June 20, 2024

Cocoabar21 Clinton

Truly Business

Local business scored big wins even as pandemic wrecked 2020

3 min read

GNO Inc wrapped up their annual meeting last week, and President and CEO Michael Hecht joined Newell Wednesday morning to talk about the “Better Tomorrow” campaign and what’s next for the regional economy.

“Let’s talk about some of the key points that you guys opened up with last week!” Newell began.

“For starters, ‘Better Tomorrow’ is probably a triple entendre,” Hecht said. “Clearly we were talking about getting physically better, with the vaccines beginning to pick up pace. I saw the stats this morning that Louisiana has now vaccinated more people than we’ve had cases. 14% of the population has had at least one dose. We’re making progress there! The second point was that there are opportunities that have not been created by COVID, but accelerated by COVID that really played to our natural strengths as a region. And so if we do the right things today and capitalize on those opportunities, we can create a better economy tomorrow with more opportunity, and more diverse jobs for all of our citizens. The third meaning of ‘Better Tomorrow’ is that we’ve just got to always be pushing ourselves to try to continually improve, as a region, as corporate leaders, as individuals – because it’s that practice of continuous improvement, that’s going to actually allow us to become better tomorrow in every sphere of our lives. We talked about some of the wins from last year… we weren’t just idle and just dealing with the crisis.”

“Let’s talk about the wins,” Newell said. “I mean, obviously almost every week, you and I, we try to talk about those but we kind of get mired down in the challenges. There are some weeks, it seems like we’re just getting balls thrown at us in all different directions, seeing curve balls, knuckle balls, sliders… you know, just sitting there, you want a tennis racket instead of a baseball bat! I wake up and the news stories just going in cycles where there’s no positive news.”

“That’s right,” Hecht agreed. “It’s easy to get caught up in the acute crisis of the moment because you know, literally lives are at stake. Part of it’s the media, right? If it bleeds, it leads, and talking about Louisiana Pepper Exchange, expanding with a new facility in the Lower Garden District, that’s not going to get as many clicks, that is just the unfortunate truth. What we tried to do last year was to say, we have to deal with the acute crisis of protecting lives and protecting livelihoods, first lives and then livelihoods. But at the same time, we tried to keep churning out wins, even if they were just what we’d call singles and doubles, just to stay productive. And we had some singles, doubles, and even triples and a couple of home runs.”

Hecht continued: “I mentioned Louisiana Pepper Exchange. We had Medline, which finally decided they were going to go into Hammond with a million square foot, 400 jobs, $25 million distribution facility, which foreshadows the opportunities and distribution… We worked with Service Corp International. They are the company that bought Stewart Enterprises, they’re now the largest death care company in the country, and we worked with them to bring 115 jobs back to America from India and Mexico. We beat out other cities in the country to put it right down there on Clearview  in Elmwood. We had some real wins in tech. We partnered with Microsoft and Xbox to have game camp where we had 400 Louisianians coding to develop a game that they were going to then present to Microsoft. Jesuit grad Kevin Fortuna, who went to UNO, expanded his company here, Gramercy labs, down from New York. They also have locations in London and Dublin as well. Another FinTech company called Raystone opened up. Looking at these, these kind of very normal type of biz-dev wins, I think they’re important because they show that we have the ability to kind of fight off our flank, but keep moving forward.”

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below.

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