Week in Review, Sept. 12-16: Leadership Change at Ochsner and More

NEW ORLEANS – On Sept. 13, Ochsner Health’s board of directors announced that Warner Thomas, the health system’s current CEO, is leaving to take the top job at Sutter Health, a Sacramento, Ca.-based nonprofit. Thomas worked at Ochsner for 24 years and served as CEO for the last decade. The board has unanimously voted to appoint Pete November, Ochsner’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, as his successor beginning, appropriately enough, at the beginning of November.

“It’s bittersweet,” Thomas said while recording this week’s episode of the Biz New Orleans “Biz Talks” podcast with November. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Sutter Health Center is a great organization and has a long storied history dating back to the mid 1800s, but I’m also sad that I’m leaving.  Ochsner is my family, my friends. We’ve gone through thick and thin together, and I really feel like we’ve made history together over the past 24 years.” 

Listen to Thomas and November discuss the transition on this week’s Biz Talks podcast.

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Here, from staff and wire reports, are more of the week’s top business stories:

The T. Parker Host group of companies has announced a $500,000 donation to support the NOLA Coalition and other charitable organizations. Avondale Marine, the former Avondale Shipyard, is a Host company. $350,000 will go to support the implementation of Youth Master Plans Grants via the NOLA Coalition Fund. $100,000 will go to support similar causes in Bridge City in Jefferson Parish, the east bank of Plaquemines Parish and West Baton Rouge. Finally, $50,000 will go to GNO Inc. for sustained management of the coalition. The funding will be spread over the next three years, and brings the total amount that the NOLA Coalition has raised to approximately $3.5 million.

Louisiana legislators are once again discussing a possible path toward eliminating state income tax. Lawmakers acknowledged, during Tuesday’s tax-writing committee meeting, that proposals to rid income tax is bound to meet massive fiscal hurdles, but others say it is necessary to help keep and attract residents, businesses and corporations to Louisiana. Republican Rep. Richard Nelson, who steered the conversation, described an overhaul of the state’s tax system as a “mousetrap” — allowing it to compete with states without income tax, such as neighboring Texas, that have seen faster and more significant growth. “When you look at the state and you look at the trajectory that we’re going, I think the tax structure in Louisiana is one of the fundamental things that’s holding us back,” Nelson said during the House Ways and Means committee meeting. (AP)

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The Biden administration accepted nearly $190 million Wednesday in bids from an offshore oil and gas lease sale that was held nearly a year ago but rejected by a federal judge. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s action was required by the climate bill that was signed Aug. 16 — a disappointment to environmentalists who worry about the climate impacts of offshore drilling, but praised by industry as a return to longstanding practice after an 18-month delay imposed by the Biden administration. The bill had a 30-day deadline for accepting the bids. It also requires the bureau to reschedule three sales that had been put on hold by a moratorium ordered by President Joe Biden, with the first of them to be held by Dec. 31. “We are pleased that the Department of the Interior has finally offered the first offshore leases of this administration, but it is disappointing that it took 19 months and an act of Congress to get us to this point,” said Cole Ramsey, vice president of upstream policy for the American Petroleum Institute. (AP)

New Orleans & Company, in partnership with the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund, 3090 x 3090 LLC and a coalition of New Orleans nightclubs and music venues will kick off the second annual NOLA X NOLA event on Sept. 23. Special performances are scheduled through Oct. 9.  To date, there are more than 50 venues and 300 musical performances around New Orleans over the 16-day festival. NOLAxNOLA was born in the fall of 2021 when Jazz Fest had to be canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, and it was such a success that we are making it an annual tradition. Building on the success of last year’s NOLA X NOLA, including many sold-out performances, the festival will once again promote New Orleans’ deep inventory of music options and concerts, and showcase the many talented musicians that comprise the musical landscape of the city.  “It’s important for our organization to support our music culture and New Orleans & Company is proud to be the presenting sponsor,” said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, the official destination sales and marketing organization for New Orleans’ tourism industry. 

A Louisiana judge has thrown out air quality permits for a Taiwanese company’s planned $9.4 billion plastics complex between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, a rare win for environmentalists in a heavily industrialized stretch of the Mississippi River often referred to as “Cancer Alley.” The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality brushed off its environmental justice analysis while violating the Clean Air Act and the agency’s duty to protect the public, District Judge Trudy White wrote. Opponents of the plans called Wednesday’s ruling in Baton Rouge a victory for environmental justice. FG LA, the local Formosa Plastics affiliate, said Thursday that it would appeal. “Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” said Sharon Lavigne, who founded the group Rise St. James in 2018 to fight plans for the plant. “The judge’s decision sends a message to polluters like Formosa that communities of color have a right to clean air, and we must not be sacrifice zones.” (AP)

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Louisiana’s $91 million plan to install a network of electric vehicle chargers across the state gained approval this week from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The department’s Federal Highway Administration reviewed and approved the Louisiana Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan required under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, created by Congress in last year’s infrastructure law. “Today, with funding in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking an important step to build a nationwide electric vehicle charging network where finding a charge is as easy as locating a gas station,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday. “With the first set of approvals we are announcing today, 35 states across the country – with Democratic and Republican governors – will be moving forward to use these funds to install EV chargers at regular, reliable intervals along their highways.” (The Center Square)

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