Week in Review, March 29-April 2: Biden’s Big Infrastructure Plans
NEW ORLEANS – This week, President Joe Biden proposed an aggressive series of infrastructure investments he says would require $2.3 trillion in spending over eight years and create millions of jobs. According to a White House fact sheet, Louisiana projects may include capping thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, repairing roads, addressing coastal restoration and exploring carbon energy initiatives. The report mentions dedicating $20 billion nationwide for construction programs that will reconnect neighborhoods damaged by the nation’s interstate highway projects in the 1960s. The Claiborne overpass is one of two mentioned by name.
There’s also a focus on protecting the coast from climate change.
“Building back better requires that the investments in this historic plan make our infrastructure more resilient in the face of increasingly severe floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other risks,” the fact sheet said. “Every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”
That’s a lot of potential investment in Louisiana. On the flip side, the proposal will come with a hefty price tag. To pay for all the infrastructure projects, Biden calls for the end of federal tax breaks for the state’s fossil fuel sector and increasing corporate tax rates overall.
Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s other top business stories:
Planning is underway for a renovation of Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. In a press release, Audubon said it is working closely with CambridgeSeven and Cortina Productions, with help from Eskew Dumez Ripple, to develop an exhibit concept and media program for new galleries that “link Audubon’s conservation efforts that protect endangered species, habitats, and nature to experiences that spark individual action. Last year, Audubon announced it would be moving Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium from the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street to the Aquarium campus on the river, building a combined experience that re-envisions the guest experience and educational programming. The move also presents a multitude of cost-savings and revenue-generating opportunities.
A nearly $2 million historic redevelopment of the 11,600-square-foot building at 1733 Constantinople Street – next to Martin’s Wine Cellar – is slated to be complete this summer. The architecture group CICADA and the construction team at Perrier Esquerré Contractors were tapped to bring this historic property back to life. The newly revitalized building will offer a variety of spaces for commercial lease on the ground floor and four residential apartment units on the second floor.
HRI Communities announced today that it has closed the financing for the Hammond Station Apartments development at 1400 Southwest Railroad Avenue in Tangipahoa Parish and is set to immediately move forward with construction. The project, intended to be a catalyst for additional progress along the Railroad Avenue (Highway 51) corridor, will be a “vibrant new mixed-income community enhancing neighborhood living in the Hammond area,” said the developer in a press release. The community will be less than a mile from the Hammond Eastside Apartments, a historic school building in downtown Hammond that HRI Communities converted into apartments and has owned and operated for 20 years.
More Vaccinations, Less Restrictions
Every adult in Louisiana 16 and older is now eligible to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as the state’s expanded eligibility went into effect Monday. Gov. John Bel Edwards last week announced the expanded guidelines, putting Louisiana on the growing list of states that are allowing any adult interested in the shot to get it. The move came after vaccine supplies started to grow and some appointments to get the vaccine were going unused. Already, adults that had one of two dozen medical conditions or worked in one of a long list of “essential” jobs were eligible for any of the three available coronavirus vaccinations. People 16 or 17 must get the Pfizer vaccine since that is the only shot authorized for people that age in the United States. People 18 and older can also access the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Louisiana will end many of its coronavirus restrictions for businesses, but will keep its statewide mask mandate in place even as several states have shed face covering requirements, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday. Customer limits on bars, restaurants, salons, gyms, malls, casinos and other nonessential businesses will be removed, though they’ll be required to use social distancing. They had previously been capped at 50% or 75% of their occupancy limits. Direct table service still will be required at bars, but an 11 p.m. alcohol curfew will end. The changes represent the fewest restrictions for businesses since the pandemic began. The new rules start Wednesday, though local officials could choose to enact tougher limits than those put in place by the Democratic governor.
Wedding Flower Startup Wins $50K at NOEW
At the finale of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, three startup finalists pitched their businesses in front of a live audience – and a global virtual audience – for an investment prize from the Idea Village. Lauren Bercier and Laken Swan, co-founders of wedding flower rental business Something Borrowed Blooms, walked away with the grand prize of $50,000. The participating startups also included on-demand laundry app Hampr and Spot2Nite, a company that offers users the ability to find and book vacant RV camping sites.