St. Bernard Gets Strategic

Amidst economic uncertainty, the parish is focused on intelligent growth.

St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation (SBEDF) doesn’t exist to simply attract business to our parish. Improving quality of life for St. Bernard residents is the cornerstone of our mission statement. Regardless of how much economic prosperity we put on paper, if that “prosperity” does not improve the quality of life for our residents, we have failed.

With this ever present in our team’s minds, we’ve spent the past year focusing on projects that directly support our way of life here in St. Bernard, while looking for ways to stay ahead of current trends and looming deficits in certain areas of our region’s economy.

Seafood Industry Expansion No single industry better represents our parish’s history and work ethic than our commercial fishing cluster. If you’re reading this article and have eaten gulf shrimp this year, there is a strong chance it came from the docks at Shell Beach on the fringe of lower St. Bernard and was probably hauled in by a family-owned operation.

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While SBEDF is positioned as a facilitator of economic relief for fishermen following natural disasters, we believe that our fishing industry deserves more proactive support considering its large contribution to our economy and culture. To better equip our shrimpers, oystermen, and other commercial fishing operators for growth, we’ve spent 2023 looking at the entire industry cluster to discover where our efforts can be best applied.

Our new parish president, Louis Pomes, has been vocal about our parish’s distinct lack of local seafood-processing operations, and rightfully so. While we possess some processing capabilities, the lion’s share of St. Bernard’s seafood leaves the parish to be processed. Thanks to the concerted support of our community, local business Tommy’s Seafood plans to open itsstate-of-the-art seafood processing facility by mid-2024. The impact of this project will be immediate and significant, helping to move us closer to our goal of expanding our parish’s seafood-processing, storage, and distribution capacity to 100% of our local fishermen’s catch.

Processing capacity isn’t the only growth target for our fishing industry. We’re also helping to facilitate the development of a major cold storage facility to serve fishermen as well as our ever-increasing number of grocery and supermarkets. Targeting federal dollars aimed at rural development, we also plan to facilitate the creation of a new open-air seafood market to act as a public gathering place that revolves around the bounty our parish has to offer residents and our neighboring parishes.

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Brownfields Redevelopment St. Bernard contains some of the most pristine, untamed natural beauty in southeast Louisiana but our hard-working, industrious past has left us with a few scars on our parish’s otherwise serene backdrop. Multiple closed landfills and industrial process sites have sat vacant for decades, adding no value to our small parish as we rapidly develop the surrounding areas.

In cooperation with the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (NORPC), our team was successful in obtaining a $500,000 Brownfields Program Grant in late 2022, which allowed 2023 to see tremendous progress toward the redevelopment of these blighted sites.

Both of our capped landfills are being assessed for redevelopment thanks to this grant funding. The old Paris Road landfill, originally capped in the ’80s, is being reimagined as sustainability-oriented commerce park. As part of that plan, the feasibility of a significant renewable energy component is being explored.

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Driving Innovation Home to both the Port of St. Bernard and maritime logistics powerhouse Associated Terminals as well as a range of other maritime-oriented operations, our local workforce has deep expertise working on the water. To leverage that expertise and position our parish as a leader in this space, SBEDF and partners are requesting support from the Delta Regional Authority to create a strategic plan for the development of a Maritime Innovation Hub.

The proposed project would likely include business incubator and accelerator programs, as well as dedicated offices and coworking space aimed at attracting blue tech and other maritime-related companies to our region. Similar programs have been extremely successful in Israel and Canada. Seattle, Washington, currently has the only facility of this kind in the U.S. Our proposed project would be the first of its kind near the Gulf of Mexico, offering maritime and blue-tech startups a launchpad in an area rich with water-related expertise and immediate access to one of the largest rivers on the planet.

Looking Forward Our team is always hard at work progressing a wide range of initiatives, but these types of forward-looking projects are something we’re all extremely passionate about. St. Bernard is one of Louisiana’s fastest-growing parishes, and we feel it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re supporting the industries that have driven that growth, while we try to help position the parish for future opportunities. We may be small, but we’re aiming at some huge targets. Keep an eye on St. Bernard, and I think you’ll be surprised with what you see. Things are booming downriver.

Meaghan McCormack is the CEO of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. Her efforts center on business retention, expansion, and attraction, strategic neighborhood development, workforce development and marketing the parish as a great place to live, work and play.


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