Week in Review, Jan. 16-20: Benson’s New Fund and a Xavier-Ochsner Partnership
NEW ORLEANS — On Jan. 19, Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson’s Benson Capital Partners announced the initial closing of a new real estate fund with more than $50 million in commitments from 10 different investors.
The initial closing of the new fund comes a little over two years after the debut of BCP’s first investment vehicle, a $56 million venture capital fund aimed at business formation, workforce expansion and wealth creation in the Gulf South. The first fund’s portfolio includes early-stage companies focused on robotics, consumer apps, biotech, industrial tech and other high-growth areas. Notable investment recipients include Hampr, a Lafayette startup that’s essentially an Uber for laundry; and AxoSim, a New Orleans-based biotech company advancing pharmaceutical testing on synthetics rather than animals.
Investors in the first fund include Entergy, Raising Cane’s and BankPlus.
“The idea when we started Benson Capital Partners was to build on the value of stimulating our local economy and proving to the rest of the nation that New Orleans and the surrounding area are ripe for opportunity,” said Benson. “The initial closing of our first real estate fund exemplifies the progress we are making in our effort to fill the gap of limited investment capital in our region. It is vitally important that we continue to be a catalyst promoting economic development. This is just another step, another fund, another opportunity to build our economy, add new capital and create new jobs while generating returns for our investors.”
Here are more of the week’s top business stories:
Xavier University of Louisiana and Ochsner Health have announced an agreement to establish a college of medicine. The two institutions plan to “create a strong physician pipeline that addresses longstanding inequities within the nation’s health care system and builds the health care workforce of the future,” according to a press release. The school and the health system will form a nonprofit corporation, create a new curriculum and use the facilities, personnel and administrative processes of both institutions. The new college of medicine will be governed by a board of directors nominated by Ochsner and Xavier, with each institution appointing an equal number of directors. This initiative builds on a longstanding partnership between Ochsner and Xavier that dates to the early 1980s, when Ochsner and Xavier’s College of Pharmacy came together to offer more clinical training sites for pharmacy students.
Jan. 12 marked the launch of People’s Housing+, a merger of three New Orleans-based community development corporations: Home by Hand, Crescent City Community Land Trust and Tulane Canal Neighborhood Development Corporation. “Today has been a long-awaited day for our organization,” said PH+ Chief Executive Officer Oji Alexander in a press release. “The launch of a new Black-led, community-driven organization that will bring a new approach to affordable housing development and delivery has been over a year in the making. We are taking a comprehensive approach to wealth-building that goes beyond just affordable housing.” The launch of People’s Housing+ took place at the site of a blighted firehouse owned by the city of New Orleans. The new organization plans to convert the property into seven affordable apartment units above an early childhood development facility.
Entrepreneur Aaron Gailmor will pitch Brass Roots, a line of climate and keto-friendly snacks, on the Jan. 20 episode of ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank.” The episode airs at 7 p.m. CST. Brass Roots’ line of snacks, which debuted in 2019, is made from sustainably sourced, organic, plant-based ingredients. The startup’s flagship product, Roasted Sacha Inchi, is an “ancient superfood” native to Peru that contains high levels of protein, fiber and omega-3s. It contains no peanut or tree nut allergens. “Shark Tank has been a life-long dream of mine,” Gailmor said in a press release. “The opportunity to pitch Brass Roots to the Sharks was incredibly motivating. “I hope our city can tune in because I’m extremely proud to be a healthy snacks brand from New Orleans.”
From Louisiana Economic Development: On Jan. 19. Gov. John Bel Edwards joined ExxonMobil officials to celebrate the commencement of operations for the Polypropylene Growth Project, a new production unit that broke ground in 2019. The investment of more than $500 million creates 65 new direct jobs and 219 new indirect jobs, for a total of 284 new jobs for the Capital Region. The project helps ExxonMobil meet the growing demand for durable, high-performance plastics by doubling its polypropylene production capacity, an increase of 450,000 metric tons per year. Polypropylene is a feedstock used in everyday products including lightweight automotive parts that improve fuel efficiency and reduce vehicle emissions. “For more than a century, ExxonMobil has been a leader in innovative technology, community investment and workforce development in Louisiana,” said Edwards. “The PPG Project is just the latest example of how ExxonMobil’s investments in our state create career opportunities for our citizens, provide new business for local companies and support community efforts. I’m proud that Louisiana’s strong business climate and competitive incentives programs were able to secure this investment for our state.”