Week in Review, Dec. 5-9: Grand Openings, Groundbreakings and Big Investments

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NEW ORLEANS — On Nov. 6, the U.S Treasury announced it has approved Louisiana’s application for up to $113 million in federal support for small business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative. SSBCI was first established in 2010 as a way for the federal government to help states support small businesses that were creditworthy but unable to access capital to expand and create jobs. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 reauthorized and expanded SSBCI to promote entrepreneurship, especially in traditionally underserved communities as they emerge from the pandemic. “This award of up to $113 million is significant news for our entrepreneurs and small business owners in Louisiana, especially in communities that have historically struggled to attract business capital and investment,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. 

Here are more of the week’s top business stories:

Grand Openings

On Dec. 8, Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Louisiana opened the doors to its new larger facility at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, providing housing to families from the region whose children receive medical services in New Orleans. “Today has been a long-awaited day for our organization,” said RMHC-SLA Executive Director Grace McIntosh. “We cannot thank our community and supporters enough for turning our dream into a reality. With more than 70% of our families seeking treatment at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, this house is going to allow us to provide a home away from home for families who need it most.” The 17,500-square-foot house increases accommodations for families by 47% with 22 guest rooms, nine of which can accommodate four or more guests with adjoining room options for additional family members. Families will also have access to a 64-person dining room, an outdoor barbecue space, game room, playroom, library and other community spaces. The number and size of the community spaces in the house allows for more onsite volunteer-led activities.

A new Chick-fil-A location opened Dec. 8 at 1200 Poydras Street (at the corner of Poydras and Loyola Avenue). Anthony Doernte is the restaurant’s independent franchised owner/operator. The store will be open for dine-in and carry out from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Still in its final planning stages, a Chick-fil-A at the corner of Tulane and Carrollton avenues will be owned and operated by Ben McLeish. A third location is expected to open in early 2023 in the Algiers Shopping Center. The Georgia-based fast food chain said the three restaurants will bring more than 240 full- and part-time jobs to the community. In honor of the openings, Chick-fil-A Inc. will donate $75,000 to Feeding America. These funds will be distributed to local food shelters to aid in the fight against hunger in the city. These three restaurants will join more than 20 other Chick-fil-A restaurants currently serving the New Orleans market.

Breaking Ground

On Dec. 7, St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper, St. Tammany Corporation CEO Chris Masingill and D-Bat Sports owners Ryan Davis and Dr. Ruth Nichols celebrated the groundbreaking of D-Bat Northshore Batting Academy at 805 Windward Drive. The site will be home to a $1.5 million indoor training facility that will provide youth athletes with experiential learning and coaching in baseball and softball. “We are excited to be able to bring D-BAT to St. Tammany Parish,” said Davis. “It has always been my goal to have my own baseball and softball facility. D-BAT has given me that opportunity. I look forward to meeting all the coaches, parents, and kids in this great community. Our facility will be state-of-the-art with machine and regular cages, bullpen, fully stocked pro shop, party room for birthdays, an area for meetings, instructional lessons, and up to 50 camps a year. I know this area loves youth sports and we cannot wait to open our doors to local youth to better their skills and get involved in this great community.”

On Dec. 5, local attorney Renée S. Melchiode presided over a groundbreaking celebration at the future site of the Exchange Pickleball + Bar at 2120 Rousseau Street in the Lower Garden District. Melchiode, a special counsel at Melchiode Marks King LLC, purchased the 21,000-square-foot former warehouse space near the Tchoupitoulas Walmart in 2021 to create what she says will be the state’s first facility dedicated to a fast-growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Melchiode estimates the redevelopment of the 70-year-old space — which will feature six air-conditioned indoor courts, one outdoor court and a patio area — will be complete in July 2023. VergesRome is handling the design. Jos. R Labadot Inc. is the contractor. Corporate Realty’s Austin Lavin represented Melchiode’s NOLA PB — a majority women-owned business — in site selection and purchase of the properties. 

On Dec. 5, Entergy New Orleans and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans celebrated the groundbreaking of the first phase of the West Power Complex, which includes a dedicated substation. When Phase I is complete, the facility will draw power from the Entergy New Orleans grid for “day-to-day use and modern, in-house turbine generators for backup,” said a spokesperson. A 60-megawatt Entergy New Orleans substation, three static frequency changers to convert modern electricity to older currents, and modern turbines are designed to work together to improve the reliability and resilience of the city’s drainage and drinking water systems. Officials expect to complete the substation and Phase I work by the end of 2024. Entergy New Orleans and SWBNO were joined by local, state and federal officials for the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re excited to have reached this critical milestone. It’s been a long time coming and we are proud of the collaboration between Entergy New Orleans, The Sewerage and Water Board, the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans City Council,” said Deanna Rodriguez, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans. “Providing improved reliability at the transmission level is important to both SWBNO and their customers, who also happen to be our customers.”

Ryan Gootee General Contractors has begun building a new restaurant called Las Cruces Tex Mex located at 2935 Airline Drive, behind Planet Fitness at North Labarre Road in Old Metairie. It is scheduled to open in late summer of 2023. The owners of Las Cruces Tex Mex are Marc Bonifacic and Aaron Burgau, who are veteran restaurateurs and partners in Central City BBQ. “Las Cruces will have a family-friendly vibe with indoor and outdoor seating for 300. We’ll be smoking our meat, just like at Central City BBQ, but with different flavor profiles — and margaritas,” said Bonifacic in a press release. The name Las Cruces is Spanish for “the crosses” and was inspired by its location next to a railroad crossing which cuts through Old Metairie. The cruciform design of the restaurant also informs the name. The restaurant’s site is a triangular parcel flanked by the railroad tracks, the Causeway Boulevard on-ramp, and the back of the Planet Fitness building.

Investing in the Future

The Tulane University Innovation Institute was awarded $5 million from the state of Louisiana as part of a newly announced statewide program to support entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the region. Tulane University will match the award with another $5 million, enabling the Innovation Institute to launch a new $10 million startup fund dedicated to creating opportunities for women- and minority-led ventures in Louisiana — entrepreneurs who have traditionally faced barriers accessing capital, markets and networks essential to growing their businesses. “Inspiring and supporting innovation, new businesses and startups are critical in bringing life-changing advancements and discoveries to the world, while also transforming the economy of New Orleans and the region,” said Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts. “This program will help support the power and potential of underserved entrepreneurs, ensuring the widest participation in venture creation, economic development and sustainability.”

The New Orleans City Council approved $1 million in Wisner Funds to Together New Orleans for its Community Lighthouse project. It aims to create a network of resiliency hubs, called lighthouses, by providing commercial-scale solar power and back-up battery capacity to 100 congregations and community institutions. “Just because we are without power lines, we need not be powerless. This new funding not only brings light to our neighbors when the electric lines are down, it is an investment in an inspiring, sustainable solution going forward,” said Pastor Shawn Moses Anglim, clergy leader of Together New Orleans. “We commend the Mayor and City Council for making this substantial investment in a new way of thinking– the Community Lighthouse pilot program. The speed in which the City is approving funding should help to ensure that we’re able to establish the first phase of lighthouses ahead of the 2023 hurricane season. We are more than grateful to be part of this first batch of approved Wisner Funds through a public process.”

Changes in Leadership

Stirling Properties has announced that President and CEO Marty Mayer will retire at the end of 2023 after 36 years of service. At that time, Stirling’s current President of Development Townsend Underhill will assume the role of president and CEO. Since joining Stirling in 1986 and assuming the role of president in 2002 and CEO in 2006, Mayer has led Stirling through “unprecedented growth, expansion and diversification throughout the Gulf South,” said a company spokesperson. “Leading Stirling Properties over the past 20 years has been one of the greatest honors and privileges of my lifetime,” Mayer said in a press release announcing the news. “I will be leaving Stirling with tremendous pride and satisfaction but also the utmost confidence in the company’s future and the great accomplishments yet to come.” 

The World Trade Center of New Orleans and Greater New Orleans Inc., have announced that Executive Director Ed Webb will be leaving the position he has held since June 2019 at the end of this year. During his tenure, Webb brought extensive management, trade and commercial experience to WTCNO, which helped the organization thrive while navigating and establishing a strong relationship with Greater New Orleans Inc, which absorbed the organization in March 2022 – creating “The World Trade Center New Orleans @ GNO Inc.” Michael Hecht, GNO Inc. president and CEO, praised Webb for “his many contributions to the economic vibrancy of the region and for his experienced leadership in helping to support regional companies as they have sought to grow their presence in the global marketplace.” 

On Dec. 7, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors named Dr. Jayda Spillers chancellor of Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College and Quintin D. Taylor chancellor of River Parishes Community College. The board conducted a national search and hosted public forums to help make a decision. Both appointments are effective Jan. 1, 2023. “On behalf of the board of supervisors, I want to congratulate Dr. Jayda Spillers and Quintin Taylor on their selection as the newest chancellors in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System,” said Tim Hardy, LCTCS board supervisor and chair of the search committees. “We were impressed with the overall pool of candidates and each finalist across both searches. Mr. Taylor has led RPCC on an interim basis for the past six months and provided the college with great leadership and a vision for the college’s future. Dr. Spillers has served as vice chancellor of academic and student affairs at Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College for 18 months and showed tremendous leadership. We believe Dr. Spillers and Mr. Taylor are perfect fits for NLTCC and RPCC.”

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