Week in Review, Dec. 14-18: Big Shots, Big Deals and Big Heads

Virus Outbreak Louisiana
A staff member receives the new Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System Medical Center in New Orleans, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s stop business stories:

Big Shots

Louisiana administered its first coronavirus vaccines Monday to health care workers at a New Orleans-area hospital as Gov. John Bel Edwards looked on. A livestream video from Ochsner Health’s Jefferson Parish medical center showed the Pfizer shots being administered to workers who regularly encounter COVID-19 patients. “This is huge,” said Dr. Katherine Baumgarten. “It really is a big moment in time. We’ve been waiting a long time for the vaccine to be here. We’ve seen a lot of people that have been sick. People that have died. People that have been in our hospital. Our colleagues.”

In related virus news, New Orleans bars won’t have to send patrons onto the street because city residents have heeded warnings that the city might have to tighten coronavirus pandemic restrictions, city officials said Wednesday. Numbers remain higher than they were six weeks ago and are still higher than officials would like, but don’t “cross the threshold that would close our bars to indoor seating,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, head of the city health department.

Big News

Southern Orthopaedic Specialists celebrated the opening of its newest clinic located at 1810 Lindberg Drive, Ste. 3100 in Slidell, La. The expansion will provide St. Tammany Parish and Mississippi Gulf Coast residents with the same orthopedic care offered at their New Orleans and Metairie clinics. 

Chefs and longtime friends Alison Vega-Knoll and Chris Wilson have opened Larder, a gourmet market and eatery, in Metairie. “This has been a dream of ours for a long time,” said Vega-Knoll. “Chris and I have crafted a menu that brings people together to celebrate — dishes we have shared with our own families for years — and foods we can’t wait for you to share with yours.” 

Big Plans

The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) said it will begin the due diligence process for a potential $1.5 billion multimodal container terminal to serve the largest container vessels calling in the Gulf of Mexico. Following unanimous approval at today’s regular meeting of the board of commissioners, Port NOLA intends to acquire property in St. Bernard Parish and begin a two-year due diligence and permitting period that will include robust community engagement.

Vaucresson Sausage Co. announced it will be renovating and reopening its former home at 1800 St. Bernard Ave. in the Seventh Ward. The 3,000-square-foot building has been empty since Hurricane Katrina. The $2 million project is expected to be finished by the end of 2021. The new restaurant and meat market will offer po-boys and traditional Creole dishes. The Vaucresson family’s trademark sausage will be made and sold on site. Two “permanently affordable” residential apartments will also be built on site.

City officials in New Orleans are searching for a developer to revitalize the site of a former Six Flags amusement park that was left abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. Many prior attempts to get the New Orleans east site off the ground have all fallen through but Jeff Schwartz, the city’s director of economic development, said Monday that officials are still determined to restore the area, the daily paper reported. “There’s a lot of water under the bridge so we want this to be the last time we have to do a solicitation for this site,” he said during a virtual meeting.

Entrepreneur Amith Nagarajan has changed the name of his family of technology companies from Association Success Corporation to Blue Cypress to more accurately reflect the variety of his customers. A veteran of the association world, Nagarajan has broadened his focus to include – well, just about everyone. “Thanks to our new branding, we can now expand our reach to help all purpose-driven organizations expand their impact for good by giving them the resources they need to scale to a whole new level,” he said. “That includes associations, not-for-profit groups, public sector entities and for-profits.”

The City of New Orleans has partnered with the Downtown Development District and the Domain Companies to coordinate a “streatery” pilot in the CBD’s South Market neighborhood that will close the lakebound side of Girod Street between South Rampart Street and O’Keefe Avenue from Dec. 15 to Jan. 2. The space will be used for business activities with proper social distance. No parking, loading zones or residential access points will be affected during the pilot. “One of Mayor Cantrell’s priorities has been for us as a City to remain nimble and test street treatments that provide more spaces for businesses to service their patrons while occupancy is restricted due to COVID-19. We’d like to thank our Department of Public Works and the project team that helped get this project in place,” said Laura Bryan, director of the Office of Transportation.

Big Deals

Keyword Studios has announced a $50M acquisition of High Voltage Software, with offices in New Orleans and Hoffman Estate, Ill. “We are tremendously excited Keyword Studios share our vision for augmenting our development capabilities and they will provide us the ability to embark upon a growth trajectory for our business creating the next generation of AAA games,” said High Voltage founder Kerry Ganofsky. “Furthermore, Keywords Studios’ investment in our studio is an outstanding sign for the continued expansion of game development in Illinois and Louisiana.”

Jefferson Capital Partners and Greater New Orleans Inc. have announced the investment of growth capital to Louisiana Pepper Exchange, a New Orleans-based trading company that provides pepper mash to the global hot sauce industry. Their support will allow the company to make a significant capital investment into its facility and bring on essential new company personnel. This is the third Opportunity Zone operating company investment for JCP. LPE specializes in providing pepper mash to kitchens, co-packers and sauce makers, locally and nationwide. The company said it maintains significant logistical and supply chain advantages with its location adjacent to the Port of New Orleans. 

Big Gifts

United Way of Southeast Louisiana announced a $10 million donation from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott’s contribution is the single largest gift to UWSELA in its 96-year history. Dillard University, meanwhile, announced that Scott gave the school $5 million, also the largest gift in its history. Scott also gave $25 million to Second Harvest and $10 million to Goodwill.

… and Big Heads

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has unveiled two officially licensed, limited-edition LSU Tigers bobbleheads featuring Joe Burrow.

Categories: A Week In Review, Today’s Business News