Week in Review, Sept. 5-9: H2theFuture, Lion Elastomers, Harrah’s and More

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NEW ORLEANS — At week’s end, city and state economic development officials were celebrating a big win that will have implications for the future of the state’s energy industry. The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $50 million federal grant to H2theFuture, a 25-organization partnership that plans to develop a new offshore wind-powered hydrogen energy industry cluster in south Louisiana.

The proposal – led by nonprofit business booster Greater New Orleans Inc. – is one of only 21 winners out of more than 500 entries in the EDA’s Build Back Better Challenge. GNO Inc. said the plan “creates a roadmap for decarbonizing Louisiana’s manufacturing sector while creating new energy jobs.”

“We are grateful for the vision of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration that made H2theFuture possible,” said Michael Hecht, GNO Inc. president and CEO, in a press release. “Moreover, we want to recognize that this exciting project has come together due to the work and trust of two dozen organizations across south Louisiana, and we extend our gratitude to these outstanding partners, as well.”

Here are more of the week’s top business stories:

Synthetic rubber manufacturer Lion Elastomers has invested $22 million to construct a new multi-level production building housing two new finishing lines at its manufacturing facility in Ascension Parish. The expansion will increase production capacity at the plant, which supports the supply chains of automobile tire manufacturers and production of a broad range of other rubber goods. With the reinvestment in its Geismar plant, Lion Elastomers will retain 176 Capital Region jobs. “Lion’s Geismar manufacturing facility has provided jobs for Louisiana’s skilled workers for nearly 60 years,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “The company’s commitment to update and expand its operation ensures that those jobs will remain in Ascension Parish for many years to come. Once again, we see the strength of Louisiana’s manufacturing sector, and the important role our state plays in the manufacture of consumer goods used around the world.”

Harrah’s New Orleans celebrated the official opening of its new Caesars Sportsbook and World Series of Poker Room on Friday, Sept. 2. The event featured  a ribbon-cutting and a ceremonial first bet with appearances by New Orleans Saints legends Archie Manning and Rickey Jackson. The 5,700-square-foot sportsbook features four betting windows, 12 self-service betting kiosks, a 147-foot video screen with a high-powered audio system, a multi-display “fan cave”  with a private viewing experience for up to 10 people, and a massive bar. The World Series of Poker Room will be a 5,000-square-foot space boasting 20 poker tables and complimentary tableside beverages. The project’s builders are Ryan Gootee General Contractors in collaboration with AECOM Tishman.

Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company announced it has acquired the assets of KLC Financial Inc. and KLC Capital Partners LLC. Founded in 1987 and located in Minnetonka, Minn., the company provides specialized lease solutions for vendors and commercial businesses nationwide. “We are excited to welcome KLC to the Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company family of companies. KLC will continue its existing leasing programs but will now have additional resources and reach that will enable it to serve even more customers across the United States,” said Gulf Coast Bank President and CEO Guy Williams in a press release. “The strong KLC management team will remain in place and will continue to manage its operations. There will be no layoffs as a result of this transaction. Instead, KLC will be looking for additional employees to help with its expansion. The integrity and work ethic of the KLC team make it a perfect fit for us at Gulf Coast Bank.” 

The inaugural sailing of American Cruise Lines’ American Symphony departed Aug. 27 from the Port of New Orleans. The cruise passenger vessel is the fifth riverboat in ACL’s new series and adds to its four other homeported cruise vessels in New Orleans. The river cruise vessel will become the ninth that New Orleans hosts year-round. “Inland river cruising continues to show tremendous growth in Port NOLA’s cruise portfolio and this vessel is the latest crown jewel in American Cruise Lines’ fleet of modern riverine vessels sailing the Mississippi River from the city of New Orleans,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port of New Orleans president and CEO, in a press release. “The history and charm of our vibrant city combined with the unique offerings of sailing the Mississippi River makes cruising from New Orleans an ideal experience for increasing numbers of riverboat passengers.”

Ochsner is calling on Louisiana residents who want to pivot their careers and help fill the nursing shortage in local communities. The health system has announced tuition assistance for at least 10 applicants to Loyola University of New Orleans’ new accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program for this spring. The degree program is enrolling now for the spring 2023 academic term, with a deadline of Dec. 1. As a partner to Loyola’s pre-licensure Bachelor of Nursing program, Ochsner’s commitment to Loyola’s ABSN program marks an expansion of its flagship Ochsner Scholars initiative. Ochsner Scholars encompasses tuition assistance programs for aspiring nurses, allied health workers and physicians who pledge to serve as employees at Ochsner Health following education at an accredited school. Ochsner continues to invest in Healthy State by 2030, a collaborative plan to lift Louisiana off the bottom of health rankings, as the system is committed to growing the state’s pipeline of nursing and allied health professionals. Partnerships with universities like Loyola and Ochsner’s tuition assistance programs are critical to the collaborative, 10-year vision of transforming Louisiana into a healthier state by the year 2030. As more seasoned nurses depart local hospitals and clinics, Ochsner Nurse Scholars and similar tuition assistance programs offer tangible solutions to growing the nursing workforce in Louisiana. Ochsner and partners are also committed to helping more residents invest in their careers and financial stability.

The K-12 charter school formerly known as Lusher will officially unveil its new program name and individual school building names at four separate events on Sept. 2 and Sept. 3 at three Uptown campuses. In 2021, after a grassroots demand for change made national headlines, the school’s board voted to stop honoring the school’s original namesake, Robert Mills Lusher. The former Louisiana state superintendent of education was an avowed white supremacist. The three-campus program’s new name is the Willow School. Each individual school building is named in honor of a notable New Orleanian.

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