Biz New Orleans March 2017

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Trash King to TV Star What’s next for Sidney Torres? P. 64

entrepreneur week speakers share tips for success P. 72

+ VR Arcade NOLA

Virtual reality has arrived

Health Insurance

What’s next?

New Feature!

Nonprofit Matchmaker

Check out our new look!

March 2017 1

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Publisher Todd Matherne

Editorial Editor-in-Chief Errol Laborde Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George Web Editor Kelly Massicot Assoc. Multimedia News Editor Leslie T. Snadowsky

Contributors Maria Clark, Steven Ellis, Suzanne Ferrara, Pamela Marquis, Allison Plyer, Chris Price, Peter Reichard, Kim Roberts, Ryan Rodrigue, Jennifer Gibson Schecter, Keith Twitchell, Melanie Warner Spencer

Advertising Vice President of Sales Colleen Monaghan (504) 830-7215 Sales Manager Maegan O’Brien (504) 830-7219 Senior Account Executive Caitlin Sistrunk (504) 830-7252 Account Executive Carly Goldman (504) 830-7225

Marketing Director of Marketing & Events Cheryl Lemoine Event Coordinator Whitney Weathers Digital Media Associate Mallary Matherne For event information, call (504) 830-7264

Production Production/Web Manager Staci McCarty Production Designer Monique DiPietro Production Designer Demi Schaffer Traffic Coordinator Terra Durio

Administration Chief Executive Officer Todd Matherne President Alan Campell Executive Vice President Errol Laborde Administrative Assistant Denise Dean Distribution Manager John Holzer Subscription Manager Sara Kelemencky Subscription Assistant Mallary Matherne For subscriptions, call (504) 830-7231 AABP 2016 Award of Excellence Bronze: Best Feature Layout 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123 Metairie, LA 70005 (504) 828-1380 Biz New Orleans is published monthly by Renaissance Publishing, LLC, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005; (504) 828-1380. Subscription rate: one year $24.95, two year $39.95, three year $49.95 — foreign rates vary call for pricing. Postage paid at Metairie, LA, and additional mailing entry offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biz New Orleans, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005. Copyright 2016 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.

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features top stories this month

64 Sidney Hits the Small Screen His new series, “The Deed” launches on CNBC March 1. What’s next for venture capitalist, real estate, hotel and app developer Sidney Torres IV? The mayor’s office perhaps?


Priorities For 2017 Six NOEW panelists weigh in on what every entrepreneur should know and do this year.

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contents march 2017 | Volume 3 | Issue 6

16 | Editor’s note A New Look


18 | publisher’s note

52 | banking & finance

Beautifying the Community

Tax Tips: Common mistakes and new tax code changes to consider

22 | Calendar

54 | healthcare

March Events

Aging in the Crescent City:

24 | industry news 26 | recent openings 28 | Events

40 | sports One Tough Cookie: Cookie Rojas knew he’d catch flak for renaming New Orleans’ Minor League Baseball team the Baby Cakes, but says the rebrand is working.

in the biz 34 | NOLa by the numbers Differences Equal Strength: Nonprofit boards should be heterogeneous.

36 | dining Fueling Up Before Flying: New airport terminal to elevate cuisine options for travelers.

38 | tourism Home Field Advantage: UNO’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration educates the best and brightest for NOLA’s largest industry.

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Globally, the home health care sector is expected to see revenues grow from $180 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2020. Local industry executives explain the changes they’re seeing in this booming business.

from the lens 58 | real estate & construction Going High Tech

80 | great workspaces

How local companies are stepping into tomorrow

Local Gem: Wayward Owl Brewing Co. puts the work of brewing center stage.

42 | entertainment

86 | why didn’t i think of that?

Fighting for Equity in Film: Women

virtual reality to the region

Get Your Head in the Game: VR Arcade NOLA first to bring

in Film & Television ramping up during industry slowdown.

90 | nonprofit matchmaker New Orleans Mission: Fresh off its “Homeless Not Hopeless”

44 | entrepreneurship

campaign, the New Orleans Mission is growing and changing — and could really use your help.

A Festival of Startups: NOEW

96 | behind the scenes

returns March 19-24.

Out of this World: City of Gretna Public Observatory

46 | etiquette Gather ‘Round: Tips for more civil and effective meetings.

on the cover

48 | tech The Right Tool for the Job: Computer/ tablet hybrids — are they worth it?

62 | guest perspective Repeal and Replace: What will a Republican “Replacement Plan” look like? Depends on which Republican you’re talking about.

Sidney Torres IV took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with Biz New Orleans about his new television show, his current real estate projects and his thoughts on running for mayor onsite at one of his newer acquisitions, The Monastery at 1236 North Rampart St. 15

Editor’s Note

Beyond the magazine But wait, there’s more! Visit to watch videos from this month’s issue, including:

A New Look


o, this is not my new look — and thankfully so because it’s not a flattering one — but it was a lot of fun. I am not a all, so I didn’t expect much when I put the headset on to try out virtual reality courtesy of VR Arcade NOLA. The first thing that happened was magic — suddenly I was transported hundreds of feet down in the ocean onto the deck of a sunken ship. Everywhere around me fish were swimming by, so real I tried to reach out and touch them and then quickly caught myself and laughed. I walked around the ship a bit, looking up toward the surface from time to time checking out my surroundings. Just as I started to get used to my peaceful little undersea existence, I saw a figure emerging from the distance. As it came closer the dark shadow took the form of a blue whale — and it was heading straight at me. Closer and closer it came as I stood there, frozen. Finally it stopped next to me, a giant staring eye just out of reach. This was not the kind of gaming experience I’ve ever known — not even close. After just that few minutes of introduction, I was hooked. “What else is there?” I pleaded with VR Arcade NOLA founders David and Devin, who were only too happy to send me on my way, shooting down spaceships and creating giant paintings. Also, unlike with typical video games (at least for me) I found it almost as fun watching my friends and coworkers step into this alternate reality. Everyone looks ridiculous doing it, but all I can say is it’s soo worth it. As for the other, more important new look, you may have noticed that Biz New Orleans has received a bit of a facelift this month, all courtesy of our new, national award-winning art director, Sarah George. We figured spring is the perfect time for new beginnings, and this is one I’m truly excited about. Along with the redesign comes some fun new web features. We invite you to visit and step beyond the pages of the magazine with enjoy a few videos we took during the process of creating this issue. Please let me know what you think! Happy Reading!

sidney torres Behind the scenes at the photo shoot and Q&A with Torres. Plus! See the trailer for his new show, “The Deed.”

VR Arcade NOLa Enjoy a quick video with the two men responsible for introducing virtual reality to the region and watch Biz New Orleans staff try out VR for the first time.

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Publisher’s Note

Beautifying the Community


f you’ve driven around Jefferson Parish over the last year, you’ve probably noticed some of the great developments being made on Veterans and Causeway boulevards. Jefferson Beautification, Inc. ( JBI) has coordinated numerous projects since 1990, but its recent efforts are especially visible with new fountains, statues, art installations and more springing up in the area. These endeavors are incredibly beneficial to both the residential and business communities of Jefferson Parish. I am honored to be serving as the corporate chair for the Parkway Promenade XXVI, the largest and most crucial fundraising event of the year for JBI. Held at Chateau Country Club on Sunday, April 2, this year’s theme is “April in Paris,” and promises to be an amazing evening of dinner and dancing in celebration, and in support of these continuing projects. Event Chair Sharon Hannahan and JBI President Debbie Settoon are leaders spearheading JBI initiatives to add beauty to Jefferson Parish, spreading feelings of pride in the community. If you would like to sponsor or attend this year’s Parkway Promenade, contact Charlotte Ruiz at (504) 887-8992 or visit for ticket information. I hope to see you there. Todd Matherne

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Meet the Sales Team

Maegan O’Brien Sales Manager (504) 830-7219

Caitlin Sistrunk Senior Sales Executive (504) 830-7252

Carly Goldman Account Executive (504) 830-7225

Colleen Monaghan Vice President of Sales (504) 830-7215

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March Tuesday 7

Friday 17

New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Power Breakfast sponsored by First NBC Bank 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. 1515 Poydras Street 5th Floor Auditorium, New Orleans

Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Business & Breakfast — Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. 2829 Williams Blvd., Kenner

Tuesday 7 ACG Louisiana Monthly Luncheon 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Networking 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans Blue Room 130 Roosevelt Way

Thursday 9 New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Alliance: Etre Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 1224 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans

Wednesday 15 New Orleans Chamber of Commerce First Quarter Luncheon with Stephen Waguespack of LABI 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Registration 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Luncheon Sheraton New Orleans Hotel 500 Canal Street Napoleon Ballroom, 3rd Floor

Wednesday 15 Score Simple Steps to Start or Grow a Business 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Landing Zone 625 Celeste Street, New Orleans

Thursday 16 GEB University Seminar Series “Contractual Considerations for Your Business” 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Gillis, Ellis & Baker Training Room 1615 Poydras St. Suite 700, New Orleans or (504) 619-1043

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19-24 NOEW (New Orleans Entrepreneur Week) Various locations

Tuesday 21 Score sponsored Social Media Workshop “Automate Your Marketing” 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The Landing Zone 625 Celeste Street, New Orleans

Thursday 23 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Legislative Issues Breakfast 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport 2829 Williams Blvd., Kenner

Friday 24 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Gala Celebrating 20 Years 6:30 p.m. VIP Cocktails 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Gala New Orleans Saints Indoor Training Facility 5800 Airline Dr., Metairie

Wednesday 29 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Prosper Jefferson Seminar Series: Business Resource Panel 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. JEDCO Conference Center 700 Churchill Pkwy., Avondale

We’d love to include your businessrelated event in next month’s calendar. Please email details to


Close your next deal at one of these business-friendly bistros.

Desi Vega’s Steakhouse

Tommy’s Cuisine

628 St. Charles Ave. • (504) 523-7600 •

746 Tchoupitoulas St. • (504) 581-1103

Our spectacular dining rooms boast views of the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line and our Prime Room is the elegant setting for your private events needs. Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch, a private party, or a dinner to remember, Desi Vega’s Steakhouse is the place for you!

Riccobono’s Peppermill Restaurant 3524 Severn Ave., Metairie • (504) 455-2266 For over 40 years the Riccobono family has been serving classic New Orleans and Italian fare to locals and visitors alike. Timeless classics like Shrimp Creole, Trout Amandine, Veal Parmigiana, Oysters Riccobono and much more. Consistently rated as one of the top dinning destinations of Metairie. Private dining facilities available for meetings and events. Join us for a meal to remember. Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Tommy’s Cuisine is a locally-owned and operated restaurant located in the Warehouse District. Famous for its inspired upscale Creole-Italian cuisine, all perfectly served in an old-world atmosphere, Tommy’s has been the place to meet, eat, and drink for over a decade. Experience a world-class wine menu along with the finest dishes in the city at Tommy’s Cuisine.

The All New Feelings Marigny Café & Courtyard Bar 535 Franklin Ave. • (504) 446-0040 • The New Feelings offers one of the most charming and unique private rooms in town - The Movie Room. This upstairs space has a quintessential wrought iron balcony overlooking the gorgeous courtyard and a full bar. The adjacent Silver Room can be used as a display area, buffet area, or overflow guest area. Feelings offers a beautiful, historic backdrop for a unique wedding or corporate event. 23

Industry News


The Top 10 Cities for Women in Tech 1. Washington DC 2. Kansas City 3. Detroit 4. Baltimore 5. Indianapolis

6. Chandler, AZ 7. New York City 8. New Orleans

These flights are welcomed additions to the service Southwest already offers from New Orleans. We are excited that our largest carrier is continuing to grow in our market.

9. Denver education

10. Fremont, CA

Tulane Offering First Materials Engineering PhD Program in State

Stanley Thomas Cleanroom facility for creating state-of-theart material structures. Photo courtesy of Tulane University.

Applications are being accepted now for the 2017-18 school year for Tulane University’s new materials engineering Ph.D. program. The program studies the structure, properties and processing of materials with a fundamental physics perspective. business


Apply Now to Join LED CEO Roundtables

Corporate Citizenship Awards Announced

March 31 is the cutoff date for applications for this summer’s CEO Roundtables, presented by Louisiana Economic Development (LED). The roundtables will consist of 15 to 18 qualified, key decision-makers from Louisiana-based small businesses. Starting in July, these businesses will meet for half day sessions over the course of a year (​10 times) ​for peerto-peer learning and support through growth oriented, collaborative round table sessions. For more information, and to apply, visit and click under “Incentives” and then “Small Business Programs.”

On Jan. 26 at the Civic Theatre Mayor Mitch Landrieu hosted the inaugural Corporate Citizenship Awards recognizing businesses creating job opportunities for disadvantaged job seekers. Recipients included: LCMC Health, International House, Windsor Court, Chester Electric, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Hilton Riverside and Hyatt Regency.

Cities were ranked based on women as a percentage of the tech workforce, gender pay gap, income after housing costs and three year tech employment growth. Women hold 38.1 percent of computer and mathematical occupations in New Orleans, the third-highest ratio of any city in SmartAsset’s study.

- Mark Reis, interim director of aviation for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, speaking about Southwest Airlines’ announcement that it will begin seasonal service to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Columbus, Ohio on April 30. Nonstop routes will run to North Carolina on Fridays and Sundays and Ohio on Sundays. Southwest’s nonstop destinations from New Orleans now number 60.


Since the August 2016 flooding: More than

$2.3 Billion

has been paid in claims by the National Flood Insurance Program

$1.2 Billion

in SBA loans have been approved to help businesses, private nonprofits, homeowners and renters (17,223 loans)

$294 million has been obligated for 301 public assistance projects

real estate

Louisiana’s Healthiest Housing Markets for 2017 (ranked by stability, risk, ease of sale and affordability)






Source: Smart Asset







River Ridge Metairie






New Orleans Destrehan

10 Gretna

Avg. Years in Home











Avg. with Negative Equity











Decreasing in Value











Avg Days on Market











Home Cost % of Income











Healthiest Market Index











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Recent Openings


Ruby Slipper Café

Whitney Bank Lakeside Branch On Feb. 9, Whitney Bank’s Lakeside branch at 3060 North Causeway Blvd. in Metairie relocated to a brand new facility directly behind the previous location. The branch boasts numerous technology features including an iPad tech bar for easy online banking access and an interactive conference room with video conferencing technology.


The Sazerac House The Sazarac House has purchased two buildings on the corner of Canal and Magazine streets to create The Sazerac House visitor attraction and beverage alcohol museum. The 50,000-square-foot facility will be renovated by Ryan Gootee General Contractors and Trapolin-Peer Architects and is projected to employ 60 people. The completion date is estimated for late 2018.

Following the opening of its new Uptown location Feb. 15 at 2802 Magazine St., Ruby Slipper Café will open its first location in Baton Rouge this spring. The transformation of the former Pei Wei at 3535 Perkins Road in Acadian Village Springs Shopping Center will mark The Ruby Slipper Café’s sixth restaurant in Louisiana.

CC’s Coffee Shop The first drive thru coffee shop in East Bank New Orleans opened at 2323 Canal Street on Feb. 8. The 1,640-square-foot location cost $750,000 to construct and will provide convenient service to the growing medical corridor.

The Halal Guys The Halal Guys opened its newest location at 5001 Freret Street on Feb. 4. The restaurant is the company’s second location in New Orleans, the first opened last June at 301 St. Charles St. in the Central Business District. A blend of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, the chain has restaurants in Las Vegas, Houston, Chicago, Manila, Philippines, Jakarta, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Get Online NOLA Digital marketing and social media specialist Get Online NOLA will open its new office on March 29 at 5534 Canal Blvd. Founded in 2013, the company helps small businesses and nonprofits take control of their online presence.

Triton Stone Group Granite and natural stone wholesaler, The Triton Stone Group, relocated its headquarters to the greater New Orleans region from Southaven, Mississippi, (in the Memphis, Tennessee, area) in late January. Louisiana Economic Development (LED) estimates the project will result in the creation of nine new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 20 new permanent jobs in Southeast Louisiana. The company also plans to add a distribution center at the Port of New Orleans in the second quarter of this year, which will create 12 high-paying jobs ($75,000 +) in the region, bringing the total company size to 225 employees.

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Providence Community Providence Community Housing and Columbia Residential celebrated the groundbreaking of Sacred Heart at St. Bernard, a new mixed-income, multifamily community on Feb. 8. The former Sacred Heart Church in the 7th Ward will be renovated into six rental units and a new fourstory building will be constructed to include 47 residential rental units, laundry facilities, a fitness center, a small public community room and approximately 4,200 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. 27

Events 1






LCI Workers’ Comp and LCIA - Guest Speaker FRIday, january 27 | liberty’s kitchen

St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce Seminar tuesday, january 31 | st. tammany west chamber of commerce

LCIA Workers’ Comp and LCIA hosted Paul Jouet from Tax Help NOLA in a presentation entitled, “A Taxing Task: Finding a Business Structure that Fits.” Jouet discussed tax obligations of different business structures.

This workshop, entitled, “Starting and Financing Your Business Idea,” featured speaker Brandy Boudreaux with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University. Included on the agenda was how to write a business plan and find funding sources, resources and required licenses.

1. Debbie Lee, Christina Buras and Vinnie Carbo 2. Paul Jouet 3. Robert Connolly, Nicholas Peddle and Kurt Schmeiderer

1. Sallie and Glenn Gilbert 2. Brandy Boudreaux 3. Thais Gay, Mark Tristan and Claudia Tristan

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photographs by cheryl gerber 29

Events 1






Jefferson Chamber Annual Luncheon Tuesday, january 31 | crowne plaza new orleans airport

GNO Global Annual Luncheon monday, February 13 | hyatt regency

One of the chamber’s largest networking and social events of the year, this year’s luncheon featured keynote speaker Dennis Lauscha, president of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans.

GNO Inc. President and CEO, Michael Hecht, touted the Greater New Orleans region’s accomplishments in regards to reclaiming its status as a global leader at this annual luncheon.

1. Todd Tournillon, Kelsey Scram and Matthew Miller 2. Dennis Lauscha 3. Mike Palamone, Al Galindo and Todd Murphy

1. Ron Bordelon, Annie Cambria and Dana Peterson 2. Michael Hecht 3. Patricia Shaw, Howard Dwayne Franklin, Cpt Joy Manphey and Karen Landry

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photographs by cheryl gerber 31

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in the biz Biz columnists speak out


It’s Back! What you can expect at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week March 19-24 More on page 44 33

In the Biz NOLa by the numbers

Differences Equal Strength Nonprofit boards should be heterogeneous.


id you know that the makeup of nonprofit boards can influence the trajectory of a regional economy? Studies of cities in the Rust Belt have shown that when boards had little overlap, it stunted collaboration and led to fractured consensus about the future direction of the region. On the flip side, when board members had excessive overlap, there was an even greater problem — groupthink. What’s ideal? Heterogeneous boards that have members who also serve on boards of other sectors, and board members who serve on several boards within a single sector. This sweet spot in social leadership supports the infusion of new ideas while also unifying leaders and residents around key assets and opportunities. Heterogeneous boards are the mechanism that allowed cities such as Allentown, Pennsylvania, to embrace new industries and spin off new sectors in the wake of the American manufacturing decline, while other cities such as Youngstown, Ohio, did not. Social leadership that brought together disparate groups of people played a major role in enabling post-industrial cities to reinvent their economies. With these examples in mind, and with the knowledge that major legacy industries in New Orleans, such as oil and gas and port-related shipping, have lost thousands of jobs since their heyday in the mid- and late-20th century, we looked at the composition of nonprofit boards within Southeast Louisiana. From this, we determined which nonprofit sectors had substantial board member overlap and which ones were siloed. We particularly focused on the environmental sector and its board overlap both

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Board overlap can happen in 3 ways By building networks across organizations you can boost the cross pollination of ideas and optimize leveraging of resources.

Homogeneity A near total overlap of board members between organizations or sectors. Leads to groupthink and lack of innovation.

Heterogeneity A balanced overlap of board members between organizations or sectors. Leads to a healthier mix of ideas and resources that can spur economic development.

Silos A lack of overlap of board members between organizations or sectors. Leads to turf wars, duplication and misalignment of work.

between other sectors and within itself. This social sector is at the epicenter of the water management economic cluster and thus, incredibly important to New Orleans’ environmental fate and prosperity going forward. Water management is potentially the federally fueled economic ramp that New Orleans can take toward a more prosperous, sustainable future. With more than $8.7 billion from BP for coastal restoration and protection and $2 billion from FEMA for urban water management over the next two decades, a water management cluster — one that contains local companies large and small that compete, innovate, collaborate and ultimately sell their services to other regions, all while growing jobs in Southeast Louisiana — is within reach. Water management has the potential to be to Southeast Louisiana what software is to Austin, what biotech is to Boston or what e-commerce is to Seattle. But, heterogeneous nonprofit boards will play a surprisingly important role in ensuring that ideas are exchanged and goals are aligned in the water management sector. Examining the composition of nonprofit boards, we found that environmental boards are significantly siloed not only from other sectors, but also from each other. With just 4 percent board member overlap within the environmental sector, these boards are missing out on knowledge-sharing and vision alignment. More troubling still, environmental boards are also poorly connected with other sectors. At The Data Center, we didn’t just identify this opportunity, we scraped the data to make acting on this opportunity as easy as downloading a spreadsheet and making a few phone calls. You can make use of our nonprofit boards data, which includes the names of board members of hundreds of Southeast Louisiana nonprofits and important information about these nonprofits, including their locations and sectors.We also show which nonprofits have overlapping board members. n

by the numbers

Environmental board overlap with boards in other sectors: This 0 percent overlap with many other sectors prohibits the region from fully benefiting from the exchange of ideas and civic alignment that can follow from diverse boards.


Economic development



.080% Education


Employment Social Science Disaster Preparedness Science and Technology Advocacy

Allison Plyer is executive director and

chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans. Dr. Plyer is author of The New Orleans Index series, developed in collaboration with the Brookings Institution to track the region’s progress toward prosperity, and she leads The Data Center’s research on the development of the water management cluster in Southeast Louisiana as published in The Coastal Index series. 35 Photo Thinkstock

In the Biz dining

Fueling Up Before Flying New airport terminal will elevate cuisine options for travelers. By Peter Reichard


f you play a word association game with the phrase “airport restaurant,” you’d probably come up with words like “ripoff,” “chain,” “junk food” and “mediocre.” You’d picture yourself sitting at a tiny table in a bustling, dissonant terminal, eating subpar and overpriced fast food. This is strange. Frou-frou merchandisers long ago realized they have immediate access to relatively well-heeled, captive audiences in airports. But travel the world, and you see that restaurants have not kept pace. As a result, Prada might be sandwiched between a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Wingstop. Chanel might be down the way, just past Cinnabon and Panda Express. Until recently, finding decent food even in New Orleans’ own airport was tough. Given that this is a worldrenowned restaurant town, that borders on bizarre. In airports around the country, it’s not unusual to find New Orleans-themed food. As far away as Bogota’s lustrous new El Dorado airport, the nicest restaurant in the waiting area is a place called Orleans American Bistro. It may be your only chance to eat a po-boy in South America. It must be said that, in recent years, the offerings at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport have improved significantly. For instance, Dooky Chase’s occupies a prominent spot at the entrance to Concourse C, and there’s a Ye Olde College Inn squirreled away in Concourse D.

36 Biz March 2017

Yet the new terminal, scheduled to open in late 2018, promises something grander: a de facto culinary amusement park. Among the expected offerings is a who’s who of local restaurateurs. John Besh will open another Johnny Sanchez location with fellow celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez and a Pizza Domenica with Besh protégé Alon Shaya. John Blancher will keep the Ye Olde College Inn offshoot going in the new airport. Fellow Carrollton Avenue mainstay Angelo Brocato’s will serve gelato and Italian cookies there as well. Neal Bodenheimer, the craft cocktail king, will help travelers take the edge off with a new location borrowing the name of his Freret Street bar, Cure. Dooky Chase scion Edgar Chase IV will open Leah’s Kitchen, drawing from his grandmother’s recipe book. Chef John Folse, another dean of Louisiana cooking and co-owner of Restaurant R’evolution, will open Folse Market, serving casual fare. Young upstart Mike Gulotta of MoPho will expose world travelers to New Orleans’ Vietnamese angle. Not to be left out, Emeril Lagasse is planning a location

called Emeril’s Table. Susan Spicer, meanwhile, is adding a new spot under the banner of her Harrison Avenue restaurant, Mondo. And, for those in a rush — or those who are fans of A Confederacy of Dunces — there will still be a Lucky Dog stand at the airport. New Orleans’ airport has long served as more of a destination airport than a major hub. If you’re in New Orleans’ airport, you’re probably there because you want to be in New Orleans, or you’re from New Orleans and you want to go somewhere else. If you’re in Atlanta’s airport, by contrast, there’s a decent chance you just want to go somewhere else, and not simply because you don’t like Atlanta. Rather, it’s a major hub. Tens of millions of people pass through each year. Millions are between planes, and they want something to eat. Many travelers might have hours to kill and so could take their meals at a leisurely pace. And as we all know, domestic airlines are getting increasingly, er, economical when it comes to nourishing their passengers. Given this situation, the merciful thing for an airline to do is allow their passengers to change planes in

A rendering of the Folse Market, one of the dining options coming to the Louis Armstrong Interntational Airport in late 2018.

an attractive, comfortable place with good food to eat. If the dream team of New Orleans restaurateurs assembled at the new terminal play this right, they could make MSY every traveler’s favorite airport by turning the dreaded layover into an epicurean sojourn. n

Did you know?

Restaurants Heading to MSY in 2018 Johnny Sanchez Pizza Domenica Brocato’s Cure (cocktails) Leah’s Kitchen Folse Market MoPho Emeril’s Table Mondo

Rendering courtesy of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport 37

In The Biz tourism

Home Field Advantage

The Breakdown

UNO’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration educates the best and brightest for NOLA’s largest industry

funding the Future Currently, there are more than 88,000 jobs in the hospitality industry in Orleans Parish alone. GNOHLA Hospitality Education Foundation has contributed over $170,000 to UNO’s HRT (Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism) program over the past five years. The program educates students for management positions and boasts a 100 percent placement rate.


ocated minutes away from the French Quarter, the epicenter of tourism in New Orleans, the University of New Orleans’ (UNO) Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism (HRT) Administration is preparing future industry leaders one practice reservation at a time. UNO’s HRT offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in hotel, restaurant and tourism administration, as well as an executive online master of science in hospitality and tourism management. These degree programs provide an important pipeline for training personnel in New Orleans. “The HRT program provides a much needed workforce for hotels, restaurants, convention centers and many other tourism-related businesses,” said Dr. Kim Williams, director and graduate coordinator of the program. “Over 80 percent of undergraduate and 90 percent of graduate students work full-time while attaining their degrees. This supplies an immediate workforce to the industry prior to the completion of the HRT degree.” The degrees prepare students for a wide variety of roles within the sector, and the training is viewed by employers as a valuable asset for career advancement. “The industry recognizes the education that our students receive and that we are a management training program that is focused on providing well-trained students who are ready for management 38 Biz March 2017

positions,” said Williams. “We boast 100 percent placement of students upon graduation.” The HRT program is supported in part by a collaboration with the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association’s (GNOHLA) Hospitality Education Foundation. Last December GHOHLA announced they had donated a major gift — a $75,000 grant that will fund improvements to the HRT laboratory. The gift represents the first major commitment since the launch of the UNO Foundation’s $2.5 million capital campaign. According to Williams, improvements to the HRT lab will include a simulated hotel front desk and lobby, a beverage lab, an additional dining room and office

conversions. Just as a chemistry lab prepares science students for their careers, the labs give students the settings and tools to obtain hands-on experience in hospitality roles. Support from GHOHLA is crucial to enhancing the HRT program. Williams said both this and future gifts will help UNO meet its goal of quadrupling enrollment in the program. Building state-ofthe-art facilities will attract more students and the talented faculty to teach them. Plans for capital improvements with future gifts include a new roof, exterior refurbishment, an atrium style entrance, a 250-seat dining room, 35 computers for the property management system room and new equipment in the production kitchen.

“We are truly grateful for the partnership that we have with GNOHLA,” said Williams. “We believe that our relationships are mutual with our industry partners. GNOHLA Education Foundation has partnered with HRT on an annual career fair, provided funding for advertising and promotion, lab renovations and student travel.” HRT has supported GNOHLA as well by providing an annual new supervisor training for the lodging industry. The American Hotel and Lodging UNO Student Chapter also volunteers at GNOHLA events like the golf tournament and the annual industry Christmas party. 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 39

In The Biz sports

One Tough Cookie Cookie Rojas knew he’d catch flak for renaming New Orleans’ Minor League Baseball team the Baby Cakes, but says the rebrand is working.

The Breakdown

A Big Win and upgrades on the way “We’ve generated more revenue in merchandise with the new team logo than we did in all of last season. And that’s all been in five weeks,” said Baby Cakes Senior Vice President and General Manager, Augusto “Cookie” Rojas.


ugusto “Cookie” Rojas knew the backlash was coming, but he went forward anyway. He believed in the decision his business was making and thought time would prove them right. Lou Schwechheimer bought a majority share of the New Orleans Zephyrs last year and hired Rojas last April as the team’s senior vice president and general manager. In November, the Minor League Baseball team changed its name to the Baby Cakes. “We knew full well there would be a significant group of vocal people who are contrarians and don’t like change,” Rojas said. “We understood it was coming.” Zephyrs merchandise had fallen to the bottom of all measurable rankings for minor league sales. The rebrand “was an opportunity to reboot a brand that had not been doing too well over the last few seasons.” The pair tapped Brandiose, a San Diego-based sports marketing company, which has overseen rebranding efforts of more than 50 minor league teams, with a creative overhaul of the franchise’s brand. A “name the team” contest drew nearly 4,000 submissions, and Baby Cakes was selected from a group of seven finalists. The team’s new identity is based on Mardi Gras themes, namely the king cake. As such, team colors are purple, green and gold. The primary logo, which will be featured on home caps, is a snarling baby, wearing eye

40 Biz March 2017

Rojas said the stadium could see as many as three concerts in 2017, as it looks to host as many as 200 events a year. To prepare, he said the stadium will undergo concourse upgrades with unspecified concessions improvements.

black and a crown, emerging from a king cake while swinging a baseball bat. Home uniforms will feature “NOLA” across the chest, with a crown-wearing king cake in place of the “O.” The crowned king cake logo will adorn away caps, while the uniforms will feature “New Orleans” laced with tri-color beads on the front. Alternate versions of the logo include a “joyful” baby and a parade ladder-carrying baby. The initial boos that came with the announcement of the name change have now been replaced by the ringing of the cash register. Baby Cakes merchandise includes four hats at $28 apiece and T-shirts ranging from $18 to 40. “When it comes to dollars and cents, I can’t share any of the particulars because it’s confidential information, but I will say that we’ve generated more revenue in

merchandise with the new team logo than we did in all of last season. And that’s all been in five weeks.” Analytics show most of the purchases have been made by people within a 50-mile radius of New Orleans, either at the new 1,500-square foot pro shop in the stadium lobby or on the team’s new online store. “People have been buying from around the world. It’s been flying off of the shelves,” Rojas said. “We’re constantly buying more merchandise to fill the shelves.” It’s a major win for Rojas, who left a similar position with the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate in in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to take the job in New Orleans. He’s used the surge in interest as momentum in selling to local corporate partners and advertisers. Through mid-January, the team has received

verbal renewal commitments from 85 percent of last year’s groupouting participants and is filling the calendar rapidly. New Orleans is entering its ninth season as the Miami Marlins Triple-A affiliate, and signed an extension this offseason to develop players for the club through 2020. The Baby Cakes take the field for the first time, against the Memphis Redbirds, on Thursday, April 6. 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 41

In The Biz entertainment

Fighting for Equality in Film


WIFT Louisiana Events

Local professional organization, Women in Film & Television Louisiana, is ramping up during the industry slowdown.

March 4 – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. SAG-AFTRA Panel on Joining and Working with SAG. Robert E. Nims Center for Entertainment Arts March 8 – 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Short Film Showcase & International Women’s Day


n 2011 Louisiana was enjoying the golden days of Hollywood South — we were the No. 1 production state in the country. For some, however, there was definitely room for improvement. “Even with the industry booming here, the strong majority of jobs were still going to men. Women were not represented proportionally.” Those words are from Carol Bidault, a producer, specialized in motion picture and television financing, production and distribution who moved to New Orleans in 2010 to open the new headquarters of MediaFusion Entertainment, LLC. Bidault was describing why local professionals gathered together in 2011 to form Women in Film & Television (WIFT) Louisiana — one of more than 40 WIFT chapters worldwide. The organization is dedicated to the advancement of women in film, video and new media. Fast forward six years, Bidault now serves as the organization’s current president of the board of directors. Under her leadership, WIFT Louisiana became the host of WIFT International (WIFTI), a global organization with approximately 46,000 members, this past June. On March 8, WIFTI will host its first Short Film Showcase in celebration of International Women’s Day from 7 to 10 p.m. The event is free for members and $10 for non-members and will be held at

42 Biz March 2017

Second Line Stages. March 14 – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Alice Evening (monthly networking). Open to all. Second Line Stages For more information and a complete listing of events, visit

Second Line Stages (founder Susan Brennan is on WIFT Louisiana’s advisory board and was recently honored with the organization’s Iris Award at its annual Holiday Gala in December). “We have a lot of events and benefits for our members,” Bidault says, noting activities including monthly networking events, software discounts, educational opportunities, inclusion in a member directory and casting preference for WIFT Louisiana-sponsored script readings. The organization has also begun launching smaller groups, or krewes, for specific professionals including actors, directors, documentarians, keys, producers and writers. Bidault anticipates that these krewes will be a big boost to the organization, which currently includes about 100 members statewide. “The industry has definitely slowed here, but when the chips are down that’s the time when you really need to rely on a community of support and we have that,” she says. “We’ve really ramped up our offerings. We’re now accomplishing

in two months what we used to do in a whole year.” Bidault says the industry slowdown has only served to energize the organization. “We know what we need to do to get more women in film,” she says. “The first step is to provide the education — to allow people to grow their skills and learn about fields, like sound for instance, where there is great demand for professionals and there are basically no women. We also need to train our members to be able to take over managerial positions, putting them in a situation where they can then turn around and hire more women. Finally, we need to be networking, learning what jobs are out there. I think our directory is a good tool there. You want people to be able to find you and hire you.” Those who join WIFT Louisiana (memberships range from $35 for students to a full, $95 membership) automatically receive a membership to LFEA (Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association) and discounts to NOVAC and New Orleans Film Society events.

Bidault says the mood throughout Hollywood South is optimistic. “We have a new governor that supports us and we’ve started to pay back the tax credits so that’s giving studios the confidence to come back,” she says. “Plus, there’s legislation coming up this spring and we’re confident in our ability to get the word out to our legislators about how much the film industry affects and drives other industries around the state.” n

Kimberley Singletary is the

managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life. 43

In The Biz entrepreneurship

The Festival of Startups

The Breakdown

Don’t Miss at NOEW This Year


Mark your calendar now for these two events:


or anyone interested in any aspect of entrepreneurism, the Idea Village’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) is better than Mardi Gras. Taking place March 19-24, virtually all of NOEW is open to the entire community, free of charge. This year the program features nine keynote speakers and more than 100 sessions, ranging from panel discussions to workshops. While the largest focus is on the myriad aspects of starting a business, there are plenty of interfaces with nonprofit and government sectors as well. In addition, networking and social events provide great opportunities for casual information-sharing, connection-making and ad hoc brainstorming. Looking over the 2017 schedule, it is clear that Entrepreneur Week is working to be more inclusive and more interactive. Many sessions include both expert panels and opportunities for participants to have small-group working conversations about how they might implement concepts they have heard in their businesses or nonprofit organization. Also, while there is plenty of focus on technology applications and tech sector opportunities, the program is by no means limited to this aspect of entrepreneurism. Indeed, the Idea Village has put a lot of effort into selecting topics with broad application to any type of entrepreneurial setting, whether it is private, public or nonprofit. A quick cross-section of NOEW sessions shows the diversity of the programming: Women in Technology, Entrepreneurial Approaches to Nonprofit Sustainability, the Latino 44 Biz March 2017

City as a Startup – Monday, March 20. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Library at the Ogden A one-day summit orchestrated by New Orleans Venture for America fellows will include presentations and working sessions about how the city can drive inclusive growth. The Big Idea – Friday, March 24. 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The CAC Warehouse The world’s largest crowd-driven pitch extravaganza. Ten startups compete for a $25,000 prize.

Business Summit, Raising Capital on Your Own Terms, Innovation and Social Good, and — don’t ask, this writer has no idea — Embracing Your Inner Pigeon. Exemplifying the cross-sector nature of NOEW is the Civic Innovation Summit. According to information from the Idea Village, the summit invites “the private sector to add perspective and partner with the public sector to address three of the most significant risks to the future of New Orleans.” These are identified as resilience, equity, and crime and murder reduction (and presumably the nonprofit sector is also welcome). Startups looking for financial support also have plenty of opportunities. There are sessions on how to attract investors and several different pitch opportunities. These culminate with “The Big Idea,” which is billed as the largest community-driven pitch contest in the world. The winner of the contest is selected by audience vote; some of the other pitch contests during the week also include an audience participation component.

NOEW will have a new home this year: the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, both on Camp Street. The Idea Village itself will be moving to the CAC in 2017, and basing Entrepreneur Week there is a first step in that direction. One particularly interesting adjunct to NOEW is the IDEAtour, which made its debut during last year’s event. Designed by the Idea Village in collaboration with GNO, Inc., and the Business Alliance, IDEAtour is “designed to inspire and recruit national entrepreneurs to move their companies to the New Orleans region,” according to Idea Village’s Molly Horton. High-potential, early-stage startups can apply to be considered for various resources and incentives, and “preference will be given to entrepreneurs whose startups fit within New Orleans’s industry trends and culture.” NOEW Executive Producer, Victoria Adams Phipps, emphasized that “Entrepreneur Week truly is for

everyone, even if the thought of starting your own business has never crossed your mind. The spirit of innovation is so New Orleans, and there are many opportunities to be entrepreneurial in your workplace, or where you volunteer, or in many other aspects of your daily life.” Entrepreneur Week is free, but registration is required. Sign up at n

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. 45

In The Biz etiquet te

Gather ‘Round Tips for more civil and effective meetings Eti-quips

Mind Your Manners


here are probably a handful of people who like meetings, but most of us dread them and would rather have an intrusive medical procedure. In fact, according to a 2011 survey by WebEx, 60 percent of those surveyed feel nothing gets accomplished in meetings. Until meetings are eliminated from the world of business, however, we are stuck with them, so here are a few tips for keeping them at the very least tolerable. 1. Don’t schedule a meeting for something that can be accomplished via email or on the phone. This will cut down exponentially on the type of time suck meetings in which no one wants to be involved. 2. Show up on time. Your colleagues and business associates are likely as busy as you. When you show up late, you send the message that you do not value their time. If the meeting is already in full swing, the organizers may have to spend extra time bringing you up to speed, thereby forcing everyone to listen again to something they’ve already discussed. Spare everyone from this waste of time. 3. Set an agenda and stick to it. We’ve all been in meetings with no direction. Either you leave feeling as if it was a waste of time or the meeting runs over because it never had a schedule in the first place. Score extra points by distributing the agenda in advance whenever possible so your team or attendees can better prepare talking points or questions. If non-urgent, non-agenda items arise, table those for an email follow-up or the next meeting. 4. Introduce newcomers or go around the room and let everyone 46 Biz March 2017

Engagement is key to productivity and retention A little appreciation goes a long way. This is important whether you are meeting with long-time colleagues and clients or those new to your company or roster. According to a 2010 study by Psychometrics, when asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58 percent of respondents replied, “Give recognition.” In meetings, this can translate to welcoming your attendees, thanking them for taking time out for the meeting and offering recognition to the team or anyone in the room for a recent success.

introduce themselves to the group. The person ranked highest in your organization or in the room goes first or is mentioned first in the introduction. For example, “Mrs. Smith, CEO, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Collins, our new junior associate.” 5. Unless otherwise instructed, ask questions during the meeting. Holding your questions until the end can cause the meeting to go over as well, so avoid this practice and you will escape the resentment and mental groans of exasperation from your co-workers and clients. 6. Do not use your phone in a meeting and don’t leave it out on the table. Either put it in your pocket on silent or vibrate or leave it in your office. If you must take a call or respond to a text, excuse yourself from the room. If you are the person in charge, make this a company rule, so it’s clear to everyone that meetings are a phone-free zone.

7. Don’t talk over other people when they have the floor. If interrupting is the only way to be heard, do it in the most polite way by saying “Excuse me” in a firm and assertive tone. 8. If you had meeting with a client or prospective client, send a followup thank you note (handwritten, unless you are dealing with a tech company, since in that arena it can seem antiquated). Not only is a note of gratitude a great way to generate goodwill, but also it is another opportunity to get in front of your client. By employing all of the above, when you do have to hold or attend meetings, they will go much faster and will be a lot less painless. Who knows, maybe the word will get out that you conduct the most efficient and effective meetings in your company and people will actually look forward to attending? OK, probably not, but an etiquette writer can dream. n

Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of

New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to 47

In The Biz tech

The Right Tool for the Job Computer/tablet hybrids — are they worth it?


he continuing emergence of new types and classes of smart devices — from computers to phones to tablets to watches — has been accompanied recently by the blurring of the lines separating them. Seemingly traditional laptop computers now often fold or come apart to become tablets, while traditional tablets purport to be powerful enough to replace computers. As much as I like the idea of reducing the number of things I have to buy and set up and carry around, I fear that the actual usefulness of these types of crossover capabilities is more hype than reality. In full disclosure, I approach this crossover concept with a degree of skepticism. When Microsoft made a big deal a few years ago of the fact that Windows 8 could offer the same experience on a computer, tablet and phone, my reaction was “Why would anyone want that?” My computer has two 24-inch screens, and my phone fits in my pocket. Is there really any point in trying to unify the two experiences? Furthermore, more than many people seem to realize, a touch screen is a much different way of interacting with a device than a keyboard and mouse. Wouldn’t I want an operating system and applications that are specifically designed for the type of input I’ll be using? Microsoft’s negligible share of the phone market is evidence that my skepticism is at least partially justified. The vast majority of people find that using a Windows computer is not a good reason to use a Windows phone. 48 Biz March 2017

On the other hand, the unquestionable success and positive reviews of the computer/tablet hybrid Microsoft Surface Pro and its imitators are evidence that certain types of crossovers can and do have broad appeal. Open to the possibility that I was missing something, I recently spent a few days with an HP Elite x2, a Windows-based hybrid that is very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro, i.e. a powerful touch-screen computer with a detachable keyboard. I had been using a traditional Windows laptop for real work and an iPad Mini for web browsing, email, Reddit and a few other apps. Maybe one device could replace them both and simplify my life? As I expected, I found that replacing the laptop was no problem for the Elite x2. With the right setup and specs, which include a dock and a real keyboard and mouse and external monitors, today’s Windows hybrids are fully capable of serving as traditional computers. If you happen to use Windows applications that benefit from touch screens or electronic pencils, then a hybrid is probably a better choice than a traditional computer.

But it did not take long for me to realize that the current Windows hybrids are a long way from replacing my iPad Mini. The additional features and the additional weight make the experience technically and physically unwieldy, which is the opposite of what I want in a tablet. At the same time, Apple is pushing the idea that a tablet like the iPad Pro can replace a computer. For me, that’s just silly. If a tablet is about simplicity, a computer is all about multitasking. It’s about working simultaneously in three applications on three screens, at least one of which probably needs to run

on Windows. I’ll gladly deal with the complexity to gain the technical flexibility. So, for now, I’ll hold firm to my position that a computer is not a good tablet and a tablet is not a good computer. Maybe Microsoft or Apple or Google or someone else will find a way to bridge the gap successfully, but I’m starting to think that before that happens a wholly new type of device with a wholly different way of interacting will replace them all. n


GADGET REVIEW Working on the HP Elite x2 (a Windows-based hybrid that is very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro) I found that: Today’s Windows hybrids can effectively serve as traditional computers. More technically and physically unwieldy, it was not a good substitute for my iPad Mini.

Steven Ellis has spent the last 16 years working at the intersection of business and technology for Bellwether Technology in New Orleans, where he serves as the company’s vice president. 49

50 Biz March 2017

perspectives hot topics in three southeast Louisiana industries

real estate & construction

Going High Tech Job site innovations More on page 58 51

Perspectives banking & finance

Tax Tips Common mistakes and new tax code changes to consider By Suzanne Ferrara


s we step into tax season once again, Biz New Orleans invited local tax professionals to share some things both businesses and individuals should avoid in order to stay on the right side of Uncle Sam.

Common Mistakes 1. Claiming too much. “The total amount of charitable contributions claimed cannot be more than 10 percent of the corporation’s taxable income,” says Kelly Haden, a tax supervisor with Ericksen Krentel & Laporte. 2. Thinking the IRS treats all charitable deducations the same. Whether you’re an individual, a C corporation or an S corporation (a corporation not taxed separately) make sure that whomever you make a donation to is a qualified organization with the IRS. (The IRS website has a list). A common misconception, says Jennifer McGinnis, the director of tax compliance with Bourgeois Bennett, is that all GoFundMe accounts are deductible. “Of course, everybody wants to help, and you write a check,” she says, “but in most cases those are not charitable organizations.” On the other hand, Haden says many of her clients who helped during the recent flooding in south Louisiana didn’t realize they could receive a deduction. “Many people driving to and from all these locations and helping people gut houses with a bona fide charity, their mileage is deductible.” “It’s 14 cents per mile,” notes Gina Rachel, tax director with

52 Biz March 2017

Postlethwaite & Netterville. “It’s not a significant amount, but for those who are doing it, you might as well take advantage of it if you can.” 3. Not having proof of your donation, such as letters and receipts. For cash donations over $250, “you should get an acknowledgment letter from that organization so that if you are audited you have that verification,” adds Haden. “Record-keeping is very important, and if you clean out your closet and give your non-cash donations away to Bridge House or Vietnam Veterans you want to get that receipt from them and take pictures of your donated items,” reminds Rachel. 4. Thinking all charitable donations are 100 percent deductible. “If you bid $50 on an auction item and won a trip worth more than that, you can’t deduct that $50,” says Debbie Moran, senior tax manager with Hannis T. Bourgeois. Also, keep in mind that if you pay $100 for a charity dinner you cannot deduct the full $100, you have to deduct the value of the meal you ate. 5. Not knowing the full value of donated stocks. Donating appreciated publicly-traded stock can have great benefits because the deduction you can claim is for the fair market value of the stock. “Say, for instance, you had some stock that you paid $100 for and now it is worth $500, and you take that stock and donate it to a qualified charity,” says McGinnis. “You get to take a $500 deduction rather than a $100 deduction.” 6. Not planning ahead for future donations. Jennifer Bernard, director of tax services with LaPorte CPAs and Business Advisors, says she always asks her clients to examine whether they think their income will be higher or lower next year, and then looks at how they can make their charitable giving an overall part of their planning strategy. “With any kind of itemized deduction, you want to plan for if the client is going to have a big year,” Moran says. “Let’s say you contribute $5,000 to the New

Did You Know?

Looming Code Changes Potential tax code changes under the Trump administration may present some challenges for tax professionals. President Trump has stated he’s in favor of reducing tax brackets for individuals but, at the same time, he’s looking at limiting itemized deductions. “Putting a cap on total itemized deductions in general would be a big hindrance on people who give large amounts of charitable donations,” says Gina Rachel, with Postlethwaite & Netterville. “So even though you may be paying a lower tax, you might not be able to take as many deductions.” Ken Abney, with Carr, Riggs & Ingram, believes any tax code changes will influence actions. “It will be interesting to see in the tax code what they decide to do to foster behavior,” he says. What that behavior will be, however, is still unknown. “[The thought is that] tax rates will go down because Trump’s plan is like the Republican plan,” says Debbie Moran, with Hannis T. Bourgeois Moran. “But there’s no way for us to know, so we are waiting.” The alternative minimum tax (AMT), which has been on the books since President Nixon, is one of the items on the chopping block. The AMT is a supplemental tax that is imposed in certain cases (corporations, estates and trusts) in addition to baseline income tax. “Everyone is so excited about that,” explains Jennifer McGinnis, with Bourgeois Bennett, “because it is so complicated, and it’s a whole different set of rules that you have to know.” No one knows when the new tax code changes will take effect, but McGinnis is hopeful they will know something by the time the secondquarter estimated payment is due, which is June 15. In the meantime, “We are looking at how we can most efficiently apply the tax code as it is in place,” says Jennifer Bernard with LaPorte CPAs and Business Advisors.

Orleans Mission every year but this year you had a big year, why not give them $10,000 [and lower your taxable income]?” n 53

Perspectives healthcare

Aging in the Crescent City Globally, the home health care sector is expected to see revenues grow from $180 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2020. Local industry executives explain the changes they’re seeing in this booming business. By Pamela Marquis


hey proudly wore their Mickey Mouse ears, loudly screeched at the Beatles, fought in and against the Vietnam War, indulged in “free love” and frolicked in the mud at Woodstock, and now, the baby-boom generation is aging. “Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day,” said Jeré Hales, chief operating officer of Lambeth House, a continuing care retirement community overlooking the Mississippi River. “Most of the current trends in the industry are related to preparing to address the wants and needs of this huge segment of the aging population.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA), the older population — persons 65 years or older — numbered 46.2 million in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available), or about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, this segment of the population is expected to reach 98 million. The AoA estimates that the global home health care sector, just one part of the overall industry, should see revenues grow from $180 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2020.

Inspired Living in Kenner is opening later this month.

54 Biz March 2017

Industry Background With government support such as Medicare and the advent of the National Institute on Aging, senior care as an industry began to grow in the 1960s. In 1965, Medicare provided the elderly with federal money for home care, and it has been far and away the largest single source of revenue in home health care services. The rest of the industry’s revenue comes from private insurance, out-of-pocket costs and Medicaid. Because Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance set prices in the industry, competition between providers is not based on price but on quality of care, name recognition, reputation and referrals from medical professionals.

Growth According to Daniel J. Ritter, executive director of Inspired Living at Kenner, which will have its grand opening later this month, there has been a recent boom in the number of senior communities being built in the New Orleans area over the last two years to keep up with the growing demand. “At least five communities have been built or are in the process of being built in the greater metro area,” he said. “There are probably another 10 to 12 under construction in the immediate 150-mile radius from New Orleans. These numbers will continue to grow as the baby boomer population ages. And, of course, with these newer communities being built, some of the older communities will have to spend some money to add amenities, and services, or will need to renovate their current communities if they plan on competing.”

What is Independent Living? An independent living community provides services that are included in their monthly rent such as utilities or even housekeeping, linen service and transportation. A meal plan may allow residents to select the number of meals they want or allow them the flexibility of cooking for themselves.

Did You Know?

The Little Extras Because boomers are still so active, these communities offer many modern amenities and worldly experiences. “We offer trips to museums and we are planning cruises,” said Shawn Montgomery, with the Landing at Behrman Place. “Our residents are still trendsetters. They are tech-savvy and health-conscious. They want couscous, hummus and kale.” Inspired Living at Kenner offers a wide range of amenities and technology. “We have GPS-tracked wristbands, keyless entry to your apartment, anytime dining, and truly purpose-built amenities such as a heated swimming pool, a tiki bar, a fenced-in dog park, putting greens, walking trails and even a stocked fishing pond with pier for the true outdoorsy type,” said Executive Director, Daniel J. Ritter. Upon entering Lambeth House, residents will find a formal dining room, a cozy library, a card room, an office and a parlor for entertaining. And their latest expansion reflects their progressive approach to healthy living. “Our Wellness Center has over 21,000 square feet of space dedicated to areas that promote wellness of the mind, body and spirit,” said COO Jere Hales. “It includes a fitness center, art studio, interfaith chapel, meditation room, casual dining café and a saltwater pool natatorium.” Poydras Home, a continuing care retirement community, offers a unique program called “Soul Strings For Seniors: Musical Memories.” It’s an expansion of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s successful “Soul Strings” music therapy-informed program, which serves students and adults with developmental disabilities. “This program is designed to engage residents who have an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis,” said Erin Kolb, Poydras Home’s vice president of resident affairs. “The LPO musicians are working with a licensed music therapist in sessions that complement and reinforce therapy goals such as improving communication, memory and attention skills. The intimate setting with small groups of our residents allows the LPO musicians to extend their talents into a new direction impacting wellness as they reach members of our resident population who can find traditional modes of communication to be difficult.” Program participants from Poydras Home are also invited to attend a number of open rehearsals of the full Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Poydras Home has also partnered with the New Orleans Museum of Art in the pilot program, “Artful Minds.” It offers guided museum tours for individuals with dementia. 55

A one-time community fee is standard, and there may be a one-time pet fee. When couples join a community, they may also have to pay a second-person fee. According to a 2015 survey done by, the state with the most expensive median monthly independent living costs is Massachusetts at $4,002; Louisiana costs were considerably lower at $1,804. Independent living means that residents do not require assistance with life’s daily activities like dressing, walking or medication management. Independent living communities may offer only the typical independent living services, or they may be part of a larger campus, such as in the case of continuing care communities, which also offer assisted living, skilled nursing services and even hospice. “We hope that when our residents move here, it will be their last move,” said Shawn Montgomery, community development director of the Landing at Behrman Place, an active retirement community. “We’ve had residents receive hospice here because this is their home.”

Life Plan Communities Jeré Hales, chief operating officer of Lambeth House, believes among the most noteworthy expansions in senior service industry is the birth of continuing care communities or life plan communities. Lambeth House is a life plan community, which means residents are provided with on-site assisted living and nursing care as their needs change from independent living to a greater care situation. “For couples, who typically don’t age at the same rate, a life plan community is the perfect plan since it encourages aging in place for as long as each spouse is able, but also provides care options if needed. If and when one spouse needs more care, it is conveniently available in a community that is already familiar to them.” Ritter says that there’s also been a perception change within the industry. “We call our prospects ‘residents’ instead of ‘patients,’” he said. “We refer to our building as ‘communities’ instead of ‘facilities.’ We refer to their home as their ‘apartment’ 56 Biz March 2017

Smart Advice

Tours and Transitions Clients should tour a variety of communities before making a decision. “It allows us to get to know our potential client in person, and better yet, it allows the prospect to see, feel, and touch what we are offering,” said Daniel J. Ritter, executive director of Inspired Living at Kenner. “Be sure to ask about hidden fees. I personally always recommend and encourage our potential residents to tour the competition, and show up unannounced if they can. This can give the prospect a real-time snapshot of how the community is probably run.” It’s also important to plan the transition into the community of one’s choice. “We work with financial planners, families and contractors to ensure the move is seamless,” said Lambeth House COO, Jere Hales. “With any big move, there is, of course, anxiety. We partner with our prospective resident to alleviate and reduce any stressors that might cause uneasy feelings.”

instead of their unit. We simply offer a homelike environment for those residents who want that option of avoiding the institutionalized feeling of a hospital or nursing home.”

Who Lives There? Not your great grandmother’s nursing home, today’s independent living communities are diverse, and their residents are still vibrant and full of life. In 2005, Merrill Lynch released a landmark retirement survey that forever changed the perception of how future retirees would spend their retirement. The survey discovered that the baby-boom generation upon retirement is not yet ready for the rocking chair; in fact, 76 percent of the boomers planned to keep working and earning an income during retirement. “Our residents are, in a word, ‘amazing,’” said Hales. “We have some that are in semi-retirement and some who continue to work full time. Many have incredible backgrounds spanning from judges to artists.” n 57

Perspectives real estate & construction

Going High Tech How local companies are stepping into tomorrow By Kim Roberts


echnology will continue to play an important role, both on and off the job site, in the construction industry this year. Arguably one of the hottest technology trends will be the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), according to ConstructConnect, a leading provider of construction information and technology solutions in North America. Virtual reality is an alternative environment that completely envelops users (think giant headset that transports you to an alien planet), while augmented reality is a blending of virtual reality and real life (think Google Glass). Last year a number of new VR headsets hit the market, like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. More are said to be on the way this year, like the new model from Lenovo that will be lighter, cheaper and have higher resolution than either Vive or Rift. The new Lenovo headset will also provide room-scale virtual experiences and motion tracking in a self-contained unit. Better project visualization — enabling and improving real-time collaboration among stakeholders and leading to increased adoption of building information modeling

“Greenleaf Architects was the architectural firm on the headquarters for Florida Marine Transporters in Mandeville, which we recently completed,” said JD King, senior estimator with Kent Design Build. “This was our first project in which the design was done completely in BIM. The pictures show how similar the model (above) is to the finished project (below). Since then, we have hired a BIM coordinator and now push for all of our design-build projects to be created in BIM.” 58 Biz March 2017

Rendering designed and created by greenleaf architects

Looking Ahead

Drone Sweet Drone Industry experts predict that more drones will be seen flying and hovering over job sites this year. (Constructech Magazine). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued rules for commercial use of these small, unmanned aircraft systems, which went into effect last August. Even before the new rules were released, the FAA was granting exemptions for commercial use. A large percentage of exemptions granted covered applications in aerial surveying, construction and infrastructure. Drones can be used to do aerial surveying of a site, monitor worker productivity and safety, and conduct inspections on bridges and tall buildings.

(BIM) applications — are just a few ways the construction industry will benefit from AR and VR technology. VR will likely be used for design by architects and engineers, with some use by construction firms in areas like safety training and teaching workers how to properly operate heavy equipment in a controlled environment. AR is expected to have a larger presence on the construction site. JD King, senior estimator with Kent Design Build Inc., says his firm is already reaping the benefits of new technology. “We just recently completed a new server for the company, and all of our employees now run on virtual machines and can log in from anywhere and see their personal desktop programs. This has allowed project managers and superintendents to work from the field as if they were sitting in our home office.” Established in 1996, Kent Design Build Inc. is a full-service commercial construction firm with 65 employees and corporate offices in Mandeville, offices in Lafayette and projects along the Gulf Coast from Lake Charles to Mobile, mostly in Greater New Orleans. The firm’s projects fall into

four divisions: commercial, faith, industrial and medical. The company has also begun using BIM software — software that enables the construction of a virtual model of a project. “With the construction industry moving in the direction of 3-D modeling, we executed a plan to utilize BIM in as many projects as we could,” King said. “Revit (a software developer) had a significant learning curve, and we brought in a BIM manager to help kick start the process. BIM has helped us from the very beginning of a project by sketching floor plans and building models to give clients a much clearer idea of architectural intent than traditional black lines on a page. The BIM advantage doesn’t end there, as it allows us to coordinate conflicts between multiple trades and contractors. BIM also allows our field staff to visually see how a project will come together and can walk a site comparing the status of construction to the 3-D model. “We really expect BIM to take off in the construction industry. As the cost comes down and more subcontractors embrace the process, the advantages will compound. We believe that all projects, no matter how big or small, can utilize BIM,” he added. According to JBKnowledge’s ConTech Report, widespread use of BIM is expected in 2017, resulting in improved workflows and efficiencies. Apps such as BIMTrace will allow construction companies to overlay a picture on top of the model, measure, and then push that data back to project review software, all of which allow for easier and clearer communication.

Helical Pilings Greg Abry, president of Abry Brothers Inc., thinks that in 2017 helical anchors/pilings — an extendable deep foundation system where helical bearing plates are welded to a central steel shaft — will be a widely utilized piece of equipment for specific applications. For five generations, Abry Brothers has been serving the New 59

Orleans area, providing foundation repair, home elevation, structural shoring, house leveling and carpentry. The company has been in continuous operation to residents along the Mississippi River since 1840. “This technology has probably been around for about 10 years but has just recently been picking up steam, and more engineers are starting to include it in their designs,” he said. “These are not the traditional pilings; they are different than the ones used for homes or that are typically used with a pile driver. In layman’s terms, it is akin to screwing or twisting in a steel piling instead of pounding it into the ground. It works really well in confined spaces, like the buildings where contractors are converting older buildings into new spaces. These pilings can go into depths of 100 feet and are installed with a bobcat so there are no vibrations in comparison to the traditional piling installations.” Abry said helical pilings are great for French Quarter construction and remodels because there are virtually no vibrations that will damage the historical integrity of the buildings in the area. “All of the old buildings can now be protected,” he added. “Also, we can now fit into really tight spaces that traditionally we could not get into. We have been using this for a lot of elevator installations in confined areas. We are excited that we can achieve the necessary design support in these locations that we used to have to design around in the past because we could not physically gain access. Now we can get the support we need.” With helical pilings, the load is transferred from the shaft to the soil through bearing plates. Central steel shafts are available in several sizes and diameter, and combinations are also available for compression applications in soil conditions where dense/hard soils must be penetrated with softer/loose soils. Segments or sections are joined with bolted couplings. A helical bearing plate or helix is one pitch of a screw thread. All helices, regardless of their diameter, have a standard 3-inch pitch. Being a

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Trending Now

Automated Toys Autonomous construction vehicles and heavy equipment are becoming more frequent additions to the job site. Leading manufacturers like Komatsu and Volvo CE continue to release new models of autonomous, semiautonomous and remote-controlled excavators, bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Royal Truck & Equipment has been doing pilot tests with the Florida Department of Transportation for self-driving crash trucks for work zones. Two benefits of this technology are safety and labor. With these machines, you can put a less skilled worker in the cab and the equipment will do almost all of the work.

true helical shape, the helices do not auger into the soil but rather screw into it with minimal soil disturbance. Helical plates are spaced at distances far enough apart that they function independently as individual bearing elements; consequently, the capacity of a particular helix on a helical anchor/ pile shaft is not influenced by the helix above or below it. “We have used this equipment at the Maison du Parc condominiums in the French Quarter, because they needed pilings driven that did not cause any vibration because of the property’s location,” Abry said. “Also, we recently used the helical pilings for a local printing company that needed us to go down 90 feet. We did the work while their employees were working and their operation was running, and no one even knew the work was going on. As great and helpful as it is, Abry said he doesn’t think this equipment will totally replace traditional pile driving. “Traditional pile driving is still more efficient for new construction and those applications that are not in tight quarters,” he said. “Helical pilings are really for more specific, stylized areas that a traditional pile driver cannot get to or will be too disruptive to the sensitive, historical environment.” n 61

Perspectives guest perspective

Repeal and Replace What will a Republican “Replacement Plan” look like? Depends on which Republican you’re talking to. By Ryan Rodrigue


s the Trump administration approaches its first 50 days in office, many questions have surfaced surrounding Republican efforts to deliver on their promise of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While things are likely to remain uncertain for a while — President Trump said that the process of replacing the ACA could extend into 2018 — at least a half-dozen Republican senators have been throwing out ideas. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine One of the recent replacement options put forth by the Republicans came from Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in the form of the Patient Freedom Act of 2017 bill. The bill would keep many of the popular aspects of the ACA — such as banning annual and lifetime benefit limits, banning pre-existing condition exclusions, and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. It would also focus on expanding the use of health savings accounts (HSA) and would create highdeductible basic health plans for all legal residents who do not secure coverage through their employers or a government plan. Additionally, this bill would provide the states with three options moving forward. 1. A state could re-establish the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 2. A state could access federal funding to design an alternative market-based platform, which would keep many of the ACA coverage requirements. 62 Biz March 2017

3. A state could “design and regulate insurance markets that work for their specific populations, without any federal assistance.” While this type of bill may garner support among many moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats, it has been met by criticism from both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who has his own plan.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky Criticizing Cassidy’s bill as not being conservative enough, Paul presented a plan, The Obamacare Replacement Act, to eliminate the individual and employer mandates and go a step further as it relates to people with pre-existing conditions. If this bill was passed, there would be an initial two-year period during which people with pre-existing conditions could enroll in coverage. They would be required to

continuously maintain this coverage following that initial period to ensure they would not be denied due to their condition going forward.

Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has been a proponent of eliminating premium subsidies in favor of a tax credit. He has maintained support of insurance carriers being allowed to better compete by selling across state lines. Ryan has also maintained that a continuous coverage requirement would provide an incentive to secure coverage without having a mandate like Obamacare. Ryan’s “Better Way” plan would also allow insurance companies to adjust the pricing ratio to provide health coverage at a price point that would be more appealing to younger consumers. Under the current law, insurance carriers have a maximum

pricing ratio of 1-to-3 for young to older people. This means that the cost of a given medical plan for the oldest age bracket may not be more than three times as expensive as the same medical plan for the youngest patient group. The Ryan plan would allow insurance carriers to underwrite plans with a maximum pricing ratio of 1-to-5 for all medical plans.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee Additionally, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, proposed that the new legislation should allow health plans to be more flexible in how they incorporate the 10 essential health benefits, which are currently included in every qualified health plan under the Affordable Care Act. He also wants states to have greater control in determining special enrollment periods. photo associated press

Looking Ahead Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, (left), with Tom Price, secretary of health and human services

Greg Walden, R-Oregon House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, has committed to focus on curtailing the rising costs of prescription drugs. Walden said that improving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process of new competing drugs would help increase competition in the market and drive down prices. The effort to curb rising drug prices remains a priority for President Trump and could garner the support of Democrats. Republican changes may allow associations and cooperatives to secure coverage for their members to offer more choices to consumers. Additional cost-saving initiatives that could be promoted in new legislation are tech-driven primary care, transparency of cost and outcomes from medical providers to allow for better informed patient choice, and a focus on wellness, nutrition and preventative care. The Trump administration has yet to release specifics of what it would want to see in any legislation intended to replace the Affordable Care Act. President Trump has said that his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, will be instrumental in crafting a new law. This means that details of what “Trumpcare” would be may not be available until after Price is confirmed by the Senate. n

Ryan Rodrigue is the vice president

for Hollis Companies, Employee Benefits Specialists. He is a licensed agent with the Louisiana Department of Insurance, a member of several industry associations including the National Association of Health Underwriters and the Society for Human Resource Management. His primary focus with Hollis Companies is on helping businesses navigate the complex landscape of employee benefits and healthcare.

The Tom Price Factor How could Tom Price impact the healthcare landscape as HHS Secretary? In 2015, Tom Price introduced Empowering Patients First Act, which, according to his website, “puts patients, families and doctors in charge by focusing on the principles of affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, choices and responsiveness. Those principles form the foundation of the solutions in H.R. 2300 — solutions including individual health pools and expanded health savings accounts, tax credits for the purchase of coverage and lawsuit abuse reforms to reduce the costly practice of defensive medicine.” This proposed legislation provides some insight into what could take priority in the Trump administration’s plan to replace Obamacare. Several key elements of this plan may be the cornerstones of the eventual replacement bill, including: • Expanding the role of health savings accounts; • Resurrecting reinsurance (high-risk) pools to help subsidize coverage for people who would have difficulty securing affordable coverage due to pre-existing conditions, age, etc.; • Allowing insurance companies to charge higher premiums for individuals who did not have continuous coverage for the previous 18 months; • Providing tax credits to consumers in lieu of premium subsidies; • Providing for greater flexibility at the state level regarding health insurance law and regulation; and • Addressing “real cost drivers” by reducing regulatory burden, taxes and lawsuits. While these concepts may serve as starting points for the proposal from the Trump administration, there is sure to be much discussion, debate and modification before legislation is put forth that would be supported by the administration and Congressional Republicans alike. Hollis Companies will continue to monitor the healthcare reform environment to ensure that our clients are getting the advice and expertise that they depend on. We recently traveled to Washington, D.C., in January and February to meet with members of the House and Senate to discuss ideas and plans surrounding many areas of healthcare reform, and we will provide updates as necessary. 63

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Sidney Hits the Small Screen His new series, “The Deed,” launches on CNBC March 1. What’s next for venture capitalist, real estate, hotel, and app developer Sidney Torres IV? The mayor’s office perhaps? By Chris Price Photographs by David Joshua Jennings

Sidney D. Torres IV seems to have the Midas touch. A millionaire at 22, the serial entrepreneur has developed more than $250 million worth of real estate, launched and sold a multimillion-dollar garbage collection business, started a venture capital business, built a resort in the Bahamas, designed a crime-fighting app for the French Quarter, launched a second commercial garbage collection business and has multiple TV shows in production. He has accomplished this despite battling dyslexia, addiction and grief over his parents’ troubled divorce and brother’s death. Torres is currently transforming the former Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Teresa of the Discalced Carmelites of New Orleans, a 19th-century building at the corner of Rampart and Barracks streets into a resort-like assisted living facility and has opened the church and common space for weddings and special events. He’s also developing part of a 9-acre Mid-City site near Bayou St. John and the Lafitte Greenway into luxury apartments and high-end retail. Additionally, Torres stars in “The Deed,” a house-flipping show, which premieres on CNBC March 1 at 9 p.m. He is also discussing a Fox reality TV series based on the French Quarter Task Force app. As if he wasn’t already transforming the face of the city, Torres is being encouraged to run for mayor of New Orleans later this year. It’s a move he’s seriously considering. Torres recently met with editors and writers of Biz New Orleans at the Monastery to discuss entrepreneurship, his business empire, and his ideas for improving life in the Crescent City. The interview was edited for length.

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more about sidney

Favorite book? “The Aviator” with Howard Hughes What TV do you watch? CNBC Who do you look up to? God Biggest life lessons learned? I’m still learning Best advice ever received? Take a little quiet time for yourself each day Hobbies? Kite surfing; sketching out ideas for new developments Daily habits? Espresso Pet peeve(s)? Chewing with your mouth open Any tips for entrepreneurs/ start-ups? Find something you’re passionate about.

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Biz: How do you decide to get involved in a business project? Torres: Every deal is different, but it’s based on the person. I want to know who I’m going to be involved with because it’s like a marriage. When you get involved with someone in business, whether you’re lending them money or doing a joint venture, you’re getting into a relationship with them and you have to make sure it’s something that’s going to work. I really have to be passionate about it, too. I just can’t do something because there is money to be made in it. It’s got to make sense from a financial standpoint, but I really have to like the deal and the person. Biz: Why did you decide to convert the Monastery into an assisted living facility and event space? Torres: I wanted to do something special here. I thought about doing the assisted living facility because I was getting a lot of elderly people that wanted to stay in the Quarter. Right now, we’re using it as an event space for weddings and events, and that’s working out really well. So while we’re still planning and doing our studies on how an assisted living facility would do here, we have a cash flow. Biz: So events are giving you some time, then? Torres: It’s giving us time because to do an assisted living facility it’s a $40 million deal to convert and you want to make sure that you can fill it. Right now, we’re still trying to figure out the demand – it’s definitely there – but what kind of rates can you get to justify a $40 million investment? Biz: What’s the latest on the 9-acre site you are developing in Mid-City on the Lafitte Greenway?

Torres: I sold half of it to The Edwards Group, which is building 385 apartments. On the other half I’m planning a commercial/retail walking area. It’s very neighborhood friendly, a lot of restaurants. Not so many retail shops, but more different types of New Orleans restaurants. Maybe like a nice store for shopping, like a Whole Foods. To tell you the truth, it was a great piece of land, and I just thought it was a good investment. Biz: You’ve given nearly $500,000 to crime fighting to launch the French Quarter Task Force, provide vehicles, and develop and update its app. Why? Torres: When I first got in the deal, the Quarter was at an all-time high with crime. My home had

I just can’t do something because there is money to be made in it. It’s got to make sense from a financial standpoint, but I really have to like the deal and the person. 69

I believe that we need someone that understands how to deal with business; that understands how to deal with multiple departments; that understands crises situations.

gotten broken into, and I just saw it going down. I called the mayor, and basically asked him what are they going to do about it, and never heard back. I took out a commercial basically calling the mayor to action. When I got involved, the mayor [said], tell Sidney to put his money where his mouth is. For me, it was a challenge. If I’m going to put my money up, I’m going to make sure I have something that really works. That’s how I created the app. So that was the first cost. And then the mayor [said], we don’t have a way to fund the policing. We have to work on raising taxes. I said, no, we don’t. I’ll fund it if you let me implement this app. I’ll buy the cars — the Polarises and the Smart cars. But I need your police officers because they have arresting

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power, and they can carry a gun. But I want them to work on a detail separate and apart from the regular police work that they do. It’s regular police work that they’re doing, but it’s like Uber-style policing. I was only going to invest $50,000 to $60,000 to develop this app. But when the mayor [said] we can’t, I said, you know what, I’m going to let you drive the car before you buy the car. So I did it. That’s how it’s grown to be $500,000. The reason I did it is because the French Quarter, with developing condos and the trash business, and the city have been so good to me. When I look at what I’ve done in business and how it’s been good to me from a financial point, I believe that giving back to that half a million dollar number — and that wasn’t my plan at the beginning — ­ but I look at it as part of giving back. Biz: There has been talk of favorable poll results for you in a possible run for mayor this fall. Where do you stand on entering the race? Torres: I’m really honored to be at the top of the list, and the polls show that. It’s a big commitment. I think it’s something I really won’t decide, probably, until minutes — minutes — before the door closes for qualifying. The reason I say that is because I don’t have to raise the money. I’m not going to ask for money from anyone if I decide to do it and want to go forward with it. I’ve really got to have that burning desire in my soul, just like the garbage contract or the crime issue in the French Quarter — I don’t just dive in: I jump in with everything I’ve got to live it, breathe it. So for me, it’s a major, major decision. It’s a life-changing decision. Do I think I can do it? I know I can do it. But it’s a matter of having that burning desire inside to say for four years you’re going to have to live and breathe this. This is everything that you’re going to

do. Are you ready for that? That’s the decision that has to come as we get closer and I see who steps up. Biz: What does the next mayor of New Orleans need to do to be considered a success? Torres: We need someone that understands how to deal with business, that understands how to deal with multiple departments, that understands crisis situations – like the task force had to be set up to stop all of the crime in the Quarter. I mean, we dropped crime by 45 percent in three months. I think that’s what the city needs to move forward. I hope someone steps up and is willing to do that, and I can work with them as a community leader. But if it doesn’t happen, that’s going to be one of the things that really pushes me over the edge to do it. Right now, I’m laying out all of my ideas of what I think needs to happen: from the school systems, from setting up clinics for addicts who are struggling with drugs and alcohol, to figuring out what kind of programs work in other areas that would work here, giving better opportunities. New Orleans has (an average income of ) $37,000 per household. It’s ridiculous. How can you live off of $37,000 for household income? We can arrest all we want, but if we don’t fix these things, they’re just going to continue. We’re not taking care of the majority of the people that live in the city of New Orleans. That’s a problem. So I’m laying out a plan about the roads, the schools, the crime, and all of the things that I think need to be dealt with immediately. If I don’t make the decision to do it — and again, I say if I don’t make the decision to do it — then I would sit with whoever I’m going to support and endorse — not just financially — to lay out that plan and make sure that they will adopt some of the things that I’ve laid out that are crucial for the city.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Sidney Torres’ new CNBC house-flipping show, “The Deed,” premiers March 1 at 9 p.m. The four-episode, hour-long reality show features Torres helping distressed developers with cash and expertise in exchange for a piece of the property and a percentage of potential profits. The show, conceived by Jim Ackerman, CNBC’s senior vice president of primetime alternative programming, will cover properties ranging from family homes to multi-unit developments, and how “lives and fortunes can change with just one deal.” Torres uses his expertise to help people get involved in real estate who can’t get regular financing from a bank because they don’t have the track record or the financial statements to make a loan.

“We want to do a show that’s different than any of these flipping shows that are on TV right now,” Torres said. “All of those shows are ‘Here’s a rundown house and then it’s beautiful at the end.’ They don’t tell you that the contractor overcharged you. They don’t tell you that you didn’t put enough money in the budget to cover certain items at closing. They don’t tell you about people not showing up on the job when they’re supposed to. “The reason that I like the show and think it’s going to be a really big hit is because people will really learn what it’s like to get into the real estate business,” he said. “And it also teaches people how to take that first step. You don’t have to have a bunch of money to buy your first investment property. It’s all in how you do your homework that helps you get into it.”

The first season was entirely filmed in New Orleans. Torres has already signed an extension for a second season that will take the show to Miami. 71


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S FOR 2017 Six NOEW panelists weigh in on what every entrepreneur should know and do this year. ife as an entrepreneur can sometimes seem like one long, endless “to-do” list. There are 100 things you need to get done today, half of which should have been done yesterday, with another 100 on the list for tomorrow. Plus you have to keep up with the latest trends, technologies and marketplace paradigms, while keeping everyone from your customers to your investors happy. Among all these demands, how does an entrepreneur set priorities, actually get things done, and not go crazy in the process? With New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) coming up March 19 - 24, Biz New Orleans asked a cross-section of panelists from the event what they thought were the most important things entrepreneurs should be focusing on this year.

by Keith Twitchell 73

Kelly Hoey Investor & Author Build Your Dream Network Kelly Hoey began her career in the corporate law world before moving into entrepreneurship, with a focus in the tech world, and then on to investing. In addition to her portfolio of angel investments, she is an LP in two funds and an advisor to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Her major current area of focus is network development, and she contributes regularly on the subject to CNBC, and other media outlets. She is the author of the justreleased book, “Build Your Dream Network.” Hoey says that entrepreneurs should build and engage personal networks to provide the support they need in order to focus on building their businesses, but cautioned that these networks need to be used appropriately. “Everyone reaches out for help just when they need it and expects their network to immediately jump into action. She says startup founders are notorious for reaching out for help at the last minute — when the sales funnel is empty or bank account drained, for example. Enough of the 911 networking calls! Make 2017 the year you change your communication habit. Here’s why: regular communications connect your friends, family, advisors, mentors and potential investors to your journey as a start-up founder or new business owner. From the start, these are the people who know you and want to see you succeed. 74 Biz March 2017

“Communicate regularly and thoughtfully so your network can help you. Some tips from my book ‘Build Your Dream Network’ to get those regular communications started include: • Brainstorm a list of all the people with whom you should be sharing your business highs and lows; • Spend some time thinking about who should be on your list, then assemble all that contact information on a platform (i.e Slack) or tool you’ll use (i.e. MailChimp or email); • Pick a day and time to send out regular communications and then stick to that timing, regardless of how exhausted or stressed or deadline driven you are; • Craft a message that makes it easy for the recipients to want to help you. Include links. Draft the tweet or Facebook post for them. Attach the job description if you’re hiring. Don’t make your network guess what you need; and • Remind yourself constantly that networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs or get funding, media mentions, vital connections, etc.” Speaking on Tuesday, March 21 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cox Business Stage “A Keynote with Kelly Hoey: Your Modern Roadmap to Networking in a Hyperconnected World”

To Know “Understand who the customer is. The best investment for a startup is a paying customer, so know who your customer really is and what they will pay for your product or service.” To Do “Focus on one thing: building your business. Don’t be the founder, entrepreneur, marketer, community strategist, speaker, writer... Focus on one thing, your business, and do that one thing really well.”

Morgan Ford Senior Community Manager Yelp As the senior community manager for Yelp New Orleans, Morgan Ford lives knee-deep in community marketing initiatives that span social networking, marketing, educating and entertaining. She also has experience on the businesses’ side of social media and review sites, giving her insights into the owners’ perspective and helping them to understand their online marketplace and to take advantage of the free marketing opportunities that online review sites and social media provide. This is New Orleans, though, where nothing succeeds like real human face time, and Ford was quick to add, “Take the time to mingle. Building brand awareness, especially in New Orleans, takes more than just great online content and an effective e-mail pitch. Research local luncheons and after work social hours. Make time to attend with a pocketful of business cards and an awareness of who might be there that you may benefit from getting to know. A more casual, social interaction can sometimes open the door to relationships that wouldn’t have necessarily been created over the phone or internet, as well as create a healthy break in your work day!” Speaking on Thursday, March 23 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Lookfar Stage “Manning Your Online Storefront”

Manny Ruiz To Know “It’s obvious that brands and businesses have realized the importance of social media as an arm of their marketing, but now more than ever consumers are craving two-way conversations and genuine interactions online. Mastering online relations with your customers will put you and your business head and shoulders above your competitors.” To Do “Own and man your online platforms. While this seems obvious, you should pre-emptively claim, set-up and standardize your social media pages as well as your review site listings if you’ve yet to go live. If you already have an online presence, make sure what you’ve put out there has a sense of unity across all platforms. Once you have them set up, carve out time in your schedule to respond to both positive and critical reactions to your online storefronts to create genuine interactions with your online community.”

CEO Hispanicize Media Group Manny Ruiz has capped his 26-year career in the fields of journalism, communications and business by founding the Hispanicize Media Group, consisting of multiple platforms that include the annual Hispanicize Event, DiMe Media, Hispanic Kitchen, Hispanicize Wire, and the Hispanic PR Blog. Under his direction, the yearly Hispanicize Event has become the nation’s leading event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in social media, marketing and entertainment. Speaking on Wednesday, March 22 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cox Business Stage “A Keynote with Manny Ruiz: Embracing Your Inner Pigeon”

To Know “Deregulation and tax deductions for companies should bode well for businesses and for a rise in investments. If you’ve been sitting

To Know “The most important thing an entrepreneur should know in 2017 is that your health is your greatest asset. Taking proper care of both your mental & physical health has a direct ROI for your business. The reality is that the work never stops for an entrepreneur, so it’s critical to cultivate practices that work for your non-stop and ever-changing lifestyle. “ To Do “The most important thing an entrepreneur should do in 2017 is take at least 10 minutes before the start of each day to breathe, find some form of stillness (like meditation) and cultivate mindfulness. As the ultimate doers, entrepreneurs are wired to constantly be in motion. But mindfulness has actually been proven to improve concentration, flow and our ability to perform under high-pressure situations. It’s a game changer!”

on a business plan waiting for a great time to pitch your new idea, the marketplace should be more receptive than ever.” To Do “The coming virtual reality/augmented

Summer Suleiman Editor The Distillery Summer Suleiman is the editor of The Distillery, a blog that explores the real-life experiences of entrepreneurs. She writes about the challenges and hardships entrepreneurs endure as they start and grow their companies. Suleiman began her career as a journalist with CNN in Atlanta, where she also began practicing meditation. She is trained in mindfulness meditation with the Art of Living foundation and in the transcendental meditation technique. Speaking on Tuesday, March 21 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The Backyard “How to Make Your Mind Work for Your Money”

reality revolution is going to surpass every business and technology innovation that came before it. As an entrepreneur, you need to get ahead of this topic right now and not wait for it to disrupt your ideas and

investments. These technologies will be transforming the way many industries operate and their impact will be felt across the entire economy, so you might as well explore what this might mean for you before it happens.” 75

To Know “Stay focused. It will be easy to get very distracted this year with social media, politics and the constant grind of our daily lives. Stay laser focused on your goals and don’t let all the noise distract you.”

Brandon Davis Partner Phelps Dunbar LLP Brandon Davis practices law in the areas of labor and employment, business, and employment-based and family-based immigration. He has represented clients on a variety of human resources and risk management issues and has assisted employers with implementing effective strategies and labor solutions. As part of his immigration practice, Brandon represents employers and individuals in a variety of immigration matters. Speaking on Wednesday, March 22 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The Classroom “Growing Globally: Hiring and Retaining Foreign Talent in Uncertain Times”

To Know “Entrepreneurs rely on talented individuals who have the talent, drive, ability and/or financial resources to move their vision

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NOEW Started in 2009 as “The IDEACorps Challenge” 13,216 attendees in 2016 Run by Idea Village and presented by IBERIABANK Registration is free, but required.

forward. This often means identifying talent and capital from global — not exclusively local or even national — sources. In this rapidly-changing global climate, entrepreneurs

should know about the broad range of immigration options available that might help them locate talent and raise capital to launch and sustain their ventures.”

To Do “Keep up with technology. It changes so fast and there is always something new and better. Consistent use of technology is a major focus for any entrepreneur in 2017. Know what’s new, watch the trends and stay engaged with your business, clients and audience. Read, read, read! Learn from the mistakes of others. Fail forward and keep pushing.”

To Do “With respect to ‘doing,’ today’s entrepreneur must understand and master the changing times. The global order is being reshaped. Old alliances and former

Anthony Dazet Founder @EatingNOLA Anthony Dazet describes himself as a “Foodiepreneur.” A born-andraised New Orleanian, Dazet has turned his passion for food and marketing into a thriving enterprise that provides “real-time” food reviews and connects people to food-related events. Speaking on Wednesday, March 22 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Cox Business Stage “The (Social Media) Secret: How to Get to 100k Followers and Stay True to Your Brand”

ways of doing things have changed and will continue to change. To succeed now, entrepreneurs must keep abreast of changing facts and then plan accordingly through common sense.” 77

the lens Southeast louisiana businesses in full color

why didn’t i think of that?

VR Arcade NOLA Virtual reality has arrived in the Crescent City. More on page 86 79

The Lens great workspaces

Local Gem Wayward Owl Brewing Co. puts the work of brewing center stage. By Melanie Warner Spencer Photos by Sara Essex Bradley


t most breweries the tanks and production area are visible to visitors, so in that regard, Wayward Owl Brewing Co. isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary with its design. What is uncommon is the actual building in which the brewery is housed. In November 2016, Wayward Owl opened in the historic Gem Theater in Central City. The Gem was designed in 1948 (or 1947, depending on where you look) by notable Louisiana architecture firm Dreyfous and Seiferth (formerly Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth), which is known for the towering art deco-style “new” Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge commissioned by Gov. Huey Long, as well as the Pontchartrain Hotel and the Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, to name a few. The art deco-style theater opened in 1951. It is known as the area’s last black theater. After sitting vacant and without power for more than 11 years, Wayward Owl’s husbandand-wife owners, Justin and Kristin Boswell, flipped on the lights, beginning the second act for this local gem.

Housed in the historic Gem Theater in Central City, Wayward Owl Brewing Co. combines an industrial workspace with a tasting room. Patrons can watch the beer brewing action from the bar, the long, custom-made beer hall-style tables and benches, or the lounge area’s sofas and theater seats, which separate the production area from the tasting room.

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“The perimeter was in perfect shape,” says Justin Boswell. “There was a floor, but the interior was sunken for the slant, because it was a theater. It was a lot of work.” For the restoration, the Boswells worked with developer — and the building’s owner — Greg Ensslen of Go Mango Neighborhood Restoration LLC and engineer Glenn Schneider. “I drew the bar, the cooler, the layout for the tanks,” says Justin Boswell, a Lafayette native, who worked as a brewer for Black Raven Brewing in Redmond, Washington, before moving back home to start his own brewery. “The floor on the production side has 12 unique drains in it so we don’t have to chase water. Breweries are the cleanest places on the planet.” Boswell’s vision for the production area was born of function, but for the tasting room, he had something a bit more down-home in mind. “We are trying to cultivate a living room vibe,” he says. “It’s a family room. Even if you bring your kids, there is something for them to do.” Cushy brown leather sofas populate the lounge area, which is stocked with board games. A sleek, stained-wood shuffleboard separates the lounge area from long, beer hall-style tables with benches. The necessity of partitioning the production area off from the

Having worked as a brewer in Redmond, Washington, coowner and brewmaster Justin Boswell knew exactly what he wanted for the production area. Especially important was the inclusion of 12 drains to cut down on the cleanup process. The building’s approximately 24-foot ceilings made the job of getting the tanks inside much easier. Boswell says the perimeter of the building was in excellent condition, but considerable work had to be put into leveling out the floors, which were sunken to create the slant typically found in theater design.

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“My family’s Scottish crest is an owl and I was trained at a [brewery] called Black Raven,” says Boswell, explaining the inspiration for the company’s logo. “The owl and the raven play tricks on one another in mythology, so it’s a tip of the hat to the guys who taught me.”

At A Glance Company Name: Wayward Owl Brewing Co. Address: 3940 Thalia St. Space completed: November 2016 Architect: Designed in 1948 by Dreyfous and Seiferth; 2016 Restoration by Go Mango Neighborhood Restoration LLC Square footage: Approximately 10,000 square feet Main goal: To restore the space, create a highfunctioning production area for brewing and to have a comfortable, living room-like tasting room Biggest Challenge: Working around some of the design restrictions associated with being an historic landmark Standout Feature: The approximately 24-foot ceilings

The art deco-style Gem Theater opened in 1951 and is recognized as the area’s last black theater. It was designed by the notable Louisiana architecture firm of Dreyfous and Seiferth, which also designed the new Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge and the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue.

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public tasting area, however, is the brewery’s pièce de résistance — a long row of theater chairs, which Boswell says are greatly admired by the brewery’s patrons. Boswell’s favorite aspect of the building’s design is the approximately 24-foot-high ceiling, which made hauling in the tanks a much less daunting task. It also adds to the feeling of space. Being able to offer off-street parking in a rear lot is also a bonus. Food trucks, pop-up food events and crawfish boils are also in regular rotation, and since the building is surrounded by homes, one of Boswell’s priorities is to be a good neighbor to the residents. “We’ve been really welcomed with open arms,” he says. “Neighbors tell us we did a great job bringing the building back to life. People who grew up here will stop and tell us stories. We do our best to make sure the impact we have on the neighborhood is positive. I put ‘No brewery parking’ signs all over in front of neighbors’ houses. The little things count.” The dazzling, blue “The Gem” marquee sign outside was a full restoration done by Graffiti Graphics on Oak Street. Eventually, the couple plans to add a hanging screen and ceiling-mounted projector to harken even more to the building’s moviehouse past. Until then, patrons can play games, kick back in the theater seats, at the tables, on the sofas or at the bar, and enjoy craft beers that Boswell designs specifically to go with food, because this is Louisiana, after all. For his part, Boswell is content to work the 13- or 14-hour days required of a new business owner and a brewmaster-brewery owner in this space that he crafted as carefully as he does his beers. “Every day I walk in and I’m like, ‘wow,’” says Boswell. “Even on a rough day of brewing, at the end of the day, the tasting room is open and I can look over and see someone at the bar and I can see the [exhales]. I can share that with them.” n 85

The Lens why didn ’t i think of that?

Get Your Head in the Game VR Arcade NOLA is the first to bring virtual reality to the region. By Kim Singletary Photos by jeffery johnston


rom Los Angeles to New York City, virtual reality (VR) arcades have been sprouting up around the country in the past year. Illinois got its first in the city of Normal last July; the first to hit the East Coast opened in Washington, D.C., just a month later; and Minneapolis just debuted a 40,000-square-foot virtual arcade at the Mall of America in December. Drawing everyone from the hardcore gamer to those just curious what it would be like to move around in a virtual universe more reminiscent of the holodeck on “Star Trek”, the American trend follows a virtual reality explosion in China, which, according to a December article in Forbes, now plays host to more than 3,000 VR internet cafes. While companies like Facebook, Google, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft have already invested millions rolling out personal VR options — ranging from the $15 Google Cardboard to the $399 PlayStation VR — another big player in the industry, HTC, announced last fall that its Viveport Arcade program would begin opening arcade locations in the United States and Europe with the goal of turning public virtual reality gaming into a $100 million industry within the next two years. Lima, Ohio, even boasts its own VR arcade, but none can currently be found in the Southeast — a fact New

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Orleans residents David Denny and Devin Regan were shocked to discover after both tried the experience on a trip to Brooklyn this past September. Maryland natives Denny and Regan came to New Orleans in 2010 to help with the BP oil spill cleanup, fell in love with the city and decided to stay. When they participated in the VR demo, Denny was working in the solar industry and Regan was working in construction. “As soon as we experienced it, we immediately had a ton of questions,” says Denny. “We found out there was nothing like that here and we had been wanting to start our own business so we took the leap.” Using their savings, the two purchased the same system they had tried — the HTC VIVE. “This is currently the best, highest-end, most realistic system on the market,” Denny says. “It’s the only one right now that allows you to move around in a virtual space. With everything else you have to be seated.” Priced at $799, the system includes a headset, two wireless motion controllers, and two laser-emitting boxes that define the space where a user can exist in virtual reality — between 6 feet, 6 inches, by 5 feet and up to 16 feet diagonally. The system also requires a powerful PC with certain specifications. Both add up to a costly barrier to entry, which is where VR Arcade NOLA steps in. “We knew that if people could just try it, like we did, they would love it,” Denny says. “So we’ve created an easy, inexpensive way to do that.” Denny and Regan purchased their first system in November and

After experiencing virtual reality for themselves on a visit to Brooklyn, New York last fall, Maryland natives David Denny (left) and Devin Regan decided they wanted to be the first to introduce it to their adopted home. VR Arcade NOLA opened Dec. 1, 2016.

To Do

Help VR Arcade NOLA Win The Big Idea VR Arcade NOLA is among the top 20 finalists for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week’s $25,000 pitch competition. Supporters can vote for the startup online at from March 6-13. The top 10 finalists will then pitch their ideas to the crowd for voting Friday, March 24 from 4-9 p.m. at the Contemporary Arts Center.

began offering it to the public on Dec. 1 by booking birthday parties, corporate events and conventions. “Our first booking was at the Tchoup Yard,” says Denny. “One of our friends is a manager there so we worked out a deal to go out there on the weekends and offer people the chance to play for $1 a minute.” Regan says the relationship has been a win-win for the bar and the startup. “People hear about it and come to the Tchoup Yard to check it out, so we’re bringing in customers for them, and then people who are already there are seeing us and trying it, which gives us exposure.” Unless otherwise booked, VR Arcade NOLA can still be found at the Tchoup Yard on weekends running two of the four systems they now own. The company currently offers between 15 and 20 different experiences — ranging from the opportunity to go eye-to-eye with a blue whale in the depths of the ocean, to create your own life-size 3-D artwork, to protect the Millenium Falcon from Stormtroopers, kill zombies or even run your own convenience store. “There are more than 100 different game options right now and more are constantly being added,” Denny says. “We’re always trying out new ones.” 87

Did You Know?

Not Just Fun and Games Virtual reality is not just for shooting down aliens in an alternate universe. The technology is currently being used or evaluated in almost every industry, including: To treat PTSD, anxiety, autism, strokes and brain injuries; Train physicians and soldiers; Design new cars; Help juries evaluate crime scenes;

VR Arcade NOLA’s only requirements are some available space and an electrical outlet. “We’ve set up outdoors, in hotel lobbies, at Mardi Gras World and in living rooms,” says Denny. “It’s such a great idea for parties. I mean, you could go get a photo booth or a DJ like everyone else does or you can go for something really unique and interactive.” In addition to operating regularly from the Tchoup Yard, VR Arcade NOLA is also partnering with NOLA Motorsports Park to offer VR between races. Neither Denny nor Regan considers themselves gamers, and neither have a tech background, but both have experience in sales, which they say helps them provide a positive customer service experience in addition to a virtual experience that can be, quite literally, out of this world. Since the beginning of the company — only three months ago — the goal has been the same: to

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eventually secure a permanent home. “We’d love to open an actual arcade and make this available to people whenever they want,” Denny says. “We’ve just been accepted into New Orleans Entrepreneur Week’s Big Idea competition, so that’s exciting. A win there could help make that happen.” n

Offer college tours remotely; Shop at virtual stores; and Travel the world (and into space).

Trend to Watch

Virtually Unstoppable In July 2016, The Venture Reality Fund (an early-stage venture capital fund focused on virtual reality and augmented reality startups) reported that more than 250 companies have raised approximately $4 billion to grow the virtual reality marketplace. As of last summer, the industry included more than 200,000 developers and at least 700 startups worldwide, with no hint of slowing down.

VR Arcade NOLA currently offers 15-20 different experiences/games. For around $1 a minute, players can immerse themselves in popular games like Fruit Ninja and Minecraft, try their hand at archery or 3D painting, or travel anywhere from the depths of the ocean to the French Quarter. 89

The Lens nonprofit matchmaker

New Orleans Mission Fresh off its “Homeless Not Hopeless” campaign, the New Orleans Mission is growing and changing — and could really use your help. By Maria Clark Photos by jeffery johnston


anging in the main room of a small red brick building on Baronne Street called Gardner Cottage is a photograph of a 47-year-old woman named Mary Westbrook. With a tranquil look in her eyes, she cradles a little white cat in her arms. The image captures a peaceful moment between two living things that share one sad reality — both are homeless. Westbrook’s photo is just one in a gripping series created through a collaboration between the New Orleans Mission and the LASPCA that aims to put real faces on homelessness in New Orleans. Titled “Homeless Not Hopeless,” the showcase opened Feb. 2 at a fundraiser held at the LASPCA. The photographs were taken by Mission Disciples — homeless men and women who are part of a one-year program at the mission that includes fellowship,

The New Orleans Mission’s Mission Disciples program is a one-year program that includes fellowship, regular biblical teachings, life skills training, counseling and a work program.

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major fundraising events March 31 Giving Hope Sleep Out for Charity Individuals sleep outdoors at the Giving Hope Retreat to raise money for the new Northshore Womens’ Pavillion facility dedicated to victims of human trafficking and abuse. April 22 The Ride for Homeless Heroes A motorcycle ride from the Mission on Oretha Castle Haley to the Giving Hope Retreat in Lacombe that benefits veteran services. June 3 Raising the Roof for Charity the Mission is this year’s recipient of this annual event by the Northshore Home Builders Association that is selling raffle tickets to win a $427,000 home.

New Orleanian Mary Westbrook came to the New Orleans Mission last year to get help battling drug and alcohol abuse. This month she graduates from the nonprofit’s one-year Mission Disciples program, sober and with more job skills. Her portrait was one of many showcased in the mission’s recent “Homeless Not Hopeless” campaign — a partnership with the LASPCA. 91

The work training portion of the Mission Disciples program teaches residents new skills and helps them to save some money that enables them to get back on their feet.

A Good Match

FOR COMPANIES WHO… Are looking for hands-on opportunities to give back.

New Orleans Mission residents come from all walks of life and each has their own story of struggle, and — with the help of the mission — redemption thanks to the lodging, training, counseling and care of the largest faith-based private service provider to the homeless population of Greater New Orleans. The mission boasts multiple ways for businesses of all sizes to join with them in changing the lives of New Orleanians.

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regular biblical teachings, life skills training, counseling and a work program that helps residents save money to get on their feet. The discipleship program is part of an overall transformation that has taken place at the shelter in recent years that also includes major structural renovations to the main building on O.C. Haley Boulevard. In addition to the 32 women currently living in the shelter on the South Shore, the mission also bought the K Bar B Youth Ranch, a 60-acre property on the North Shore, and renamed it the Giving Hope Retreat in the fall of 2015. That facility includes several dormitories, a basketball court and a swimming pool and will eventually become a home to those enrolled in the discipleship program. Currently there are 72 men living at the North Shore retreat. By the end of 2017,

the mission hopes to add 50 more Last Year beds at the retreat center. the New Under the helm of David Bottner, Orleans the shelter’s executive director, the Mission Provided: New Orleans Mission began a $6.1 million renovation last summer. The first step was to renovate the 69,461 roof and facade of the mission’s nights of lodging; building on O.C. Haley. The first phase, which cost approximately $1.1 million to complete, was 20,492 covered in large part using state hours of money and historic tax credits. vocational “What I envisioned when I first training; came to the mission was seeing it like a hospital that people could come to to get whatever help they needed,” 2,016 hours of Bottner says. counseling The reality, however, was quite different. “The mission used to be a place 239,797 where we could just barely make meals ends meet,” he says. “The facility served looked bad and smelled bad. I could

The Mission’s “Sharing and Caring Community Outreach Experience” is an opportunity for groups or individuals to offer help and love to hurting people. It also makes for an impactful corporate outing or teambuilding experience. First, buses pick up the corporate group at a designated location then bring them to the Mission for an introduction. Then, the group is transported to the grocery store where they will purchase personalized grocery bags, which they bring to outreach locations all over the city where people in need are waiting. Mission Media Productions, the Mission’s creative team which is run by some of its the disciples, can also photograph the outing and produce a short documentary for the participating company. Volunteer opportunities are available on both the Southshore and Northshore.

understand why people didn’t want to stay here. We believed that if we could transform the building, we could at least take away that reason for why people didn’t want to stay.” Meanwhile, the second facility on the North Shore is envisioned more as a retreat where people can be at peace. “The city is fast, and it is full of distractions,” Bottner says. “People need space away from there. The answer for us here is always a healthy heart, and so we ask ourselves, “How does that heart get healed?” Bottner says that the change of the environment has already impacted the wisdom and behavior of the men for the better. Moving forward, their goal is to get everyone in the discipleship program to the North Shore facility. A resident of the New Orleans Mission over the past year, Westbrook is set to graduate from the discipleship program this month. After battling drug and alcohol abuse, she says it was her mother that ultimately helped her decide to make a drastic change in her life. “When I called, I was put on hold at first and I said to myself, “No, I need to just go!” she said. “I had a job, money, but I lost that. Then I realized that you can lose your life when you’re high on the streets.” Westbrook says that, no matter what, her mother was there for her. That morning she said, ‘You need me to help you pack? I know you need these shoes.’ I said, ‘Mama, you really want me to go?’ “She turned around and said, ‘I don’t want you to go, but you have to go,’ Westbrook said while slowly swinging on a porch chair outside of Gardner Cottage. “She was right.” Westbrook says her year at the mission hasn’t come without its challenges. She says it has taken time to learn to overcome her addiction and its impact on her life. She will graduate from the program in March — now clean and sober. In May she plans on buying the photograph of her and the cat for her mother on Mother’s Day. n


New Orleans Mission FOUNDED: 1989 MISSION: As the largest faith-based private service provider to the homeless population of the Greater New Orleans area, the New Orleans Mission provides food, shelter and spiritual guidance to those in need. WEBSITE: LOCATIONS: Main shelter at 1130 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in downtown New Orleans serves more than 215 men and women at a time. Giving Hope Retreat at 31294 US-190 in Lacombe, Louisiana opened in the fall of 2015. This Northshore facility offers 72 beds for those participating in the Mission’s one-year discipleship program. ANNUAL BUDGET: (2015-2016) $1,808,243 ONGOING PARTNERSHIPS: Gertrude Gardner Foundation, The Catholic Foundation, IBERIABANK (Visit for a full list.) CURRENT NEEDS: • Monetary funding to complete the renovation/expansion of its facilities • Volunteers for community outreach • Event sponsors • Supplies and equipment • 1 Desk • Trash Bags (55 gallon size) • Laundry Detergent • Toothbrushes • Toilet Paper • Shampoo • Deodorant • 8 Lockers • 4 Office Chairs • 7 Bookshelves • 100 Chapel Chairs • 6 Group Tables (6 people on each one) • 12’x18’ Freezer • 12’x18’ Cooler • Turkeys (for Thanksgiving & Christmas) • Hams (for Thanksgiving & Christmas) For more information: Steven Scaffidi Development Director (504) 669-0189 93

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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The Lens behind the scenes

Out of This World City of Gretna Public Observatory Photo by jeffery johnston


ad a hectic week? Looking to escape for a few hours and gain a little perspective? The City of Gretna Public Observatory (1 Copernicus St.) welcomes visitors of all ages to enjoy a free evening under the stars gazing at planets, nebulae and galaxies with Manager/Operator Ron Marcella. The 16-foot dome is open 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday nights (weather permitting) through March 11, and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. starting March 12.

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