Week in Review, Oct. 19-23: Early Voting Sets Records

Election 2020 Voting New Orleans
A long line of voters stretched outside of City Hall in New Orleans on Friday, Oct. 16, the first day of early voting in the state. City Hall was one of a number of locations including the Smoothie King Center that were being used as early voting locations. (AP - Rebecca Santana)

Here, from staff and wire reports, is the biggest business news of the week:

Deals and Debuts

James Beard Award-winning Chef Alon Shaya is set to open a restaurant and bar in the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans. The as-yet-unnamed spot will open in 2021. “There’s no question that New Orleans has long held an influential place in America’s culinary evolution,” said Mali Carow, the property’s general manager. “Now, in partnership with Chef Alon Shaya, our aim at Four Seasons is to continue that tradition, while forging an imaginative new path into the future.”

Gulf Island Fabrication Inc. announced it will expand its Shipyard Division workforce near Houma. The company said it will create 106 new direct jobs at an average annual salary of $48,000 plus benefits to accommodate orders for marine vessel construction. Those orders include ferries, university research vessels funded by the National Science Foundation, and towing, salvage and rescue ships for the U.S. Navy.

The Ranch Film Studios in St. Bernard Parish will expand its film production operations with help from Louisiana’s Entertainment Job Creation Program. Founded in 2014, The Ranch provides production services, facilities, offices and sound stages for motion picture production. The studio has hosted the production of major motion pictures, including “Bill & Ted Face the Music” and “Terminator Genisys,” as well as Hulu’s “The First” and the new Fox program “Filthy Rich.” The company will create 11 new permanent jobs with an average annual salary of $51,818, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the company’s expansion will result in eight new indirect jobs, for a total of 19 new jobs for the region.

Loyola University New Orleans and Ochsner Health have created a new nursing program that will guarantee experience working with Ochsner’s patients for all students. “This year has proven without doubt that nurses are heroes,” and the country has a critical need for more of them, said Loyola University New Orleans President Tania Tetlow. Ochsner Health professionals will teach at Loyola and supervise the students in all eight of their clinical rotations. The enrollment website opened Wednesday for next fall, and Tetlow said the school hopes to have a class of 90 graduate in 2025. “Every day we see there’s a challenge with nursing shortages,” as temporary workers fill about 300 of the system’s nearly 6,000 nursing jobs, said Warner Thomas, Ochsner’s president and chief executive.

Happy Raptor Distilling LLC has announced the release of its new 504Bananas Foster rum. Inspired by the iconic New Orleans dessert, 504Bananas Foster is handcrafted in the Crescent City at the distillery’s Central City location. Created from 100% Louisiana molasses, Happy Raptor’s newest rum features an infusion of real banana, cinnamon, vanilla and spices and includes no artificial ingredients. “We are so proud to introduce this product in time for the holidays,” said company co-founder Meagen Moreland-Taliancich. “Crafting a rum inspired by bananas foster has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we intended to release it much sooner. Of course, the coronavirus shutdown had other plans for us. Despite the obstacles we encountered, this rum is a true product of New Orleans made with love and deep appreciation for our community.”

A Louisiana company plans to create a deep underground repository to store up to 80 million tons of carbon gas now released into the air by state industrial plants, a “carbon sequestration” project aimed at helping reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere that contribute to carbon change. The daily paper reports that the gas would be stored 10,000 feet deep in a permeable layer of rock beneath a cattle ranch owned by Gulf Coast Sequestration LLC between the Sabine River and Lake Charles.

Fans in the Stands

The New Orleans Saints will start having fans in the stands for home games after the mayor agreed with the team on a phased plan starting Sunday against Carolina. The plan announced Tuesday will start with 3,000 tickets for Sunday’s game, increasing to 6,000 fans for November games with San Francisco and Atlanta and up to 15,000 in December for games against Kansas City and Minnesota barring any changes in local health and safety guidelines. … Meanwhile, Louisiana will allow more high school football fans to attend games in outside stadiums, if they’re in parishes with low numbers of coronavirus cases in the last few weeks. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday that the stadiums will be allowed to have crowds at 50% capacity in parishes where 5% or fewer of the coronavirus tests have come back positive in the last two weeks. All stadiums have been capped at 25% capacity.

Pandemic News

Republican Louisiana lawmakers voted Tuesday to give themselves more authority to curb Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions and emergency powers, under a deal brokered between House and Senate GOP leaders that ended a stalemate on the major issue of the special session. After days of negotiations behind closed doors, the agreement was included in a bill by Covington Republican Rep. Mark Wright. The final language won Senate support Tuesday in a 23-13 vote, followed by House backing in a 54-30 vote. Now it goes to the desk of Gov. Edwards. …

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a release that the City wants to identify and recruit landlords in order to create new housing opportunities for residents in need of safe and affordable homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City is partnering with HousingNOLA, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, Unity of Greater New Orleans, Depaul USA and other Louisiana state partners on the project. “My vision from day one has been to coordinate the efforts of Housing Authority of New Orleans, Finance Authority of New Orleans, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the City of New Orleans to improve services provided to our citizens,” said Cantrell. “We are engaging landlords and our citizens, and this work is an example of the City being laser focused on affordable housing and meeting the needs of our people.”

On this week’s Biz Talks podcast, Audubon Institute president and CEO Ron Forman says his organization is facing a major pandemic-related budget crisis – and it certainly doesn’t help that many zoos and aquariums nationwide have been left out of all federal relief programs to date. “We don’t have attendance like it was before so we’re not generating the revenue,” said Forman. “We started off losing about $1.1 million dollars per week. After we cut our staff down, we’re still losing about $300,000 to $400,000 thousand per week and we’re running out of money.”

Members of the hospitality industry rallied on Tuesday, Oct. 20 during an ‘Empty Event at River City Venues to advocate for and support the many voices of the live events industry that has been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Orleans joined the ranks of the Live Event Coalition that has held “Empty Events” nationwide to highlight the breadth and impact of COVID-19 on the live event industry as well as to encourage politicians and policy makers to push for federal aid via the RESTART ACT and other efforts to provide relief for the industry.

Early Voting Sets Records

A record number of voters have taken advantage of an expanded early voting period that opened Oct. 16 in Louisiana ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election — forming lines so long that some in New Orleans abandoned polling places closer to home to vote at a basketball arena downtown.

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