Week in Review, Nov. 29-Dec. 3: Charity Hospital, Venture Global LNG, El Guapo and More

New Orleans, Louisiana, Usa Downtown Drone Skyline Aerial
Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS — Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s top business stories:

Tulane University, along with developers 1532 Tulane Partners Inc. and SKK Opportunity Zone Fund I, announced a new phase in the redevelopment of the former Charity Hospital building, which will result in Tulane initially occupying nearly 350,000 square feet through a long-term lease. Over the next few years, the developers and Tulane plan to transform Charity into a mixed-use complex with apartments, retail, educational institutions and other uses, all anchored by Tulane’s academic and research presence. Tulane will occupy over a third of the building’s million square feet, serving as the core tenant of an iconic Tulane Avenue building that has remained empty since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tulane will fill its portion of the building with spaces for research, teaching and administration. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Venture Global LNG CEO Mike Sabel announced the company will invest more than $10 billion in a new liquefied natural gas facility in Cameron Parish that will employ carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS) to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The project will result in at least 200 direct new jobs, with average annual salaries of $120,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 867 indirect jobs, or a total of 1,067 jobs in Southwest Louisiana. At the peak of construction, an average of 2,300 construction jobs will be created. Venture Global’s new facility, named CP2, will have a nameplate capacity of 20 million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG. The CCS process will be used to capture and store underground an estimated 500,000 tons of CO2 emissions from the facility annually. The complex will be located on 650 acres in Cameron, including 170 acres on Monkey Island, providing CP2 with direct access to the deep-water Calcasieu Ship Channel.

Christa Cotton, CEO of El Guapo Bitters, announced that the company has secured $1.1 million in seed funding, which will allow the company to increase production and raise visibility for its portfolio of cocktail products. Participants in this funding round include NOLAAN, Alluvian Capital & the New Orleans Startup Fund, representing a group of investors from Greater New Orleans, the southern U.S., California and New York City. This milestone comes on the heels of recent news that the company is building America’s first bitters brewery on Gravier Street in New Orleans. The company has doubled its workforce since early 2020 and will be making 12 additional hires in 2022. “New Orleans is synonymous with great food and drink, so El Guapo is a naturally evocative brand,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “This funding will allow their products to find their way onto more retail shelves and into more bars. The company’s new facility will showcase the company’s innovative bitters brewing technique and help get their premier line into the glasses of drink enthusiasts around the world.”

Metairie-based Maritime Partners LLC has acquired a diversified portfolio of more than 1,000 marine vessels operating on bareboat charter from Mississippi-based J. Russell Flowers Inc. and its affiliates. JRF’s fleet includes a variety of towboats, tank barges, hopper barges and deck barges. With this acquisition, Maritime Partners’ portfolio has grown to approximately 1,600 vessels and an estimated fair market value of $1.2 billion. Russell Flowers Inc. was founded by Russell Flowers in 1994 and has grown to become one of the nation’s largest independent leasing companies of inland marine barges and towboats. “We congratulate Maritime Partners on the successful completion of this acquisition and wish Bick and Austin great success,” said Jill Flowers, chairman and CEO of J. Russell Flowers, in a press release. “I’m confident that Russell’s legacy and vision for the future will be furthered by this transaction. I also wish to thank our many valued customers who supported us for so many years.”

Americans will have a better chance to find a home in 2022, but will face a competitive seller’s market as first-time buyer demand outmatches the inventory recovery, according to the Realtor.com 2022 Housing Forecast. Additionally, with listing prices, rents and mortgage rates all expected to climb while incomes rise, 2022 will present a mixed bag of housing affordability challenges and opportunities. “Whether the pandemic delayed plans or created new opportunities to make a move, Americans are poised for a whirlwind year of home buying in 2022. With more sellers expected to enter the market as buyer competition remains fierce, we anticipate strong home sales growth at a more sustainable pace than in 2021,” said Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Affordability will increasingly be a challenge as interest rates and prices rise, but remote work may expand search areas and enable younger buyers to find their first homes sooner than they might have otherwise. And with more than 45 million millennials within the prime first-time buying ages of 26-35 heading into 2022, we expect the market to remain competitive.”

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said he will file a lawsuit to stop a “rehabilitation” plan for an insolvent out-of-state insurance company that sold long-term care policies to elderly Louisianans. Donelon said the plan presents an unreasonable choice for vulnerable residents who paid their premiums: “potentially disastrous rate increases or benefit reductions.” The Senior Health Insurance Company of Pennsylvania (SHIP) was taken over by Pennsylvania insurance regulators last year after it posted a $466 million loss and could no longer meet its mandatory capital requirement. “When that happens, insurance regulators are required to take control of an insurer for the protection of policyholders and creditors,” the Pennsylvania Insurance Department said.

The Galatoire Foundation said it raised $117,500 at its annual Christmas auction on Tuesday, Nov. 30 in the Galatoire’s first floor dining room. Funds will go to Covenant House New Orleans, Patio Planters of the Vieux Carré and the Galatoire Foundation. Tuesday night’s event included a lively evening of competitive bidding, signature Galatoire’s hors d’oeuvres and complimentary champagne. Bids topped $100,000 for the Christmas table auction for the first time in the event’s history. “We are overwhelmed with the support and passion of our loyal patrons and delighted to continue the tradition of supporting great non-profits in our community,” said Melvin Rodrigue, Galatoire Foundation president. “During a global pandemic and post-Hurricane Ida recovery, we were able to raise more than $117,000 for two worthy causes. This is truly a testament to the generosity of our beloved Galatoire’s supporters.”

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