Week in Review, Jan. 30-Feb. 3: Insurance Incentives, Ochsner Clearview and More

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NEW ORLEANS — On Jan. 31, Ochsner Health leaders joined Jefferson Parish officials to celebrate the opening of Ochsner Medical Complex – Clearview, a new $115 million “super clinic” bringing a comprehensive suite of services to a busy commercial intersection in the heart of one of New Orleans’ most populous suburbs.

The three-story facility — said to be Ochsner’s biggest ever investment in new construction — is located at 4430 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, the former home of a Sears department store that closed in 2019. Its debut is part of the separate and ongoing $100 million transformation of the old Clearview Mall into Clearview City Center, a “live, work, play” development that will include apartments, retail, a hotel and events space.

“I’m just absolutely blown away by how this place looks right now,” Robert Wolterman, Ochsner’s regional CEO, told the crowd gathered in Ochsner Clearview’s gleaming new lobby. “It’s hard to believe this was a Sears just a couple of years ago. … Where we are standing today, somebody told me a couple of weeks ago on a tour, was actually the women’s bathing suit section.”

Ochsner executive Andrew Hancher, Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng and Jefferson Parish District 5 Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken also expressed enthusiasm for the project during brief remarks.

“Ochsner talks about bringing health care closer to home, and that’s true for me, since this is probably within a mile of my house,” said Lee Sheng. “And you’re also bringing people here for other services, so that’s going to help people be proactive about their health care.”

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

The AP reported that a $45 million funding bill to address soaring homeowner insurance rates in hurricane-battered Louisiana was overwhelmingly approved by Louisiana lawmakers Friday and sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature. The Senate approved the House-passed bill 37-1 after a debate Friday afternoon. It then went back to the House for quick final approval of Senate amendments, bringing a close to a five-day special session Edwards called at the urging of Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. The measure, backed by Donelon, will fund an incentive program to provide grants to qualified insurance companies as an incentive to have them write policies in the state. Edwards’ office said he will sign the bill when he officially receives it — possibly as early as Monday. (AP)

West Jefferson Medical Center, part of the LCMC Health system, has announced the grand opening of Centro Hispano de Salud, a Hispanic-focused clinic located at 1111 Medical Center, Suite S640. The clinic’s mission is to deliver health, care and education to the area’s growing Hispanic/Latino community. Led by Dr. Magaly Sotres and Dr. Jose Cusco, the center will remove language barriers and other social factors that may interfere with access to healthcare. “More than 28% of Hispanics recognize that they are not proficient in English and, as such, the clinic intends to provide consistent health care with bilingual staff who are sensitive to the patients’ cultural background,” said a LCMC spokesperson. “This approach has shown to improve health outcomes because it allows patients to understand their situations better which, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will follow health recommendations.”

Baptist Community Ministries, a local philanthropic organization that has awarded more than $230 million in grants, hosted a Jan. 31 groundbreaking ceremony for its new office at 1320 St. Charles Avenue. Speakers at the event included Phillip Brodt, vice chair of the BCM board; Inman Houston, BCM CEO and Dianne McGraw, BCM board chair. Attendees included elected officials, business leaders and community partners. Ryan Gootee General Contractors and Eskew Dumez Ripple, a New Orleans-based architecture firm, will lead the renovation of an existing two-story, 12,000-square foot building that was most recently used as a Whitney Bank branch. The project is expected to take between six and eight months to complete. “This restoration will not only revitalize this section of St. Charles, but also be used as a community convening space for our philanthropic partners,” said Houston. “BCM is so excited to call 1320 St. Charles Avenue our new permanent home.”

On March 1, Tifferney M. White will begin her tenure as CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Most recently, White served as chief learning officer of Discovery Place, which includes four hands-on museums with locations in and around Charlotte, N.C. “After a nationwide search, it was clear that Tifferney’s varied museum experiences, leadership and national ties within the children’s museum field make her uniquely poised to lead LCM and build on its strategic vision and mission — to engage our children’s potential and make that potential visible through play and shared explorations,” said G. Wogan Bernard, LCM board president, in a press release. “Tifferney will lead a dynamic and dedicated team of LCM educators and professionals who, along with the board of directors, are excited to welcome her to New Orleans and our world-class facility and museum.”

Copeland’s of New Orleans, celebrating 40 years in business, has unveiled a $1.3 million renovation of its Covington location. The “brighter, modern take on classic New Orleans” features an expanded covered patio, new furniture and skylights, open windows in the dining room and bar area, decorative light fixtures, and updated flooring. The restaurant also introduced new plateware and glassware, sourced by local representative ECHO Food Service Marketing, and new uniforms. The 9,266-square-foot Covington location opened in 1999 and was last renovated in 2012. The new look will serve as the model for all future locations. The renovation is accompanied by a new restaurant logo and new design. 

The New Orleans BioInnovation Center has announced the acquisition of Fluence Analytics, a NOBIC and BioFund-supported company, by Yokogawa Electric Corporation. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Fluence provides real-time analytics solutions to polymer and biopharmaceutical companies worldwide. According to Yokogawa, Fluence is a “global leader in polymerization reaction monitoring and control, and its automatic continuous online monitoring of polymerizations  product is the only commercially available system that can measure and analyze multiple polymer properties in real time.” NOBIC’s relationship with Fluence Analytics, formerly Advanced Polymer Monitoring Technologies, dates to 2012 when Alex Reed led the licensing and spin out of the core technology from the Tulane University Poly-RMC lab, led by Reed’s father, Dr. Wayne Reed. APMT received pro-bono company support and was housed at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center at 1441 Canal before opening a private facility in New Orleans.

On Feb. 1, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $800 million in grant awards for 510 projects through the new Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program, including 11 grants for communities in Louisiana. The competitive grant program, established by President Biden’s historic infrastructure law, provides $5 billion over five years for regional, local, and Tribal initiatives — from redesigned roads to better sidewalks and crosswalks — to prevent deaths and serious injuries on the nation’s roadways. The Department also launched a data visualization tool that shows crash hotspots that can help target needed resources. “Every year, crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives.”   

The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse — an Uptown institution for more than 40 years — may be looking for a new home. James Naylor, co-owner of the business, said Jonathan Wallick, who owns the building in the 500 block of Danneel Street that houses the coffee shop, informed him several weeks ago that the property is for sale. Neutral Ground doesn’t have a long-term lease in place, so Naylor and his business partner Caroline “Phant” Williams have begun looking for a new permanent home for their iconic — and exceedingly laid-back — institution. Wallick, for his part, said it may be premature to assume a new owner wouldn’t want to keep the Neutral Ground in its current spot. But it’s worth noting that he’s kept the coffee shop’s rent well below market rate for years.

Ceres, a plant protein cereal startup co-founded by Tulane MBA student Rich Simmerman, won the national award for Top Physical Consumer Products Startup at the 2022 Amazon Web Services University Startup Competition. Simmerman and co-founder Branson Morgan created Ceres, a vegan, keto, non-GMO and gluten-free cereal that they say is good for the planet. Each serving contains 20 grams of plant protein and zero sugar or artificial sweeteners. Ceres was one of 13 semi-finalists competing for cash prizes and AWS credits in a final virtual livestream pitch competition earlier this month. The team won $10,000 in cash and up to $10,000 in marketing support from Amazon Launchpad. “Through the AWS University Startup Competition, I got a sneak peek of tomorrow’s revolutionary companies,” Simmerman said in a press release. “It’s empowering to share the stage alongside many companies working to tackle important social and environmental problems through innovative concepts.” 

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