to take the virus seriously and follow health restrictions. “We are united in this goal. The governor and I are standing here shoulder to shoulder, and that’s how serious a problem we face here,” said Landry at the time. But, by April, some New Orleans-area business leaders were publicly venting their frustration with Mayor Cantrell’s decisions. On April 17, Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce President Todd Murphy publicly criticized the mayor for failing to collaborate with the business community



Business owners and business advocates, meanwhile, have had to prioritize the bottom line while keeping public safety in mind. Many New Orleans small businesses — restaurants, retailers, salons, spas and so on — have suffered terrible financial losses because of the government restrictions. Unemployment levels have broken records. Federal aid hasn’t kept up with needs. As such, it’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of tension between government and business during this stressful year. In early days, things looked promising: Edwards and state Attorney General





before she cast doubt on the viability of large gatherings in the city. “ Your surprising decision to offer an opinion on the fate of future festivals and events have far-reaching and damaging consequences,” wrote Murphy in an open letter. “This surprise announcement … likely set back our recovery in several critical sectors by weeks if not months.” In an email reply, Cantrell said making these decisions “is not a shared role and therefore, we do not share the accountability that comes with it. I suggest you learn more from the experts about where the region is from a data-driven perspective before you chastise me about my decision-making process.” In the ensuing months, a few business owners tried suing Edwards over the restrictions. Others have taken out fullpage ads in the paper. And plenty have filled social media feeds with vitriol over the rules. And as for that moment of camaraderie between the governor and the attorney general? Well, fast forward to October, when Landry consulted with House Republicans in Baton Rouge as they passed a bill, ultimately vetoed, to strip away coronavirus restrictions, and signed a controversial petition aimed at doing the same. The fight has moved to the courts and will likely continue into 2021.




Residential Real Estate Soars While Commercial Fate Remains Uncertain


The same COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the New Orleans hospitality industry, caused widespread unemployment and forced many workers to do their jobs from home has also lit a fire underneath the residential real estate market. said New Orleans has the fifth-highest increase in real estate sales in the United States. Louisiana real estate brokerage Latter & Blum said sales price

are up 21% compared to last year and the days on market for homes sold in August was 49 days, down 6% in comparison to last year and reflective of a seller’s market. “We’ve had quite a few factors that have contributed to this frenzy of activity,” said Lacey Merrick Conway, Latter & Blum president and CEO. “This COVID effect has really put a spotlight on the home. Add to that low interest rates and low inventory and we’ve been on a fast track with lots of activity in all of our markets.” Since COVID caused many to work at home for the last eight months, people have been wanting more out of their space. “When you’re working out at home, teaching your kids at home, you want more

outside space,” said Conway. “Factors that would have been a deal killer before are a deal maker now. You’re willing to drive another 15 minutes. You want to have multigenerational activities for everybody in the privacy of your home.” Conway said the burst of sales activity has been “exciting and thrilling” but she doesn’t it expect to last forever. “It’s nice that we have a bright spot in this whole disaster,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s going to continue at this pace for too much longer.” Looking ahead to 2021, real estate experts are concerned about how the pandemic will affect commercial real estate — particularly office and retail.

TOP N ON - C OV I D - 1 9 N EWS I N 2 0 2 0

The healthcare industry has been through a lot this year as hospital systems, not just locally, but globally, struggled through a wide variety of pandemic-related issues, including securing PPE, treatment supplies like ventilators, and testing equipment, as well as setting up and operating widespread testing locations. As the pandemic continued to spread, healthcare facilities quickly found they had another problem: with calls for social distancing, people were understandably unsure about receiving in-person care for non-life-threatening issues. The answer came through a rapid increase in telemedicine. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance issued several emergency orders, which included loosening restrictions on telemedicine services. On May 21, reported that neurologist David J. Houghton, medical director of Ochsner Health’s digital medicine program, said Ochsner had gone from conducting fewer than 4,000 home-based virtual visits in 2019 to handling almost that many every day. Houghton said he expected many patients to continue using the service despite stay-at-home rules loosening up, and he is not alone. SOC Telemed, the largest national provider of telemedicine technology and solutions to healthcare providers, reported in October that New Orleans East Hospital was among its new clients and added that bookings had increased 88% to 105% compared to 2019. While telemedicine has its limits, it has worked well in some areas, including behavioral health, and just as some companies have discovered the benefits of allowing remote work, healthcare practitioners and patients are recognizing the benefits of telemedicine. In June, anticipated that telehealth spending will reach $250 billion by the end of 2020. Where it goes from there remains to be seen.


Unemployment Fund Struggles

In March, Louisiana’ unemployment trust fund topped $1 billion. By October, thanks to hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs during the pandemic, the fund was down to $100,000. The fund’s rapid depletion caused panic among legislators and businesses this year as current law calls for the fund to be replenished by businesses paying higher taxes — including a surtax of up to 30% on taxable payroll — and for jobless workers to help fill in the gap by taking a hit on benefits. Already paying the third-lowest jobless benefits in the nation at $247 per week, Louisiana’s benefits would have been dropped to the lowest possible, $221. In an effort to avoid further hardship on businesses and individuals already struggling, on Oct. 20 the House passed a package of measures that ensures unemployment benefits and tax rates on businesses that pay into the fund will remain stable through 2021. The effort is a short-term fix designed to buy time while legislators remain hopeful that Congress will eventually pass aid to states. In the meantime, Louisiana will pay its unemployment by taking out federal loans that the state will be required to start paying back with interest starting September 2021. n


New Orleanians showed up to support their own

With an economy that heavily relies on hospitality, live music and small business and gig workers, New Orleans has been hit extremely hard during the pandemic. As Mr. Rogers once advised, however, in tough times, look for the helpers. Fortunately, there has been no shortage of those. For example, Give NOLA Day this year broke records by collecting over $7.1 million for local nonprofits– over $1.2 million over 2019. The following are just a few of the new efforts we have seen this year. Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund – Created by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, this fund has generated more than $2.4 million to provide emergency support to hospitality workers. New Orleans Business Alliance Gig Economy Relief Fund – as of June, this fund had raised $890,000 to provide grants to over 1,000 gig workers. Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund by Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group–provides one-time, $500 grants to hospitality employees and their families. The Emergency Capital Access Program (ECAP) — The Ford Motor Company and its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, collaborated with the Urban League of Louisiana to provide micro-grants to Black business owners negatively affected by COVID-19. by providing small grants, combined with technical assistance and advisory services, to Black business owners across the Greater New Orleans area. The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Hospitality Industry Relief Fund —replacing this year’s annual Boudin, Bourbon & Beer event, the fund was established with a contribution of $125,000 by the foundation.


Healthcare Industry Embraces Telemedicine

LCMC PURCHASES EAST JEFF – In August, East Bank voters approved the sale of East Jefferson General Hospital to LCMC Health for $90 million with the promise to invest another $100 million in the hospital over the next five years.



DIXIE BEER OPENS, THEN CHANGES NAME – On Jan. 25, Dixie Beer Brewery officially opened in New Orleans East. First opened in 1907, its revival became a goal of the late Tom Benson, and then of his widow, Gayle Benson. During the racial justice movement this year, Gayle Benson decided to “retire” the name, and in November the brewery’s new name was announced: Faubourg Brewing Co.








Every December, Biz New Orleans closes out the year with a look at some top local businesses in a wide variety of industries. In the following pages, we invite you to learn more about the past, present and future of these industry standouts as each continues to make their mark in the Greater New Orleans marketplace.

2020 Industry Leaders Bezou Financial Planning Group Corporate Internship Leadership Institute CotingaSoft Cox New Orleans DMG Design + Build Engel & Volkers First American Bank & Trust Lambeth House New Orleans & Company Thibodaux Regional Medical Center Transcendent Law Group Universal Data Incorporated University of Holy Cross Wood Resources Corp (Wood Ship Mooring Service)






Bezou Financial Planning Group

In 1998, Jason Bezou went to work for Hibernia Bank—after a series of twists and turns, thanks to earned trust and a track record of client care, he went from Junior Financial Advisor to a top advisor and Bank President at Capital One before arriving where he is today. As a CFP® and Founder of Bezou Financial Planning Group, Bezou owns about one third of what was Capital One Investing Louisiana through broker/ dealer Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. This means that Bezou’s clients get the benefits of big-firm resources with the personal touch of a reliable local team. “Bezou Financial provides financial planning beyond a portfolio,” says Bezou. “We work to understand people’s needs, wants, and long-term goals. We can’t predict; so we plan.” When the pandemic hit the U.S. and the markets dropped, Bezou Financial reminded its clients that it had planned and that they shouldn’t make fear-based decisions but rather make adjustments based on the original plan. The company also ramped up technology. Bezou Financial matches appropriate, available tools to each unique client, helping families, individuals, businesses, and organizations make smart decisions with money. “New clients often say, ‘Why hasn’t anyone else explored my financial life like this?’” says Bezou. This level of meticulous client care has propelled Bezou Financial to six branches and future expansion beyond the 32 states it currently serves. Bezou is writing a book to help people make sense of financial planning and is also working to provide a platform for other advisors to better care for their clients. “This community made the growth of Bezou Financial possible, and we’ll make Louisiana proud,” says Bezou.

Securities and investment advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services, Inc., (WFS), member FINRA/SIPC. WFS is separately owned and other entities and/or marketing names, products or services referenced here are independent of WFS.”

Jason Bezou, CFP®, AAMS President, Financial Advisor 422 Harrison Avenue • New Orleans, 504-598-5388 •






INTERNSHIP TALENT Corporate Internship Leadership Institute


Corporate Internship Leadership Institute (CILI) is a New Orleans non-profit organization that strategically connects college students to paid internships that provide skill building, competency development, and experiences that lead to lasting careers in industries throughout New Orleans and the region. The organization and its innovative Tenth Institute Program aim to transform and facilitate economic growth while preparing tomorrow’s leaders in a variety of careers. “During the pandemic, many companies paused the onboarding of new hires, including internships, so we are particularly excited about our initial cohort of CILI interns that will begin in the summer of 2021,” says Perry Sholes, Founder and Executive Director. CILI’s Tenth Institute Program is dedicated to creating a pipeline of talent from the underserved

and underrepresented college-enrolled populations for companies within the New Orleans region. “Through this program, we aim to help students of color pursue and attain middle-to high-paying positions post-graduation and help local companies create more inclusive and diverse workforces,” he says. The success of CILI’s work requires input and participation from decision makers and executive leadership of the professional community. The program looks to expand its reach with forwardthinking business partners across the region. Founder Perry Sholes, a New Orleans native, brings a wealth of relevant experience to the program. Before becoming a Talent Optimization Consultant, Sholes developed a long resume of positions and achievements in the corporate world, developing talent and creating diverse pipelines at organizations such as Nabisco Foods Company, Kraft Foods Company, and Thomas

and King, Inc. He is 2020 President of New Orleans Society of Human Resources Management and serves on the board of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce. Corporate Internship Leadership Institute’s Tenth Institute Program offers a niche focus on career skill building, professionalism training, and coaching for students of color. 3157 Gentilly Blvd., Suite 2184 • New Orleans 504-313-4828 •






In recent years, New Orleans’ reputation as a tech hub has steadily grown. And among local companies of all kinds—insurance, hospitality, financial, retail, manufacturing and more—one business has garnered its own reputation for providing quality custom software solutions. Since 2008, local software engineering company CotingaSoft has developed a variety of web and mobile applications for both well-established local companies and startups. “Great technology doesn’t have to come from other places,” says Barrett Conrad, Owner/Manager of CotingaSoft. “The capacity to build anything exists throughout our region.” Alongside software development, CotingaSoft also offers consulting and digital product development. They can review an organization’s people, processes, and tools to find improvements and new




opportunities. From there they can provide analysis or development of a new digital product idea to quickly match market needs and beyond. At CotingaSoft, software development is driven by people first—each project begins with a personal relationship between its team and the client. Instead of sticking to a prescriptive process or solution, the team works to see each project individually and give clients the confidence that CotingaSoft understands their goals and will apply the right technology solutions. Conrad sees continued growth for CotingaSoft in its future. “This year, digital tools became even more critical,” he says. “All of our current clients continued to invest in the tools and products we build for them while a number of other companies and individuals are finally taking the leap to build products for their futures.”

Barrett Conrad, Owner

408 Magazine Street #400 • New Orleans 504-224-4370 •




Cox New Orleans

As the largest private telecom company in America, Cox Communications is committed to creating meaningful moments of human connection through broadband applications and services. One way the company achieves its mission is through partnering with organizations to close the digital divide. Locally, Cox New Orleans’ efforts have proven especially helpful during the challenges of the current pandemic. “The world changed overnight, and in response, so did we,” says Kevin Monroe, Market Vice President of Cox New Orleans. “These changes empowered us to continue meeting our customers where they are so that they can work, play, teach, and connect with friends and loved ones,” he says. Cox New Orleans recently partnered with Jefferson Parish Schools to connect families to low-cost, high quality internet to help ease the transition to remote learning and working. The company also worked closely with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana to create a technology center to keep people connected through a community setting. The Hispanic Chamber has also been providing digital literacy courses through the Cox Digital Academy in both English and Spanish. “We applaud our partners at Jefferson Parish Schools and the Hispanic Chamber for their innovation and creative solutions to connect students and communities, advance distance learning, and promote workforce readiness. Together, we are making a difference to close the digital divide,” says Monroe.

(LEFT TO RIGHT) Dr. James Gray, Jefferson Parish Schools superintendent, Mayra Pineda, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana president and CEO, Kevin Monroe, Cox New Orleans market vice president




RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE Engel & Völkers New Orleans


After five years of growing their local, boutique real estate brokerage, Anne Comarda and Joyce Delery took it to new heights when they partnered with global real estate brokerage Engel & Völkers in 2016. With expanded offerings and enhanced client experiences, Engel & Völkers New Orleans provides a real estate experience fit for the Big Easy. “Our team of advisors espouse the company’s core values of competence, exclusivity and passion, mix it with local New Orleans flair, and create a bespoke experience tailored to each client,” says Anne Comarda, Partner / Broker Associate. According to Comarda, it’s the company’s dynamic culture, market knowledge, and passion that distinguish it from other real estate brokerages. Whether working with buyers




or sellers, Engel & Völkers New Orleans’ advisors take a client-centered approach that ensures seamless communication and desired outcomes. Looking to the future, Engel & Völkers New Orleans remains bullish on the residential real estate market for the next 18-24 months, as interest rates are expected to remain at historic lows. Meanwhile, the company is working with its advisors and partners worldwide to establish a Development Services Department. “With the tools and contacts we have at our fingertips, we are able to give the same level of service as we do in residential sales to new developments, large and small,” says Comarda. The brokerage’s extensive resources also keep it well positioned to handle any challenges—even

before this year’s unprecedented events, the brokerage had technologies in place for virtual meetings, virtual home tours, and digital signatures. Clients enjoy knowing they can “follow their dream, home” with meticulous service and without interruption. Real Estate Advisors at Engel & Völkers New Orleans provide a concierge-level service, tailored to each client’s needs. 722 Martin Behrman Avenue • Metairie 504-875-3555 •




First American Bank and Trust

This month, First American Bank and Trust celebrates 110 years of serving the citizens, businesses, and organizations of Southeast Louisiana. To thrive for more than a century, community banks require strength, independence, innovation, and service, and these traits are the pillars that support First American Bank and Trust as it looks ahead to its next 110 years. “Our board of directors are visionary leaders committed to making our region stronger while retaining the traditions that make it special,” says Ronald J. Falgoust, President and CEO. This approach has helped the Bank expand its footprint and its assets—what started as a one-branch bank in St. James Parish now serves 11 parishes, including Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes, from 25 offices. This year, it reached the $1 Billion asset threshold. “The ability to develop and provide our customers with the products and services that they need— from checking and savings accounts to construction loans—is something that distinguishes First American Bank and Trust from other community banks,” says Falgoust. One example of such a product is the Bank’s new No Down Payment Lot Loan program, which helps individuals take the first step in building their future dream home. First American Bank and Trust’s mission is to meet the financial needs of Southeast Louisiana’s businesses and citizens while maximizing shareholder value and delivering high quality customer service. The Bank has become a leader in the community banking industry by offering innovative products equal to those of regional and national banks but with the personal and caring touch that only a fellow local knows how to provide.

Ronald J. Falgoust, President and CEO 2785 Highway 20, P.O. Box 550 • Vacherie 225-265-2265 •






Nationally, the senior care industry has seen its share of challenges this year. From the coronavirus outbreak to rigid restrictions initially imposed upon nursing homes, aging services have been greatly affected. Lambeth House, a Life Plan community located in Uptown New Orleans, did not escape the year 2020 without similar hardship; nonetheless, Lambeth House now shares a story of strength, perseverance, and resilience. In November, as Lambeth House residents celebrated seven months of remaining COVID-free, the community launched a pledge campaign. Entitled “Not Here, Not Us,” the pledge reflects the entire community’s commitment to adhering to safety protocols that mitigate the spread of the virus. This campaign further exemplifies Lambeth House’s




unwavering, unified efforts to keep their community safe during the ongoing pandemic. Home to over 220 seniors, Lambeth House offers independent living, assisted living, and nursing care services. Lambeth House is well known for its vibrant activities, upscale dining, and its focus on healthy aging. Most recently, Lambeth House partnered with Ochsner in research dedicated to improving the lives of those with dementia via telemedicine. That research is anticipated to resume in January 2021. “Just as Lambeth House survived and later thrived after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, we expect to emerge as a much stronger organization, one that leads the senior care industry in innovation, research, and compassionate care,” says Scott Crabtree, Chief Executive Officer.

Steadfast in their commitment to quality senior care, Scott Crabtree, CEO (center), Jere’ Hales, COO (right) and Lynn Swetland, CFO (left), readies Lambeth House for 2021.

150 Broadway Street • New Orleans 504-865-1960 •




New Orleans & Company

This year, New Orleans & Company celebrates 60 impactful years of promoting the New Orleans community to travelers around the world. This top-ranked Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), its members and partners influence thousands of decision-makers and millions of visitors to choose New Orleans as their travel destination through direct sales, marketing, public relations, branding, visitor services and local advocacy initiatives. The organization faced an enormous challenge this year in the pandemic, which has been devastating to New Orleans’ $10.5 billion tourism industry. “To succeed we must secure our brand, not just for the cultural richness and authenticity that we have always brought to the table, but also to ensure that our commitment to public safety and public health—which has helped us to slow the spread of Covid-19—is fully appreciated and adhered to by those who can’t wait to get back to New Orleans to do business and host their events,” says Walt J. Leger, III, Senior VP of Strategic Affairs & General Counsel. New Orleans & Company recently launched a three-part campaign to educate and encourage travelers to safely visit hotels, cultural attractions, restaurants and retailers. The campaign stresses the importance of masks and other safety measures and highlights the need for locals to support small businesses and the workers that form the fabric of this city. “As we embark on the task of rebuilding our community and economy, we are committed to ensuring that we do so with equity as a priority,” says Leger. “We are working with our 1,100 members to inspire people to imagine a future of possibilities in the tourism and hospitality industry.”

Walter J. Leger III (Walt), Senior Vice President of Strategic Affairs & General Counsel, New Orleans & Company 2020 St. Charles Avenue • New Orleans 504-566-5011 •






Thibodaux Regional Health System

Celebrating its 90th year of providing high quality healthcare, Thibodaux Regional Health System offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services across an expanding 210-bed acute care facility. With humble beginnings in a renovated rectory, Thibodaux Regional has become a nationally recognized healthcare leader by doing one thing above all others: patient-centered excellence. Thibodaux Regional has earned a 5-Star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the highest rating awarded for providing quality care, and has received the Healthgrades Outstanding Patient Experience Award for 13 years in a row. “Our vision to improve the health and wellness of the region is being realized through our innovative Wellness Center and its clinically integrated programs and services,” says Greg Stock CEO. “Thibodaux Regional has also taken a leadership role in addressing childhood obesity. We have provided children numerous educational opportunities and have sponsored playground equipment for 11 elementary schools in the region,” he says. Thibodaux Regional is continuously growing to meet the healthcare needs of the region and has worked diligently to develop and enhance clinical and other services, recruited over 100 physicians, and is a major economic stimulus to the region. Construction is currently underway for an 80,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Cancer Institute that will provide patients with advanced cancer care close to home. Additionally, Phase 2 construction will begin soon on the expanding Wellness Center. The health system’s continuous growth also includes the development of comprehensive neuroscience services and further development of WellFit, which integrates medical care with wellness, giving individuals the highest quality, most active lifestyle possible.

(STANDING) Jamie Falcon, RN, CCRN, Catherine McGee, MD, Greg Stock, CEO, April Denning, RPh, Tashfin Huq, MD (SEATED) Scott Hebert, MD, Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, Ashley Peairs, MD, Jamie Burham, MHA, ACE-CPT 602 North Acadia Road • Thibodaux 985-447-5500 •





LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW Transcendent Law Group


After 12 years of a fulfilling career in two large regional law firms, Michelle Craig saw a need for legal counsel among socially responsible organizations that couldn’t necessarily afford big-firm fees. To serve these small businesses, non-profits, schools and colleges, Craig founded Transcendent Law Group. Since 2014, Transcendent Law Group has assisted clients and community advocates with general counsel and litigation needs in the areas of Labor & Employment Law and Education Law. “We have experienced the growing pains of being a startup and small firm and business, so I understand both the business and legal considerations of our clients,” says Michelle Craig, Managing Attorney. “We want to help our clients reach their goals and keep them in compliance—not just tell them what the law requires,” she says.

This year, navigating the effects of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been important work for Transcendent Law Group. Many small businesses and organizations found themselves suddenly needing a better understanding of leave laws and employee management. They also suddenly faced the challenge of moving employees to remote work. “As a tech-enabled, forward-thinking firm, we already had a remote policy, which made it easier to advise clients on how to be effective in their move to remote or hybrid (remote and in-person) work—the new normal,” says Craig. Additionally, Transcendent is proud to assist organizations with their Diversity Equity and Inclusion work, helping clients navigate diversity and inclusion training as well as developing or reorganizing strategic plans around these issues.

“Right now is an important time for organizations to commit to do this significant work and be on the right side of history on this important issue,” says Craig. (LEFT TO RIGHT) Liuting Chen, Richard Montgomery II, Michelle D. Craig, DaniellePatrice Payne and Rubi L Brown 1441 Canal Street, Suite 317 • New Orleans 504-459-4557 •






Universal Data Incorporated

Universal Data Incorporated (UDI) has been an area leader in IT solutions and services since the 1980s, when it implemented the first WAN network at a prominent national bank. Since that time, the company has overseen technological growth and changes at a rapid pace, and today, UDI offers IT solutions and support to organizations of all sizes across the Gulf Coast. UDI has confidently and competently navigated a variety of challenges and crises over the years, including helping businesses through Y2K, Hurricane Katrina, a recession, and now a worldwide pandemic. Its achievements have led to recognitions for success in sustaining technological advancements (CRN Tech Elite 250 and CRN Fastest Growth 150) and for maintaining a favorable culture for employees (New Orleans CityBusiness “Best Places to Work”). “Moving forward, we hope to grow our team with like-minded individuals and grow our regional footprint while continuing to focus first on customers’ experiences,” says Stephanie Kavanaugh, Director of Sales & Marketing at UDI. Some of that growth stems from the current pandemic, which has forced businesses to rely on technology in new and challenging ways. As an “IT Chameleon,” a term coined by UDI’s Founder & President, Jim Perrier, UDI is finding creative ways to keep companies operating while also combating the current spike in cyber-attacks on businesses. In addition to acting as an adaptive “IT Chameleon,” UDI also sets itself apart by putting “Your Business First” and by being “Your Best Employee,” two mantras that dictate every move. This customer-first approach has allowed its team to continue to add value for customers by assessing business needs and adapting technologies to maximize the effectiveness of their companies.

(LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM) UDI Leadership Team: Simon Bordelon, Service Operations Manager; Chad Perrier, Vice President; Jim Perrier, CEO & Founder; Stephanie Kavanaugh, Sales & Marketing Director; Alex Battard, CIO 1312 Distributors Row • New Orleans 504-523-1466 •









University of Holy Cross

The University of Holy Cross (UHC) has the distinction of being the only four-year University on the West Bank of New Orleans as well as one of eight Holy Cross colleges and universities nationwide. It has been setting the standard for quality education for over a century, since its founding in 1916 by the Catholic Marianite sisters of Holy Cross. Today, the University is well-respected for its excellence in nursing, counseling, teacher education, theology, business administration, the humanities, and health sciences, and it is uniquely the most affordable and accessible private college or university in Louisiana. It is the largest private employer on the West Bank of New Orleans, making both an educational and economic impact for thousands of locals. “UHC is an inclusive student-centered learning community focused on academic excellence and innovative teaching,” says Dr. Stanton McNeely, President. “The University is committed to educating the minds and hearts of its students through freedom of inquiry, the pursuit of truth, and compassionate care for all.” The personalized and small nature of UHC provided for a smooth adjustment to the impact of the pandemic. Small class sizes—a 10:1 student to teacher ratio— have ensured and will ensure the quality of classes and student-teacher interaction with both remote and in-person instruction. Recent expansions at the University include its first residence hall, which provides access for more students from beyond Greater New Orleans to attend and live at UHC. Additionally, new online options in the Master of Science in Management and MA and PhD in Counseling are accelerating growth in those programs to meet the needs for advanced education of business professionals and counselors.

Dr. Stanton F. McNeely III, President of the University of Holy Cross, stands in front of the 104 year old institution. 4123 Woodland Drive • New Orleans 504-394-7744 •






A division of the Wood Resources Group, Wood Materials has been providing construction and residential foundation materials for over 40 years. Part of a multigenerational, multi-faceted family company, Wood Materials was formed in the 1980s when Donald Wood, Sr.’s three children joined their father and expanded his company by adding sand pits and tugboats, growing the range of construction materials sold, installing ship mooring facilities, and adding maintenance dredging capabilities. Today, Wood Materials provides river sand, crushed concrete, limestone, and pea gravel with the help of the Mighty Mississippi and the company’s five sandpit locations along the river. “We use our own dredge—our tried and true “W.B. Wood” suction dredge (which also has cutterhead capabilities)—to pump sand from the river into our sandpits, and we sell it from there,” says Caroline Zimmermann, Land Manager and 4th generation family member. “Because this city and surrounding areas are ever sinking, foundation materials are necessary for all construction projects,” she says. Wood Materials has contributed to a number of notable local projects, including single-handedly pumping and providing 2.4M cubic yards of sand for the new Louis Armstrong International Airport as well as providing foundation materials to the new VA buildings downtown, the New Orleans Saints practice facility, and the new Bayou Oaks South Course at City Park. Looking forward, the company is expanding up the river to provide materials for upcoming projects. “This industry is so unique; it’s something no one thinks about but everyone needs,” says Zimmermann. “Our saying is ‘We Provide the Foundation,’ and we like to think of that not just in terms of sand but in terms of community, too.” (TOP) Customer transporting pumped river sand, one of the many materials that we provide for various construction projects (BOTTOM) process of recycling raw concrete into crushed concrete 5821 River Road • Avondale 504-436-1234 •




Wood Materials




A local, award-winning General Contractor, DMG Design+Build offers a streamlined designbuild process, where designers and builders work together under one agreement to deliver a client experience that comes with less owner responsibility, seamless collaboration, fewer change orders, faster construction, more affordable projects, and better results. The company’s core values are accountability, teamwork, and communication— by prioritizing communication with each client, the company ensures they meet both the client’s timeline and expectations. “One of the tools we use to accomplish successful communication is our cloud-based portal,” says Ryan McCroskey, CEO. “This portal is utilized throughout the entire project and provides transparency between the client and DMG Design+Build with milestone logs during

development of the project and daily logs once production is underway,” he says. With 24/7 online access, the portal allows clients the convenience of monitoring the project and seeing their vision come to life every step of the way. This year, the challenges of the pandemic created an urgent need for homeowners to re-examine the function of their homes, especially with regard to technology, flexibility, and comfort. According to McCroskey, DMG Design+Build is able to assist in designing and delivering a home that best suits their needs. “We are committed to doing more than completing quality projects—we strive to build relationships and communities,” he says. “Every project we take on receives the highest level of experience, professionalism, and superior craftsmanship.”

2345 Metairie Road • Metairie 504-275-6664 •






UNP R ECEDENTED TI M ES CAL L FOR UNP R ECEDENTED M EA SUR 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.




New Ways to Meet Innovative options in event hosting will pave the way for safe, engaging gatherings in New Orleans.


(Destination Management Company) that provides virtual, in-person, and hybrid event or meeting needs. With over 30 years of industry experience creating memorable and successful events, NOCCI is known for its ability to host creative, and enjoyable conferences, conventions, festivals, and meetings, whether online, in-person, or both. The company and team prides itself on operating with integrity and enjoys well-established relationships with Louisiana’s finest and trusted suppliers. NOCCI is committed to excellence in planning, production, and delivering within the client’s budget every time. The team’s efforts go above and beyond to meet the specific needs of clients and their unique events. NOCCI is capable of handling virtual, in-person, and hybrid events as small as 10 participants or as large as 80,000. How has the pandemic aff ected your company and what do you foresee for its future in the event planning industry? NOCCI has erupted on the scene as the Gulf South leader of virtual and “hybrid events,” as we were the first to become Certified Virtual Event & Meeting Management Specialists. We have now successfully planned and managed many local and national turnkey Virtual Conferences & Meetings. We recently became Certified in Pandemic Meeting & Event Design. This provides us the know-how to ensure that the highly popular “hybrid” and in-person events we plan are held to the highest level of

protocol and safety. NOCCI collaborated with event and meeting planners from all over the country on the best way to tackle the new era of the hospitality industry we now know. This will help us focus on the parts that are critical not only to surviving in the short-term but creating a sustainable model for the future. Additionally, we saw the need to assist excited, yet struggling couples as they’re attempting to plan their weddings during the pandemic. NOCCI has developed a website of local partnerships offering all-inclusive, turnkey Micro Wedding Packages at What role is your company playing in the recovery of the larger hospitality industry of New Orleans? NOCCI is deeply invested in seeing our city’s hospitality industry thrive. We are nothing without our partner businesses—they are our backbone. We have focused 100 percent of our sourcing needs on local companies and do not outsource to national companies. Our city, our culture is immensely important to us, and we infuse as much New Orleans as possible into each event we manage and produce. We have also joined forces with BRACE and NOLA Hospitality SAFE to help enforce protocol to protect the health of our industry’s people. How w ill the New Orleans event and meeting industry move forward and thrive in the months and years to come? We are hearing from our national conference and meeting clients that, while they are still motivated and excited to come to town, they will be coming in smaller numbers. The beauty in this is that now all-sized, beautiful New Orleans hotels can really shine while hosting these hybrid meetings. NOCCI is currently meeting with hoteliers to provide the necessary tools to transform a small to medium in-person event into a turnkey hybrid experience with live streaming to the attendees unable to join in person at this time. Everyone wins with this type of event thanks to longer room blocks and to the conventions that treat the in-person event as an incentive program and spend lavishly. The clients win because they get to explore any and all of our unique New Orleans hotels for their events that they may not typically experience with a larger group size.

“ ”

NOCCI is deeply invested in seeing our city’s hospitality industry thrive.


NOCCI 1340 POYDRAS ST. #2130 • NEW ORLEANS • (504) 888-7608 • NOCCI.COM


WORKSPACES The new LABI Center for Free Enterprise in Baton Rouge


New Orleans’ answer to Amazon

ON THE JOB New Orleans Glassworks and

Printmaking Studio


The New Economic Clubhouse The new LABI Center for Free Enterprise in Baton Rouge offers space for collaboration, idea generation, relationship building, strategizing and just hanging out BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY


of Business and Industry cut the ribbon on its 15,000-square-foot Center for Free Enterprise in Baton Rouge. Biz New Orleans visited with L ABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack to discuss the impressive new center and where the organization is focusing its efforts in 2021. How would you describe LABI and its core customer or client base? LABI is the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturing association. Our members are over 2,000 Louisiana companies of all sizes and regions. You’ll find everything from a large, multi-national corporation to a small, main street business and everything in between. We work with our members to identify obstacles to free enterprise in Louisiana and develop strategies to overcome them. We also work collaboratively with stakeholders to enhance what Louisiana does well and help it grow and prosper. We proudly stand up for our job creators and advocate for free enterprise-oriented solutions in Washington, D.C. and at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.

This welcoming ‘hangout house’ for businesses of all sizes is intended to help strengthen relationships, foster new ideas and implement strategies to maximize How do you offer something different or set yourselves apart from similar our state’s organizations? economic Our horsepower comes from the diversity potential. and breadth of the membership. All regions of the state — and most industries and businesses within it — are represented in our membership. Our policy proposals resonate




Stephen Waguespack, LABI President and CEO

The new LABI Center for Free Enterprise is housed in an historic building dating from the late 1800s. Working with EskewDumezRipple and Colleen Waguespack Interiors, the space was transformed into a flexible, multi-use business center, designed for collaboration.


LABI Center for Free Enterprise LOCATION



Ribbon cutting was September 2020 SQUARE FOOTAGE



LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack ARCHITECT


EskewDumezRipple, in partnership with Colleen Waguespack Interiors FURNISHINGS

AOS Interior Environments ART

Ann Connelly Fine Art




fashioned hard work. Also, supply chains were impacted due to COVID-19 market disruptions, but our team did a great job of working around resource deliveries and kept the job safely moving along. What is the standout feature of the center? We are proud of the entire space, from top to bottom, but a few [features] stand out. The conference center is multi-use and user friendly, able to evolve several times throughout the day from a coffee shop, lounge vibe to a training table-filled seminar room to a ballroom for an evening reception or a sports bar to watch the big game. Also, the outdoor event space and the upstairs Logo Lounge provide a few other ways for leaders to share time and ideas together on a daily basis. Lastly, the artwork in the building tries to tastefully pay tribute to the Louisiana economy and landscape.

with any political party and our programs focus on initiatives that work in any region. Rather than focus one specific issue area or a focused industry base, we try to be a voice for a strong variety of stakeholders. How does LABI promote a positive atmosphere for the 20-person staff and the organization’s members? Our building is welcoming, our team tackles projects together and no staff member is above any duty in the organization. Everyone that works here needs to have a Swiss Army Knife-type of persona, open to working in a variety of different ways on any given day. That variety is exciting to our group; it keeps work from getting monotonous. We work diligently to represent our members but also find time to share a drink and a laugh along the way. Also, since we are a cause-driven entity, our employees show up every single day ready to make a positive difference in the state they love.

What were your goals for the design? Our vision was to create a smart, comfortable and professional collaborative space for business leaders and policy makers from around Louisiana to gather. This welcoming ‘hangout house’ for businesses of all sizes is intended to help strengthen relationships, foster new ideas and implement strategies to maximize our state’s economic potential. What was the biggest design challenge? This beautiful, historic building dates from the late 1800s and we had some original girders that were in pretty rough shape, but we worked with our structural engineers to design and implement a plan to reinforce them while maintaining the desired aesthetic. It was a tricky problem that required a creative solution using I-beams, lifts, cranes and some good, old-

“The Conference Center is multi-use and user-friendly, able to evolve several times throughout the day from a coffee shop, lounge vibe to a training table-filled seminar room to a ballroom for an evening reception or a sports bar to watch the big game,” says Waguespack.

What are LABI’s biggest business challenges? The intersection of politics and policy is always tricky to navigate. It takes a lot of expertise and effort to help business leaders — many of whom run large, productive companies — identify the time and patience to learn about the challenges Louisiana has, educate them on how they can help and give them the tools to easily do so. Another challenge is making business leaders understand that their ideas are welcome and encouraged, that the same entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that helped their business to overcome one problem after another is the same energy and ideas government needs to tackle their challenges. Government will never fix the problems they face without help from the real world. What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months? Job creators are the backbone of every community and we need to help them shine in 2021 any way we possibly can. Advocating for economically smart policies is a part of that. Using our new collaborative space to harness the talents and power of our members is another. Louisiana needs business to bounce back in a big way next year and we plan to do whatever it takes to make that happen. n BIZNEWORLEANS.COM



New Orleans’ Answer to Amazon Looking to shop local without leaving the house? Welcome to My Hood Exchange. BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PORTRAIT BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Courtney Ordone and Koby Sackey launched My Hood Exchange in October, an online marketplace that allows local artists, businesses and service providers to sell directly to customers. The website aims to support local businesses while providing essential items to the community in a safe way during COVID-19.


case being discovered in New Orleans, friends and Tulane University alumni Courtney Ordone and Koby Sackey had not only decided they needed to do something to support local businesses in the city, they had figured out what that was and made their first mockup. Officially launched in October, My Hood Exchange is an online platform that provides local businesses and merchants a way to not only connect with potential clients and customers, but offer them




the kind of speedy, door-to-door delivery service that online giant Amazon has trained us all to expect. Purchases made on the site can be delivered anywhere in the city within 48 hours for a $5 fee. “It became obvious that there would be an impact on our local economy, so we started developing a solution that would allow neighbors to provide for one another,” said Ordone. “In the early days of New Orleans quarantine, no one was going to the supermarkets, basic essentials were out of stock everywhere, and I realized we wouldn’t be

able to rely on our usual shopping methods. Koby and I developed the concept for a local exchange, considering how the pandemic would impact folks’ financial stability due to unemployment. We aimed to help support our community by creating a website that gave neighbors a simple and safe way to sell products, goods and services.” In addition to buying and selling goods, the online platform also allows for items to be donated or rented. Categories for items and resources include electronics, arts and crafts items, home goods, and health and

We’re currently in the process of growing our community and it’s exciting to watch it expand each week. Koby Sackey, Co-founder

beauty. Vendor accounts are free for sellers to set up, with transaction fees at 8 % plus 50 cents per sale. “We’re currently in the process of growing our community and it’s exciting to watch it expand each week,” said Sackey. “There’s no cost to build your own storefront. You simply create an account and start posting photos of your products and you’re good to go.” In addition to supporting local entrepreneurs, Sackey said the site also creates an opportunity for anyone with a reliable form of transportation — even a bike — to make some extra money. “[Our] drivers [are] ready to pick up and deliver the orders that come in, but we’re always looking for more helping hands. It’s a great opportunity to make some additional cash on your own time as we head into the holidays.” While sales are still growing, Sackey looks forward to seeing where the holiday sales season, and beyond, takes the marketplace. “We’re just getting up and running – adding new shops and vendors each day and starting to get the word out,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing an increase in users in the days, weeks and months to come.” The two co-founders met at Tulane; Ordone graduated from AB Freeman School of Business, and Sackey attended Tulane’s School of Architecture. In addition to skills learned at Tulane, Ordone brings her experience in real estate development across New Orleans, while Sackey is also the founder and CEO of technology development firm Redflare Digital, based in New Orleans and Houston. “I was born and raised in New Orleans and although I’ve lived elsewhere, New Orleans is the place that I call home and will forever call home,” Ordone said. “[Koby and I] met being amongst the few Black students at Tulane. First and foremost, our goal is to help support and provide opportunities for the New Orleans community. There are so many ways folks can get involved. The goal is to provide our neighbors with additional ways to make money during these unstable economic times and continue to buy local beyond COVID-19. We want to establish ourselves as the local answer to Amazon. My Hood Exchange creates a path to a selfsufficient community while so many local businesses are suffering.” The team hopes to continue to expand the marketplace in New Orleans, with the eventual goal of reaching out to other areas and markets, and to support new businesses

We want to establish ourselves as the local answer to Amazon. My Hood Exchange creates a path to a self-sufficient community while so many local businesses are suffering.

by providing financial aid through a grant program to launch their products on My Hood Exchange. “The best part about MHE is that it really is a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of

products and services,” said Ordone. “All our vendors are so unique and we’re bringing on new shops and services every day, making it even more exciting to explore our site.” n

Courtney Ordone, Co-founder

My Hood Exchange offers delivery within 48 hours for a $5 fee via a local, growing team of delivery drivers. Categories for items and resources include electronics, arts and crafts items, home goods, and health and beauty.



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







Innovating for the Sake of Art New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio is now one of only two teaching studios in the country to have an alternative glass blowing system designed for the age of COVID-19. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER


on a pipe and blowing air into glass, with artists commonly sharing pipes as they work. How does this work in the current pandemic? It doesn’t. Which is why New Orleans Glassworks instructor Jimmy Ronner invented an air pressure-controlled foot pedal to deliver up to 10 psi of air into a pipe. The result is a faster, safer way to blow glass. Built by Head Glassblower Zach LeBlanc (seen here), the system has not only allowed classes to continue at the studio, but drawn artists from around the country eager to work safely in New Orleans. n