2009 came in roaring, went out with a whimper

Money critical to grow state’s ports
December 29, 2009
‘Greater Tuna’ a glimpse of Anywhere USA
December 31, 2009
Money critical to grow state’s ports
December 29, 2009
‘Greater Tuna’ a glimpse of Anywhere USA
December 31, 2009

The year is nearing its end. Along with it are the good times some would like to remember and the bad times many would like to forget. Whether low unemployment numbers or tax increases, ’09 had its fair share of ups and downs.

January ’09

• Rebuilding efforts continued in the wake of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave nearly $129 million to the Tri-parish area to assist individuals and public works operations. About $53 million was granted to Terrebonne Parish residents for housing expenses. FEMA provided temporary housing for 1,072 families in Terrebonne, 462 families in Lafourche and 316 families in St. Mary.

• Area hospitals catapulted to the front lines of the health-care industry. After an 18-month renovation, Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland reopened its catheterization lab, providing a much needed service to local residents. The hospital spent over $250,000 on upgrades. Thibodaux Regional Medical Center received the ’08 J.D. Power and Associates Inpatient Service Award. Greg Stock, CEO of TRMC, said the award highlighted the accomplishments of the entire hospital.

• Terrebonne Parish Council members looked at replacing Houma’s three power generators at around $180 million. Industry experts said the generators – which were built in the ’60s and ’70s – were reaching the end of their life expectancy.


• The Houma-Thibodaux area saw the lowest unemployment numbers throughout the nation, at 3.5 percent. Louisiana added 800 jobs.

• The U.S. House of Representatives delayed TV’s transition to digital broadcast signals. The original Feb. 17 deadline was postponed until June 12. Area residents were busy taking advantage of sales on high-definition TVs and converter boxes that would allow them to continue using analog-style setups.

• Businesses throughout Houma hit a milestone; some celebrating nearly 50 years of success. The Southland Mall opened in Feb. 28, 1969. It has since become a haven for shoppers in the Bayou Region. Rouses supermarket was among notables, with operations starting in the ’50s.

• L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College emerged as a frontrunner in preparing students for work in local marine and petroleum based industries. By February, the college was seeing 2,000 students yearly at its Louisiana Marine and Petroleum Institute (LAMPI).


• Local gyms began the fight to bring in business, literally. After a $250,000 renovation, Body Elite expanded its operations to include boxing and mixed martial arts. Advocates of the sport said they hoped for increase support from the community and elected officials.

• Industry experts started singing unpopular notes, expecting the price of oil to rise sharply in August ’09. With shrinking credit limits, oil and gas producers started having trouble bringing in necessary funds. Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said oil prices would spike when producers could not meet demand. He also scrutinized the Obama Administration as not having a clue about the situation.

• Supermarket pioneer Anthony Rouse Sr. – founder of Rouses – died at age 79. He was hailed as a simple person who enjoyed life.

• Nicholls State University completed a $900,000 Geospatial Technology Center. The geomatics program, which is a blend of surveying and mapping, will prepare students to become professional land surveyors throughout the state. The center contains 25 computer workstations costing about $6,000 a piece and heaps of other “techy” gadgets.

• The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) issued badges to local businesses hoping to reenter the parish following hurricane evacuation. The badges were priced at $5 and allows businesses to assess damage caused by hurricanes to determine what needs to be done to continue operations.


• The economic impact of higher education was praised in light of possible budget cuts at the state level.

A study conducted by the University of Louisiana System explained that Nicholls State University’s annual statewide economic impact is about $274 million. The report also said the university supports nearly 2,800 non-university jobs. School officials used the report as a wedge against those wanting to decrease spending in the higher education arena.

• The relationship, or lack thereof, between the Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) and the South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC) remained undefined. Emerging from a tussle of unknowns, both organizations came to a standstill.

• Tax increases on cigarettes frustrated local smokers. The feds increased rates from 39 cents per pack to $1.01. President Obama signed the increase into law Feb. 4 as an attempt to finance a $32.4 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

• The Houma-Thibodaux area saw unemployment drop to 3.5 percent, the lowest in the U.S.


• Following the completion of the final Marine Protector-class Coastal Patrol Boat (CPB), Bollinger began work on Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) patrol boats for the U.S. Coast Guard. Construction on CPBs began in ’96.

• Louisiana Technical College in Thibodaux was awarded $362,500 by Chevron to begin a new program during the fall semester: Process Production Technology-Gulf of Mexico. The program provides students with a associate degree and the ability to work on oilrig platforms offshore and handle oil running through pipelines. Dr. Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College, said an increasing number of jobs are requiring more than a high school diploma, but not four-year degrees; a 2-year degree is becoming key.

• Nearly 80 employees at Nicholls University were expected to be laid off in efforts to meet 2010 budget requirements. The combined salary of those faculty members reaches nearly $1.1 million.

• Local sugar cane producers joined PepsiCo in introducing throwback brands of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Louisiana’s sugar industry brings about $1.7 billion in revenue to the state and creates 27,000 jobs. Instead of high-fructose corn syrup, PepsiCo decided to go “au naturel” by using all-natural sugar.


• The debate about health care heated up; residents and practitioners were urged by Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) to talk about their concerns in what would become the first of many open-forums. Many talked about increasing insurance premiums and complex changes to procedures and standards that would affect local health-care providers.

• State budget woes became apparent as the Legislature reduced the budget by 9.8 percent, from $30 billion to $27 billion. Critics said Louisiana was dependent on hurricane relief funding issued by the Feds, money that would soon disappear leaving the state in a bind. State Treasurer John Kennedy said the state budget should conform to the size of Louisiana’s population.

• Louisiana’s seafood industry was awarded $40 million in federal assistance following hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The money was given to dealers and fisherman hoping to rebuild.

• Despite national trends, home prices in Houma-Thibodaux continued to rise. Experts attributed increasing costs to a stable economy and the states heavy ties to oil.


• New Orleans attorney Keith Pyburn Jr. criticized the Employee Free Choice Act, which would essentially allow unions to represent employees at a workplace if more than half are in favor. He called the act unfair and one-sided.

• Peninsula Gaming LLC of Dubuque, Iowa, offered to buy the Amelia Belle riverboat casino for $106.5 million. The casino has 823 slot machines and 25 table games. The boat was slated to move to Opelousas, La. where the company owns Evangeline Downs race track and casino. Brent Stevens, CEO of Peninsula Gaming, called the boat a perfect fit.

• The Houma-Terrebonne Airport received a $950,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to install new lights on its crosswind runway. A contractor from Nebraska, DACO, was given 120 days to complete the project, beginning mid-July.

• A new $166 million toll bridge opened over La. Highway 1, replacing a drawbridge that was scheduled for demolition earlier that month.

Passenger vehicles are expected to pay $2.50 while trucks will be billed $5. Officials said the new bridge will aid in the growth of Port Fourchon, providing better, safer access.

• Cash for Clunkers began, sparking new car sales throughout the Tri-parish area. Congress spent nearly $1 billion nationwide to ensure the program was successful.


• The local economy got a boost with the introduction of several new “strip malls” in Terrebonne Parish.

Local officials said more retail stores would equal more sales tax, a good thing for the parish’s public works.

• A bill with more than $2 million in funding toward continuing construction of a new sugarcane laboratory and research farm in Shriever passed the Senate by a vote of 80-17.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said the federal funding would help ensure Louisiana remains a leader in the sugarcane industry for years to come. The new facility is set to replace one built in the ’30s.


• The Department of Energy provided nearly $300 million in rebates – via the stimulus bill – to consumers trading in old appliances, like refrigerators and dishwashers, for new ones. Customers saw rebates between $50 and $200 through the “Cash for Appliances” program.

• More oil companies were caught underreporting the value of oil and gas they produce, leading to a reduction in parish tax revenues.

Terrebonne Parish sued nearly 29 companies in addition to two suits filed in May ’09.

• The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) submitted a proposal to the Terrebonne Parish Council to create Tax Increment Financing districts. TIF districts would use projected property and sales tax revenues to finance infrastructure improvements throughout the parish. CEO Mike Ferdinand said TIFs are becoming increasingly popular.


• Construction began on a 143-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel located near the Terrebonne Civic Center.

The project was expected to cost nearly $21 million. The parish sold the location to San Antonio-based K Partners Hospitality Group for $794,970.

• Gov. Bobby Jindal secured $2.7 million in Community Block Development Grants to purchase 38.6 acres of land for Fletcher’s new college campus located in Gray. The school’s enrollment in Oct. was 1,823; a new campus would help accommodate the overflow of students.

• Local campground owners said business was doing well, despite economic downfalls. While tourists weren’t the main attraction at many parks, area workers seemed to find them accommodating. Linda Aucoin, owner of Linda’s Campground and RV Park in Gibson, La., said, “It’s all workers for companies working in this area.”

• The Louisiana Gaming Control Board approved the $106.5 million sale of the Amelia Belle riverboat casino to Evangeline Downs.


• A federal ban on harvesting oysters during warmer weather drew opposition from public officials and oyster processors. The ban was issued by the Food and Drug Administration and was expected to take effect in 2011. The ban was intended to prevent illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that thrives in warmer weather, which is more prevalent on the Gulf Coast. In order to efficiently rid the bacterium, new technology would have to be introduced to the local market, something the seafood industry argued against because of higher costs.

• Local inventor Joseph Boudreaux patented a new 2-cylinder engine. The engine uses a generator, a set of batteries and an electric engine to power a vehicle. Unlike other fuel-efficient vehicles, fuel consumption would be dependent on how long the vehicle runs.

• Heath Perkins, 30, was killed in an industrial accident at Elevated Boats Inc., a local liftboat manufacturer. A 400-ton fixed-crane fell unexpectedly at the facility causing the death of Perkins and injuring another employee.


• The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) officially ended its relationship with the South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC).

• Research focused on creating ethanol from sugar cane waste in efforts to produce clean fuel began at Nicholls State University. The university was one of many using a portion of $1.9 million in funding from the Department of Energy.

Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy, a professor of biological sciences at Nicholls said the funding was essential for the development of green renewable energy in south Louisiana.

• A fire that started in a second-floor apartment destroyed big Mike’s BBQ Smokehouse. The cause of the fire was unknown, but owner Mike Lewis vowed to reopen the restaurant.

• Thibodaux Chrysler confirmed consolidation efforts with sister company Southland Dodge in Houma. The Chrysler center was slated to close Dec. 31 after declining sales numbers. Out of 11 employees, about half are expected to transfer to Southland Dodge.

• A natural gas storage facility that would be located in Lafourche started the approval process. The facility would utilize naturally occurring salt caverns located about 2,000 feet below ground and would cost $200 million.

As fabricators work off backlogs, construction continues on LaShip – a $100 million shipyard being built at the Port of Terrebonne in Houma. LaShip is expected to be completed by March 2012. * File Photo / Tri-Parish Times