Week in Review, June 27-July 1: Essence Fest, Resilience Hubs and More

Hands Raising Concert, Hands Raising For Religion Background
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NEW ORLEANS — As hundreds of thousands of Essence Festival of Culture attendees arrive in New Orleans, boosting hotel and revenue during the slow tourism season, Essence’s chief executive officer Caroline Wanga said in a June 30 interview that “Essence Fest is never leaving the City of New Orleans. … We are embedded and born together; we need each other.” The event’s contract with the festival runs through 2024 and discussions for an extension are underway. Meanwhile, the next few days in and around the Superdome will be focused on music, culture and a celebration of Black joy. Headliners include Nicki Minaj and Janet Jackson. Festival organizers said the 25th anniversary event in 2019 attracted a half million attendees.

Here, from staff and wire reports, are more top business stories:

Debuts

French Quarter Boulangerie, owned by hotelier/restaurateur Robert Thompson, will open in 2023 at 416 Chartres Street in the building that once housed K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. The 12,060-square-foot restaurant will offer “food hall-style counter service with a focus on fresh baked breads, pastries and iconic southern and classic French dishes.” A sample menu item: the Bohemian sandwich with Benton’s ham, rarebit sauce, creole mustard and spicy pickle relish on potato rosemary focaccia. Partners in the project include OnPath Credit Union and Cleveland-based real estate investment company GBX Group. Denver-based FAM Design is the design partner.

Corporate Realty announced that its full-service commercial real estate office will open July 5 in One American Place at 301 Main Street in Baton Rouge. Branon W. Pesnell is the head of the Baton Rouge office, and Walter H. Ketchings III is the newest member of the team. Ketchings previously worked with NAI/Latter & Blum for 14 years. His experience includes tenant and landlord representation, industrial site selection and investment properties. “I am thrilled to have Walt join the Corporate Realty team in Baton Rouge,” said Michael J. Siegel, president of Corporate Realty, in a press release. “Not only does Walt have a tremendous track record and great clients, but he also brings a sterling reputation for hard work and integrity, critical attributes at Corporate Realty. I look forward to working with Walt, both with his existing clients and in growing Corporate Realty’s presence in the Baton Rouge area.”

Anniversary

The New Orleans Marriott hotel is getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The 42-story hotel opened in the summer of 1972 as the tallest building in New Orleans at a moment when New Orleans was becoming a major destination for leisure and business travel. Now, the hotel has 1,333 guest rooms and more than 85,000 square feet of meeting space — and, impressively, it also has six employees who have been there since the very beginning. “The key to the success of this hotel starts with our associate-first culture and transcends through to our guests and the community,” said General Manager Frank Zumbo in a press release. “Even as new hotels opened in New Orleans, our tenured associates, guests and group clients have remained loyal to this property. We’re extremely proud to recognize six associates who have worked here and called the New Orleans Marriott home since day one. It’s an incredible accomplishment.” 

Resilience and Investment

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, City Council members, and state and federal officials joined other stakeholders at a June 28 event to pledge support for the Community Lighthouse Project, which seeks to create a network of solar- and battery-powered resilience hubs at churches and community centers across south Louisiana. The gathering took place at Household of Faith church in New Orleans East. At the event, U.S. Rep. Troy Carter announced via video link that his request for $3.8 million for the Community Lighthouse project was included by the Appropriations Subcommittee of Energy, Water, Development and Related Agencies into the final 2023 fiscal year federal appropriations bill. This federal investment will help fund the first phase of the project, which aims to create 24 lighthouses: 16 in New Orleans and eight others across south Louisiana. “I am proud to announce that a $3.8 million-dollar federal investment for the Community Lighthouse Project has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and is included in next year’s appropriations bill,” Carter said. “This investment will go a long way towards preparing and storm proofing our communities for the storms ahead. We know that the most dangerous time is often right after a hurricane, especially when power outages leave constituents without the ability to stay cool, store food, or stay connected. This microgrid project is an innovative, sustainable and self-sufficient program that will help our communities stay safe and healthy after a storm.”

Local community development financial institutions NewCorp Inc. and TruFund Financial Services Inc. announced a new collaboration with the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund aimed at expanding access to capital and other resources to minority owned businesses in New Orleans. The EOCF is a program managed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and largely supported by investment from JPMorgan Chase. The EOCF is designed to not only get much-needed capital directly into the hands of African American, Latinx, and other small business owners, but to also provide critical support such as coaching, operational guidance, and training. In addition, through a specialized loan fund, the EOCF also purchases participations in previously originated minority business loans from designated CDFI partners to free up capital for additional lending to entrepreneurs of color.

Breaking Barriers

Takeisha Davis, president and CEO of New Orleans East Hospital, has been named 2022-23 board chair of United Way Southeast Louisiana’s board of trustees. Davis will be the first African American woman in the role. “Community members across our region are struggling, but none more than those who identify as black, indigenous or people of color,” said Davis. “That is why I am proud and grateful to step into this role to lead an organization committed to providing investments in communities with a diversity, equity and inclusion lens.”

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