Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Centanni replaces Thierry at Chamber SWLA

An incredible opportunity to move up the chamber ladder has one Acadiana native off to Dallas, but her old job is keeping another local talent close to home.

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 Centanni

Lafayette native Monique Thierry has joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as executive director of its Southwest/South Central Regional Office, located in Dallas. Thierry previously was vice president of public policy for the Chamber Southwest Louisiana based in Lake Charles. Her replacement there, announced July 18, is Abbeville native Marie DesOrmeaux Centanni, who is moving to Lafayette for the new gig.

Centanni will split most of her time between Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C, as an advocate for public policy issues benefiting the economic development interests of southwest Louisiana.

“Marie brings with her an expertise in local issue advocacy and strong contacts stemming from her years working in and around our state Capitol, picking up where Monique leaves off,” says George Swift, CEO of the Chamber SWLA. “Monique played an integral part in successfully establishing the Chamber SWLA as a key player for our region’s business issue advocacy on the state and federal level. We are excited for her to build upon her success and to play an even larger role in her new position with the U.S. Chamber.”

Centanni will also participate in the planning of the 2011 Legis-Gator Luncheon to be held on Aug. 19, 2011, at L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort. She has worked in journalism and media relations, including a stint as a reporter and anchor for KLFY-TV. She then moved to D.C., where she was communications director for U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and the USA Rice Federation while pursuing a master’s degree in legislative affairs at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. She returned to the state as capital correspondent for WAFB-TV and then joined Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s administration as press secretary. She now owns Centanni Communications, a legislative and media relations company.

In her new role, Thierry will build upon the U.S. Chamber’s legislative, political and grassroots efforts in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, formulating chamber policy for the business community in the region and communicating those policies to local chambers, associations and businesses.

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 Thierry

“We will rely on Monique to enhance chamber grassroots efforts and our ability to represent our members in the region,” said Douglas Loon, vice president for the U.S. Chamber’s Congressional and Public Affairs regional offices. “With her roots strongly planted in the regional business community, we are confident our members will have their voices heard loud and clear in the halls of Washington.”

Thierry, who led the Chamber SWLA’s government affairs efforts from 2005 until her July 1 departure, has already relocated to Dallas. A graduate of Leadership Louisiana and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, she served on the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business and Energy and Environment committees, overseeing and developing strategies for environment issues, offshore oil revenue sharing, hurricane recovery efforts, infrastructure, redistricting, coastal protection/restoration, education and energy.

Thierry previously held various leadership roles in Louisiana state and federal politics and served in several administrations, including those of former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial and then Lt. Gov. Blanco.


Chamber SWLA, a U.S. Chamber accredited member organization, is a member of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.


Kleinpeter’s crème de la crème

Three years after introducing its ice cream line, Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has kicked it up a notch — and no doubt a significant number of fat grams ­— with Crème de la Kleinpeter, which first hit Lafayette grocery store shelves July 19.

“We are launching this line because our customers have been asking us for a really rich line, a super premium that incorporates exquisite ingredients from around the world, yet includes some of our Louisiana dessert favorites such as tiramisu and crème brûlée,” says Jeff Kleinpeter, president of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy.

Crème de la Kleinpeter first appeared in Baton Rouge stores July 5, New Orleans July 12, and Lafayette and Lake Charles July 19. The nine flavors are available in pint sizes.

Kleinpeter says the company’s “ice cream chef,” Don Gerald, had been experimenting with higher butterfat versions of some existing Kleinpeter flavors, and asked for permission to play with some ingredients that friends and customers of the dairy had been requesting be included. Kleinpter decided to turn Gerald loose. “The resulting flavors are a combination of customer requests and staff favorites, almost like a private label,” Kleinpeter says.

The flavors include Tahitian Vanilla with Raspberry Swirl, Caramel Pecan Fudge, Strawberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Truffle, Blanche et Blanche, Crème Brule-A, Black Forest Cherry Chocolate, Toffee Mocha, Coconut Almond Crunch, and Tiramisu d’Italiano.

In January 2008 Kleinpeter opened the state’s only commercial ice cream plant with flavors featuring fresh Louisiana ingredients, and has added new flavors every few months. Increases in product offerings, service areas and sales volume have led to facilities additions and expansions. Most recently, at a cost of $900,000, the ice cream production facility in Baton Rouge was expanded and a new warehouse added.

Also, in April ABiz reported on Kleinpeter’s plans to build a new distribution facility on Pont des Mouton Road in Lafayette.


Jindal Signs Tax Credit Bill at Stuller

The Lafayette-based jewelry manufacturer is one of hundreds of companies using the state credit for innovation.

Gov. Bobby Jindal was in Lafayette in early July, joining Stuller Inc. Chairman Matt Stuller at the company’s Lafayette headquarters, to sign SB 135 by Sen. Dan Claitor into law. Part of the governor’s 2011 legislative package, the measure extends Louisiana’s Research and Development Tax Credit for another six years.

Jindal noted that the state’s R&D tax credit has spurred growth at more than 200 companies in the past three fiscal years alone.

“Research and development work is the lifeblood of innovative companies,” the governor said. “By extending Louisiana’s R&D Tax Credit through 2019, we’re sending a signal that we want to encourage companies to spend more on innovation and to find new ways to be more competitive in the marketplace. By focusing as a state on research and development, we’re helping to create a new generation of jobs and greater opportunity for Louisiana’s economy.”

Louisiana converted its R&D incentive from a transferable tax credit to a refundable one in 2009, allowing companies more flexibility in obtaining a refund. Since that change, the number of applicants for the credit has increased significantly.

Stuller, which employs 1,200 people at its Lafayette headquarters, used the incentive for advanced manufacturing research and development. The company applied credits to more than $6 million in qualified R&D spending over a recent two-year period.

“Louisiana’s manufacturing R&D tax credits make Stuller much more competitive as we vie in the global jewelry market with innovative and revolutionary technologies,” said founder Matt Stuller.

The research and development credits passed in the Legislature will work to continue the progress made in innovation around the state, according to Claitor. “By growing and cultivating the industries of the future, we’re working to make sure Louisiana is a part of the growth that accompanies the successes of research and development companies, which benefits all of us,” he said.

Larger companies like Stuller Inc. can qualify for an 8 percent tax credit, while smaller companies (50 to 100 employees) can qualify for 20 percent tax credits and still smaller, emerging R&D firms can obtain a tax credit of up to 40 percent.

The approximately 200 companies that have utilized the R&D tax credit in the past three fiscal years have obtained credits valued at $30.6 million, which spurred R&D spending in the state of $483.4 million. Since 2007, the R&D tax credit has supported more than 5,000 jobs in Louisiana, according to Louisiana Economic Development. For every $1 issued in tax credits, some $34 in overall economic output is generated in the state, LED estimates.

To learn more about Louisiana’s Research and Development Tax Credit, visit OpportunityLouisiana.com and click on state business incentives.


20110727-Abizturkfile-0104Keep An Eye On This Guy
Crawfish Town USA’s Colt Patin is a ‘Chef to Watch’ for more reasons than the great food he turns out.
By Anna Purdy

Another local chef is on the statewide radar. Colt Patin of Breaux Bridge’s Crawfish Town USA has been selected by Louisiana Cookin’ magazine as a 2011 Chef to Watch.

Don’t be deceived by the fact that Patin graduated just this past January from the Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge with an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a concentration in advanced baking and pastries, for he already has a long career in Louisiana kitchens: assistant sous chef at Café des Amis, breakfast chef at Prejean’s and executive chef at Clementine’s in New Iberia. Crawfish Town, owned by Johnny and Wendy Hebert, is where Patin has made his home-away-from home since the Heberts purchased it in 2005. He was promoted to executive chef in 2008.

Louisiana Cookin’ notes this year its network of culinary enthusiasts around the state nominated a record number of chefs for consideration for the prestigious award. The list was then narrowed down to “five talented young chefs who possess an understanding and respect for Louisiana’s unique culinary heritage while exhibiting the creativity and energy needed to engage today’s diners,” according to the magazine. Joining Patin in receiving the 2011 Chefs to Watch Awards are Cory Bahr, executive chef-owner of Restaurant Sage in Monroe and 102 A Bistro in Ruston; Drew Dzejak, executive chef of The Grill Room at the Windsor Court in New Orleans; Nathan Gresham, executive chef-owner of Beausoleil in Baton Rouge; and Philip Lopez, executive chef of Rambla in New Orleans.

Patin’s traditionally Cajun menu at Crawfish Town was a big hit with the judges. Featuring plenty of seafood and spice, the menu changes it up every four to six months for a seasonal and new flair. There is crawfish, frog legs, redfish, shrimp and more. If that doesn’t float your boat, try the filet mignon, the sirloin, steak, ribs or chicken. Located at 2815 Grandpoint Highway, Crawfish Town is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Patin’s philosophy is to keep food simple yet with enough kick to stand up to the best of what traditional Louisiana restaurants have to offer.

The Chef to Watch every year hosts a gala that announces and praises the selected chefs, who each prepare a five-course meal. The gala is open to the public and raises money for Café Reconcile, an innovative program that takes teenagers deemed “at-risk youth” and teaches them the culinary trade. Working in conjunction with the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, the kids are trained and put into job placement programs. Tickets are available through the Louisiana Cookin’ site; the Aug. 22 gala will be held at the Theatre in Harrah’s in New Orleans.

Café Reconcile is located at 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans. It is open to the public and has fantastic lunch specials prepared by the kids and overseen by cooks, teachers and chefs who work with the children. This program also helps kids secure financial aid for further schooling as well as offering support for abuse issues.

Patin himself is no stranger to charity. A few years ago he and his family founded the non-profit Heartstrings & Angel Wings, which helps to clothe premature babies. This foundation is close to Patin’s heart. Three years ago his son, Heath, was born at only 25 weeks — 16 weeks premature and weighing a little more than a pound. When Patin and his wife, Heidi, learned that clothes for premature babies were incredibly expensive, they founded this charity to bring shirts, gowns, hats, blankets, incubator covers and other items to families struggling to nurse preemies back to health. “Volunteers meet once a month at my mom’s house,” Patin says. “They make all the items that we donate to the hospitals.” Every March, Patin hosts a gumbo cook-off to benefit Heartstrings and Angel Wings. For more information about the charity or to volunteer your time go to heartstringsandangelwing.org.

This year’s Chef to Watch honor could not have found a more community-minded chef. On top of his own charity, Patin supports G.U.M.B.O. (Games Uniting Mind and Body), a track and field competition for kids who have disabilities, Palates and Pâté and Opelousas Catholic Tasters Dinner. He also judges the Iron Chef 4-H competition yearly in Breaux Bridge and supports the Jerry Lewis Telethon by cooking a dinner in the home of the raffle winner.


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Apple Partner Symposium taps Russo as keynote speaker

Frankie Russo, of the Lafayette-based interactive marketing firm Potenza, was the keynote speaker at the July 15 Apple Partner Symposium at the Hilton Manhattan in New York City.

With the recent success of independent Apple Specialist stores around the country, including Potenza client The Orchard, Apple has taken a strong interest in Russo’s expertise and marketing strategies in developing its brand. Founder and CEO of Potenza, Russo emphasized the value of establishing a strong branding message and promise.

Russo said the speaking engagement was an opportunity to speak to some of the top Apple retailers in the country about branding their retail centers. He discussed the significance of establishing a clear brand message along with the importance of using social media to build and nurture a relationship with the brand they were creating.

In addition to The Orchard, located on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, Potenza also represents Apple Specialists Mac Advantage in Memphis, The Core in Tuscaloosa, Computer Universe in Tupelo, Computer Village in Miami, Hardin Computers in Dallas, and Austin Mac Works and Compuzone, both in Austin. — Leslie Turk


New Orleans style boutique shopping meets Breaux Bridge

Shoppers in Breaux Bridge have several new and unique retail options all under one roof with the opening of La Boutiques De Pont Breaux, the town’s first indoor shopping center that boasts five stores — with more on the way — and a vision for expansion into a full-fledged lifestyle center.

The two-story shopping hub at 1800 Rees St. already is home to a FedEx Shipping Center, Oxlite of America and three specialty shops. Those boutique-style outlets include a gift basket-maker whose home business has overflowed into a full-time location, a chocolatier who offers a wide variety of one-of-a-kind sweet treats, and a clothing, tutu and accessory store for “little princesses,” according to the retail center’s website.

Others listed on the website as opening soon are Cenderella II Pastry, Ms. G & S Fashions Accessory, Flirtation, Rose’s Tax Services and Bella Arti, a fine art, photography, framing and photo restoration center owned by Sonny Monteleone.

“Our goal is not to be just another retail shopping establishment, but a lifestyle center, making life just a little bit richer for folks in Breaux Bridge and the surrounding areas through a more urbanized approach, including community classes,” says manager Ginger Schouest.

La Boutiques hosts a monthly Art Fair and Farmer’s Market and is also looking for instructors of all kinds to teach yoga, art and other classes in the center’s studio classroom. The floorplan of the shopping center includes a waterfall, atrium and courtyard.

Schouest says residents have offered input on what they’d like to see filling the rest of the space, like day spas for people and pets, an art café, a wine and cheese shop and a bath, body and candle shop featuring Louisiana products and essential oils.

“The sky is the limit,” Schouest says. “We want the community to view our facilities as a wonderful place to be, to shop, to eat, to relax, to learn, to people watch and to socialize. We are working hard to achieve that environment. Consumers can shop to soft jazzy tunes, relax in front of our waterfall, or simply browse the varied art from local artists, hanging on our walls while sipping a java. In some ways, it’s like a small taste of shopping in New Orleans. It’s fun. It’s unique and our boutiques are small, starting at 100 square feet and up, so it’s very personal.”

For more information on available merchant space, contact Schouest at 781-4312.


BP ups the ante on drilling safety

In its bid to resume Gulf of Mexico drilling, BP is promising to implement even stricter drilling standards than the feds are requiring.

The oil giant said July 15 that it’s learned lessons from last year’s tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion, noting that a new set of voluntary deepwater oil and gas drilling standards for its Gulf operations will demonstrate the company’s commitment to safe and reliable operations.
The announcement was made in a letter to Michael Bromwich, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The new voluntary standards are:

•BP will use, and will require its contractors involved in drilling operations to use, subsea blowout preventers equipped with no fewer than two blind shear rams and a casing shear ram on all drilling rigs under contract to BP for deepwater service operating in dynamic position mode.

•Each time a subsea BOP from a moored or dynamically-positioned drilling rig is brought to the surface and testing and maintenance on the BOP are conducted, BP will require that a third party verify that the testing and maintenance of the BOP were performed in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and industry recommended practice.

•BP will require that laboratory testing of cement slurries for primary cementing of casing and exposed hydrocarbon-bearing zones relating to drilling operations of deepwater wells be conducted or witnessed by a BP engineer competent to evaluate such laboratory testing, or a competent third party independent of the cement provider. BP will provide laboratory results to the applicable BOEMRE field office within a reasonable period of time.

•BP’s Oil Spill Response Plan will include information about enhanced measures for responding to a spill in open water, near-shore response and shoreline spill response.

The Times-Picayune reported that BOEMRE’s Bromwich said some of these higher standards might be included in new safety rules that his agency will adopt using a lengthier rule-making process, but that he would not want to act to impose new requirements before then. He did, however, say that it was technologically possible and economically feasible for BP and the rest of the Big Five oil companies to adopt the new rules. — Leslie Turk


20110727-Abizzachbarker-0101Kickin’ it with Acadiana Sports Leagues
A new business in Lafayette offers young professionals a mix of recreational sports and social networking to ease the work week.
By Andrea Gallo

Doctors, police officers, lawyers, construction workers and every profession in between face off for Wednesday night kickball as part of one of Lafayette’s only businesses dedicated to both work and play, Acadiana Sports Leagues.

Zachary Barker, the president/owner of ASL, moved from Nashville, Tenn., to Lafayette in September and saw what it was missing — a “fun, competitive environment” to “bring young professionals together and break up the boredom of a week.” That led Barker, who was a recruitment/marketing director for Nashville Sports Leagues, to start his own.

ASL is two-fold, the first being the athletic, competitive aspect. Spring leagues include kickball, dodgeball, co-ed flag football and men’s flag football, while softball, basketball and soccer should start soon, Barker says. Along with sports, ASL also offers team trivia, which Barker says gets just as competitive, if not more, as the sports on the field.

What makes ASL unique, however, is its social interaction component. Athletes must be 18, but are recommended to be 21, because after the games, the teams rendez-vous at Legends, an ASL partner, where each gets a free bucket of beer.

Another unique part of ASL is its referee audit, where after every game, the players evaluate their referees and give comments and suggestions. Barker said some of the suggestions have shaped ASL to become more efficient, like a ball and strike clicker for kickball, which transformed and improved the game.

“It gives us, as athletes, the ability to voice our opinions,” says 36-year-old Brandon Beard, who plays kickball, dodge ball and flag football. “It becomes a learning experience for the referees, for the league and for us.”

Barker and his players agree that after college, it is difficult to meet people and to stay active and in shape. ASL, Barker says, provides that environment.

“People are used to being active and having that stimulation,” he says. “When you switch into the real world, there’s no structure for those things anymore…we create that outlet for people to go out and have that break.”

Barker says people can sign up for the league and pay a team fee that ranges from $295 to $595, or individuals can sign up as “free agents” and pay $65, where Barker generally puts together a team of them.

After moving from Houston to Lafayette, Reginald Curry II, 30, signed up as a “free agent” to play flag football after learning about ASL from Facebook. Curry plays co-ed and men’s flag football and says he wants to play basketball once the summer league starts.

Chris Byrd, 33, also signed up as a “free agent” for flag football and says he was impressed with “how we quickly molded into a team.”

“We all became friends…we were able to practice and get to know each other,” Byrd says.

In order to make co-ed football as fair as possible, Barker says, they devised specific rules that force teams to incorporate women if they want to win, like bonus points if women catch the football or score a touchdown.

Curry and Beard say they are amazed at the women’s competitiveness. Curry says it makes the game “a team effort,” and Beard, whose team won the co-ed flag football playoffs last season, says his team meets to strategize and draw plays.

Kickball “epitomizes what ASL is,” Barker says. Because it requires no special skill set, athletic people don’t have much of a leg up over more inexperienced people and it’s fun and competitive.

Liz Webb, 28, says this is her second season playing kickball and she looks forward to Wednesday night games and loves the competitiveness of her team and the people she’s met.

“It’s a casual, no-intimidation atmosphere for networking in such a non-pressured way,” she says.

Webb came in second place and Beard came in first place with Neal Bertrand in ASL’s all-star competition, where players had to get Facebook likes on their ASL photos to win. The social-media driven competition was a way for Barker to spread the word about ASL to people in the community.

Curry says Barker also awarded him the opportunity to be an extra in The Daisy Chain, a local film that needed football players.

ASL’s current challenge is finding facilities to play in, and Barker is always looking for fields and gyms and hoping to partner with a school or church. He says once ASL is running efficiently and he’s able to empower people in Lafayette to run the company, he hopes to expand to the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.

“It’s become a matter of learning how to become efficient,” he says. “Before we hire someone I want to make sure we’re in full capacity.”



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