Week in Review, May 10-14: Robots in Shreveport, Russians Hack Pipeline …

NEW ORLEANS – In the new Netflix movie The Mitchells vs. the Machines, high-tech robots take over the world. In Shreveport, high-tech robots will soon be working alongside their human counterparts at a $200 million fulfillment center announced this week by Seattle-based retail giant Amazon and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. At the 650,000-square-foot facility in the Hunter Industrial Park, proprietary robots will be used to speed up certain tasks as workers pick, pack and ship books, toys, electronics, household items and other customer orders. Forget long walks to distant shelves because robots will move the shelves to wherever they need to be. The state’s economic development group predicts the site will employ more than 1,000 workers. This is one of seven Amazon facilities either open or being planned in Louisiana.

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

The seller’s market in New Orleans isn’t going away any time soon, according to data provided by the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors based on info from the Gulf South Real Estate Information Network. The median sales price of homes increased 13.8% – from $225,000 to $256,000 – in April 2021 compared to April 2020. NOMAR said the busy spring market means sellers are receiving multiple offers that are driving sales above asking price. In some cases, the market value of a home has even increased substantially between the time an offer is accepted and the sale has closed. Some sellers are making all-cash offers to stand out from the crowd.

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… Beau Box Commercial Real Estate announced that it has sold the former Target store location at the intersection of Interstate 12 and Airport Road in Slidell. The buyer’s identity or plans for the property have not been revealed. Target opened the store in 2003 and closed it in February of 2018 because of declining sales. The property – including a 125,000-square-foot retail building on a 12-acre parcel of land – was listed for $2 million.

… The West Jefferson Medical Center has announced the establishment of the LCMC Health Neuroscience Institute to care for Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, strokes and other related conditions “This institute will set us apart from other healthcare systems in the region,” said Rob Calhoun, president and CEO of West Jefferson Medical Center in a press release. “Patients can now receive the most innovative treatment so close to home. In addition to care, our medical team is collaborating with world-renowned scientists who are focusing on groundbreaking research to further advance care and cures for those in our community.”

… The Pan-American Life Insurance Group, founded in New Orleans in 1911, has signed a long-term extension of its lease at the Pan-American Life Center (601 Poydras Street) that will keep it in the city at least through 2031. The venerable provider of life, accident and health insurance throughout the Americas occupies a total of 84,014 square feet of office space on four floors of the building that bears its name. The company has more than 1,100 employees. “Pan-American Life Insurance Group is pleased to extend our office lease in the Pan-American Life Center and continue our long-term commitment to the New Orleans community and surrounding south Louisiana region,” said José S. Suquet, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Pan-American Life Insurance Group, in a release. “We look forward to renewing our promise to serve as a lifeline to our customers, their families and their businesses.” 

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Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

Offering comprehensive energy efficiency at no cost to the consumer, Entergy’s Energy Smart program incentivizes Entergy New Orleans customers to perform energy-saving upgrades in...

… Ochsner Health and Ochsner Hospital for Children hosted a media event today to explain why it’s important for tweens and teens ages 12-15 to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. William Lennarz, Ochsner’s system chair of pediatrics, said the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for an individual teenager. More important, “children and teenagers, just like adults, are capable of transmitting the infection, so as a part of a whole community, children need to be part of the solution in tamping down infection and spread,” he said. Lennarz said a child’s risk of getting serious disease or dying from COVID-19 are “quite a bit lower than an adult but we don’t want parents to think that children aren’t at any risk when they get COVID. In fact, here at Ochsner, we continue to care for dozens of children who have had more serious effects including multi-system inflammatory syndrome.”

… Seattle-based timber company Weyerhaeuser announced that it will invest $157 million over several years to upgrade equipment and modernize the sawmill at its facility in Holden, a town in Livingston Parish north of I-12 between Hammond and Baton Rouge. During the project’s first phase, the company will spend nearly $19 million to upgrade the site’s lumber kiln-drying capacity. The second phase will cost $138 million and will “completely modernize” the facility, the company said in a statement. Weyerhaeuser said the investments will secure 119 existing jobs and create up to four new ones at an average annual salary of $50,000. State economic development officials estimate the project will generate 225 construction jobs, with an estimated payroll of about $25 million.

… Galatoire’s is welcoming a third addition to its family of French Quarter restaurants with the debut of Galerie de Galatoire at 211 Royal Street, a block away from the original Galatoire’s and its neighbor, Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak. “We are taking a time-honored experience to a new level with the addition of Galerie de Galatoire,” said the restaurant’s President and CEO Melvin Rodrigue in a press release. “Our Royal Street location offers a premier space for luxury dining in the heart of the city, exemplifying classic New Orleans and French Quarter ambiance.” The new location on the second floor of the former Hurwitz Mintz Furniture building is big and objectively beautiful, thanks to a $2.5 million construction budget and contributions from dozens of craftsmen and artists.

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… The Associated Press reported that Republican House lawmakers this week began advancing a proposal to offer Louisiana residents receiving unemployment up to $1,000 to go back to work, but only if they give up their right to claim jobless benefits for six months. GOP lawmakers on the House labor committee added the language pushed by Rep. Mike Echols into a separate measure that sought to modestly increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefit offered in Louisiana. The vote to add the incentive provision was 6-5, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats in opposition.

And, as reported by the AP, motorists found gas pumps shrouded in plastic bags at tapped-out service stations across more than a dozen U.S. states Thursday while the operator of the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline reported making “substantial progress” in resolving the computer hack-induced shutdown responsible for the empty tanks. About 70% of North Carolina’s gas stations were still without fuel amid panic-buying and about half the stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia were tapped out, GasBuddy.com reported. Washington, D.C., was among the hardest-hit locations, with 73% of stations out, the site’s tracking service showed. President Joe Biden said Thursday that U.S. officials do not believe the Russian government was involved in the hack of the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey. But he added, “We do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia. That’s where it came from.”

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