Week in Review, Sept. 28-Oct. 2: Phase 3.1 Sounds Like Fun
NEW ORLEANS – This week, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that the city is moving to phase 3 of its virus restrictions on Saturday. That means bars will be allowed to sell drinks to go and restaurants may operate at 75% indoor capacity instead of 50% since a number of coronavirus indicators have stayed low.
Here, from staff and wire reports, is all of the week’s top business news:
Deals and Debuts
Axiell, an international software and services provider for the cultural services sector, has purchased CultureConnect, which began in 2013 as a startup in New Orleans before moving its headquarters to New York City. Axiell, which serves more than 11,000 customers in 58 countries, said the deal marries its “market-leading data and media management technology with CultureConnect’s best-in-class audience engagement platform to create the first full stack solution for the cultural sector.”
The Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner Medical Center is celebrating its grand re-opening after the completion of a $56 million expansion, which began in 2018. The 115,000 square foot addition, primarily funded by a $20 million gift from Gayle Benson and her late husband, Tom Benson, in 2017, has doubled the size of the center, increasing capacity to offer more services and advanced clinical research. Located on the campus of Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, the facility underwent extensive renovations and additions. More than 18,000 patients will be cared for annually by a multidisciplinary team of specialists and sub-specialists to meet the challenges presented by more than 20 different types cancers.
Entergy New Orleans, the electric and gas utility that serves Orleans Parish, said it has completed the largest commercial rooftop solar project in Louisiana. The 2.4 megawatt installation is located at trucking and warehousing services company TCI’s facility near the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal. Approximately 7,000 solar panels cover nearly 240,000 square feet of rooftop space. The systems are designed to feed clean energy directly into the Entergy New Orleans electric distribution grid to the benefit of all customers. “This project demonstrates our ongoing commitment to delivering clean, reliable and safe energy to New Orleans while simultaneously achieving our customer’s sustainability goals,” said David Ellis, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans.
Trahan Architects, an award-winning architecture firm with offices in New Orleans and New York, announced today that it is designing the new Benson Jesuit Center at Loyola University New Orleans. Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2021 on Loyola’s main campus in Uptown New Orleans. The new 7,000-square-foot building will be completed by late 2021. The Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation provided the lead gift to Loyola to help fund the important project. The investment will serve the Loyola community by providing a new chapel and community gathering spaces. “Trahan Architects feels privileged to be working on such an important project which will enrich Loyola’s Jesuit Catholic identity,” said Trey Trahan, FAIA, founder and CEO of Trahan Architects.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and CF Industries President and CEO Tony Will announced the company will make a $41.4 million capital investment to enhance nitric acid production at the world’s-largest nitrogen fertilizer complex in Donaldsonville, La. Through the project, CF Industries will retain 487 jobs while creating seven new direct jobs. The new direct jobs will have an average annual salary of $100,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 24 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 30 new jobs in the Capital Region. The new project follows a $2.1 billion expansion completed by CF Industries in 2016 that parish officials described as the largest single capital investment project in Ascension Parish history.
Edwards and Haas Automation Inc. announced a partnership in which Louisiana will become the first state in the U.S. to install advanced Haas 5-axis machining centers at every community and technical college in the state. The Universal Machining Centers from Haas enable the automated production of parts on five vertical, horizontal and rotational axes at one time. CNC, or computer numerical control, automation enables a trained operator to oversee production with accuracy, precision and efficiency.
News from Baton Rouge
State Treasurer John M. Schroder announced the Main Street Recovery business grant program stopped accepting new applications after “obligating all available funding.” The announcement came after Edwards proposed reallocating some of the unused Main Street funds for other urgent purposes. Schroder said that as of Sept. 28, small business awards stood at $80 million. Based on the number of existing applications not yet paid, the program is at capacity. Main Street will continue to process applications and award grants daily until all available funding is used. Business owners who submitted an application but have not received a grant award or denial can continue to use the portal to check on the status of their application and interact with the review team.
Louisiana lawmakers say the focus for their special session that started Monday centers on the coronavirus pandemic and Hurricane Laura recovery, but the session agenda is so broadly written that dozens, if not hundreds of bills, on a long list of topics could be filed. Seventy items are included in the agenda, and any legislation on those topics can be debated during the monthlong session. Among the many items are the state budget, emergency powers for the governor and lawmakers, COVID-19 treatment and prevention, high school athletics, business tax breaks, rural development issues, retirement benefits for New Orleans transit workers and contracting at state parks.