Week in Review, Feb. 14-18: Origin Materials, Syrah Resources, LCMC Health and More

NEW ORLEANS — This week, two “clean energy” companies announced major investments in Louisiana that could lead to more than 1,000 new jobs. 

First, Origin Materials, a California-based “carbon-negative materials company committed to leading the global transition to sustainable materials,” announced plans to invest at least $750 million to develop a biomass manufacturing facility in Ascension Parish. The plant in Geismar will use sustainable wood residue – sourced partly from Louisiana’s timber mills and managed forests – to produce plant-based polyethylene terephthalate used in packaging, textiles, apparel and other materials. In essence, the facility will use wood to make plastic. Hydrothermal carbon, which can be used in fuel pellets, also will be produced at the site. State officials said the project will create 200 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $99,100 plus benefits. 

Meanwhile, Syrah Resources announced plans to invest $176 million to expand its graphite processing facility in central Louisiana. The company said it plans to retain 19 employees and create 36 direct new jobs with average annual salaries of $69,000, plus benefits. Syrah said it will add 180,000 square feet of building and processing space to its existing 50,000 square-foot facility, enough to install equipment and systems for processing natural graphite into active anode material used in lithium-ion batteries for the electric vehicle industry. “Today’s announcement by Syrah Technologies is another example of how Louisiana’s commitment to a cleaner energy future can strengthen our economy,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in a press release from Louisiana Economic Development. 

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More Big Investments

LCMC Health has committed to invest $75 million over the next five years in a partnership with Louisiana State University that will support cancer research, treatment and education programs. LCMC Health, together with LSU, is pursuing designation from the National Cancer Institute, one of the anchors of the nation’s cancer research efforts, recognizing centers around the country that meet rigorous standards for developing new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. LCMC Health said it is also committing resources to support and supplement healthcare training and education. “LCMC Health is proud of our nearly seven-decade partnership with LSU and energized by this extraordinary opportunity to expand our work together,” said LCMC Health CEO Greg Feirn. “Our missions are aligned in teaching, research and discovery to improve the health and well-being of Louisiana. We are confident that this partnership will improve the quality of cancer care in Louisiana, and through research and innovation, contribute to enhanced cancer breakthroughs worldwide.”

The National WWII Museum has announced the third-largest individual gift in its history: a $7.5 million commitment to help complete the upcoming Liberation Pavilion and develop the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater. The pledge represents a significant milestone toward the completion of the Museum’s $400 million “Road to Victory” capital campaign. The gift from the Priddy Family Foundation, led by museum trustee Robert Priddy and his wife Kikie, will fund a new “immersive, cinematic experience on the top floor of the three-story capstone exhibit hall now under construction,” said a museum spokesperson. Liberation Pavilion, which is expected to open in late spring 2023, will explore the end of the war, the Holocaust, the immediate postwar years, and the war’s continuing impact today. The pavilion will house two floors of exhibit space featuring personal experiences, iconic imagery, impactful artifacts, and immersive settings.

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Entrepreneur Jade Brown Russell and supporters celebrated the grand opening of Maroon, a minority-targeted co-working space, on Feb. 15 at 1206 St. Charles Avenue. Brown Russell said the space will target technology startups and cultural-based businesses while serving as a “hub of black entrepreneurship, connecting a historic New Orleans neighborhood to the downtown innovation corridor and burgeoning medical district. With over eight out of 10 minority-led businesses failing at year one, we want to level the playing field, and really create true opportunity and equity for Black business owners in New Orleans,” said Brown Russell in a press release. “The goal of Maroon is very simple: build more Black-owned businesses through a community of kinship, alliance and power.”

Fidelity Bank officials hosted an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 14 to commemorate the opening of a new branch at The Rink Shopping Center in the Garden District. The renovated 2,100-square-foot space at the corner of Prytania and Washington streets will focus on personal banking. A full grand-opening ceremony with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and city officials is planned for March 22. The new Fidelity branch joins other New Orleans local businesses in The Rink, including Still Perkin’ coffee shop, realtor Eleanor Farnsworth and the Garden District Bookshop.

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Zip NOLA, a “swamp zipline adventure,” celebrated its grand re-reopening Saturday, Feb. 12 after receiving a near-direct impact from Hurricane Ida only a month after opening for business last July. Owners Tyler Richardson and Barry Gros Jr. said the Zip NOLA facility sustained a 12-foot storm surge that brought with it the debris from a nearby town. Special machinery was deployed to remove the wreckage while ensuring the protection of the Maurepas Swamp. Now, six months after Ida, the Richardson and Gros said they have exceeded all safety requirements as they rebuilt the course to previous specs. “It has certainly been a roller coaster of emotions,” said Richardson. “From overcoming the hurdles of actually building a zip line through the swamp to opening for just over 34 days until Ida, and now having to redo this process again.” 

On Feb. 17, Ozanam Inn and the City of New Orleans celebrated the shelter’s move into a 31,351-square-foot facility located at 2239 Poydras Street. The increased capacity is designed to allow the organization to care for more people— and includes space for new, secure dorms that can accommodate women as overnight guests and participants in residential programs. Since 1955, the nonprofit agency has offered free food, shelter and clothing, as well as healthcare assistance and other vital services. Over the last 16 years, Ozanam Inn’s programs have grown to include workforce development programs and training, medical rehabilitation, housing programs and case management. The new facility allows the Inn to expand its medical and dental services with a dedicated clinic suite, including four medical exam rooms, a large dental exam room and a waiting area. This gives Ozanam Inn’s partners at LSU School of Medicine, Tulane University Medical School, LSU School of Dentistry, Healthcare for the Homeless and United Healthcare the opportunity to provide basic healthcare to hundreds more individuals each year.

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