Week in Review, Sept. 26-30: Urban South, Children’s Hospital, Ochsner and More

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NEW ORLEANS — The week ended on a downer note with a report in the daily paper that DXC Technology has ended its incentive pact with the State of Louisiana, which means hopes have been dashed that a five-year-old economic development deal will lead to 2,000 new, high-paying tech jobs in downtown New Orleans.

In 2017, the DXC plan was celebrated as a major economic development win when state and local officials negotiated a set of incentives to bring a “digital transformation center” to 1615 Poydras Street. But, since that time, the Virginia-based Fortune 500 IT services company has only hired 300 local staffers and most of the 10 floors it leased in the former Freeport McMoRan building remain empty.

The overall incentive package was potentially worth more than $100 million, but one key piece — an $18.6 million “pay-for-performance” agreement — ultimately never came to fruition because DXC failed meet certain job creation or payroll benchmarks.

Local economic development officials point out that the DXC office of any size is still a boost for the city’s burgeoning tech industry, especially when paired with the recent spate of successful exits from locally grown tech startups. And, although it’s shrinking its local office footprint, DXC said the end of the incentives doesn’t mean it has plans to leave the market altogether.

Here are the week’s other top business stories:

Urban South Brewery has announced that it has acquired Florida-based Perfect Plain Brewing Co. The deal will lead to distribution of Perfect Plain’s craft beer throughout the Florida Panhandle. Under the agreement, Urban South will assume operations of the hospitality brand that owns and operates four concepts in Pensacola: Perfect Plain Brewing Co., Garden & Grain, Perennial and The Well. The transaction will officially close on Oct. 1, and all entities will retain their current brands, operations and staff. “Our relationship with the Perfect Plain team started just as you would imagine – over a Perfect Plain beer and a day on the Pensacola Bay,” said Jacob Landry, founder of Urban South Brewery, in a press release. “Through years of beer collaborations and brewery visits, we’ve developed a strong mutual respect. We quickly realized that we could build on an already solid foundation by combining Perfect Plain’s dedication to hospitality with the manufacturing and distribution expertise of Urban South. Our goal is to work as two halves of a greater whole, getting great local beer out to more people.” 

Children’s Hospital New Orleans and nonprofit group Kids Join the Fight have announced plans to build a 12,000-square-foot enrichment center located on the hospital’s main campus. The center will be named ‘Walker’s Imaginarium’ in memory of Walker Beery, who launched Kids Join the Fight before succumbing to pediatric brain cancer in September 2021. The estimated $10 million project will provide a therapeutic space for patients and families to “thrive, find joy and enjoy time together while in the hospital,” said a hospital spokesperson. Officials hope to break ground on the 18-month construction project starting by the end of 2023. “Walker’s Imaginarium will enhance each patient’s care and provide joyful moments while these families navigate their healthcare journey,” said Taylor Beery, father of Walker. “Walker wanted better for every child who has to face a tough diagnosis. This place will provide moments of joy and normalcy that these children and their families so highly value and so deeply deserve.”  

Ochsner Health has received a gift that will establish its state-of-the art, freestanding neuroscience center to be built on Jefferson Highway near Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans. Once complete, the 132,000-square-foot center will be a comprehensive destination of neurological care for patients that will include an innovation center, integrative and aquatic therapies, and a neurological rehabilitation center. The donation of an undisclosed amount comes from long-time Ochsner supporters Robert J. and Debra H. Patrick. Hospital officials hope to break ground on the project in early 2023 and to be finished by 2025. Ochsner’s neuroscience program has grown since becoming a destination healthcare center in 2006 and now has more than 100 specialists offering advanced diagnostics and treatment options with specific expertise in neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, vascular neurology, movement disorders and cognitive impairment. The new center will integrate Ochsner’s behavioral health services. “We are incredibly honored and humbled to receive this gift from the Patrick family. They have been part of the Ochsner mission for many years and have helped to shape the organization along the way,” said Warner Thomas, outgoing president and CEO of Ochsner Health. “With this transformational gift, we will further strengthen our capacity to care for those in need and make great strides in advancing the treatment of neurological conditions. We thank the Patrick family for their tremendous generosity and commitment to Ochsner Health.”

As part of the $50 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to the H2theFuture coalition in south Louisiana, the New Energy Center of the U.S. will be established at The Beach at UNO. A $10 million federal award from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge will be matched by $5 million in state funds. Known as NEXUS, the new center will serve as the physical and programmatic hub for a range of clean energy initiatives. “This positions the University of New Orleans and The Beach at UNO to be catalysts in the burgeoning sector of renewable energy,” said UNO President John Nicklow in a press release. “This is a critical time for our region as we take our existing expertise and infrastructure and apply them to solving our long-term energy challenges. NEXUS will be at the center of what could be a transformational era of investment and technological advancement.” Located on 30 acres adjacent to the University of New Orleans, The Beach at UNO is a research and technology park that houses more than 30 tenants from government, nonprofits and the private sector.

Painting with a Twist, a Louisiana-based national paint-and-sip studio franchise, has named franchisee Todd Owen CEO and co-owner. Owen has been a multi-unit Painting with a Twist franchisee since 2014. Owen stepped in as CEO in August of 2021, and gained ownership of Twist Brands, alongside Teresa Johnson, multi-unit franchisee of Painting with a Twist, and Dave Chmura, a partner within Owen’s supply company, TD Art Supply. Cathy Deano, co-founder and co-owner since the company’s inception, will provide creative direction. With 31 years of experience at a major wholesale retailer, Owen invested in four studios in the Tampa, Florida area and served as an elected member of the Painting with a Twist Franchise Advisory Council. He also founded TD Art Supply

After a nationwide search, the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors, an association with more than 6,700 members, has named Kelli Walker Starrett chief executive officer. Starrett has served as NOMAR’s interim CEO since February, after the retirement of longtime CEO Missy Whittington. Prior to taking the position as CEO, Starrett served the association as the senior vice president of governmental relations, advocating on behalf of greater New Orleans area real estate agents and their clients on policy issues impacting real estate. “Kelli is the right leader to guide NOMAR,” said David Favret, the association’s president, in a press release. “For nearly 10 years, she has worn numerous hats. In addition to serving as our interim CEO and senior vice president of governmental relations, she manages human resources and has directed the education, communications, and commercial departments. Her leadership skills and vision will without a doubt help to grow NOMAR and expand the resources and programs that our members have come to expect.”

Iconic nonprofit Kingsley House revealed its new name — Clover — at a Sept. 27 press event held at the organization’s campus in the Lower Garden District. Now in its 126th year, Clover offers nationally accredited and state-certified programs and services to infants, children, parents, seniors, veterans and medically-fragile adults. “We are proud of the organization’s accomplishments throughout the years, and want to ensure that our legacy and new agency name mirror the backgrounds of the people we serve,” said Clover CEO Keith Liederman in a press release announcing the name change. “We believe our renaming decision is a testament to our ongoing commitment to advancing systemic change for our children, families and community.” Board leadership decided to retire the name Kingsley House in the fall of 2020 after discovering racist views in documents written by Charles Kingsley, the organization’s namesake. The new name was selected after 18 months of deliberation. 

From the Associated Press: Parts of the Mississippi River are so low from weeks of drought that barge traffic is being limited at the worst possible time — as crop harvests begin. Some Mississippi River communities between St. Louis and New Orleans may see record low water levels in the coming days, including Caruthersville, Missouri, and Osceola, Arkansas. The National Weather Service predicts the reading at Memphis, Tennessee, will reach its second-lowest level ever by Oct. 13. The timing is bad. Corn and soybeans harvested in the early fall need to be moved, and barges are vital in getting the commodities from one place to another. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that normally, tows are able to move 36 barges at a time. With the water level so low, shippers have voluntarily agreed to cut that to 25 barges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Transportation Report released Thursday said that 1,890 grain barges have unloaded in New Orleans since Sept. 1, about 39% fewer than the five-year average.

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