Economic Development

Sales tax collections rise in Terrebonne, Lafourche

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Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes saw a combined increase of more than $11.5 million in sales tax revenues last year, a sign that the local economy may be improving.

Local sales taxes are divided between parish government, law enforcement and levee, road and school districts.

According to totals from the Terrebonne Sales and Use Tax Department, Terrebonne Parish collected about $120 million last year. That’s a $3.7 million increase from 2017.

This is the second year in a row of increased sales tax revenue for Terrebonne.

Lafourche’s gains were even stronger. According to monthly collection totals reported by the Lafourche School Board’s Sales Tax Department, the parish collected about $80.2 million in 2018, a $7.8 million increase.

This is the first increase the parish has seen in at least four years and brings collections back up to the level seen in 2015.

“An increase is sales tax revenue means a better, stronger and more viable Lafourche. We continue to promote #buylocal and are grateful to wait for a table to dine in our restaurants,” Lafourche Chamber of Commerce CEO Lin Kiger said.

Numbers at a glance

Terrebonne:

$120 million in total collections.

Monthly collections average $10 million.

Up $3.7 million from 2017.

Continuing two-year upward trend.

Parishwide sales tax rate is 5.5 percent.

Lafourche:

$80.2 million in total collections.

Monthly collections average $6.7 million.

Up $7.8 milllion from 2017.

First increase since 2014.

First time breaking $80 million since 2014.

Parish sales tax rates vary from 4.65 to 5.4 percent.

“We have continued to witness an increase in trucks on our highways and are hopeful that this activity only adds to the sales tax collection in 2019 and beyond,” Kiger said. “We look forward to more jobs and opportunities and growth on the horizon.”

The last time the parish broke $80 million was in 2014 when it collected about $83.2 million. Since the economic downturn, Lafourche sales tax collections reached a low of $72.4 million in 2017.

“As always, it is our hope to see collections continue to grow — allowing additional dollars for infrastructure, education and tourism throughout our parish,” Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce CEO Tammy Ledet said.

Terrebonne’s lowest point in recent years was $98.5 million in 2010.

The sales tax numbers are starting to match up with other economic indicators, said Matt Rookard, Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO.

Local unemployment numbers started to stabilize at the end of 2018, signaling the beginning of the slow recovery cycle, he said.

“The increased sales tax revenue is a good sign that our economy is going in a positive direction,” said Nicol Blanchard, Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce CEO. “Consumers are enjoying the low gas prices allowing them to have more spendable income while the oil and gas industry becomes more efficient and optimistic when planning for the future. The chamber is encouraged by this growth and hopes that it continues.”

In the future, 2017 will probably be known as one of the toughest economic years as the area stayed at the bottom of the down cycle, Rookard said.

“We were at the bottom and stayed there for a significant time,” Rookard said. “I do think there’s a recovery coming.”

As the job market stabilizes, consumer confidence will increase, and that drives sales taxes, he said.

As TEDA continues to look for new development opportunities, companies are pivoting from getting by to planning for growth.

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com.

PORT OF TERREBONNE - ROAD EXTENSION RIBBON CUTTING

From Left to Right: Stephanie Brüning (SCPDC); Philip Chauvin (T.B. Smith); Amber Plessala (T. B. Smith), David Rabalais (Port Executive Director), Al Marmande (Parish Councilman), Eddie Rome (Port Commissioner), Andrew Blanchard (Port Commissioner), Dan Davis (Port Commissioner), Gordy Dove (Parish President), Pat Gordon (SCPDC)

From Left to Right: Stephanie Brüning (SCPDC); Philip Chauvin (T.B. Smith); Amber Plessala (T. B. Smith), David Rabalais (Port Executive Director), Al Marmande (Parish Councilman), Eddie Rome (Port Commissioner), Andrew Blanchard (Port Commissioner), Dan Davis (Port Commissioner), Gordy Dove (Parish President), Pat Gordon (SCPDC)

The Terrebonne Port Commission officially opened the Rome Woodward Street improvements with Parish President Gordy Dove, Councilman Al Marmande and Executive Director David Rabelais. The project is located on Main Port Court off of Industrial Boulevard.  

Port Commission members, Parish Council, representatives from T. Baker Smith (Engineering) and South Central Planning and Development Commission (Grant Administration) were present for the official dedication. The $425,706.00 project was a funding partnership between U.S Economic Development Agency (EDA) and the Port with $312,320 from EDA and $113,386.00 in port funds. 

The 800-foot infrastructure project, completed by Byron E. Talbot Contractor, Inc., included a 10-inch 24-foot-wide industrial class concrete pavement with 10-foot-wide aggregate shoulders and the addition of associated drainage pipe and catch basins.  The extension finished the work started in January 2014 and provides improved access to the Port property allowing for an additional 52 acres of the property to be developed with Port related tenants.

Aligning with many of EDA’s funding priorities, the Rome Woodward Street extension embodies public/private partnerships, national strategic priorities and global competitiveness. Terrebonne Port Commission’s 680-acre site located near LA Highway 57, the Houma-Terrebonne Airport, the Houma Navigation Canal and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway puts it in a strategic position for future economic growth and benefits to the region. For more information about the Terrebonne Port Commission please go to www.terrebonneport.com.

Local economy starts ‘long road back’

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New report by well-known Louisiana economist predicts slow recovery after four-year oil bust.

A new forecast from a well-known Louisiana economist presents one of the most optimistic forecasts for Houma-Thibodaux’s economy since an offshore oil bust began four years ago.

Loren Scott’s annual economic forecast, which he delivered Wednesday to members of the South Louisiana Economic Council and other local business officials, does not predict a return to boom times anytime soon. Instead, it describes the area’s oil-based economy as beginning a slow climb from the bottom of the latest downfall.

“After much bloodletting, the corner appears to have been turned,” the report says. “Fabricators and shipbuilders are making a reasonably successful shift to non-extraction-related-customers. An oil price of $80 a barrel by 2020 is expected to start a serious revival in the Gulf by 2020.”

Scott projects the metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, will gain 700 jobs, 0.8 percent, next year. It will add another 2,100 jobs, 2.4 percent, in 2020, driven largely by gains in oil and gas.

A rebound has already begun, the report suggests, defying his prediction last year that the area would lose another 1,800 jobs in 2018. Instead, he now predicts the local economy will end the year with a net gain of 200 jobs.

“The numbers obviously do not show great growth,” the report says, “but at least they are up.”

‘LONG ROAD BACK’

Houma has a “long road back” to anything akin to the vibrant economy it enjoyed before a global crude glut caused oil prices to plummet and local jobs to vanish, the report suggests.

The area has lost roughly 16,000 jobs -- about one of every six -- since mid-2014 as low crude prices sparked layoffs and work slowdowns throughout the oil industry.

“This is more than 2 1/2 times worse than what U.S. employment declined during the Great Recession over 2008-09,” Scott says in the report.

Here, according to the report, is how some local companies have dealt with the downturn:

Edison Chouest, a Galliano-based company that builds and operates oilfield supply boats, cut the number of workers at its LaShip yard in Houma in half to 500. One hundred of the company’s 250 boats are are docked, and its mariners are working about half the time they did before the collapse. Employment at Chouest’s North American Shipyard in Larose has declined from about 500 to 200. Its North American maintenance facility at Port Fourchon remains open with about 300 workers.

Chett Morrison, a Houma-based fabrication company, cut its workforce from 515 to 320.

Baker-Hughes closed its 50-person oil services office in Houma.

Hercules Offshore, which operated a fleet of oilfield service boats, declared bankruptcy, closed its Houma yard and laid off 50 people there.

National Oilwell Varco, which builds oilfield equipment, closed its Houma facility at a cost of 80 jobs.

CCHI Aviation closed its Galliano base, laying off 74 pilots, mechanics and support staff.

Offshore Specialty Fabricators began layoffs in May 2016 that cost 67 jobs.

“The bloodbath was obviously not confined to the direct oil and exploration companies but also to tangentially connected companies,” the report says.

KEY TO A COMEBACK

Scott cites several developments as evidence the local economy has hit bottom and is on the path toward slow improvement. The area has posted several months of year-to-year job gains, truck traffic to and from the Gulf oilfield hub of Port Fourchon is picking up, and service companies along the Louisiana coast are planning for growth through 2020. Gulf oil lease sales, though far below historic highs, are on the rise. And many companies are beginning to diversify the kinds of work they do to become less reliant on the oil industry’s boom-or-bust cycles.

But the key to any comeback is the same thing it has been for decades: the price of crude oil.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict long-term crude prices because so many variables affect them -- political and regulatory decisions, production activity by major suppliers like the U.S. and OPEC, economic conditions or unrest in far-flung parts of the world, and global supply and demand. As a result, analysts’ and predictions vary significantly.

Scott predicts oil will rise from an average $65 a barrel this year to $80 a barrel by 2020. Whether that happens will have major implications not just for Houma-Thibodaux but for all of Louisiana.

“Because Louisiana is the country’s second-largest producer of crude oil, if offshore crude is counted in the number, movements in oil prices can often dramatically impact the state, as Louisiana has learned with a vengeance since late 2014,” Scott says in the report. “The huge decline in oil prices from late 2014 through much of 2017 hammered Louisiana’s oil patch so hard that it sent the state into a 28-month recession and a loss of 23,300 jobs (-1.2 percent). Louisiana desperately needs oil prices to both rise and stay high for an extended period for a drilling recovery in the Gulf of Mexico and a revival of the state’s oil-centered metropolitan areas.”

-- Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or keith.magill@houmatoday.com.

Donated barge being used for worker training

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Open enrollment is underway at South Louisiana Community College for a training program of the next generation of maritime industry workers.

Houma-based Cenac Marine donated a refurbished oil and gas tank barge last November to South Louisiana Community College for training students.

Cenac representatives met with Capt. Carl Moore, assistant dean of marine operations at South Louisiana Community College, and discovered the need for updated equipment, owner Benny Cenac Jr. said in a news release.

“From the very start of this project, I have been excited about what we can offer to the community and to those interested in becoming tankermen,” Cenac said. “My company and I are fortunate to have the opportunity to provide a hands-on learning experience to many people for years to come.”

The 158-foot-by-40-foot training vessel replicates a standard Cenac Marine Services tank barge and will be used for the training. The barge will be located at Munson Slip in Houma where South Louisiana Community College tankerman training will take place.

“The barge donated by Mr. Cenac and Cenac Marine services has been a game changer,” Moore said. “We’re excited to be able to offer hands-on, real-life experience while under the supervision of an instructor. This will help everyone in a way we just haven’t been able to in the past.”

Depending on the size of the class, hands-on barge training can last about eight hours per session. The college will offer the class every two weeks depending on instructor availability.

The program currently has two Cenac boat captains serving as instructors during their off-time, the company said. Both captains have been state certified to teach the 32-hour course.

After completion of the course, students are required to complete basic firefighting training before they can become certified tankermen.

The economic benefits of having this training tool are also vital, said Matt Rookard, CEO of the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority. Having these training partnerships and equipment in place will help in attracting more companies to the area, he said.

“The No. 1 thing that comes up in meetings with companies that want to move down here is workforce development. Before costs, before tax structure, it’s workforce development. The reason is simple. You can have the lowest costs in the world, but if you can’t get the people to do the job, then it doesn’t matter,” Rookard said.

Those interested in taking the class can register at 331 Dickson Road in Houma, where the barge is housed and the site of the college’s Terrebonne campus. It has 10 other campuses in Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, Livingston, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.

For more information about South Louisiana Community College and its Maritime training offerings, visit solacc.edu.

--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com.

Houma company to build new tugboat

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A Houma-based shipyard said it’s joining forces with a New Orleans company to build the most powerful ship-assisting tugboat on the Mississippi River.

Main Iron Works announced last week it’s partnering with the New Orleans-based Bisso Towboat Inc. to build its 12th tugboat.

Bisso Towboat Inc. awarded the contract earlier this summer to Main Iron Works with plans to build a new 100-foot, 6,008-horsepower, Tier 4-compliant ASD tractor tug.

Tier 4 is a set of emissions requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions.

Construction of the vessel will begin later in the season with a projected completion date of fall 2019, the company said.

Scott Slatten, Bisso’s president, said the new tugboat will have a similar structure to the recently built vessel, the Liz Healy.

“It will be very similar structurally and from a profile to our last new build, Liz Healy, as the vast majority of the changes will be in the engine room for the SCR system and larger Z-drives and a larger bow winch and bow staple to accommodate the increased horsepower/bollard pull,” Slatten said. “Beyond that, we were able to pretty much use our existing design with some minor changes in tankage and hull and the above.”

Main Iron Works owner Arlen “Benny” Cenac Jr. said the new tugboat will be first of its kind for the company.

“We are proud to partner with Bisso as they build the most powerful ship-assist tug on the Mississippi River,” Cenac said. “This is an opportunity we are privileged to be a part of. It’s our 12th build for them and we look forward to many more. This is our first Tier 4 boat, and it’s always such a pleasure to work with Bisso, a longtime customer of Main Iron Works.”

Founded in 1947, Main Iron Works specializes in the building, repair and repowering of marine vessels and barges.

--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.

Houma and Thibodaux among first certified as retirement communities in state

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Houma and Thibodaux are two of the first cities in Louisiana to be officially designated as retirement communities by the state tourism commission.

The designations were awarded this week at the annual Lt. Governor’s Travel Summit in Lake Charles.

“Through a competitive and selective application process, these communities, including Thibodaux, will now receive state-level marketing support, networking opportunities and possible grant funding to help us grow our brand moving forward,” Thibodaux officials said Thursday.

Other cities now included in the program are Lafayette, Lake Charles, Natchitoches, Ruston and Lincoln Parish, Toledo Bend and Sabine Parish, and Shreveport-Bossier City.

Each was chosen under a competitive application process through the Encore Louisiana Commission, which reviewed applications for several months. It eventually selected the eight cities and parishes “that are now certified and focused on bringing retirees to enjoy their ‘encore’ at life,” the website states.

Under the new program, each retirement community has detailed retirement information on the state tourism website, LouisianaTravel.com.

Houma-Terrebonne was selected for its small town charm and easy access to city living in New Orleans. The area’s many outdoor activities, festivals, music and food are all boasted by the state.

“This specific designation was a great opportunity for both Houma Travel and (Terrebonne Economic Development Authority) to work together on a project that has an effect on both economic development and tourism,” Houma Travel Assistant Director Joey Pierce said.

Terrebonne has a wide demographic range, seeing many natives of the area stay through retirement, while newcomers are constantly flowing in especially as the oil and gas industry rebounds, he said.

“If you are born here, you’re going to want to stay here,” Pierce said. “There are a lot of intrinsic qualities people of this area love.”

Promoting the parish as a retirement community will not only help tourism by encouraging potential retirees to visit before settling down, it could also spark growth in the housing and job markets, he said.

About 20 miles north of Houma, Thibodaux also boasts a robust retirement community.

“Among the many factors that make Thibodaux an ideal retirement community are its fair taxes, recreational opportunities and healthcare facilities, which make for a second-to-none experience for all those who call this city their home,” the website states. It also notes the state-of-the-art Wellness Center at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, the many festivals and events, and the work in the historic district by Thibodaux Main Street.

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at@JuliaArenstam.

 

Terrebonne economic agency revamped after temporary closure

The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority is moving forward with local development efforts, despite a downturn in revenue.

CEO Matt Rookard presented an overview of the quasi-governmental agency to the Parish Council Wednesday.

The agency was restructured in October 2015 after remaining dormant for about a year. Rookard was hired in 2016. It has a nine-member board and a three-member staff that handles economic development efforts for the parish, such as business recruitment and retention and workforce training.

Between 2016 and 2018, the organization has lost $450,000 from the parish, but that money has been used to pay for other economic development measures such as the dredging of the Houma Navigation Canal and the Schriever train station, Rookard said.

The cuts are in line with other cuts made parishwide due to declining tax revenues, he said.

The agency receives its money through a portion of fees collected through the occupational businesses in the parish.

Despite the cut, TEDA has been using reserve money to keep some operations growing, including organizational reviews, branding and strategic advertising.

When Rookard first took the job, the agency reviewed every detail as part of a larger organizational management.

There were some pretty significant issues, which were part of the reason why the agency was shut down, he said.

“It took a lot longer than I thought it was going to take, but I feel confident in where we are now,” Rookard said. “It was very important to me to start with a very good foundation from an organizational standpoint where you could not come back and look at TEDA and say we’re doing something wrong.”

In terms of branding, the group has created a new logo, a new website and a promotional video.

TEDA is working to become an inaugural member of the state’s retirement community certification program, Rookard said.

The agency is also working on a plan to create a sports tourism faction, called HT Sports, to recruit major sporting events around the parish.

HT Sports could take over operations of the long-awaited Bayou Country Sports Park, but no agreement to that effect has been officially proposed.

However, most of TEDA’s efforts are focused on business retention and expansion.

“Bringing in new business is nice, but keeping businesses from leaving is absolutely crucial,” Rookard said.

As far as new businesses, the parish faces the challenge of having a surplus of land, but at a higher ticket price and with very few spec buildings, he said.

To move TEDA forward, the agency will be asking for an increase in revenue next year.

“As we go forward, we have to start making decisions on whether we’re going to fund these types of programs or whether we’re just going to continue to do the business retention and responses,” Rookard said. “I’m proud of work we did, but if we had more resources, we will continue to do more.”

Many of the council members expressed support of the work TEDA is doing.

“We definitely need to invest in economic development, to the right amount,” Councilman Darrin Guidry said. “But not over invest. That might have been some of the faults of the previous TEDA.”

“I think you’re going to a great direction. I look forward to continuing supporting you and your efforts and your outstanding committee,” Councilwoman Arlanda Williams said.

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com.

CORTEC, L.L.C. wins state award

CORTEC, L.L.C. Founder Bobby Corte, Jr. accepts the Lantern Award from Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson with Stephen Corte (left), Thomas Chauvin and Larry Chauvin on June 5, 2018 at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge.

CORTEC, L.L.C. Founder Bobby Corte, Jr. accepts the Lantern Award from Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson with Stephen Corte (left), Thomas Chauvin and Larry Chauvin on June 5, 2018 at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge.

HOUMA, June 4, 2018 – Houma-based CORTEC, LLC, was recently honored for its excellence in manufacturing and outstanding service to the community with the State of Louisiana’s Lantern Award for the Bayou Region.

“Manufacturers drive Louisiana’s economy in the most important ways,” Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said. “They provide good-paying jobs and have a strong multiplier effect, creating even more jobs outside their facilities. Harnessing our talented workforce, they compete in and win in a global economy as they produce vital products that are in demand by companies and consumers.”

Award nominees are judged on contributions to the community, including investment in employment growth and facility expansion, as well as sustaining and growing operations at least three years prior to the award. The 15-year-old CORTEC is undergoing expansion at both its Port Allen and Houma facilities.

CORTEC’s 156 employees design, manufacture, sell and service valve and manifold products for the oil-and-gas industry through the company’s two divisions: Cortec Fluid Control in Houma and Cortec Manifold Systems in Port Allen. From engineering to assembling, through coating to shipping, CORTEC handles the entire process for quality control. Its valves, chokes and flow-line component products are shipped to the Gulf of Mexico and shale plays in the United States as well as internationally to Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Since launching the Lantern Awards in 1979, LED has recognized more than 300 Louisiana manufacturing businesses with its partners, Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association and the Louisiana Quality Foundation. Award winners receive lanterns handcrafted and donated by Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights of New Orleans.

This year’s award to CORTEC, L.L.C., continues a family tradition, as the Corte family previously received a Lantern Award when it owned and operated COR-VAL, Inc., founded by Bobby Corte, Sr.

 

Our opinion: Diversifying Economy is Difficult but Worthwhile

Efforts to diversify the local economy – shifting its overwhelming focus from oil and gas to other, varied industries – have proven largely futile.

But there is every reason to continue this worthwhile, long-term goal that would remove some local workers’ dependency on a mostly robust but cyclical industry.

The oil and gas slowdown that has cost so many thousands of local workers their jobs is yet another reminder that no matter how lucrative oil and gas can be, depending too much on any one sector of the economy holds certain risks.

So it’s good to see the push for diversification continuing.

“Take a sector with an existing strength and within that identify a specialty. If you invest heavily into technology, you end up with a new specialty within that industry,” Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO Matt Rookard said. “Then you can look at applying that to other industries.”

He used as an example an attempt to use the Houma-Terrebonne Airport as a hub for unmanned aircraft, which could eventually expand into use in coastal restoration or storm damage assessment.

“These things don’t exist as we sit here today, but if you can deploy that technology, there’s opportunity to create them,” Rookard said.

Although it’s a good example, it is but one way TEDA and others are trying to open up the local economy to new companies and ventures that might eventually produce the kind of diversity other areas enjoy.

While the oil and gas industry has been a valuable local partner for workers and businesses, having all the region’s eggs in one industrial basket makes us more vulnerable to the fluctuations in that market.

The more our area can cultivate other industries, the better we can insulate ourselves against the slowdowns that are inevitable in every portion of the economy.

We have proven time and again that our workers and our local companies are incredibly useful to the oilfield industry. These same workers and others would contribute mightily to any industry in which they have training and education and in which there are employment opportunities available.

We don’t lose anything by trying to grow more and different opportunities for our workers and the many others who rely on the local economy. But failing to do so would be a terrible lack of planning and preparation.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.

DailyComet.com

 

Houma Main Street Seeks Grant Applicants

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The old City Court building in downtown Houma was renovated in 2011 with help from Louisiana Main Street grants.  

Efforts to revitalize downtown Houma could continue this year with the opportunity for restoration grants from Louisiana Main Street.

Each year, the state program offers grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for commercial building and business owners in historic downtown areas. Houma Main Street is once again offering its services to local businesses and property owners downtown who are interested in applying.

“Over the years, Houma Main Street has received nearly $80,000 in redevelopment grant funds from the Louisiana Main Street program, initiating $500,000 in local projects costs, plus associated jobs and economic stimulation,” Houma Main Street Manager Anne Picou said.

To be eligible, a building must be in the historic downtown Houma district and be at least 50 years old. The grants have a 50 percent match with the applicant, meaning that if a project is awarded a $5,000 grant, the business or property owner must also invest $5,000, Picou said.

Only one grant can be awarded for each Main Street district. Once applications are submitted to the Houma Main Street, the organization’s board will choose a project to submit to the state program.

In her 17 years with Houma Main Street, Picou said, the agency has helped secure grants for projects by Fakier Jewelers, the renovation of the former City Court building by Lori Davis, new signage at People’s Drug Store and the renovation of Rubicon Salon.

The grants are intended to preserve the historic character downtown, she said.

For example, if someone submits a project to change the facade of a historic property, that could undermine the outlook or integrity of the building. Instead, Main Street wants to work with business owners to keep the original integrity of the building, while modernizing it for new use, Picou said.

Even a simple sign project can promote economic development, she said.

“The Main Street program totally agrees with signage as a way to do economic development,” she said.

Having a large, attractive sign can draw in business and make a building recognizable.

Years ago, grants could be awarded for as much as $25,000, but budget cuts have reduced funding for the program, Picou said.

In the case of Rubicon Salon, when a tire store abandoned the building to move to a new location, the property left Main Street organizers wondering what to do.

“By grace of god, (Rubicon Salon) turned it into upscale salon,” Picou said. “It’s a genuine project, keeping the essence of historical building ... but still modernizing the inside elements.”

The old City Court building has a similar story. The parish was considering tearing it down and converting it into parking before Davis purchased the property and turn it into a commercial and residential property, Picou said.

“More and more people living downtown,” she said. “I try to explain that to people. Don’t give up.”

Several downtown businesses have already expressed interest in the program, which has become simpler over the years, Picou said.

The application deadline is 1 p.m. June 18. Applications can be obtained by calling Picou at 873-6408.

By Julia Arenstam, Staff Writer, can be reached at 448-7636 orjulia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.

Efforts to Diversify Economy Continue

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One effort focuses on making the Houma-Terrebonne Airport a hub for unmanned aircraft.

Recent studies have shown that for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes to boost their economies, they should diversify their economies so they are less reliant on the oil industry.

But complete diversification isn’t going to happen overnight, Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO Matt Rookard said.

TEDA hired Garner Economics to study the local economy in 2016. The report suggests one resource with potential is the Houma-Terrebonne Airport.

As a result, TEDA is partnering with Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever and the airport to bring an unmanned aviation system to Terrebonne Parish.

TEDA is working to create a public-private partnership for research and development on how to bring this new technology to the parish, Rookard said.

Contrary to the popular concept of smaller, almost-hand-held-size drones, these unmanned aircraft are more like full-size helicopters without pilots, he said.

This kind of technology is mainly used for military purposes but has applications in commercial industries like oil and gas.

Once formed, the public-private partnership will seek research dollars to fund the program.

“Take a sector with an existing strength and within that identify a specialty. If you invest heavily into technology, you end up with a new specialty within that industry,” Rookard said. “Then you can look at applying that to other industries.”

Terrebonne’s existing strength is the oil industry, specializing in logistics. By investing heavily into unmanned aviation systems that can be used in that field, the technology can later expand into other industries, such as coastal restoration, Rookard said. Insurance companies can use unmanned aircraft to assess damage after storms.

“These things don’t exist as we sit here today, but if you can deploy that technology, there’s opportunity to create them,” he said.

In December, representatives of TEDA, Nicholls, Fletcher and the airport traveled to the University of North Dakota to get an inside look at its unmanned aircraft program and explore a possible partnership, Rookard said.

Right now, the group is looking for funding.

The airport has committed some funds to make infrastructure upgrades but in order to get approval from the Federal Aviation Authority, more work is needed.

TEDA has also been working on scholarship programs for minority-owned contracting businesses to receive accreditation training to compete for local construction jobs.

“A lot of these contracts go to the same people over and over because there’s only so many qualified companies,” Rookard said.

The agency is also working with the Entergy workforce-development program to train students for jobs utility companies are looking to fill.

TEDA will present other diversification and economic-development plans later this month to the Terrebonne Parish Council, Rookard said. He declined to comment on specifics.

-- Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 orjulia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.

Terrebonne Moves Forward with Flood, Storm Protection

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Terrebonne Parish President Gordy Dove said the parish is fiscally strong thanks to his staff and support from groups like the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District.

During his Fiscal State of Terrebonne Parish speech Tuesday to members of the South Central Industrial Association, Dove said the parish was able to end 2017 with a $9 million fund balance, recovering from a “spiraling economy.”

After implementing 23 percent cuts in each department last year, “the parish is fiscally strong,” Dove said.

In April, sales tax revenues increased by 4.26 percent, he said.

Since taking office in 2016, Dove’s administration has worked on a number of capital improvement projects, specifically concerning drainage and storm protection.

In the past 11 years, the parish has received over $200 million from the state for various projects.

“We build the Morganza system. Now we have to pump it out,” Dove said.

The pending Chacahoula-Gibson pump station will be the first built outside of the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Levee system.

“It’s a huge undertaking, and a job well done by my staff,” Dove said.

The parish is also working to install three permanent generators at the Houma Power Plant at a cost of $850,000.

Other ongoing projects include the Falgout Canal rehabilitation and floodgate, the Hollywood Road extension project, the Mayfield Bridge replacement, the Point-aux-Chenes floodgate and the Houma Canal lock system, Dove said.

The parish is using drones to map the levee system and create an app for emergency operations personnel to monitor the closure of sluice gates during storms. Sluice gates are used in smaller drainage canals to control the flow of water.

“There’s no system in Terrebonne for what to shut off,” Dove said about the gates. “We’re working to solve that problem.”

One of the problem areas lies along Valhi Boulevard, which is part of the Chacahoula Basin, he said. When water rises in that area, it can flood nearby neighborhoods.

Other major projects include the Petit Caillou lock in Chauvin, costing about $9 million. The U.S. Corps of Engineers has issued preliminary permits, and the project is expected to go out for bid in June, Dove said.

The Petit Caillou drainage project will deepen the conveyance channel and add a pump station in Chauvin.

The parish is also continuing work with the state’s Coastal Restoration Protection Agency to improve the barrier island system from Racoon Island to Belle Pass.

“I don’t think a lot of us realize what we have in Gordon Dove,” said Tony Alford, president of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District board. “We need six more years to get this stuff done.”

Mr. Clarence Williams completes his term on TEDA's Board of Directors

                           CLARENCE WILLIAMS                             BOARD OF DIRECTORS                                        2007-2017

                           CLARENCE WILLIAMS

                         BOARD OF DIRECTORS

                                    2007-2017

TEDA's Board President, Mr. Chad Hebert, shows appreciation to Mr. Clarence Williams for his time served on the Board of Directors. Thank you Mr. Williams for your generous commitment of time, support and inspiration to TEDA.