Week in Review, March 20-24: New Loyola President, New STR Rules and More

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Dr. Xavier A. Cole, the 18th president of Loyola University New Orleans, answers questions at a March 24 event at the school's Uptown campus. (Photo by Rich Collins)

NEW ORLEANS — Supporters of Loyola University New Orleans gathered on Friday afternoon (May 24) to celebrate Dr. Xavier A. Cole, whose appointment as the school’s 18th president was announced the day before. 

Cole, who will transition from his post as Marquette University’s vice president for student affairs, chatted with students and community members at the breezy outdoor event beneath Loyola’s many oaks.

Cole will become the first person of color, and the second layperson, to lead the 111-year-old Jesuit-run institution. 

“I am committed to strengthening this thriving institution by seeking out mission-aligned partnerships, promoting our financial health and stability, and investing in those who work and learn here,” Cole said. “There is so much possibility for us to rise up to meet the needs of our city, our state, and our region – needs in the business community, education sector, and healthcare fields. Loyola has the necessary academic programs not only to prepare future successful employees, but to position them as trusted leaders.” 

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

On March 23, the New Orleans City Council voted on new rules for residential short-term rentals. The Council approved a controversial measure to limit STRs to one per square block in residential areas and set stricter penalties for STR owners who violate the rules. It also added a last-minute “release valve” measure to allow residents to apply for exceptions to the square-block cap. The city had to pass a new short-term rental law before the end of March because of a surprise ruling last August from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said the city’s provision limiting STR licenses to homeowners with homestead exemptions “unconstitutionally restricts interstate commerce.” So city leaders had to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new set of rules, even as opponents and proponents of STRs emphasize the need for enforcement of current regulations.

Big Fish Games, a leading mobile casual game developer, announced it is establishing a talent hub in New Orleans to continue to bolster its workforce as the company further expands its presence in North America. The company, creator of casual games such as EverMerge, Gummy Drop! and Cooking Craze, expects to create 40 new direct jobs over the next several years. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 44 new indirect jobs for a total of 84 new jobs in the Southeast Region. “Louisiana continues to stand out and attract technology companies because of our dynamic, skilled workforce,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “These companies, like Big Fish Games, help diversify the state’s economy, while also empowering Louisianans with new jobs and opportunities for professional success.” To help stimulate growth in Louisiana’s tech sector and its workforce, Big Fish is planning to partner with local universities and digital training schools as well as diversity, equity and inclusion programs to recruit local talent.

DG Fuels, an emerging leader in cellulosic drop-in sustainable aviation fuel, announced it has secured an option for and is evaluating a 3,000-acre site in St. James Parish as the potential location of a new low-emission fuel manufacturing facility. The proposed $3.1 billion investment would create 1,055 new direct jobs with an estimated average annual salary exceeding $72,000. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project would result in 5,231 new indirect jobs, for a total of 6,286 potential new jobs in the Southeast Region. “The addition of DG Fuels to Louisiana is further evidence of Louisiana’s emergence as a prime location for investors taking advantage of the unique business opportunities that the energy transition offers,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “We look forward to working with DG Fuels to make this proposed facility, and the high-paying manufacturing jobs it would generate, a reality.” The Washington, D.C.-based company has developed a patented system for utilizing renewable energy sources, such as agricultural and timber waste feedstock, to reduce aviation fuel’s carbon intensity score by 100 percent when compared to industry standards. DG Fuels estimates the facility would produce up to 178 million gallons of SAF per year on average, which would remove approximately 1.65 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually.

Bayou Phoenix LLC, the private development team selected to redevelop the site of the former Six Flags in New Orleans East, will host a development information forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 27 at Franklin Baptist Church (8282 I-10 Service Road). During the meeting, the developers will share their master plan with the public and encourage feedback along with a question-and-answer session. The development proposal includes entertainment, a sports complex, an indoor/outdoor water park, hotels, a movie studio, retail, dining and more. 

Beacon Behavioral, a Louisiana-based provider of mental health services throughout the Gulf South, has opened the doors to a new location at 4201 Woodland Drive on the West Bank. Beacon will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony from noon to 2 p.m. on April 13 at the new location. Sean Wendell, the company’s CEO, and other members of the organization’s leadership team will be in attendance. “After months of hard work and preparation, we are thrilled to officially have our West Bank facility up and running,” said Wendell. “It allows us to provide our services to more people in need, giving them a beacon of hope for a brighter tomorrow. We invite the community to join us in celebrating this new location and the increased accessibility to behavioral health services it provides.” Fully operational as of March 17, Beacon Behavioral Hospital Westbank is designed to provide short-term care to adults and seniors struggling with acute mental health needs. It’s the fifth of Beacon’s in-patient facilities.

Last week, supporters of Harch Hyperbarics, an oxygen therapy specialty practice, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new clinic at 3409 Division Street in Metairie. “After 34 years in service to our patients and the community, we’re excited to open this new facility with six chambers in a beautiful new facility filled with natural light and comfort,” said Paul Harch, principal of the practice. The business moved from its previous location in Marrero. March offers treatment and rehabilitation for pediatric and adult neurological diseases, including autism, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s and stroke.

Chef Jaryd Kase will open Bodega New Orleans in early April at 3633 Annunciation Street. The New York native is bringing his gourmet corner store concept to the site of the former Barcia’s Grocery, a family-run poboy shop near Tchoupitoulas Street. It’s Kase’s first brick-and-mortar store, following the successful launch of his pickup/delivery business. There will be dine-in and grab-and-go options for lunch and dinner. “New Orleans is my home but I’m originally from New York, where you’ll find bodegas on every corner,” said Kase in a press release. “This is New Orleans’ version of a corner store. The idea is to provide home-cooked, nutritious meals to busy families like mine. Families, especially those with two working parents, don’t have time to make the kind of food they want to feed their kids. We saw this hole in the market and people have really responded positively.”

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