Biz New Orleans June 2021

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NORTHSHORE EDITION PLUS A HEALTHIER NORTHSHORE ON THE HORIZON? 50+ Leaders Debut New Initiative PG 42 ZIPPING ALONG Swamp Adventuring Gets a New Twist PG 68


BALANCING ACT Chris Masingill, CEO, St. Tammany Corporation

JUNE 2021





JUNE 2021









TECH............................... 28

IN THE BIZ DINING........................... 16

The parish’s tourist and convention commission took on a new role in the pandemic — providing lifelines to area hospitality and retail businesses TOURISM. . ...................... 18

Home of the fourth largest visitor economy in the state, St. Tammany’s recovery is still a while out, but Donna O’Daniels, president and CEO of the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission, says the commission is doing all it can to help. SPORTS .. ....................... 20

Who will take over the role of Saints offense talk of the town? ENTREPRENEUR.......... 22

The Northshore has long been a hotbed of entrepreneurial success stories.

In IT and software development what’s the most exciting innovation or technology you’ve seen in the past year? HEALTHCARE................ 30

Greater New Orleans senior care facilities respond to the pandemic with new health and safety protocols

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

Ampirical’s new Northshore offices reflect the engineering company’s people-first values WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................68


INSURANCE................... 32

How has the pandemic changed the insurance industry moving forward? GUEST. . ........................... 34

2020 was a turbulent year for the stock market. Now how do you adjust to the recovery?


The $12 Billion Parish Next Door

Creating a Healthier Northshore

St. Tammany is hotter than ever, and Chris Masingill, CEO of the parish’s economic development organization, says this is only the beginning.

More than 50 of the Northshore’s leaders in healthcare, government and nonprofit sectors are partnering in a new venture to improve health and wellbeing in St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

ZipNOLA offers a new kind of swamp adventure ON THE JOB..........................................................................72

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville helps students of all ages make their nautical dreams come true.

ON THE COVER Chris Masingill, CEO of St. Tammany Corporation Portrait by Greg Miles




We Got It All

Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Digital Media Editor Kelly Massicot

W E ’ R E S O E XC I T E D T O R E L E A S E O U R F I R S T- E V E R N O R T H S H O R E F O C U S E D I S S U E O F

Associate News Editor Rich Collins

Biz New Orleans Magazine. The Northshore has a special place in my heart because it’s home to my parents, who moved to Mandeville in spring 2014 from Omaha, Nebraska — after following us to Omaha from San Diego. My parents are not big city people, they prefer a quieter way of life that doesn’t include all the craziness that we happen to love about New Orleans, so for years after we moved down here, they looked at different options in nearby states to be closer to us, but nothing was right. I kept telling them, “I think you guys would like the Northshore,” but it wasn’t until we drove them over the Causeway for the first time during a visit and spent a fall day at the Covington Three Rivers Art Festival that they understood what I was saying. They knew immediately they had found their match — an area where they could enjoy being on the water in their boat, buy a nice, affordable home, and still be close enough to the city to enjoy NOMA and Broadway shows and watch their granddaughter grow up. That’s the wonderful thing about this area of the world — there’s something for everyone. Want the quiet life, surrounded by trees and open space? We got that. Want to hang out with a go-cup all night in the middle of one of the biggest parties in the world? We got that too. Want to hunt an alligator? Got that. Would rather stroll along historic streets marveling at gorgeous architecture and shopping for antiques? Got you covered. Unlike anywhere else I’ve lived, here you can be in so many completely different worlds, all within less than an hour’s drive. My husband and I, and now my parents, are happy here for very different reasons, but we’re all happy in our own worlds, and I’m just so thankful we can enjoy them together.

Contributors Jason Bezou, Ashley McLellan, Chris Price, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Melanie Warner Spencer, Poppy Tooker, Keith Twitchell

Happy Reading,

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JUNE 2021

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 2021 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.



of 2021, the staff has been working behind the scenes on many new projects, with some rolling out this month and others debuting this fall. This month, our digital editor unveils two new websites for our regional and state magazines, and For the longest time they have been part of’s sister lifestyle site,, but the time has come for them to branch off. Check them out. Earlier this year, I mentioned that in the fourth quarter we are launching the Biz New Orleans 500, a book showcasing some of New Orleans’ most influential businesspeople divided into categories that reflect the region’s economy. That project is in final list stage and we will begin writing profiles this summer. New Orleans Magazine and New Orleans Home completed their redesigns last year, and this year, during its 25th anniversary, St. Charles Avenue will receive a cover-to-cover makeover with an unveiling of its new look in September. As for events, we are gearing up for the return of our bridal show this August. New Orleans Bride has not held a show since January 2020, so we are all excited to bring that community together for a fun, festive event. So much is happening at Renaissance and I am so proud of the staff. Great work! Todd Matherne




We spend so much of our lives in airports as pro skaters…The fact that Red Bull was able to make it happen and turn an old airport into a park is like something out of a video game. Skater Jake Wooten, speaking about the “Red Bull Terminal Takeover” that transformed the former MSY airport terminal into three custom-built parks for a special event that welcomed approximately two dozen skateboarders May 1-2.



ACTIVIST SAYS IT’S TIME TO REMOVE THE CLAIBORNE EXPRESSWAY Amy Stelly, an artist, designer, planner and teacher known for her advocacy work with the Claiborne Avenue Alliance, explains why the Claiborne Expressway never should have been built, why it should come down and how to get the job done.




New Kid On the Block O N M AY 1 1 , SA N F R A N C I S C O - BA S E D K I M P TO N H O T E L S &

Restaurants opened Kimpton Hotel Fontenot at the former address of the Staybridge Suites on 501 Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District. The 202-room boutique hotel marks the brand’s return to the city after a 16-year absence. Named in honor of Creole fiddle player Canray Fontenot, the new Kimpton Hotel Fontenot was designed by New York-based consulting firm MarkZeff. It features several “chef-led” food and beverage concepts, including a corner cafe and restaurant and bar. The hotel’s dining is led by Executive Chef Chris Lusk and Restaurant and Bar General Manager Jessica Retif and include Gospel Coffee and Boozy Treats and a “fun and fanciful cocktail bar” called The Peacock Room. The hotel is donating $5 from every booking to The Roots of Music, a nonprofit organization that empowers young New Orleanians through music education, academic support and mentorship.



JUNE 2021

Our goal is to honor the city’s heritage while occupying an exciting new niche in the local hospitality scene. Every detail — from the thoughtful, purposeful music selection in the lobby to the early evening social hour and always-on programming — is an expression of the modern Southern hospitality nature of the city and its locals. Jesseca Malecki, general manager of Kimpton Hotel Fontenot

The first-ever Louisiana made craft sake hit the market a month ago and the two women behind it — Nan Wallis and Lindsey Brower, owners of Wetlands Sake — tell us all about it, how it came to be, and where you can grab some.

THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS TALKING ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM Catch all the latest news, PLUS original reporting, people on the move, videos, weekly podcast and blogs, digital editions of the magazines and daily Morning Biz and afternoon newsletters. If it’s important to business in Southeast Louisiana, it's at


STEPHEN PERRY TALKS TOURISM The New Orleans hospitality industry – ordinarily a source of more than $10 billion in visitor spending – is still a long way away from full strength. New Orleans & Company president and CEO Stephen Perry talks about the state of the industry and his high hopes for the fall.



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JUNE 2021


DINING The St. Tammany Parish pivot

TOURISM The president and CEO of

the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission talks recovery

SPORTS Who will take over the role of

Saints offense talk of the town?

ENTREPRENEUR The Northshore has

long been a hotbed of entrepreneurial success stories


The St. Tammany Pivot The parish’s tourist and convention commission took on a new role in the pandemic — providing lifelines to area hospitality and retail businesses BY POPPY TOOKER



JUNE 2021


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.

SINCE THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY, ST. TAMMANY The commission worked collaboratively Parish has functioned as a favorite vaca- to ensure all partners were up to date on tion playground for New Orleans resi- economic relief and grant opportunities — dents, who travelled by boat and train in an entirely new focus for the tourism orgathose early days, to reach the cool pine nization. Members of the team personally forests and healing artesian waters found phoned partners to check in on them. in great abundance there. Construction Jan Lantrip, of the English Tea Room, of the Causeway bridge in 1956 consid- received one such call at a time when the erably changed the region’s profile, with future of her 20-year-old business seemed increasing numbers of New Orleanians questionable. choosing St. Tammany’s slower pace as “They threw us a lifeline with that call,” an escape from the pressures of city life. Lantrip remembers, “reassuring us we In 1976, as St. Tammany rapidly were all in this together.” transformed into a bedroom community This summer, the parish is ready to for metro New Orleans, the Louisiana welcome locals and visitors alike as part Legislature created the St. Tammany of a strong recovery predicted for the area. Pa r i s h To u r i s t a n d C o n v e n t i o n Live music has returned to the Tammany Commission with a vision of what tourism Trace trailhead, with the goal of bringing in could mean to the area’s economy. As a new customers to area businesses. result, in recent years, visitors contributed Planning a culinary-focused Northover $771 million to the parish’s economy shore vacation is both easy and delicious. while patronizing the area’s hotels, restau- Farmers markets, brewpubs, bakeries rants and other attractions. and restaurants, ranging from soulful Typically, convention and visitors mom-and-pop operations to fine-dining bureaus nationwide rely financially on establishments participate annually in membership dues, but St. Tammany the Tammany Taste of Summer when a Parish’s efforts are funded entirely by state free savings pass offers deep discounts and local taxes generated from tourist on dining as well as accommodations and dollars. In 2019, 2.63 million visitors attractions. chose to spend their time and money in The commission’s free, semiannual St. Tammany. It’s a figure that commission “Explore The Northshore Guide,” is President and CEO Donna O’Daniels filled with inspiring ideas sure to rev up points out is comparable to “every man, your vacation plans. From a Bananas woman, and child in the city of Chicago Foster waffle at Liz’s Where Y’at Diner in visiting St. Tammany Parish, with each Mandeville, to lunch in an antique train car spending $293.15.” Those dollars make a at Lola in Covington, to an afternoon cold dramatic difference for parish residents, brew at Chafunkta Brewing Company, or resulting in tax savings of over $1,000 per an elegant, sunset dinner at Mandeville’s household to pay for basic services. waterfront Lakehouse, the Northshore The state’s 2020 “stay at home” orders truly has options for all kinds of dining. proved quite a challenge to the organiza- Fill up the tank and get ready for fun! It’s tion. O’Daniels’ team sprang into action all waiting for you in St. Tammany Parish. with messaging designed to remind resiFor more information and vacation dents of the treasures to be found right in ideas, visit n their own backyards. From Fontainebleau State Park, the state’s most popular facility of it’s kind where your “glamping” dreams can become a reality, to the 31-mile-long Tammany Trace designed for biking and hiking, ample opportunities existed to safely recreate nearby. With dining and shopping at a standstill, stamina and hard work came into play in order to keep St. Tammany’s hospitality and retail partners viable. A new website — — quickly went live, and became locals’ go-to site for the Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, latest on everything from curbside pickup “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM. to retail delivery.




St. Tammany Tourism Seeing Its First Signs of Life Home of the fourth largest visitor economy in the state, St. Tammany’s recovery is still a while out, but Donna O’Daniels, president and CEO of the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission, says the commission is doing all it can to help. BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER



JUNE 2021

O’Daniels: Our Tourist Commission is funded primarily by a 3% local hotel occupancy tax, and in 2020, that revenue was down 23%, and we are still down about 18% for the first quarter of 2021. However, in March, our hotels saw their highest demand since before the pandemic. We are cautiously optimistic about the rest of the year, but realistically, it will be 2022 or

JGS: Is there a can’t-miss destination? O’Daniels: Fontainebleau State Park! You can hike, bike, camp, glamp, get on the water, get in the water, see wildlife. It’s just a glorious place, 365 days a year. To learn more about events and attractions on the Northshore, visit n


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

IN 1821, THE FIRST STEAMBOAT CROSSED 2023 before we make a full recovery and Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Our hospithe Northshore, and it has been a desti- tality workforce has been hit really hard nation ever since. In the past 200 years, — many of our hotels and restaurants St. Tammany Parish has grown to become are having a hard time finding employees, the fourth largest visitor economy in the and we know that frontline work force is state, behind only Orleans, Jefferson and a critical part of the St. Tammany experiEast Baton Rouge parishes. ence. We have one of the highest levels of If anyone is an expert on tourism in repeat visitation in the industry, and great St. Tammany, it’s Donna O’Daniels, presi- service and friendly people are a big reason dent and CEO of the St. Tammany Parish for that. Tourist and Convention Commission JGS: What are your top priorities over the (STPTCC). Next month she’ll celebrate 25 next year? years of working at the Commission, and O’Daniels: Our No. 1 goal is to assist the she recently sat down with me to share a businesses that comprise the tourism little of what she knows. economy in St. Tammany Parish — hotels, JGS: What is your most important restaurants and attractions — and help messaging point to make to the people of them recover by bringing visitors back St. Tammany Parish? as quickly as possible. We are also in the Donna O’Daniels: Tourism plays a major process of finalizing our strategic plan that role in the economy of St. Tammany will take us through 2025. Some of the Parish. In 2019, we had 2.63 million visi- priorities in that plan will include taking tors, roughly the population of Chicago, a more active role in developing the visitor and those visitors spent $771 million that experience in St. Tammany. year. The sales taxes collected as a result of JGS: What is your favorite destination or visitor expenditures in 2019 saved every St. event in each season in St. Tammany? Tammany household over $1,000 in taxes O’Daniels: (Laughing) This would be like they would have otherwise paid to keep asking me to pick my favorite child! It’s the same level of community services and impossible! St. Tammany Parish is a collecquality of life. tion of destinations. Each town has its JGS: What are the top destinations and own unique personality and character and events that draw visitors to St. Tammany? you can have very different experiences O’Daniels: We know based on our research in each, so explore them all! Personally, that the things that draw visitors are our this time of year, spring and summer, I outdoor attractions and amenities like think everyone wants to be near the water, Fontainebleau State Park, the Tammany whether it’s the lake, the river or the bayou, Trace, fishing, boating, kayaking and bird- boating, paddling, tubing or fishing. Two watching, and the multitude of great places of the most popular attractions right to eat, whether it’s fine dining or small, now are actually some of our newest locally owned eateries. While we have restaurants that have spectacular water some amazing festivals that attract visitors views — Pat’s Rest A While, the newest from all over the region like the Wooden creation of hometown favorite chef Pat Boat Festival, Three Rivers Art Fest and Gallagher, on the Mandeville lakefront, and Olde Town Antique Street Fair, visitors Tchefuncte’s and The Anchor overlooking also come because there’s something going the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville. Fall on practically every weekend. Even if there always make me think of holiday shopping, isn’t a major festival, we know visitors I start early, and there’s no better place to come to our farmers markets, downtown do that than the locally owned shops in block parties, art gallery openings, local downtown Covington, the Mandeville theater productions and wine dinners. Lakefront and Olde Town Slidell. And of JGS: How has COVID-19 impacted your course, with winter comes Carnival, and I organization and the tourism sector in St. love the Northshore parades; it still feels like a party, but it’s super family-friendly! Tammany?




Succession Planning Who will take over the role of Saints offense talk of the town? BY CHRIS PRICE



JUNE 2021

position many companies have had to face in their existence. They’ve enjoyed a 15-year stretch of the greatest achievements in their history, but a change is at hand. After a decade and a half with quarterback Drew Brees running one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, the team will have a new play caller under center in either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. No matter who gets the call, they’ll have big shoulder pads to fill. In his time in New Orleans, Brees rewrote team and league record books. He led all NFL quarterbacks in touchdowns, passing yards and 300-yard games. He holds the NFL records for career pass completions, career completion percentage and career passing yards, and is second in career touchdown passes. He was rewarded with 13 Pro Bowl appearances, the 2006 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2010, and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2011. He is expected to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2026. This year, Brees’ tie to the game will move from the gridiron to a studio or press box when he joins NBC Sports as a football analyst. In addition to losing Brees, the Saints had to make drastic revisions to their roster this offseason to meet the league-mandated salary-cap. The team furiously shed more than $100 million — which many have cited as the worst underwater salary cap position an NFL team has ever seen — to become compliant while fielding a team capable of competing. Now the team must turn their playbook’s page to 2021. Hill has gained league-wide prominence for his “Swiss Army knife” capabilities of playing multiple skill positions. In three years, the 30-year-old has completed 94 of his 134 attempts (70.1%) for 1,047 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s rushed 151 times for 809 yards and 11 TDs and as a receiver has 30 catches on 41 targets for 336 yards and seven scores. A major eye-opener was the 11 fumbles — 10 last season — he’s coughed up, often when trying to extend plays. Winston has been a hot and cold quarterback in his six-year NFL career, completing 1,570 of his 2,559 passes (61.4%) for 19,812 yards, 121 TDs and 88 picks. The former Heisman Trophy winner was the top overall draft pick by the Tampa

Bay Buccaneers in 2015 but was let go before the 2020 season when the team signed Tom Brady. The 27-year-old had a 28-42 record under two head coaches with the Saints’ rivals. At times he’s shown brilliance; at others he’s made bone-headed mistakes. In his last season starting for Tampa, he threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, but he also threw 30 interceptions. He had LASIK surgery to improve his vision and signed a one-year deal with the Saints — worth $1.1 million and up to $3.4 million in incentives — in hopes of resurrecting his career. At the time, he said learning under Brees and head coach Sean Payton would be “like a Harvard education in quarterback school.” Winston and Hill will be the talk of the summer. Who can take over the huddle and provide the leadership the team needs? Who one is most up to speed and comfortable running the offense? Who is able to keep the offense moving? Which gives the team the better chance to win? The good news is the Saints don’t need either to be Superman. Payton is a playcalling genius and will tailor game plans to his team’s strengths. If I had to guess, I think Winston gets the nod so that both players are able to be on the field at the same time and the Saints can continue to rely on the the gadgetry of Hill’s multi-positional play. While Hill led the Saints to a 3-1 record in replacement of Brees last season — and I believe he will see time under center depending on the field position, down and distance — at this point I don’t think he’s shown enough development as a quarterback to be the full-time starter. The Saints have multiple weapons at their disposal, including running back Alvin Kamara, who displayed near MVP-caliber play in 2020, and wide receiver Michael Thomas, the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, a dynamic offensive line that is one of the best in the league – a luxury Winston didn’t have in Tampa – as well as a Top-5 defense from a year ago. With Winston at quarterback, the Saints won’t have to change much of their playcalling strategy. That means there will still be a lot of runs and short passes to get going, but with Winston’s arm and Payton’s willingness to gamble, don’t be surprised to see more long passes down field. That’s a capability the Saints’ offense hasn’t had in recent years, and expect Payton to utilize it to his team’s advantage. 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





The North-South Connection The Northshore has long been a hotbed of entrepreneurial success stories. BY KEITH TWITCHELL



JUNE 2021


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.

ingly to cars as the primary means of transfor more than three days knows that portation, the lack of a vehicular connection became (couldn’t resist) a roadblock to compass directions aren’t much use around further progress. The problem was initially here. We go south to the Westbank and take the interstate east to the Northshore. addressed in 1928 by construction of the first bridge across Lake Pontchartrain, Conversely, folks in Slidell go west to linking New Orleans East to Slidell, known the Southshore. Even Google Maps gets today as the Highway 11 Bridge. confused sometimes. The real connection, however, came While inventing a Southeast Louisianawith the opening of the Causeway in 1956. centric compass might be an unrealized entrepreneurial opportunity, these This coincided perfectly with the rise of suburban America, and Northshore popugeographic anomalies have not prevented the region from enjoying a long history lation numbers increased considerably in of business interaction and success. the following years. The Causeway is itself Northshore and Southshore economies are an amazing entrepreneurial feat; at nearly more interwoven than many may realize. 24 miles, it is the world’s longest bridge across open water. Some of our best-known regional brands Today the Northshore is thoroughly were established in St. Tammany Parish. St. Tammany was established as a developed, with every imaginable residential amenity and a thriving commercial Louisiana parish in 1810, though Europeans had joined indigenous people in living sector. Rail and interstate connectivity there well before then. It was originally — and from there to the ports of New much larger, incorporating what are today Orleans and Baton Rouge — have enabled Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. many area businesses to develop into The first official town was called Wharton, national brands. To cite just a few examples, Abita founded in 1813; the name was changed to Covington in 1816, and it became the seat of Brewing was the first major local craft brewer; its distinctive beers are now the parish government in 1829. And where there are people and govern- found all across the country. Ampirical helps public and private sector power ments, there are businesses. Records indicate that the first North- companies across a wide region operate shore hotel opened in 1834, but by then safely and efficiently. Ballard Brands is a food and beverage firm that encompasses many small businesses existed to serve the local populace, including general a variety of restaurants and products and locations in 28 states and three countries. stores, blacksmiths, tailors and other typical foundational enterprises. Steam- Netchex, which provides payroll and other personnel services, is one of the country’s boat service from the Southshore began in 1837, bringing New Orleanians over fastest-growing businesses in its sector. A recent addition to this impressive Lake Pontchartrain to relax, enjoy cooler lineup is Better Bedder, whose innovative temperatures and make local purchases. bed “headband” is designed to facilitate The oldest local business still operating is the St. Tammany Farmer, a newspaper making your bed and keeping it neat. After that began publishing in 1874. Other enter- a successful appearance on the TV show prises from that era still around today “Shark Tank” earlier this year, nationwide demand for the product has been so great include H.J. Smith and Sons Hardware that the company can barely keep up. in Covington, founded in 1876. The store Distinct yet regionally connected, now includes a fascinating small museum detailing local history; be sure to pick up a community-based yet with an expanding national impact, Northshore entreprebear trap on your way out. Interparish commerce was further neurism is a significant driver of the Southeast Louisiana economy, regardless expanded by completion in 1887 of of the compass points. n the (here we go again) East Louisiana Railroad to connect the Northshore to the Southshore. By this time towns including Slidell, Lacombe and Mandeville had been established. The area continued to grow and prosper, but as the United States turned increasANYONE WHO HAS LIVED IN NEW ORLEANS






JUNE 2021


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JUNE 2021


TECHNOLOGY Local tech professionals

share the most exciting innovation or technology they’ve seen in the past year

HEALTHCARE Senior care facilities

respond to the pandemic with new health and safety protocols

INSURANCE How has the pandemic

changed the insurance industry moving forward?

GUEST 2020 was a turbulent year for

the stock market. How do you adjust to the recovery?






I’m excited to see low code and no code platforms become realistic options for businesses. These platforms take what would have been significant projects with developers, business analysts, etc., and put the “development” into more than just a developer’s hands. Need a mobile app to read barcodes? Simple. Need to create a portal that allows customers to view and pay outstanding balances? Done. Now you can extend existing or create new applications, self-manage your development cycle, have more internal resources to develop the apps and significantly reduce costs.

The most interesting innovations we’ve seen came from a change in companies’ mindsets towards technology, solidifying it as a necessity for everyone. Companies are reworking their technology as components of resilience and longterm survival. Software, in particular, is a strong operational constant that maintains business continuity through significant turbulence. We saw clients make new investments in technology or double down on what they had in place to ensure their future footing. Those investments that are going to drive future innovations.




CEO RENT-A-NERD The development and improvement of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) made the move to Azure (Microsoft’s cloud) even easier for businesses and IT administrators. WVD provides access to a “virtual” Windows computer that can run applications like PCLaw, Medisoft and Microsoft Office from anywhere while sensitive company data remains in the cloud and is never out of the company’s control. Over the last year, Microsoft has vastly improved their Azure portal, making deployment and management more efficient.



Two innovations stand out to me: General Informatics Server365 AlwaysOn Network — which offers secure online access to business applications without going through establishing a VPN — and Prodoscore, an amazing product I think will be used by every business that wants to ensure productivity of remote staff. Prodoscore measures thousands of daily activity points across business applications you’re already using and generates actionable analytics that measure productivity and create immediate opportunities for process improvement, while respecting employee privacy.

JUNE 2021

In IT and software development what’s the most exciting innovation or technology you’ve seen in the past year?

STEPHANIE KAVANAUGH SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR UNIVERSAL DATA INCORPORATED Artificial Intelligence (AI) has allowed for big business cybersecurity solutions to be adopted in small business environments. However, the innovation of technology solutions was not as exciting as the adoption of collaboration solutions in businesses otherwise resistant, as they worked to ensure their employees could collaborate and work from anywhere, at any time. I see automation working positively for us in the years ahead. I believe this will give us the opportunity to be more creative and strategic in helping clients grow their businesses.


NEEL S. SUS CEO SUSCO We were blown away when we saw a demo of Google’s GPT-3 AI. Given a loose set of parameters, it can write entire articles that pass the Turing test. Relating to software development, given another set of loose parameters, we watched it create the code for an entire basic website. It’s a game changer for software writing software.

We are seeing a rapid uptake of AI-based security systems, medical analysis, and other big data problem-solving applications. AI is good at large scale data parsing and reporting. How that parsed data is used is where the ethical dilemmas come into play. The economic impact of AI is yet to be fully seen. It will certainly eliminate jobs and can cause a greater gap in the population since so many people are opting to take the “short term” payout and not work. Businesses will replace workers with AI/robotics, permanently eliminating the need for employees in labor-intensive industries. BIZNEWORLEANS.COM



Lessons Learned Greater New Orleans senior care facilities respond to the pandemic with new health and safety protocols BY RICH COLLINS


nation’s nursing homes and long-term care providers especially hard. According to The New York Times, at least 182,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported among residents and employees at such facilities. That accounts for roughly one-third of all deaths from the virus in the U.S. As a result of the traumatic year, the industry is making changes. Experts predict strict infection control measures and enhanced screening to become permanent fixtures at many nursing homes and assisted living facilities, for instance - and more are embracing new technologies to help manage staffing, communication and other tasks. The result is cautious optimism among local providers that the lessons learned during the pandemic will improve longterm care in the future. THINK SMALL

Audubon Care Homes, owned and operated by Michelle and Scott Lovitt, is now using a simple scheduling app that home health, hospice and other healthcare providers, as well as family members, can use to schedule their visits. Audubon operates Dreyfous House, a 10-bed facility near Lake Pontchartrain in Metairie. It will open another facility called Phosphor House later this year. “This helps keep traffic in and out of the house to a minimum and helps us keep track of who was in the house at any one time,” said Scott Lovitt. “If someone tests positive for COVID-19, the flu, etc., we have the ability to easily identify who we need to contact.” Audubon has also added air scrubbers to its air conditioning systems to kill airborne bacteria and viruses. “This past year has really shined a light on the benefits of smaller assisted living



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With the vaccination rates increasing and more people seeing the benefit, families, responsible parties and prospective residents are seeing the need for care in a safe environment. Mark Francis, vice president of special projects at Schonberg Care

homes over large assisted living facilities,” said Lovitt. “We have better control over the number of people we let in our house at one time. Throughout the pandemic, our residents were able to have one visitor per family per day. This really helped keep resident morale up and allowed families to see their loved ones.”

above and beyond for their loved ones,” he said. “We have learned over the past many months how to accommodate for the situation at hand while keeping our residents at the forefront of our priority. Life in so many ways seems back to normal, and we will continue to provide the care we are known for here at Schonberg Care.”



“The industry is definitely on an upswing and coming back strong,” said Mark Francis, vice president of special projects at Schonberg Care, which operates 14 retirement communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Locations in the area include Vista Shores near City Park, the Suites at Algiers Point, Beau Provence in Mandeville and Park Provence in Slidell. “With the vaccination rates increasing and more people seeing the benefit, families, responsible parties and prospective residents are seeing the need for care in a safe environment,” said Francis. “We have learned that, in most cases, a senior care community is often the safest place to be, as our precautions and safeguards are in play 24/7 and our families are very supportive of the care and concern we put into visitation and safety.” Francis said that temperature checks, masks and safe distancing don’t interfere with daily engagement. “Our residents and families feel the peace of mind knowing that we always go

Poydras Home, meanwhile, is about to break ground on a renovation that will accommodate the “green house project” model of care, in which small groups of residents live in their own distinct shared homes. Founded in 1817 as a refuge for children of widows left destitute by New Orleans’ yellow fever outbreaks, Poydras Home is no stranger to change. It moved to its current location at the corner of Jefferson and Magazine streets in 1857. A century or so later, it began providing care for older adults. In the early 2000s, it added “garden house” independent living and memory care. The new green house project is designed to give residents more autonomy and help deliver a broader range of care from fewer employees. “Instead of having housekeepers on multiple shifts per day enter your room — and multiple nursing aides help you get dressed, undressed and showered — you instead have a limited number of care partners who will fill all of those roles for a limited number of residents,” said

Jennifer O’Neill Brammell, the facility’s director of marketing. She said Poydras Home is planning for groups of 12 to 14 residents in six homes. “This results in greater consistency of caregiver — which the residents and families want as they bond with their caregivers — and less in and out in that home so less exposure through staff to COVID-19 and any other communicable diseases,” said Brammell. Poydras Home will break ground in 2021 on two, three-story buildings linked by a glass atrium that will serve as the entryway for six separate homes, one on each floor. These new homes will feature open floor plans with “spacious living rooms, comfortable seating and fireplaces, dining rooms and state-ofthe-art kitchens where residents can participate in meal preparation, private bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and balconies and patios with beautiful garden views,” according to a press release. CHANGES TO IN-HOME CARE

The lessons of the pandemic apply to in-home care as well. Harry Spring, co-owner of Right at Home of Slidell, said the industry has embraced technology at different levels to ensure not only contact between individuals is kept to a minimum, but that caregivers are screened daily for exposure to COVID-19. Part of a national network, Right at Home offers everything from help around the house to daily medical assistance. New procedures range from mandatory daily telephone COVID-19 screenings for all staff working in the field with clients to virtual hiring procedures with new employees. Spring said the company has also had an increased focus on sanitation, personal protective equipment, exposure screening and communication. “We have seen communication channels increase related to the pandemic,” said Spring. “Information that used to take days to disseminate is now available in hours. This will not change but will increase as we face future challenges.” Another positive development, said Spring, is that the pandemic “created a more unified and fluid healthcare industry. As a group, we have come together to not only share best practices but also combine our unique services to provide for our patients and clients during the pandemic. Our industry has always worked together for the benefit of the client; the pandemic forced us to work together faster with fewer barriers. This network is stronger than it has ever been, which will help our clients in the future.”n

We have better control over the number of people we let in our house at one time. Throughout the pandemic, our residents were able to have one visitor per family per day. This really helped keep resident morale up and allowed families to see their loved ones. Scott Lovitt, owner and operator of Audubon Care Homes




SEBRINA PRESIDENT INSURANCE DESIGN & PLACEMENT, INC. Most carriers are adding communicable disease exclusions on general liability policies so we have been talking with clients about the noninsurance ways to manage that exposure. We have also spent some time discussing the proactive ways to get in front of expected changes in directors’ and officers’ workers compensation and employment practices liability insurance. Claims from 2020 are still trickling in, so it’s likely that carriers will be tweaking both coverages and pricing for at least the next 18 months.

CASEY DUPLANTIER PRODUCER ALPHA INSURANCE AGENCY One item that has really come to the forefront is the risk associated with online presence. Criminals are aware of this as we have seen an uptick in cyber crime. Insurance markets are improving their products to address this exposure, which is good for us and our clients. Though cyber liability was important before the pandemic, it is something that needs to be included in an insurance portfolio and is needed by almost all small businesses.


How has the pandemic changed the insurance industry moving forward?



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The insurance industry itself faced severe disruption in many ways. The pandemic without question raised many insurance questions, and businesses should assess whether their insurance provides the right coverage for critical business risks and consider available products to best protect such risks. The pandemic emphasized why having the right coverage matters. Insurers are always studying emerging risks. The industry provides a critical backbone to business and that will not change after the pandemic.

HEALTH ECONOMIST AND STRAIGHT TALK AUTHOR BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF LOUISIANA We expanded telehealth in 2020, increased services covered, added more online visit providers and promoted apps and digital solutions. As in-person care resumes, we believe people will still use these services for convenience. The COVID-19 relief bill makes financial assistance to buy plans available to more people, and we expect higher signups. With more people seeking individual coverage, insurers will play a larger role in education and outreach about enrollment opportunities.




Time to Regroup 2020 was a turbulent year for the stock market. Now how do you adjust to the recovery? BY JASON BEZOU


remember for a moment how you felt early in 2020 when you realized you could not interact with friends and family, couldn’t go to a favorite place or get basic necessities, but could get sick or lose a loved one because of a rapidly spreading, mysterious disease. I remember the facial expressions via Zoom meetings and alarmed voices on the



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phone when clients expressed concerned about their careers, businesses, health and investments. Even some of our experienced advisors were rattled. My goal was to encourage them to stick with the plan we had in place for the next recession, regardless of the cause. For clients earning income, we shifted their distributions to come from cash and conservative investments, allowing more volatile holdings to recover. For those still building wealth and who had enough emergency reserves, we shifted some funds to more growth-oriented vehicles to take advantage of the dip. Some investors panicked and took a loss they will never recover from. But most clients are better off financially a year later than they even expected before we ever heard of COVID-19. So, what now? We have witnessed a fullblown recession and recovery in one year, a cycle that typically takes half a decade. Does that count as the recession we have all braced for over the last several years? Did it shake out the businesses that were

not ready for whatever future awaited us? Did it define the industries, companies and sectors that will mold the future world and create wealth for all of us? The changes already underway before the pandemic toward more technology, working from home and increased government dependence and assistance went into warp speed. How is all of this going to impact your portfolio? What should you do about it? Our clients often ask where the economy is heading and what stocks will make quick returns. Not since the 2008 recession have clients become so focused on specific stocks or industries and called me with stock suggestions. How will the current political environment affect financial markets? Those who despised the previous administration, or fear the new one, all want to know what the political changes mean economically. Grab a highlighter, here’s my answer: I DON’T KNOW. No one does. The best way to build a solid plan is to remove the current noise and hype and

Jason Bezou is the founder and president of Bezou Financial Planning Group. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS). In three out of the last five years with Capital One, Bezou was the No. 1 advisor in the country in client assets invested. He is one of just 33 advisors in the United States handpicked by Capital One Investing and Woodbury Financial to help ensure that former Capital One clients continue to move toward their financial goals. Those loyal clients enabled him to start Bezou Financial Planning Group.

political opinions and focus on your goals and life changes. Know before something crazy happens how you plan to adjust. That way, your reaction to the emotion of the unexpected can be simplified to a preplanned response to a 20% drop in the S&P 500, for example. Without getting too technical, here’s the bottom line: Revisit your plan based on how COVID-19, the 2008 financial crisis, the tech stocks bust, and other smaller market corrections affected you personally. Those things shook us up, and you landed wherever you are now as a result of how you responded. It’s no longer a risk questionnaire you answered about how you would respond if this or that happened in the markets. We saw it, felt it, responded to it, and now we must learn from it. Consider how it impacted you, your emotional or logical response and your financial health. From there, you can adjust your plan and prepare for the next inevitable crisis that no one is expecting, few will predict and none will know the precise cause, severity, length and timing. It’s important to see financial planning as more than just how your portfolio performs. It also includes things like tax efficiency, estate planning, how to navigate Social Security, health care costs if you retire before Medicare, adjusting income sources in retirement to freeze property tax increases, reduce the tax on Social Security, inherit or pass on money smoothly and with minimal tax implications, give to charity with the best tax benefits and more. Attorneys and CPAs do a great job accounting for and making sure your plan is filed legally. It also helps to open up to your financial advisor, who should have access to a Certified Financial Planner, and pull those skills together. Don’t assume that any one of those has all the answers. When I hear someone tell me their attorney told them to buy XYZ stock or invest in a certain industry, I ask them, what did their plumber suggest? Or what does their doctor think they should do about their last will? Find professionals who focus on their areas of expertise and respect the knowledge of other professionals. My favorite meetings are with the attorneys and CPAs of my clients where we all get to learn something and create the best plans. As 2021 unfolds, life will certainly bring more surprises — every year does. What matters most is that you and your advisor create a plan that will give you the confidence to stick with it when the unexpected happens. Or better yet, even if this year turns out to be more wonderfully boring than the last one. n



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THE $12 BILLION PARISH NEXT DOOR St. Tammany is hotter than ever, and Chris Masingill, CEO of the parish’s economic development organization, says this is only the beginning. BY KIM SINGLETARY PORTRAITS BY GREG MILES

ENTREPRENEURIAL HUB During the 3rd quarter of 2020, 1,343 new business incorporations were filed in St. Tammany — the highest on record for a single quarter. (Source: Louisiana Secretary of State)

WE HAVE A SIGNIFICANT TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO THIS YEAR, the first steamboat crossed Lake Pontchartrain, offering the first real link between St. Tammany Parish (established 11 years earlier in 1810) and the Southshore. More steamboats would follow, then a railroad, and finally the first bridge in 1928. Since those first links were established between the north and south sides of the lake, St. Tammany Parish has drawn residents with the promise of a quieter, more rural, even healthier way of life. (In the 1850s the U.S. Government named the Northshore the second-healthiest place in the country due to the few deaths it saw from yellow fever). Centuries later, in the midst of another global pandemic, St. Tammany is now the fourthfastest growing parish in the state. Charged with managing and continuing this growth, the parish’s threeyear-old economic development organization, St. Tammany Corporation, has announced 12 new projects that represent a capital investment of over $48 million and created 374 new jobs just from July 2018 to March 2021. Its leader, Arkansas native Chris Masingill, counts among his fast accomplishments launching a five-year strategic plan called THRIVE2023 and creating the St. Tammany Partnership for Industry, Workforce and Economic Development, a collaborative workforce development and talent retention initiative. Driven by what he describes as his own humble beginnings — his dad was a beat cop, his mom was a waitress and he struggled early on with severe dyslexia — Masingill said he’s inspired every day to solve problems and create better opportunities for the future of the parish, which he adds already benefits from a very educated workforce, lower cost of doing business and multiple thriving industries. But will all this rapid economic growth threaten the quality of life that has been the parish’s biggest draw since the beginning? Masingill is convinced it doesn’t have to.



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Yes. The leadership here in St Tammany did a reboot of economic development in 2018. They wanted to restructure the organization or organizations because there was an alignment of several entities that were doing economic development. They wanted to create a new strategy, a new playbook. And so, it was very appealing. I feel like it was a fit for me because I’ve got very much of an entrepreneurial spirit, just in terms of how I operate and my management style. We run pretty fast. We’re full throttle. I love to show up and show out, and we have all kinds of ways that we do that through implementing our strategic initiatives, managing projects, working with our elected officials and economic development. My whole purpose is to compete, and St. Tammany is the kind of place that has the resources, all of the ingredients, but it’s about putting those ingredients together in the right way to create the unbelievable product and make it all work. What are the main mission and goals of St. Tammany Corp.? Our goal is to be the destination of choice for building businesses, growing businesses, attracting talent and being an incredible place for quality of life. Businesses and families and talent, they recognize that we are a destination of choice. If you want to start a business, you want to grow a business, you want to raise a family here, you want to play here, you want to pray here, you want to go to school here, we’re at the top of your list.


Since even before Hurricane Katrina, the region has experienced some incredible growth.


Yes. In 1990, the population in St. Tammany was about 145,000. In 2000, it was 192,000. That’s 47,000 people added just in that 10-year period. Then in another 10 years we hit 234,000, which means that was an increase of another 42,000 people in the 2000s. You get into 2020, and



You’ve said one thing that attracted you to this job was that it was like a startup. Can you explain?

now we’re at about 263,000, and we predict by 2030, we will be over 278,000 people. So, we have to be ready for that. And infrastructure, we’ve got to be ready for that for occupation and educational opportunities because that’s how you keep your people. That’s how you attract the kind of talent that then, in turn, attracts more sophisticated businesses, more diverse businesses, because businesses go where talent goes. Who are the big business players in St. Tammany? We’ve got the three main industry sectors that we have really put some strategic focus on. The first is transportation and logistics — a significant industry sector for us. Companies like Rooms To Go and Medline are here, and now we’ve got the expansion of Medline in Tangipahoa Parish. We’ve got water transportation with companies like Florida Marine, we’ve even got some assembly and manufacturing-related industries like Dana Corp. We’ve got a lot of gas transportation-related companies that also sit right here in St. Tammany. This is a sector with significant potential for growth, particularly [in] warehousing and distribution, and logistics space. The expansion of the port in St. Bernard is also going to have a significant potential positive impact for us. Business and professional services is another main sector for us. We have nearly 26,000 employees that represent that industry, which has a high average wage. We have a lot of corporate headquarters, financial services, advertising and public relations firms. Sterling Properties has its headquarters here on the Northshore, for example. We’re very competitive in this sector in terms of commercial office space availability, low rates, and a lower cost of doing business. Third, I would say is scientific and technical services. We’ve got several local IT operations, cyber-security operations and companies doing government contracting in the IoT space. Probably the most famous example is Tulane’s primate lab. Another subset of that, which has a huge impact on the Northshore, is healthcare. We’ve got over almost 14,000 jobs that are in that sector — 3%, above the national average — and we saw almost a 22% growth in 10 years. When you start talking about what they contribute to the economy, just in taxes alone, it’s $20 million from healthcare. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the parish? What we need to do in economic development is make sure that we’re knocking down barriers. Do we have the right regulatory processes in place? How does government interface with businesses? We want to make sure we create the right kind of environment that can help businesses start and grow. Businesses love continuity, they love reliability, they like for things to be consistent, and very clear and understandable processes. Right now, we’re doing a major rewrite of our codes, and our parish president has initiated something called New Direction 2040, which is really helping to put a sense of development principles in place for what the future looks like for St. Tammany. We’re clearly very involved in that. I think the other thing too, for us is that with that growth, you can never stop investing in infrastructure. The transportation arteries, the water and wastewater, the drainage, the coastal restoration, we have to make sure we’ve got the right things in place for surge protection. So, we’re working policy issues, we’re working regulatory issues, we’re managing actual projects. We’re providing some strategic leadership. We’re doing project management as it relates to initiatives. We’re actually facilitating projects on behalf of our government partners. What about workforce? Are there challenges there? About two and a half years ago we launched Thrive 2023, our five-year economic development strategic plan. But one of the complementary documents that we did with that was a full economic analysis that really

reinforced our strategic focuses. It helped us identify our targeted industries and one of the things that we learned coming out of that exercise is that St. Tammany truly helps power the region with its talent. We have a significant number of folks that leave this parish every day to go to work up to 70 miles in one direction. These are individuals that are the best educated, highest paid. That’s the kind of talent that St. Tammany is producing in the region. We have an amazing, talented workforce, but you’ve got to constantly make sure that you’re managing that, that you’re increasing the pipeline, which means you’re bringing more talent to your community, you’re creating more opportunities for educational attainment. When you look at the educational attainment in St Tammany, we have the highest educational attainment in the entire state. That doesn’t happen by accident, you’ve got to constantly make sure that you’re working with K through 12. Every year, we as an industry will constantly survey our employers. We’re constantly working on these educational attainment issues and workforce training and development. When you ask a business wanting to relocate or expand, the top four out of 10 question or reasons or issues that businesses have center around talent. Luckily, through relationships with [Northshore] Technical Community College, our relationship with K through 12, Parish Works and Southeastern [Louisiana University], we were able to really bolster our workforce training and development initiatives, and it just it makes us that much stronger.

LOW UNEMPLOYMENT In March 2021, the unemployment rates were: NATIONWIDE







Much of what attracts people to the Northshore is its more rural feel and quality of life. How do you keep that with all the growth? That is the magic question, right? That’s the true challenge that economic development on the Northshore faces every day, because it’s a balancing act. Our quality of life is part of our competitive advantage and attractiveness of the Northshore. But here’s the reality. The reality is, is that from a historical context, we BIZNEWORLEANS.COM


know that over the last 30 years, St. Tammany has undergone and is still undergoing an economic transition. We’ve had a major increase in population and when that happens — because of a good school system, because people feel safe because of cultural amenities and the natural assets that we have in Louisiana — then people want to actually work where they live. And so businesses start developing. It first started with retail, because retail follows the population. We have one of the highest median household income rates in the entire state. We are a desirable place where people want to live and raise a family. But what has also happened in this economic transition is that the business world has also figured out this is actually a pretty significantly strategic place for business. And so over the last 10 to 20 years, you’ve seen a major influx of businesses, and the economic makeup of St. Tammany Parish has significantly changed. All of this has created this constant balancing act about what does St Tammany want to be? And that’s what we try to do in economic development. We try to be the catalyst for that where we recruit the right kind of businesses that fit into the landscape of the culture, but also can contribute to that to that quality of life. At the same time, I think people are shocked when I tell them when I tell them that St Tammany Parish has a $12 billion economy. Let me put that in perspective. That’s 15% of the Greater New Orleans region GDP, which is about $80 billion. So, if you take the 10 parishes that make up the NOLA region, we’re 15% of that GDP. St. Tammany Parish is 5% of the state GDP, which is $240 billion. We are producing a $12 billion economy in St Tammany Parish. Now that’s not done by being a bedroom community for New Orleans. And that’s what people have really been trying to reconcile in their world. Because, man, they love living here, they want to actually go to work here, they’d like to see those numbers actually shift. And we still have a significant number of



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per square foot ST. TAMMANY


per square foot

people coming in, we’ve got over 30,000 people that come into this parish every day to fill those retail and service jobs, because they can’t afford to live here. But you’ve got a third of the community that wants nothing to do with growth. They want the Causeway to be raised at 4:30 p.m. and that’s it. You’ve got the middle, which is — I really think is the majority of the citizens — who recognize that we need business to come into our community so they can help share the tax burden of delivering all these incredible services and having the kinds of things that we want in St Tammany Parish. So, there’s a good-sized group that’s in the middle that understands good, sustainable, responsible growth, and supports economic development for whatever that happens to be. And then you’ve got the other third, that says, ‘Look, St Tammany Parish is in the driver’s seat. We’re a major contributor to the economy, and we should go full bore. We have the ability to compete on a global scale with our business development, and we don’t need to turn that throttle back.” And so, we’re trying to make sure that we are still creating opportunities, and always at the end of the day, using as the guidepost the quality-of-life factor, because that’s the value proposition. Our job is to have the quality jobs that adds to the quality of life. Do you work at all with other economic development organizations in the region?


The relationships that we have with our fellow economic developers and economic development organizations are very real. We all understand we belong to a region and we help each other, and we stand as a region when we’re trying to attract some unbelievable opportunities. Last December it was announced that medical supply company Medline was moving forward with plans to develop a 650,000-square-foot distribution center in Tangipahoa Parish instead of St. Tammany due to opposition from residents and multiple lawsuits. The project is expected to result in 450 jobs when it opens in 2022 and 350 construction jobs before then. Did that hurt your relationship with Tangipahoa Economic Development? We learned a lot from that. I don’t shy away from the issue of Medline. Yes, we didn’t want to lose Medline, it was an unfortunate situation, but we’ve learned a lot. We put some things in place. We have stronger relationships with our parish government now because of that. We have stronger relationships with our development community, and it gave us an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our neighbors in Tangipahoa. We still have people who live in St. Tammany Parish that will work at Medline. We have people who live in Tangipahoa who work in St. Tammany Parish. We are a community of parishes, and we work very well together. I think that’s part of the future. What excites you most about St. Tammany’s future? Economic development is all about relationships, relevancy, and results. That has been a mantra of mine since the first day I started and it will be mine when I walk out of this place. We need to be constantly evolving and innovating and producing results, because the minute you stop producing results, then you’re no longer relevant. You do all of this through solid relationships, and we’re going to continue to do that. That’s what the future looks like for St. Tammany. n




More than 50 of the Northshore’s leaders in healthcare, government and nonprofit sectors are partnering in a new venture to improve health and wellbeing in St. Tammany and Washington parishes.


ITH HIGH RATES of obesity, smoking and vaping, coupled with some of the highest mortality rates from chronic illness like cancer and heart disease, Louisiana has notoriously ranked near the bottom of most of the nation’s health outcome measures for decades. Concerned that an already precarious population may have skipped check-ups and recommended screenings, thereby allowing illnesses to go undiagnosed and untreated in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Tammany Health System and Ochsner Health partnered last fall with more than 50 of the Northshore’s leaders in the healthcare, community, civic and government sectors to form an advisory body focused on improving the overall health of residents in St. Tammany, our state’s healthiest parish, and neighboring Washington, the state’s least healthy parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. St. Tammany and Washington have higher rates of cancer incidence than the rest of the state, according to the Louisiana Tumor Registry. Lung



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cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in both parishes, accounting for more than breast, prostate and colorectal cancer deaths combined. Washington Parish has the highest prostate cancer mortality in the state, particularly among its African American male population. “Healthier Northshore was born out of necessity,” said Joan Coffman, president & CEO of St. Tammany Health System in Covington and co-chair of Healthier Northshore’s executive committee. “Our mortality rates from chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease are some of the highest in the country. COVID-19 highlighted our vulnerability, and we were one of the hardest hit states according to death statistics. We realized we weren’t going to change our collective health status alone; it would take a group effort from all points of view to really impact change.” Coffman said the idea for Healthier Northshore was sparked by Ochsner’s 40 by 30 initiative, which aims to lift Louisiana’s health ranking to No. 40 by 2030. “I give Joan the credit for being the creator of the idea, but it really comes out of the fact that we see Louisiana consistently in the bottom of population health measures,” said Tim Riddell, M.D., medical director of Ochsner Health’s Northshore Region. “We know that the effort to raise the overall level of health, not healthcare, but health across specifically St. Tammany and Washington parishes is really going take a multi-organizational approach from public organizations, governmental entities, healthcare entities, and community service organizations all working together to improve that overall health. So, the idea of Healthier Northshore is to serve as an avenue for bringing that collaboration together.” For decades, American health professionals have fought to improve health measures through a variety of clinical means, Coffman said, but medical experts now agree that social determinants like health behaviors and socio-economic factors, are responsible for 80% of health outcomes versus clinical care at 20%. Riddell said the healthcare industry has been focused on working together to improve health outcomes for the region and the state, including large investments in workforce development with local universities and colleges, the development of a center for health equity and health disparities, and working with medical schools to increase the number of primary care doctors and psychiatrists that work in the community. “While there are certainly ZIP codes on the Northshore that have higher, better health outcomes and higher access to both resources and health care, there are large pockets of our population on the Northshore that don’t enjoy that same benefit,” said Susan Bonnett Bourgeois, president and CEO of the Northshore Community Foundation, which works to unite human and financial resources to enhance the quality of life in St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Washington, and St. Tammany. “Washington Parish has large pockets of rural populations, some with poverty issues. It’s a really good example of how there are impediments to people just being able to access the care that is there. Even in St Tammany, there are some ZIP codes that drive healthier outcomes and some ZIP codes that don’t. There’s a huge conversation about the social determinants of health. One of the biggest determinants is access to transportation and access to care.”

Organizers say the two parishes have such varied health disparities due to socioeconomic factors and racial and ethnic biases. Healthier Northshore aims to educate residents on the value of preventive care, promote early detection and connect residents to available community resources for treatment. “We see there is a variability between the two parishes in the availability of those resources. There’s a lot of different reasons why those disparities exist. The goals are really developed around overcoming the barriers,” Riddell said. “The first one is educating people about prevention — healthier diets, active lifestyles, smoking cessation — which is a huge piece. But then ... how do you bring the resources that will help people be successful there? The second one is in early detection, and that really is around access to screening. Maybe that’s easy access to a mammogram, blood pressure monitoring and blood work for diabetes. Then the last is sort of taking all of that and creating a goal for resources.” “The initiative is about pulling together individuals, organizations, and the, sometimes, disparate perspectives and resources into an effort that can be more integrated and collaborative to address the physical and mental health outcomes of the population on the Northshore,” Bourgeois said. “It is not just healthcare related, but it’s all related. It is about poverty. It is about quality of life. It is certainly about education. It is about access to healthy food.” The all-volunteer endeavor kicked off in September 2020 with a socially distanced meeting to share the idea with business, government, and non-profit leaders across the Northshore. Attendees were invited to join the advisory board and help craft three goals: prevention through teaching the benefits of good nutrition, regular physical activity, quitting and abstaining from nicotine consumption via vaping, smoking, and chewing tobacco, and good mental health; early detection of illness through biometric and cancer health screenings; and serving as a central point of information to connect people with primary care, specialty services, and social support resources. Efforts are underway to develop a communications strategy to raise awareness, direct residents to information and create free public events to educate, screen, and connect people to resources. Coffman said businesses have a vested interest in joining and supporting the initiative because of the potential numerous benefits of reduced healthcare-related costs. “Preventive care is always less costly than treatment of a chronic illness,” she said. “If more people managed their weight, avoided tobacco, exercised regularly and visited their primary care physician for routine health screenings and care, we’d all experience cost savings in one way or another.” Rhonda Bagby, vice president, employer group health insurance at Humana — Louisiana and South Mississippi, said the cost of employee benefits,


including health insurance premiums, are the second creating awareness and engagement from all largest expense item behind salaries. segments — business, government and citizens — as “The role that an individual plays in managing his the region continues to face effects of the pandemic. or her own health cannot be underestimated,” Bagby “COVID exacerbated the challenges that our said. “Many chronic conditions are rooted in lifestyle Northshore community has had,” Bourgeois said. factors that are within our daily control. By increasing “The timing is important not just because of physical awareness about preventive care, by aiming for early health, but, obviously, behavioral and mental health detection and better management of conditions, and issues have become even more pronounced in the by connecting individuals to community resources, we COVID than before.” will drive greater efficiency in the healthcare system.” Riddell says he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by Kevin M. Gardner, senior vice president at insur- the reaction to Healthier Northshore’s formation. ance brokerage HUB International’s Metairie office, “I’m a primary care physician and have been trying works with businesses in managing their health to change minds and convince people of healthy lifeinsurance programs. styles and healthy behaviors my entire career. And it’s “All businesses today are challenged within the rising met with victories and frustration simultaneously,” cost of health insurance and the challenge of making he said. “It becomes obvious to me that just one these benefits affordable,” Gardner said. “Getting person having that conversation with a patient is not control of these cost starts and stops with the health going to be effective enough. So, when we started this, of our population. We have to have affordable services. I was excited about it, but I was cautiously optimistic. Our parish has done an amazing job in growing out When I saw how many people were initially involved, and improving our healthcare delivery system. But that optimism grew. And then as I started to see the the long-term affordability of these services rest with involvement, as we move forward, it hasn’t waned. how our residents take care of themselves and create (I was concerned that we’d have) a kickoff meeting a better path to sustainable costs.” and a large number of people show up, and you feel An additional benefit of getting the region like, okay, everybody’s here for the pictures. And healthier could be economic growth. then you realize that once the work starts getting “Economic development plans show that people done, who’s still around that original, large group of want to live and work in healthy communities,” excited, optimistic individuals. They’re still engaged. Bagby said. “The role that individuals play in being They’re still involved. And we’re several months into healthy is increasingly important.” the discussion and are coming up with new initiatives, Gardner agreed that improving the region’s new ideas, new plans as we move forward. overall health grades are important to economic “When you look at the people who are part of this development. initiative, they’re such a broad and influential group,” “In order to create an environment that is attrac- he said. “We’ve got a number of at-large members who tive to live, improve quality of life, attract business, are part of our various committees that have been, that retain employers, attract new residents, it all starts have been very engaged and very helpful. And I think with the health of our population,” he said. “When it’s going to allow it to get that message out much employers look to relocate, they focus on healthcare more aggressively and clearly over the next year.” cost, education, affordable housing, etc. A commu“We want all of our residents to have access to nity that is not focused on improving the overall information and services that could have a positive quality of their workforce and cost of healthcare impact on their quality of life and that of their loved with their residents will not be a prime candidate for ones,” Coffman said. “The value of education and long-term growth. The health of our population is preventative care is tremendous, if people know the something we can control, we can impact, and we risks associated with certain behaviors, they have really have no choice but to do better.” the opportunity to make better decisions. If a health “The healthier we get our population and the more condition is diagnosed in earlier stages of the disease, we get our population paying attention to health there are often better options available for treatment outcomes, then that makes for more productive and the prognosis is better. Early detection saves lives.” employees,” Bourgeois said. “That, in turn, makes for Riddell said the hope is that Healthier Northshore better prepared students, which ultimately leads to can serve as a model for the rest of the state. more productive employees when they join the work“One of the things that I hope comes out of this is force. All of these things build up to healthier people. a model that really expands to other parishes, other Healthier people build up to a mentally and physically regions, and those regions adopt similar activity. healthier population, which then improves your work- The eventual goal is if we just do this in these two force. It improves business outcomes. Of course, at the parishes, the goal of getting Louisiana further up in end of the day, it improves bottom lines. But, to me, those rankings is lives saved and lives improved. I that’s not the driver. The driver is a healthier popula- think as we are able to expand this message, you’re tion and, therefore, a healthier workforce.” going to see over the next year an increased awareFor now, Healthier Northshore is focused on ness of these opportunities.” T


Joan Coffman, St. Tammany Health System and Dr. Tim Riddell, Ochsner Health


Nick Richard, NAMI St. Tammany


Rhonda Bagby, Humana


Chris Masingill, St. Tammany Corporation





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WORKSPACES Ampirical’s new Northshore offices

reflect the engineering company’s people-first values


kind of swamp adventure

ON THE JOB Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime

Museum in Mandeville invites people of all ages to build their own boat


Amped Up Ampirical’s new Northshore offices reflect the engineering company’s people-first values BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Ampirical worked with Greeleaf Lawson Architects to achieve their vision for the approximately 77,000-square-foot building. The new Covington-based headquarters features private and flexible office space, a kitchen, 21 conference rooms and a training room.


Ampirical began the design process for its new Northshore headquarters, Executive Vice President of Engineering Mark Stephens said he wanted to create a comfortable space for the employees. “We don’t bring many clients in here, so it’s just us,” Stephens said. “We put ourselves in the position of those who work here and how they work. The reality is, we spend the most hours of our day at our workplace. My goal was to create a space where our employees wanted to be.” To achieve that goal, Ampirical hired Greenleaf Lawson Architects. The result is an approximately 77,000-square-foot building with private and flexible office space, a kitchen, 21 conference rooms and a training room. An outdoor pavilion is also under construction, and Stephens said the company is looking forward to using a barbecue pit and gas hookup for crawfish boils in the pavilion. Founded in 2006, Ampirical works with companies that need voltage interconnection to tap into the electrical grid. Or, as Stephens explains, anyone who needs high voltage facilities, including “investors in utilities, municipal utilities, the electrical grid owners and operators … Entergy is one of our biggest clients.” In fact, the company’s founders began their careers at Entergy. The new building’s design aesthetic is in alignment with the company’s engineering background. “We went with a modern industrial style with brick, concrete and steel as a reflection of the kind of work we do,” Stephens said. “We design and build things, and we wanted to bring in some aspects of that, as well as aspects of the core values of our company, so we can expand everyone’s understanding of the company and what we do.”



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It was one of my goals to create a great place to work. But It’s about the people. The company is nothing without the people. Mark Stephens, Ampirical Executive VP of Engineering

“Every conference room is a team’s room, so it has TVs on the wall,” said Executive of Engineering Mark Stephens. “You can hit one button that turns everything on. We have iPads outside of every room so you can see who is on the schedule to make each room easy to use, especially right now when we are still doing a lot of virtual meetings.”


1654 Ochsner Boulevard, Covington DATE FOUNDED


Built to suite in 2019 MOVE IN DATE


Approximately 77,000 PERSON IN CHARGE

Mark Stephens, executive VP of engineering; Matthew Saacks, president; Mike Sulzer, executive VP of operations; Jeff Spence, VP of substation engineering; Kurt Traub VP of T and D line engineering. NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES



Southern Interior Solutions



With three offices in California besides the Louisiana office, Stephens said Ampirical needed a space not only large enough to host post-pandemic, company-wide annual meetings and trainings, but also technologically capable of accommodating virtual meetings and other tools required for working with offsite teams. “Every conference room is a team’s room, so it has TVs on the wall,” he said. “You can hit one button that turns everything on. We have iPads outside of every room so you can see who is on the schedule to make each room easy to use, especially right now when we are still doing a lot of virtual meetings. We have about half [of



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our staff] back right now. It’s not mandatory for everyone to come back.” Prior to the move, Ampirical had staff scattered among three buildings in Mandeville and Covington. Stephens said work is much easier now that all of those teams are under one roof. He adds that there are still challenges, particularly as the company transitions away from pandemic operations and protocols. “We have plenty of work, so it’s just about getting our teams back together and getting back to normal — whatever that new normal might be,” he said. “Getting to see everyone’s smiles again.” That’s not to say that there aren’t other

challenges on the business side. Being in a competitive, niche industry makes finding and keeping employees an integral part of the day-to-day operations. “We’re a very growth-oriented company,” Stephens said. “For me it goes back to treating people like you want to be treated, trying to promote a good work-life balance and showing respect for people. If you build a staff based on that, the staff will do everything to make your company a success. For us, that has been a big key. It was one of my goals to create a great place to work. But It’s about the people. The company is nothing without the people.” n

Prior to the move, Ampirical had staff scattered between three buildings in Mandeville and Covington. Stephens said work is much easier now that the company has all of those teams under one roof.

In keeping with the company’s engineering background, the design features modern industrial elements, such as brick, concrete and steel. The breakroom is called AMPeers’, the inspirational nickname for employees of the company.




Flying High ZipNOLA offers a new kind of swamp adventure BY ASHLEY MCLELLAN PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY


b u ck l e r o r In d i a n a Jo n e s w i t h a brand-new outdoor venture, launched this past Memorial Day weekend, that has visitors flying high over the swamp. The first and only aquatic, swamp-based zipline course in the state, ZipNOLA’s $1.5 million facility provides adventurers with a bird’s-eye view of Maurepas Swamp’s native plants, animals and ecology with a series of five zip lines, two suspension bridges and a unique spiral staircase wrapped around a more than 100-year-old ZipNOLA creators cypress tree. Shelley and Tyler The venture is the Richardson, along with business wo rk o f Ma n d e v i l l e partners Barry and residents Shelley and Kristin Gros, recently Tyler Richardson, along launched the first aquatic, swampwith Destrehan partners based zip line in and friends Barry and the state, offering a Kristen Gros. The partunique chance for ners each bring a wide outdoor adventure and more above the range of professional Maurepas Swamp. backgrounds and experiences to the venture, with the team adding elements of tourism, and financial and management skills. Tyler Richardson also owns “Tour Big Easy,” Shelley Richardson and Kristen Gros met working at Merrill Lynch, and Barry Gros Jr. owns Coastal Care Services, a case management company located in Mandeville. According to Shelley, the idea for ZipNOLA has been on their minds and in the works for years. “ZipNOLA was my husband’s dream before turning it into a reality,” she said. “Tyler previously worked as an airboat captain for another swamp tour company. While riding though the swamp, he would think of different ways tourists could view Louisiana’s hidden gems. He thought a view from above, like from a zipline, would be a new and innovative idea.”



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According to an August 2020 report “There is plenty of Louisiana wildlife to from the NPD Group, Richardson’s inno- be seen from up above.” vation is on to something. As the country is For those that may be nervous about moving out of quarantine, but still looking traversing the swamp via zipline, the for socially distanced, safe activities, course has been outfitted with state-ofoutdoor adventure opportunities are expe- the-art technology and safety features, riencing “explosive growth.” As the report and plenty of considerations for visinotes, bicycle sales are up 6%, dollar sales tor’s personal safety throughout the of camping equipment have increased 31%, experience. and paddle sports (paddle boards, kayaks “Starting with personal protective and canoes) have grown by 56%. equipment, guests will be equipped with So how do you put together a never- a harness and a helmet,” Shelley said. been-done-before swamp adventure? The “The course itself is state of the art, with answer is, very carefully and with lots of the most advanced zipline technologies permits. Located along the banks of Lake on the market. Contrary to the primitive Pontchartrain near the small town of hand braking technique, ZipNOLA is Fernier, the team began with finding the equipped with magnetic braking devices, right location (Barry Gros, a River Parishes as well as two emergency braking appanative familiar with the area, was essential ratuses, which will automatically stop in this step of the process) and then tack- guests. These innovations remove the ling the puzzle, and process, of putting their possibility of user error and allow the dreams into reality step by step. guests a relatively carefree ride.” “ZipNOLA’s conception began about ZipNOLA has 12 zip tour guides, four years ago. We had some signifi- each of whom is specially trained in cant hurdles, including acquisition of a zipline safety protocols and certified suitable location with mature cypress in ACCT (Association of Challenged trees within relative proximity to the Course Technology) fundamentals and city,” Shelley said. “The permitting requirements. Each group of guests will process was a major hurdle, be accompanied by two guides taking approximately two throughout the course. Ticket years. Lastly, the logistics prices are $89 per person, of actually constructing including taxes and fees, for a WHAT IS A zipline experience. elevated structures in an ZIPLINE? aquatic swamp environAccording to a recent press ment required a good bit release, “Visitors will have A zipline, also known of imagination. Making picture worthy views of the as a zip wire, is a things more difficult, was Maurepas Swamp and Lake cable suspended on the presence of COVID-19 Pontchartrain atop the 60-foot an incline with a pulley and the most active hurritower prior to starting their and harness system to allow riders to use cane season in memory. We journey through the swamp. gravity to pull them hired a professional zipline The course will begin and end through an area. co n s t r u c t i o n co m pa ny at our elevated gift shop, which to design, engineer and is also equipped with a 2,000 construct the course at our square foot spectating deck.” chosen location.” For Shelley, the experience offers The end result is a nature- and adven- more than just a swamp tour; it provides ture-lover’s wonderland. The Maurepas visitors the chance to go places they swamp is full of alligators, turtles, birds, may have never ventured before, with a wild boar, deer, and a vast array of native vantage point that goes above and beyond. flowers, trees, Spanish moss and more. “ The thrill of f light is something The zip tour along the more than half- most dream about,” she said. “Ziplines mile course was designed by Adventure make this dream a reality. Scenery Experience in Dallas and engineered by only enhances this experience, and the David Hodges, a professional adventure Maurepas Swamp is some of the most course engineer located in Georgia. beautiful scenery this world has to offer.” n “Visitors will get never-before-seen views of the swamps,” said Shelley.

TOP FIVE ON-TREND OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES* 1. Cycling 2. Paddle Sports 3. Golf 4. Camping 5. Bird watching and nature sightings/experiences *NPD GROUP, AUGUST 2020

FUN FACTS* 72 countries and six continents in the world have commercials ziplines. North Carolina is the state with the most ziplines — 24 commercial zip lines. Ziplines in Costa Rica generate approximately $120 million in annual revenue. *ZIPQUEST.COM



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



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Always Wanted to Build Your Own Boat? The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville helps students of all ages make their nautical dreams come true. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER


Festival — planned for Sept. 25 and 26 this year — the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum doesn’t just educate about all things maritime, it holds boatbuilding classes to encourage more people to enjoy our waterways in their own style. Three times a year (March, June and Sept.) professional instructor Ron Blue (in green) guides youth and adults in building skiffs, pirogues, bateaus, or any kind of boat they’ve dreamed about. Boat restoration classes are also available. Year-round the museum is a popular spot for student field trips and guided tours and offers youth STEM camps in the summer. For more information, including on a new Smithsonian traveling exhibit coming in the fall, visit n