A downtown, non-profit organization with older, handsome, African American male members shared with me a need for an approximate $600,000 revolving line of credit to float the organization’s operations. A segment of their plan necessitated a need for warehouse space. They were open to locating in Orleans or Jefferson Parish. Their investment would be directed at the least expensive lease rate available for a warehouse operation.
In the middle of the discussion, the spokesman for the group said, “We’re going to Elmwood.” I asked, “You’re opening in Elmwood?”
The gentlemen responded, “JP is offering space at less than $4PSF and meeting a few other needs we didn’t even have to ask for. They offered it. We can get approval from one person. You’re not talking to this person, then that person, then that department has to weigh in, meanwhile you don’t even know if you even have a deal… When I talk to my investors, they are asking me about fixed costs. I mean, we might as well operate in Elmwood. It’s a good location and cheaper.”
When we think of Elmwood, what comes to mind? Retail. We forget that the retail center (Old Navy, Marshalls, Banana Republic, Office Depot, Applebee’s, Party City, etc.) is anchored by an industrial business park. This retail center does not stand on the shoulders of housing units alone.
Where is “Elmwood?” It sits between the City of Harahan and the unincorporated neighborhood of Jefferson. From 1960 – 1990, Elmwood was part of Jefferson. It has since been a census -designated place (CDP) with a population of 4,635, and simply part of the larger, incorporated Jefferson Parish (JP)[i]. So, why is it that no one says, “I’m going to look for shoes in Jefferson?” Everyone says, “Elmwood.” Elmwood, not Jefferson, Louisiana, houses important parish community assets: the Elmwood Business Association (an industrial business park), the Joseph S. Yenni Building for Jefferson Parish’s East Bank government offices, and Ochsner Health Center. These major services are within four short blocks of each other: South Clearview Ave. to Edwards Ave. This clustering of assets is similar to what District E has in geography: Read Blvd. at I-10 enters the New Orleans Regional Business Park. Read Blvd. also houses the New Orleans East Hospital and a former retail center.
JP’s East Bank industrial center is home to the Elmwood Business Association, roughly one acre in size, and made primarily of warehoused businesses. These industrial businesses and parish government, office workers anchor the landscaped Elmwood Shopping Center development fronting Clearview Parkway without us even knowing it. The retail center that all of us immediately think of camouflages Jefferson Parish’s major employment cluster tenants: Parish Government President and Council with departmental offices first and foremost, as well as, Coke-a-Cola, Gibbs Construction, Compass Furniture, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and several other business tenants that patronize the shopping center’s eateries. The geographical name – “Jefferson” is not the area’s brand. “Elmwood” is the brand.
On June 20, 2020 (rescheduled from April 4, 2020 due to coronavirus), District E has an opportunity to elect a total of fourteen (14) responsive members to the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee (OPDEC). I am asking for your VOTE.
As a member of OPDEC, I promise to assist District E residents with electing officers that understand and share a vision of economic opportunity and parity in all initiatives and policies underway. I will improve collaboration in the party to maximize economic opportunities that ultimately fund our community’s important public services.
To build new business ventures and attract investment, District E must elect collaborators, a committee of people with a shared vision, voice, and commitment for our community. By working collaboratively, we can win federal, state, and local infrastructure and economic development funding awards.
In this article, one critical initiative is shared to immediately best impact all other community needs in District E. District E has important industrial business assets in the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East that should lead our district’s branding. These assets are multi-million/billion-dollar investments. With attractive housing options, incomes, population, education, health, and crime statistics stabilizing in our district, we now have time to immediately place a new focus on increasing economic opportunity in District E’s business core: The New Orleans Regional Business Park. By making this a targeted economic focus, it is easier to attract new enterprises, new job seekers, and new homeowners to District E. We must apply to the federal government and state for capital funding to beautify, market, and give technical assistance to District E’s primary economy: Industrial Development.
My achievable vision builds a notable, multi-state, Gulf Coast recognized, industrial ecosystem, centered in the District E – New Orleans Regional Business Park. This 100 plus business cluster currently houses enterprises in transportation, logistics, manufacturing, retail, food/beverage, processing, and import/export businesses along unsightly streets.
Newly planned and built streetscape, capital projects funded for District E by the Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, Economic Development Authority and multiple state and city departments have the almost, non-competitive ability to execute new, LOCAL, small business contracts for needed work in what should be an innovative industrial center. Stakeholder planning, construction, installation, marketing, and technical assistance can generate new opportunities in arguably the City of New Orleans’ last, catalytic site for recovery and revitalization: The New Orleans Regional Business Park in District E. Major thoroughfares to target infrastructure investment include: Chef Hwy., Old Gentilly Rd., France Rd., I-510, I-10, Read Blvd., Bullard Ave., and Crowder Blvd.
In addition to building support for various community development needs, I look forward to assisting the below priorities:
- 2020 Census Data Collection Promotion
- Industrial/Commercial Corridor Infrastructure Planning and Capital Fund Development
- Industrial Tax Exemption Program Reform
- New Economic Opportunity for Small Business and Government Contracts that hire local
- New Property and Sales Business Tax Incentives for Employers Hiring Youth
- Equal Pay for Equal Work Wage Disparity Initiatives
- Art, Culture, and Tourism Asset Development
- College Tuition Lending Reform
- Home Ownership Financial Resource Promotion
- Parental Social Service Initiatives to Increase Household Income
- Youth and Adult Arts/Sports Playground Funding
- Coastal Erosion and Wastewater Management Improvements
As a community development relationship manager, I have 14 years of public-private partnership development experience in Bloomington-Normal, IL, New Orleans, and throughout the State of Louisiana. I excel at building relationships to implement complex, programmatic services that leverage diverse funding sources. My career experience includes cultivating partnerships on behalf of the U.S. Peace Corps, a national bank housed in seventeen cities, a regional real estate developer, and the City of New Orleans which provided an opportunity to manage city program writing, funding, approval, and monitoring.
District E residents can build Democrat Party collaboration to build local resource investment. Through timely program implementation and consistent communication, we can strengthen our local, political voice. Armed with passion, the community’s vision, and a know-how to succeed in implementing program outcomes, I look forward to working as a committee member of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
Affiliations: Kimberly Lavon Burbank has been a resident of New Orleans East since 1989. She is also associated with the TruFund Financial Services Advisory Board, HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, St. Bernard Community Services Block Grant Board, Lafayette Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation Steering Committee, Louisiana Realtors Association, Household of Faith Church International, Help Me Help You, New Orleans Regional Business Park, Renaissance Marketplace of New Orleans East, Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, Smothers Academy Charter School Board, Pride College Prep Charter School Board.
[i] Ser Amantio. “Elmwood, Louisiana.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmwood,_Louisiana.
Kimberly Lavon Burbank is a candidate for Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee: District E