piSummit with a View

JohnPac vendors gather the Louisiana way. By Dominick Cross

If you follow Louisiana Hwy. 82 southward toward the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll encounter a scenic, two-lane road through small Louisiana towns and wetlands in Vermilion Parish. Not long after the road bends in a westerly direction, you’ll come upon the community of Pecan Island.

And if you were there Feb. 16 and pulled into the Pecan Island School Lodge and ventured into the gym, you would’ve encountered the first-ever JohnPac Product Summit taking place in the converted school’s gym. “We thought it would be a great way to highlight all of our products that we offer in a very unique venue for our costumers,” says Mary Ellen Henry, CEO of JohnPac Inc. “We had 20 national vendors here today showing their products, innovation in products.”

JohnPac manufactures polypropylene woven bags but is also a large packaging distributor, Henry says. “We probably have 3,500 different products that we sell.

“Everything you see in here we re-sell,” Henry adds. “We’re a very large distributor.”

And that includes protective packaging, such as bubble-wrap and stretch film, all on a large scale for an industrial company looking to package and ship their particular product. “We work with a lot of well-known brands,” says Henry. “So that’s one of the reasons JohnPac has been successful, because we try to partner with very well-recognized names in packaging.”

One of those is Sealed Air, the inventors of what’s known as bubble wrap to the rest of us, is also into plastic packaging that fits the form of whatever is being shipped, from lamps to electronics, and gets it there in one piece. “It’s amazing what you can do with thin plastic nowadays,” says Steve Meeves.

Meeves is based out of Houston, but he often travels to New Orleans.

“I thought it was kind of unique and different to come down here,” he says. “I’ve never been this far down before.”

KLW Plastics manufactures 3.5- to 7-gallon tighthead plastic containers that could pass as super secure gas cans. Its corporate office is in Monroe, Ohio, and it has a plant in Houston with another scheduled to open in Atlanta in August. “Only liquid chemicals would go in here,” says Tom Gruber, KLW Plastics’ national sales manager. “Powder and solid substances won’t because you can’t extract them.”

The containers have a wide mouth and a hefty screw-down lid to secure a range of liquids, including flavorings, drilling fluids, carwash fluids and micro-electronics slurry that can cost up to $1,000 an ounce, according to Gruber. “It would be like slurries that would be used for motherboards of laptops,” Gruber says.

Donna Friesner, manager of KLW Plastics’ customer service, said the containers are “U.N. graded for chemicals.”

In other words, the United Nations has set a global standard for the containers that can be used and accepted around the globe without inspections.

“Everything we do is up to a U.N. rating,” maintains Gruber. “But we’re the only company that focuses solely on tight-head containers. All of our research and development goes back into making the most efficient, reliable, dependable tight-head containers in the marketplace.”

“And we use 18 percent less energy manufacturing our product than our competitors,” says Gruber, “so that helps with our carbon footprint and sustainability.”

Gruber says when the containers are trimmed as they are being made it is a cost-saving measure on a couple of fronts. In addition, tight-head containers are recyclable — even before they leave the building. “We employ a technology called TCS, which allows us to take out some of the excess plastic,” Gruber says. It’s then used for soon-to-be-made containers.

Another of JohnPac’s vendors, Lantech specializes in secondary packaging solutions; it builds stretch wrappers, case erectors, shrink wrap machines, palletizers, and palletload conveyors.

Founded in 1972, Lantech has more than 65,000 stretch wrap machines worldwide and more than 150 U.S. and foreign patents for its stretch wrapping innovations.

“We invented the stretch wrapper basically in 1972,” Mike Dippolito, of Louisville, Ky., says of the family-owned business. “We’re represented literally around the world.”

Like a spider spinning a web, the semi-automatic stretch wrapping machine spins a sheet of plastic around a pallet of boxes on a turning plate. “This machine saves money on film; we use a fraction of the film as some others,” he says. “And it also saves on labor.”

The machines, the “bread and butter” of Lantech, according to Dippolito, are for “anyone who makes a product and ships it on a pallet.” That includes grocery stores to computer companies.

It’s called load containment.

Dippolito says the company’s Q-300 also has the ability to literally stretch your dollar as it stretches the film.

“That machine actually takes 10 inches of film and stretches it out to 30 before it comes through the head,” he says.

 

registerJanuary retail sales jump [16.5%]

Coming off a year-over-year increase of almost 11 percent and bolstered by the building material and food categories (we are, after all, now the “South’s Tastiest Town”), Lafayette Parish retail sales in January were 16.5 percent higher than January 2011. Building materials and food increased 37.5 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively.

The momentum from a strong holiday shopping season appears to be carrying over into 2012, as the parish’s January retail sales totaled more than $427 million. Sales of more than $566 million in December pushed 2011 total retail activity to $5.34 billion — the second highest year on record after 2008. December sales were the highest recorded for any December, with the final tally for all of 2011 reflecting a 10.9 percent increase over 2010.

“Seeing strong retail sales numbers in January will continue to boost local consumer confidence levels in the first quarter,” says Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. “National estimates for February retail sales are promising, and we see no reason to expect local retail sales to veer from that trajectory.”

For January, all other categories showed increases over 2011, except furniture, which is down 9.7 percent from 2011. The general merchandise category, which finished 2011 down less than 1 percent, saw a 5.1 percent increase.

— Leslie Turk

By The Numbers

10,300

Number of jobs Lafayette reportedly gained in the 12-month period ending in January, representing the highest employment growth (7 percent) of the eight metropolitan statistical areas in the state. Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission

 

IberiaBank buying Florida Gulf Bank

IberiaBank is making good on its plans to continue expanding its financial footprint in Florida: The Lafayette-based bank has agreed to purchase Florida Gulf Bank in a deal worth $43.7 million.

Pending shareholder approval, the acquisition could be finalized by the third quarter of this year, according to a release from IberiaBank. Florida Gulf Bank has eight offices in the Fort Meyers-Cape Coral market and boasts $350 million in assets, $262 million in loans and $279 million in deposits. Florida Gulf also has $16.4 million in “non-performing” assets.

The definitive agreement calls for Florida Gulf Bank shareholders to receive $23 in IberiaBank common stock for each share of Florida Gulf common stock outstanding. IberiaBank has also agreed to fork over more cash (up to $4.4 million) if certain loans are resolved within three years of the acquisition.

IberiaBank entered the Florida market in 2009 when it purchased two failed banks, Orion Bank in Naples and Century Bank in Sarasota. The publicly traded Lafayette-based bank, which has 173 banking offices in six states and mortgage reps in 12 states, continued its Florida expansion in early 2011 when it purchased $700,000 in unspecified assets of Florida Trust Company.

The Florida Gulf Bank purchase comes a little more than a year after IberiaBank announced its acquisition of Metairie-based Omni Bank, a $40 million stock deal that carried IberiaBank into the top five ranking in the New Orleans area. The deal marked IberiaBank’s first Louisiana acquisition in seven years. Three weeks after revealing its plans to buy Omni Bank, IberiaBank announced its acquisition of Cameron State Bank of Lake Charles, which added 22 branches and $706 million in assets to IberiaBank’s portfolio.

The latest acquisition announcement also falls on the heels of IberiaBank’s 125th birthday, which the bank celebrated the week of March 12 with iPad giveaways, free gasoline and other events to commemorate the milestone.

— Heather Miller

newspaper$32 Million

Amount the CEO of The Daily Advertiser’s parent company got in severance when he resigned last year citing health problems.

During his stint with Gannett, the parent company of the USA Today and 80 other American newspapers, Craig Dubow slashed some 20,000 jobs, including positions right here in Lafayette. In noting his departure, The Wall Street Journal wrote: “His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster. Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns. Never a standout in journalism performance, the company strip-mined its newspapers in search of earnings, leaving many communities with far less original, serious reporting.” The Journal was pointing out the irony of a USA Today editorial, “5 Good Reasons Why Wall Street Breeds Protesters,” that ran the week after Dubow’s departure: “The bonus system has gone beyond a means of rewarding talent and is now Wall Street’s primary business,” the newspaper editorial stated, adding: “Institutions take huge gambles because the short-term returns are a rationale for their rich payouts. But even when the consequences of their risky behavior come back to haunt them, they still pay huge bonuses.”

Citing March 16 regulatory filings, NPR noted that Dubow’s final compensation package includes $12.8 million in retirement benefits, $6.2 million in disability benefits and a $5.9 million severance payment. Gannett stock options and restricted stock, which Dubow had accrued during his years of employment with the company and are valued at nearly $7 million, were also part of the package. In addition, the filings indicate Gannett will pay $25,000 to $50,000 annually for a $6.2 million life insurance policy covering Dubow and another $70,000 annually for benefits such as health insurance, home computer and secretarial assistance and financial counseling. He will receive most of these benefits for three years unless he goes to work for a competitor. NPR also noted that the company’s shares have rallied under Dubow’s successor, Gracia Martore, as investors hope that a new program to charge readers for online access to all of 80 of its newspapers will enhance profits.

stanfordNegligence, Rather than Fraud, Key in Stanford Case

Attorney hails appeals court decision as “the most significant for investors” since Stanford’s Ponzi scheme was shut down in February 2009.
By Leslie Turk


On March 19 the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a 2011 lower-court ruling, clearing the way for state court class actions against financial advisers, lawyers and other third parties accused of aiding convicted financial Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas had ruled in 2011 that the federal Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, or SLUSA, barred the state cases in Louisiana and Texas because they were related to securities fraud.
But the federal three-judge appeals court panel said that law was only “tangentially related” to the fraud alleged by the plaintiffs, the sale of bogus CDs issued by Stanford’s Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.
Defendants include Stanford financial advisers, SEI Investments Co., which was accused of inducing investors to move retirement funds into the CDs, and the insurance brokerage Willis Group Holdings.
Phillip Preis, a lawyer for plaintiffs who has estimated total losses of $1 billion among some 1,000 Louisiana investors, said the ruling was the most significant for investors since Stanford’s fraud was uncovered in February 2009.
“It will allow us to assert negligence claims,” Preis told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a big deal.” The plaintiffs in the Preis lawsuits affected by the appeals court’s decision claim that SEI Investments Co. and Stanford’s financial advisers, among them Tiffany Angelle and Hank Mills, both of whom worked out of the former Lafayette office in River Ranch, either knew or should have known that Stanford was stealing their money.
Preis also told Baton Rouge’s Daily Report that the ruling is significant because state law only requires that plaintiffs prove negligence, not outright fraud, on the part of those entities. Preis said the appeals court’s decision makes it more likely that those people will be made whole:
Preis filed the original class action suit in Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial District against the Stanford Trust, trust administrator SEI, a major international firm, and the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions. Defendants were able to move the suit to federal court, but the Fifth Circuit (Monday) remanded the suit back to Baton Rouge. Preis expects to meet with Judge R. Michael Caldwell during the next six weeks to set a new schedule for the suit. “All those big companies like SEI that supported Stanford,” Preis says, “we have a very viable claim against them.”
A Houston federal jury found Stanford guilty March 6 on 13 criminal counts, including fraud, conspiracy and obstructing the SEC’s investigation. The 61-year-old could face more than 200 years in prison at his June 14 sentencing, or a maximum of about 20 years if he is sentenced to concurrent terms, the Tribune reported.


hudCoach Hud Inspires Real Estate Agents

UL football coach Mark Hudspeth spreads his championship message to Van Eaton & Romero’s team.

For its 34th annual awards presentation recognizing the company’s 2011 top producers in both residential and commercial real estate, Van Eaton & Romero invited UL head football coach Mark Hudspeth to inspire its agents. Hud challenged the real estate agency’s employees to maintain the passion they have for their job while inspiring, motivating, and pushing one another to be the best — much like he challenged his football players at the beginning of their bowl-winning season.

Bill Bacqué, CEO of Van Eaton & Romero, reviewed 2011 statistics, comparing the firm’s numbers to the numbers posted by all firms in the area.

In a residential market with only a 1 percent increase over 2010 in closed homes and dollar volume reported to the Realtor Association of Acadiana’s Multiple Listing Service, Van Eaton & Romero contributed a 13 percent increase in total closed sides over last year to 2,544 sides, and a 22 percent increase in closed listing and selling dollar volume totaling $460 million. This marks a 31-year dominance of the local real estate market.

Van Eaton & Romero’s top associates, based on individual closed dollar volume, included: Charlie Baudoin, Lori McCarthy, Melanie Lunn, Dan Fuselier, Robbie Breaux, Priscilla Fitch, Penny McGehee, Sylvia McLain, Janice Simar, and Sara Whitney. The top five groups: Teresa Hamilton team; New Iberia team of Rebekah McGee, Lynette Bagala, Linell Champagne and Zonnie LaBry; and duos of Carole Horn and Calvin Legé, Judy Hagood and Marie Lee, and Bill and Sandy Stephens.

 

Healthier, Happier Meals

McDonald’s adds apples and fat-free or low-fat milk to its kids’ meals.
By Dominick Cross

 

mcdonalds


McDonald’s is making a couple of nutrition changes to its menu under its recently announced Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices initiative.

“Every new Happy Meal includes a choice of fat-free chocolate milk or 1 percent low-fat white milk,” says E.J. Krampe, local McDonald’s owner/operator. “And by adding apple slices, we are changing the nutritional quality of our Happy Meals and addressing a challenge children face in meeting the recommended daily consumption of produce.

“We are setting a standard for the industry,” he says.

Dr. Cynthia Goody, director of nutrition for the McDonald’s Corp., visited a Lafayette McDonald’s on Kaliste Saloom to discuss the Happy Meals initiative, which also includes the optional portion sizes and a 20 percent reduction in sodium that have been in place since 2003.

“What’s new with Happy Meals is that it includes apples and French fries with every meal,” says Goody, adding that the portion will be a quarter cup of raw apples and 100 calories of Kid’s fries. “It’s the best of both worlds: You get fruit and fries at McDonald’s in the same box and in the same meal.”

Goody says children will still have a choice of Chicken McNuggets, hamburger, cheeseburger, and beverage, which includes 1 percent low-fat milk, water, apple juice and fat-free chocolate milk.

“McDonald’s is about portion size, eating from the recommended food groups of the USDA My Plate and decreasing the amount of sodium, saturated fats, added sugars and calories,” she says. “And you can still have your fries, too.”

Goody says she wouldn’t characterize the changes as a revamping of the McDonald’s menu.

“We know that our customers love our world-famous French fries and burgers and triple-thick shakes,” says Goody. “And they want to feel good about coming more often to see us, so they’re asking for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat and fat-free dairy.”

With that in mind, Goody says the breakfast menu offers fruit-maple oatmeal, “a brand-new breakfast product, but it’s available all day with or without brown sugar,” she says. “And new, coming this spring, blueberry-banana nut oat meal.”

“There’s a lot of dialogue around health and well-being and because we feed 27 million people each day in the United States — which is roughly the equivalent to feeding the U.S. population one meal once every 11 days — we want to be a part of the solution,” she continues. “We want to be introducing more fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low-fat, fat-free dairy into the American diet.”

Goody says McDonald’s customers visit on average two or three times a month.

“There are no good foods, there are no bad foods,” she says. “It’s about what and how much you choose to eat. ... Everything in moderation.”

 

Acadian Contractors hiring 40-50 workers

Abbeville-based Acadian Contractors, an oil and gas fabricator serving the Gulf of Mexico for the past four decades, has won a major contract with Weatherford U.S. to build seven tanks for Marine Well Containment Company’s expanded containment system.

Headquartered in Houston, MWCC is a not-for-profit, independent enterprise that provides well containment equipment and technology in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The value of the contract was not disclosed.

MWCC’s Expanded Containment System is being engineered for use in water depths up to 10,000 feet.

Acadian will be providing material, labor and equipment required to fabricate and paint the tanks that will be mobilized in the event of a deepwater well control incident in the Gulf of Mexico; the project is expected to take three months to complete. Acadian has a workforce of approximately 300 and says it has an immediate need for another 40 to 50 skilled workers. The company has additional contracts that will run into 2013.

According to MWCC’s website, the expanded containment system is being engineered for use in water depths up to 10,000 feet and has the capacity to contain up to 100,000 barrels of liquid per day (and handle up to 200 million standard cubic feet of gas per day). The system will include a subsea containment assembly, dedicated capture vessels and a dispersant injection system.

Headquartered five miles south of Abbeville on the east bank of the Vermilion River, Acadian Contractors recently added an 11,500-square-foot climate-controlled blasting and painting facility.

Founded in 1972, Acadian Contractors is located five miles south of Abbeville on the Vermilion River. Acadian’s main yard is equipped with 1,000 feet of bulkhead on two slips with more than 38,000 square feet of covered fabrication area. Acadian recently added an 11,500-square-foot climate-controlled blasting and painting facility.

Acadian also has offices in Houston and Grand Cane, La.

— Leslie Turk


cochonCochon’s Link still in running for top James Beard award

Donald Link, of Herbsaint and Cochon fame, is still in the running for the James Beard Outstanding Chef award, the highest honor the prestigious awards bestow on an individual chef.

The Acadiana native is competing against:
· David Chang, Momofuku Ssam Bar, New York City
· Gary Danko, Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco
· Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York City
· Paul Kahan, Blackbird, Chicago
· Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Link, who opened a location of Cochon in River Ranch last year, won the James Beard Best Chef: South award in 2007; Cochon co-founder/chef Stephen Stryjewski won it last year.
In the running for Best Chef in the South for 2012 are:
· Justin Devillier, La Petite Grocery, New Orleans
· John Harris, Lilette, New Orleans
· Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, AL
· Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans
· Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans

Justin Girouard of The French Press was named a semifinalist for the Best Chef: South award in February but has been eliminated from the competition.

The Beard Foundation Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals in North America. Winners in each category will be announced Monday, May 7, at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

— Leslie Turk

 

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