The Switch Is On

The Opportunity Machine’s latest tool aims to create a workspace that promotes interaction between startups. By Wynce Nolley

Downtown Lafayette is starting to see a new trend in pod-style, pay-as-you-go office space rentals.

In its March 30-April 26 issue, ABiz reported on the conversion of a building on the 400 block of Jefferson Street into what’s now been officially dubbed The Offices @ 444 Jefferson Street. The latest addition is The Switch, a pet project of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority set to open at the end of May.

“The Switch is a shared workspace environment designed to foster an open, entrepreneurial culture that will serve as a hotbed of business growth and collaboration,” says Bob Miller, executive director of the Opportunity Machine, a business accelerator and incubator focused on developing technology-intensive companies in the region. “Lafayette’s entrepreneurial spirit is what makes the region unique and a perfect test bed for innovative collaborations.”

Those who seek The Switch and its 100 Central St. address will have the opportunity to rent a desk on a month-to-month basis without a long-term contract. These tenants will have access to high-speed Internet, local phone service, and shared spaces such as conference rooms and break areas. Rental prices for facilities at The Switch are still being determined.

“The OM staff and steering committee saw a need for this type of workspace in Lafayette,” says Miller. “As a shared workspace, it is specifically designed to promote interaction between the tenants — there are no cubicles or walls between workstations. Creative professionals want to work in the heart of Lafayette’s arts and entertainment district, and this concept will provide office space to individuals who may have previously worked from their home or other venues, helping to strengthen the creative, professional network that is growing in downtown Lafayette.”

In the same tradition as The Offices at 444 Jefferson Street, The Switch is modeled after these types of workspaces seen in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other major cities around the country. The Switch serves as an extension of the Opportunity Machine and aims to reach entrepreneurs at an earlier stage than those served by the OM Membership Program.

According to Miller, OM is a community-wide collaboration created by LEDA, the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, the BI Moody III College of Business Administration and the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL, and the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce to be the single vehicle to bring together all of Lafayette’s technological resources and infrastructure for new business development. Its mission is to “accelerate wealth creation by immersing technology wildcatters into a fiber-powered community of innovators.”

The Switch is actually the second of what the organization calls an EcoZone, with the first located at LITE, which is where OM houses its current members, one of which is digital media studio Pixel Magic.

“The OM works to create a technology ecosystem in Lafayette that fosters the right environment to recruit and retain the entrepreneurial and creative class,” Miller adds. “The goal is to create a growth spiral of demand and supply for technology-related businesses — led by students and graduates of UL Lafayette, our neighbors and our friends — while giving a home to the entrepreneurial and creative spirit that exists in our community.”

Tenants will also have the opportunity to participate in 1st Gear, the OM’s business boot camp, as well as other courses and community events designed to educate start-ups on various aspects of business development.

“The OM’s goal is to graduate enough entrepreneurs to fill every available office space in the community,” Miller says. “The Opportunity Machine is about growing businesses. The Switch is simply a tool to do so in an environment that is conducive to creative development by individuals or small teams.”

Contact Wynce Nolley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Cox launches ‘TV Online’


In early May, Cox Communications announced the launch of “TV Online,” which allows its customers to view TV and movies anytime and anywhere at the site cox.com/tv.

For no extra charge, Cox’s video customers can watch movies and TV shows from broadcast, cable and premium networks on their computers. The content includes:

•Broadcast TV shows
•Shows from cable networks like TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and TruTV
•Thousands of movies: hit Hollywood titles, independent films and kids’ favorites from networks like HBO, Cinemax, Epix and Vutopia. (To access Epix or Vutopia movies, you must be a Cox Advanced TV Essential subscriber with Movie Pak or separate Epix or Vutopia subscription. For Turner content, you must be a subscriber to Cox Advanced TV Essential. For HBO, you must subscribe to both Cox Advanced TV Essential and HBO. All HBO content is accessed through the HBOgo website. You can find a link to the HBOgo.com website from the Cox TV Online webpage.)
•News and entertainment clips  
Customers only need a computer with a flash supported browser, a broadband connection within the U.S. and their Cox user ID and password, which requires a registration on Cox.com.

Many television shows will be available for online viewing the day after they premier. Cox says the TV Online site is designed so that customers can find content quickly and easily by browsing through the thumbnail graphics or filter for TV shows or movies. They can further narrow their search by genre, network or show name — even by movie rating such as G or PG titles.
 
Cox TV Online is an expansion of Cox’s current online entertainment options. Last summer, the company introduced the ability for Cox Advanced TV customers who subscribe to the Movie Pak to watch movies from Epix and Vutopia online. In December of last year, Cox began offering online access to select cable networks. Additionally, all Cox High Speed Internet customers have free access to ESPN3.com, where they can watch up to 3,500 games a year of college football and basketball, major professional leagues and international tennis and soccer online.

Graham Group rebuilding state’s seafood image

Lafayette’s Graham Group is among a trio of agencies selected to help rebuild the state’s nationwide and global seafood image. The three accomplished research, brand management and food promotion agencies are working together to reverse the state’s damaged seafood image that resulted from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, says his organization chose New Orleans-headquartered GCR & Associates as lead agency, along with Graham Group and The Food Group in New York. All three agencies have longtime ties promoting Louisiana, with The Food Group having represented the Tabasco brand for many years.

The Louisiana Seafood Board received 35 responses to its March request for proposals from many of the nation’s largest public relations, branding, advertising and marketing agencies. Final selection was made through an extensive evaluation process, including exhibiting “a genuine and demonstrated passion to work to help our brand,” said board Chairman Harlon Pearce.

“We know that the image of Louisiana seafood was significantly damaged by the Gulf Oil Spill disaster, and we are thankful that BP provided us with the necessary funding to begin to rebuild our brand,” says Pearce. “We look forward to working with these groups to regain lost market share and bring Louisiana seafood to new markets.”

April Home Sales Best in a Decade?

Although homes sales are down in 2011’s first quarter, there is strength in these numbers.

You have to buy Bill Bacqué’s argument to believe that April 2011’s home sales might just be the best month in a decade.

The Van Eaton & Romero official’s number crunching for his monthly residential market analysis shows that while numbers are down for each month of 2011, except for February, we may actually be up. If you’re willing to back out some anomalies.

“To put this into proper perspective, one must remember that in 2010 the federal government, in an effort to stimulate anemic national housing sales, was offering a hefty tax credit of either $6,000 or $8,000 to anyone who bought a home,” Bacqué says. The higher tax credit amount was for first-time homebuyers, the lower for previous homeowners purchasing another home.

The tax credit was also in effect for a limited period of time. Buyers had to have contracted to purchase their home by no later than April 2010 but had until June 30, 2010, to close the sale. The effect of the tax credit, according to Bacqué, was to inflate home sales in the first half of 2010. “Naturally, it also had the effect of dropping the level of home sales after its June 2010 expiration,” Bacqué notes.

That means 2010 sales through June clearly were an anomaly. In Bacqué’s assessment, 2011 monthly sales, with no tax credits, should be expected to underperform 2010. Data he gathered from the Multiple Listing Service show the April 2011 housing sales are down about 20 percent from April 2010 and sales are off by 13 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with last year’s first quarter.

But going back a decade he found that the 214 home sales reported in April 2011 were higher than the April reported sales in six of the last 10 years, the other exceptions being the post-Katrina years of 2007 and 2006. “Take these out of the equation, and April 2011 home sales would not be classified as a ‘good’ but rather as the ‘best’ month in the past 10 years,” Bacqué says.

The same trend emerges when looking at dollar volume. April’s 2011 closed dollar volume was down by just under 6.25 percent compared to April 2010. However, April 2011’s $46 million in closed dollar volume was only higher in two of the past 10 years (2010 and 2007). Cumulatively, the $127 million in 2011 sales volume has only been bested in three of the past 10 years (2010, 2006 and 2007). Additionally, the average sale price of homes is up over 2010, Bacqué notes, and the median sale price is unchanged. “This is indicative of a resurgence of buyer interest in upper-priced homes, those $300,000 and up,” he adds. — Leslie Turk

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