Special to St. Tammany News | Sunday, April 25, 2010
Shop Locally – Shop St. Tammany St. Tammany Parish is a unique area in which to live, work, and play. Our parish continues to experience great growth in both business and culture. These areas are wonderful, but when they are combined with our parish’s excellence in education, artistic endeavors, and overall quality of life, it’s easy to see why we love this area of Louisiana so much. We have everything from new business parks to a continued cultural increase within the parish. While we have all experienced some economic slowing due to the national situation in the past year, the economy of St. Tammany remains strong. New business continues to move into the area, and our economic base continues to expand. KEVIN DAVIS We can all help to keep business dollars in St. Tammany and benefitting our citizens by shopping locally. Our local merchants, artists and shops all offer a wide array of services and unique products, and taking advantage of these services invests right back into our local economy. All of this equates to an unmatched quality of life shared by all in St. Tammany Parish. We hope you enjoy contributing to our local economy and seeing the results locally as well. – Kevin Davis Parish President St. Tammany Parish
Buy Local – Prove we are proud to shop St. Tammany The East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce prides itself on supporting the businesses in our area to help our community prosper and enhance our qualDAWN BRACKETT ity of life. When businesses are thriving, the community as a whole flourishes and local crime is low. In St. Tammany Parish, small businesses find a healthy business environment that is conducive to growth and success. Small businesses are cultivated, supported and given every opportunity to prosper in the region. Our local economy is dependent upon the citizens of East St. Tammany spending their money in this region. As the community prospers so does the opportunity for new businesses and industry to move into our area which in turn creates new jobs, improves our residential home sales and provides prospects to move into empty business locations. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back into the community and our tax base. By shopping local you get better service. Local businesses often hire people who have a better understanding of the products they’re selling, and take more time to get to know customers. Local businesses also support local community groups on an average of 350% more than nonlocally owned businesses, which proves that local businesses are owned by people who live here, work here and are more invested in the our future. St. Tammany Parish offers you a variety of resources to satisfy your needs. From cafés to fine dining, from clothing stores to upscale boutiques, from antique shops to professional art paintings, from spas to health clubs, from auto parts to new automobiles. The list goes on and on. You can find everything you need to satisfy your professional and family needs. Help keep our local economy rolling by spending your hard earned dollars to support the businesses in our area and prove that we are proud of the businesses located here and support “Buy Local”. As our community continues to grow, the focus of the chamber is to help promote our region for new business and assist with retention of the local businesses, through providing a voice of business, including networking and educational opportunities for members. If you would like more information on membership with the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, please visit our website at www.estchamber.com. – Dawn Sharpe Brackett, CEO, East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce
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Visitors to St. Tammany means business By Erik Sanzenbach St. Tammany News Though St. Tammany Parish does not have major attractions like the French Quarter or theme parks as in Florida, according to the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission, tourists do bring in a lot of money to the parish. Data collected by the STPTCC shows that in the past 10 years, the number of tourists has increased, which translates into visitors shelling out more than $200 million to the local economy. This is also good news for parish and city governments, because that $200 million means the government coffers have collected $16 million in state and sales taxes.
The increase in parish tourism has also meant an increase in the creation of tourist-related jobs. Since 2005 the number of these jobs has increased 42 percent, or 9,797 jobs that has an annual payroll of $27 million. According to Robin Kientz, spokesperson for STPTCC, the increases have more than doubled from what tourists brought into the parish 10 years ago. One of the parish’s biggest tourist attractions is the Tammany Trace, and its 30-mile bike and pedestrian pathway that extends almost from one end of the parish to the other. The STPTCC estimates that 150,000 visitors from all over the world have come to St. Tammany Parish just to use the Trace. Not only
does the Trace provide space for bicycle riders, but also it winds through some of the most historic parts of the parish, from Covington all the way to Slidell. Visitors who travel the Trace can discover all the historical sites, architecture and treasures that are located in such historical towns as Abita Springs and Lacombe. Travelers on the Trace can also visit the towns’ business districts spending money on food and lodging, further increasing the tourist economy. The parish also has many hotels and motels that provide overnight lodging to over 20,000 visitors a year. A lot of these guests are what is known as sports tourism and come to the parish to participate in
Mayor Morris says he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ By Erik Sanzenbach St. Tammany News Even though Slidell Mayor Ben Morris presented a slimmed-down budget to the Slidell Council several weeks ago, and the economy is in the doldrums, the mayor is looking at the bright side for the future of the city. “Right now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the economy of Slidell,” Morris said. He admitted that the downturn in the economy has affected the city, because of the decrease in sales taxes. He said before Katrina, Slidell was collection $175,000 a month in revenue. Last month, the city collected $40,000. “But it isn’t catastrophic,” Morris pointed out. “We are not shutting things down. City services will continue.” He did have to lay off some of the city’s part-time contract workers, but he does not see any layoffs coming in the near future. He said, he has seen the sales tax revenue take a much sharper dip earlier in the year, but he thinks the decrease is stabilizing. Morris thinks that business is still doing well in Slidell. In the past 90 days, the city has issued 74 new business permits, which is a good sign that people are willing to start a business here. He points to the resurgence of the stock market as a sign that things are coming back. Textron Sea and Land, a major employer in Slidell told Morris the other day that they are going to add to their current 1,000-plus staff, which is another good sign. One businessman, Warren Bourg, who just opened up his third airplane hangar at the Slidell Municipal Airport said he sees a great future for general aviation in Slidell. He has seen an increase in business at the airport and he sees that as a
barometer of the local economy. “We are fortunate to be in Slidell,” Bourg said. “The city is very enthusiastic about working with local businesses.” He also points out to the $10 million bond issue that the voters approved that will go to street and drainage repair which will attract more business to the city. In the process of issuing the bonds, it was discovered that Slidell bond rating has improved by two steps, going up to AA—. “There is none higher in the state,” the mayor said of other municipalities. Such a good bond rating means a much lower interest rate on debt service which could save Slidell millions of dollars. Morris also points to other signs of growth in Slidell. The Summit Fremaux project, a $1 billion development alongside Interstate 10 that will have
a shopping center, hotels, offices and the UNO Tech Park has been on hiatus for awhile because of the downturn in the bond market. But with the market returning, Morris said he is optimistic about the Summit starting up again. “I see them starting to go vertical this year,” he said. Already, the parish and the city have paid for a main road through the project and their part of that project has been finished. Finally, Morris said that because of good accounting, saving, and watching their budget, the city has plenty of money in reserve funds that will help the city to operate even if the economy gets much leaner. He said Slidell has about $9.1 million in three different reserve funds that can be used in case of an emergency. “So, we are in fairly good shape. Of course things can always get better,” Morris said.
baseball and basketball tournaments. St. Tammany Parish is also the gateway to tourist spots to the south. The parish has four welcome centers throughout the parish, and STPTCC employees man the centers, and not only point out the historical areas of the parish, but also direct the visitors to the parish’s small businesses. These welcome centers handle more than 55,000 visitors a year. Another part of tourism is the convention business. St. Tammany Parish has the Northshore Harbor Center,
the Castine Center, the Greater Covington Center and other sites that can handle large gatherings and conventions, further increasing the tourist dollar in the parish. Believe it or not, there is a growing, vibrant film industry in the parish. Kientz said that film crews from major and smaller production companies bring in about $1.5 million into the parish when they film. Though not a strictly tourist-type industry, the St. Tammany Parish Film Commission is part of the STPTCC.
The STPTCC itself is the major marketer for tourism in the parish. Its operating budget comes from a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax, as well part of the 4 percent state sales tax. The STPTCC spends a lot of that money on marketing the parish to the outside world through advertising, its Web site, and magazines, which write articles about St. Tammany Parish. The parish has been the focus of articles in the “National Geographic,” “Southern Living,” “AAA Southern Traveler” and numerous newspapers from all over the world.
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Lacombe Chamber unites community By Suzanne Le Breton St. Tammany News Lacombe is the largest unincorporated community in St. Tammany. Without a municipal city council or mayor to speak up for the residents, the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce has truly become the voice for the community. With 50-60 members, many of which are not business owners, the group is focused not only on promoting business in the area but also on educating the public on issues concerning the area and its residents. It recently started holding regular public forums as it had in the past. The first was on economic development in the area. President Anthony Thomas hopes to have one a month. “We want to get the com-
Justice of the Peace Dewey Spies inducts the new Lacombe Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, from left, Ronald Cressy, Ann Gniady, John Gniady, Robert Arthurs and Dorothy Calderone. Not pictured is Pat Johnson.
munity more involved in what is going on,” he said. The group also sponsors the annual Christmas on the Bayou celebration, where Santa Claus arrived
in a skiff and parades down to Bayou Lacombe Middle School, where a band plays Christmas songs as Santa hears Christmas wishes from local children.
The chamber is also responsible for the lights put up every Christmas. “Those are just things the group has done forever,” Thomas said. “It helps
bring the community together. Most people don’t even realize the chamber is the one that does it.” He said the lights bring attention to the business area. “When they see the lights they know they are in Lacombe,” he said. The chamber has no paid employees and 100 percent of the money raised through dues is used to pay for the events the chamber puts on and an annual $1,000 scholarship that is awarded to a Lacombe resident. They help promote its local businesses and to help them network and share resources. The chamber also sponsors Business After Hours events, which are held at local businesses. A different business is spotlighted at each event, and other business owners use this time to network and hand out business cards.
RTG giving Pearl River shot in the arm Another distribution plant may be on town’s horizon By Suzanne Le Breton St. Tammany News The small town of Pearl River is benefiting from a new Rooms To Go Warehouse and Distribution Center, and the same area may soon be getting another big distribution center to further boost its economy. The parish and the state lobbied hard to get Rooms To Go, the nation’s leading furniture company, to locate its state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution center in St. Tammany Parish, and Sen. A.J. Crowe praised former state Sen. Pete Schneider for making the 60-acre tract of land off U.S. Highway 11 available. “This would not happen if it would not have been for the Schneider family, who made the property available,” Crowe said. The facility is expected to provide as many as 250 jobs in the near future, and is already employing more than 100 people. “I’m so thrilled they came to Pearl River,” Mayor James Lavigne said, calling the employment and sales tax boosts “wonderful for the town.” He said construction of the facility also garnered the town’s funding to upgrade its water system. White-Spunner Construction, Inc., constructed the 858,000-square-foot distribution and retail center. The project cost approximately $50 million and includes an 818,000square-foot distribution center and 40,000-squarefoot Rooms To Go retail outlet, where the public can come and shop. The distribution center services stores throughout the Gulf Coast from Baton Rouge to Pensacola, Fla., including the four in Louisiana located in
Rooms To Go held the official grand opening for its new distribution facility in Pearl River in December. Pictured cutting the ribbon are, from left, Parish Councilman Al Hamauei; East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn S. Brackett; Pearl River Board of Aldermen member Virgil Phillips; Parish President Kevin Davis; Rooms To Go President Steve Buckley; Pearl River Mayor James Lavigne; state Sen. A.G. Crowe; Business Development Manager for the St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Foundation Mike Tomlinson; former state Sen. Pete Schneider; Pearl River Board of Aldermen members David McQueen, Ruby Gauley and Marie Crowe; and East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Jo Beth Cavanaugh. (Staff Photo by Suzanne Le Breton)
Covington, Baton Rouge, Metairie and Gretna. Now that the center in Pearl River is up and operational with 90 percent of inventory retained in stock, Rooms To Go can now expand its next-day service at the showrooms in the Gulf Coast region.
“We are thrilled that Rooms To Go has built this state-of-the-art distribution facility in our Parish. It will create jobs in the near and long terms, as well as providing our residents with a convenient new furniture shopping alternative,” said Brenda ReineBertus, Executive Director of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation. “This facility will allow us to strengthen our presence in the Southeast and
continue to provide toplevel customer service to one of our most important commerce hubs while strengthening our community involvement in one of our key markets,” Rooms To Go CEO Jeffrey Seaman said. “We are both pleased and proud to be expanding our Louisiana presence.” He added that the opening of the Pearl River facility showcases the company’s “commitment to the rebuilding of Louisiana.” The town and the parish
Economic Development Foundation are now negotiating with a frozen food company, which is looking to move in the same area. Both are remaining mum on the project as negotiations continue. However a spokesman with the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation said the company is looking to build a 700,000 square foot distribution facility and looking to make a $70 million capital investment in the community.
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Local cultural economy paints success By Debbie Glover St. Tammany News Imagine owning one of Georges Rodrigue’s blue dog originals or a limited edition and saving hundreds of dollars in sales tax. In Louisiana’s cultural arts districts, it’s possible, with a few restrictions. The idea of creating cultural districts is the brainchild of then-Lt. Gov., now mayor elect of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu and was created in 2007. Covington, Mandeville, Abita Springs, Madisonville, Slidell and Lacombe all offer original artwork with no sales tax. In addition to the taxexempt original art purchases, preservationists and those wanting the restore historic buildings also get a tax break on buildings 50 years old or older. The cultural districts were designed to become a
catalyst in communities for tourism and to stimulate the economy. Though the tax-free art itself may not add to tax revenue, the influx of more tourists and visitors means more customers at local restaurants and other shops, which stimulates the local economy, and does add to the parish’s tax revenue. Also, not all art is taxfree. Tax exempt works of art must meet following criteria: it must be original, one of a kind visual art, conceived and made by hand by the artist or under his direction and not intended for mass production. For example-visual arts and crafts, including but not limited to drawing, painting, sculpture, clay, ceramics, fiber, glass, leather, metal, paper, wood or mixed media. Some limited editions may also qualify but they
must be limited to 100. Gallery owners and/or artists take care of the paperwork with the state. Art lovers get to own an original as part of their home. And art businesses profit from other sales from customers they may not have had—a winning stimulus for local community economies. According to the state criteria for a cultural district, a cultural district should accomplish the following: revitalize a neighborhood or area; stimulate the economy; engage residents; draw tourists; provide a sense of community; serve as a gathering place; encourage creativity; strengthened community partnerships; promote the arts and support artists; develop a positive image for the area; enhance property values; and capitalize on local, cultural, economic and social assets.
Shoppers take a look at the antiques for sale during last weekend’s Slidell Spring Antique Street Fair in Olde Towne. (Staff Photo by Erik Sanzenbach)
Olde Towne plus antiques equals good business By Erik Sanzenbach St. Tammany News One of Slidell’s premiere events, the Slidell Spring Antique Street Fair, was held April 17-18 in Olde Towne, and though the crowds were a bit lean, Jeanette Tetreau, secretary of the Slidell Antique Association that sponsors the fair, said the business owners in Olde Towne were satisfied with the turnout. The fair, which is now 30 years old, is a unique blend of the old and the new. Two streets in Olde Towne, First and Erlanger are blocked off, and over 110 vendors from here, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia set up their wares of antique furniture, glass, jewelry and even antique dolls. Usually, the fair is crowded with shoppers looking for that special piece of furniture or other unique antique item. The fair has become such a success that the SSA sponsors the event twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. The next Slidell Antique Street Fair is slated for the weekend of
Oct. 24. Tutreau, who works out of the store’s Treasure Found and Barbara’s Victorian Closet, said the fair attracts people because of its locale in Olde Towne. “Olde Towne is a very unique area. Very few other cities have such an area, and that makes it unique to this part of the country,” Tutreau said. She stresses that the SSA is not just made up of antique dealers, but is comprised of all the different businesses in Olde Towne such as gift shops, and restaurants. The Slidell Antique Fair helps all the businesses, not just the antique dealers. She admits that business has been slow at this year’s fair, but she chalks that up to the poor economy and people not having extra money to spend on luxury items. Plus, she added, the housing market is also down, which means there are not as many shoppers who want to furnish their new homes. “But we are holding our own,” Tutreau said. “It [the
fair] has grown over the years.” She is optimistic about the Slidell Autumn Antique Street Fair. She said that as a rule, more people show up then to shop in Olde Towne. “We do a lot more business. People are looking for Christmas presents and the weather is a bit cooler,” Tutreau said. She added that the fall is a good time for businesses in Olde Towne. As far as Tutreau is concerned, it is Olde Towne that is the real drawing card for Slidell and that more should be done to market the area. She goes to antique fairs in other parts of the state, but says Slidell’s fair is the most unique. “Olde Towne is the best of all the rest,” Tutreau said. She just wishes the city would allow the fair to expand farther down First and Erlanger streets so that more vendors would set up shop. She said that there is a demand by other vendors to sell their wares at the Slidell Antiques Street Fairs.
The Slidell Antique’s Street Fair is held the last full weekend in October and the third weekend in April. The Slidell Antique Association has hosted this event for more than 28 years. The event includes vendors with antique furniture, depression glass, vintage jewelry, art, pottery, dolls, toys, collectibles, handmade crafts and plenty of food and is held in the heart of Olde Towne Slidell on is on First, Second and Erlanger streets.
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Upcoming community events Camellia City Market every Saturday
Slidell Heritage Festival upcoming
The Camellia City Market is every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and best of all, its free. The Camellia City Market is a true farmer’s market which focuses primarily on regionally grown fresh produce, but also incorporates produce related goods and food service items as well as local entertainment to provide a sense of the local culture.
The Slidell Heritage Festival will be held July 4. The 13th annual 4th of July celebration will featuring bands, fireworks, food and family activities, supporting local charities. The festival will from 3-11 p.m. in Heritage Park. Admission is $7. For more information, visit www.slidellheritagefest.org
‘Ragtime’ Presented by Slidell Little Theatre
Olde Towne Fall Antique Street Fair
“Ragtime,” presented by Slidell Little Theatre, is running today through May 16. Based on E.L. Doctorow’s distinguished novel, Ragtime intertwines three distinct stories that poignantly illustrate history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and love and hate. For more information, visit www.slidelllittletheatre.org.
The next Olde Towne Slidell Fall Antique Street Fair will be held Oct. 2324. This event takes place in the heart of Olde Towne Slidell on First, Second and Erlanger streets. Expect over 100 vendors with antique furniture, depression glass, art, pottery, jewelry, dolls, collectibles, unique gifts, handmade crafts, and plenty of food. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, and admission is free. For more information, visit www.slidellantiques.com,
Other events: The City of Slidell’s Bayou Jam Concert Series continues in Heritage Park, behind the historic Slidell Train Depot on Front Street featuring Soul Vaxxination. Location: Heritage Park/Slidell Hours: 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
The exhibitors come from across the United States to offer a wider and unique selection of beads than you’ll find in your local area. There are thousands of beads semiprecious and precious gemstone beads, seed beads, handmade glass beads, pearls, exotic beads and much more. You can see the color, cut and quality before you buy. The show is open to the public.
Bead show upcoming
The Intergalactic Bead & Jewelry Show will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 8-9 at the Northshore Harbor Center, 100 Harbor Center Blvd., Slidell.
Tours open to the public, 2-5 p.m., Bayou Lacombe Rural Museum. Special tours can be arranged for other times. Call 626-3505.
Support your community by shopping local One way to give back and help your fellow St. Tammany residents this year, and always for that matter, is to shop at the local small business establishments. Dawn S. Brackett, CEO of East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, said shopping locally not only helps to boost the local sales tax revenue it also helps to put money back in locals’ pockets. “What people don’t realize is when you shop locally so many of those dollars stay right here in the community,” she said. Lou Ann Johnson, president of the Slidell Antique Association and small business owner, re-emphasized that statement. In her shop, for example, she has items for sale from different dealers. She said these are all local families trying to a make a living by selling antiques. When you buy something from them that is putting money directly in their pockets. “It’s a domino effect,” she said, because then those dealers can take the money
you just paid them and turn around and buy things for their own families. Brackett said many small businesses hire other employees, and when you buy something in their stores, that money is then used to pay those individuals’ salaries. Those individuals then go back into the community and spend those dollars at a local grocery store to buy food and the cycle continues. “The money you spend is recycled back into the community,” Brackett said. The downtown districts in the local towns and cities are bursting with small businesses like Johnson’s, including restaurants, bars, shops and theaters, and they all need business right now. “You are helping maybe your next door neighbor, a family member or a church member,” Johnson said. In addition to in the antiques districts, a lot of small businesses are located up and down Gause Boulevard in Slidell as well
as throughout the Olde Towne district. “Small businesses are the backbone of America,” she said. “Small businesses are what keeps America going.” The taxes paid on items bought locally go to the local government to pay for street and drainage improvements as well as the other expenses of keeping the parish running. Shopping locally, Johnson said, “helps a community help itself,” and that is important in the economics times we are in now. Even if that special item you want to purchase can only be found at one of the big box businesses, Brackett said, it is still better to drive to the business to do your shopping then to shop online because then at least part of the money you spend is going back into the community through employee salaries and sales tax. “Shopping locally is a way to keep money here instead of allowing it to be lost in cyberspace,” Brackett said.
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