If you are a local then you know about Del Porto Ristorante in downtown Covington. The owners, Torre and David Salazzo, serve delicious Italian cuisine at the local restaurant. The Salazzos want to open a second restaurant that will have a broader selection of food and flavor with a laid back neighborhood vibe. Greyhound will be located just down the street from Del Porto Ristorante and will be a gastropub.

Del Porto Ristorante opened its doors to Covington in 2002. The Solazzos opened the restaurant in a smaller location than it currently resides. The original had just 10 tables which served “a fresh, seasonal take on regional Italian cuisine, and an alternative to the more prevalent local standard of Creole Italian.” In 2007, Del Porto moved to its larger location and then grew again taking over the adjacent storefront.

Although the new restaurant will be casual with a laid back atmosphere, it will be a cut above traditional tavern-style. There will be a wood-burning oven for pizza along with other fanfares such as burgers, tapas-style dishes, German sausages, fried chicken, Reuben sandwiches, matzo ball soup and beef short ribs just to name a few. Inspiration for the unique menu will come from the “family meals” that are made for the staff at Del Porto. The bar will offer bottled and canned beers with some offered on tap.

“It just opens up a lot of possibilities for us,” Solazzo said. “It won’t be a huge menu, but we keep on putting down all the food we like to eat, so it’s been growing.”

The Greyhound, named after the Greyhound bus station that once resided at 705 E. Boston St., plans to begin serving lunch and dinner in May 2020. Work on the building has begun and will include configuring the restaurant into a main bar and a separate pizza bar.

“In the years we’ve been here, we’ve seen a lot of young people growing up, we think there’s a need for a place like this that’s more casual,” she said. “We want to stay in our little downtown area and bring something new here.”

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Two major companies have announced plans to locate headquarters on the Northshore. Ampirical Solutions and Medline are slated to build two new headquarters in the area.

Ampirical Solutions LLC based out of Mandeville is an electrical infrastructure firm that specializes in design and construction of electrical substations and switchyards, protective relays and controls, transmission lines, distributions lines and related infrastructure. Customers include investor-owned utilities, municipalities, industrial plants, electrical cooperatives and independent power producers.

The company wants to take the existing St. Tammany Parish locations and combine them into the new 78,000-square foot corporate headquarters on a 5.5-acre site. The new building, located near Covington, will create 400 direct jobs over the next 10 years. The average salary will be more than $85,000 and will include the existing 120 current Ampirical employees. Indirect jobs are expected to be around 350 construction jobs that will result in a $20 million capital investment. The project is projected to be completed by the end of 2020 and would not be taking place without the help from the Louisiana Economic Development, Greater New Orleans Inc. and St. Tammany Corporation.

Medline Industries is the largest privately held company that is both a manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies and clinical programs. The company, based out of Illinois, wants to build a medical distribution center near Covington. The new center will manage packaging and shipment of all medical supplies ordered by the individual health care providers of the Southeast U.S. region, including items such as exam and surgical gloves, face masks, isolation gowns, reusable textiles, incontinence products, electrosurgical products and housekeeping supplies, according to the Louisiana Economic Development press release.

The 53-million dollar distribution center will be located north of I-12 and LA 21. The new building will replace the existing distribution center between Covington and Goodbee. The 800,000 square foot facility will create over 460 new jobs and retain the existing 36 jobs.

“As a member of the Louisiana community for more than a decade, we are very pleased to continue to grow as an employer and investor in the state,” said Bill Abington, executive vice president of global operations for Medline. “With health care growing so rapidly in the region, the location is ideal for easy access to health care providers while also letting us maintain and grow our current team. We are grateful to the state, Louisiana Economic Development and officials in St. Tammany Parish who have recognized the potential of the project and worked to bring it to fruition.”

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St. Tammany Parish residents are familiar with the I-12 traffic especially after the May 26, 2018 crash that closed the highway for hours leaving commuters stranded on the eastbound side. The state Department of Transportation and Development is ready to begin the first phase of the $55 million I-12 widening project.

The first phase of the three phase project will be completed by James Construction Group based out of Baton Rouge, LA. The two and a half year first phase will cover 3.26-miles of I-12 between US 190 and LA 59 which over 76,000 vehicles travel per day. A third lane will be added in both directions along with widening bridges over U.S. 190, Ponchitolawa Creek and the Tammany Trace.

“This (first) project is just one phase in the overall three-phase plan to widen this critical corridor to reduce traffic congestion along I-12 and strengthen this section as a vital economic corridor,” DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said.

Funds to complete the first phase will come from federal transportation dollars. Funds belonging to the federal transportation that were not used by other states were given to states that had obligated all of their federal highway funding.

“The widening of I-12 in St. Tammany Parish is a project that has been on the books for years but was not able to move forward due to funding,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.

As for phase two, which will include widening LA 21 and US 190, will take place west of the first phase. Bids for the second phase will be looked at in the Spring of 2020. Cost will be covered for phase two with a $25 million federal grant, $5 million from the state and $7.2 million from St. Tammany Parish.

Plans are also being made for the third phase that will widen I-12 from LA 1077 to LA 21.

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Good news for the new year in the nation’s economy sector. According to CNN Business, the housing market is thriving and will continue to thrive into the new year boosting the economy in 2020. Although the housing market is just a small factor in the boost, it still is important for the economy as a […]

The National Association of Realtors reported good news for home sales this fall. According to their data, home sales were 4.4% higher annually. This stems from the boost in newly built home sales, lower 30-year fixed rates and an overall increase annually in pending home sales. Across the country for-sale inventory has fallen but the […]

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors predicts a new-home sales jump of 11% to 750,000 in 2020. The forecast would be the highest reading since 2007. This will bring a rise to a 13-year high in sales of new homes. If this is the case, 2020 will definitely avoid a recession. […]

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) that was published last week reports that housing affordability topped out at its highest level in the past three years. This stems from both the low mortgage rates and healthy job market. “With mortgage rates at historic lows, consumers are experiencing greater buying power and increased affordability,” said […]

Felix’s is a staple on the French Quarter for those who are craving oysters and has been since the 1940’s. In 2012, Danny Conwill purchased the restaurant and has since franchised. Along with the original French Quarter restaurant there are currently two more locations, one in Gulfport, Mississippi and one on the New Orleans lakefront.

The new location in Mandeville plans to open in November 2019 in the Village Shopping Center (the old N’tini’s location). Robbie Orgeron, manager of Felix’s Restaurant Group is already staffing the new location.

While many characteristics in the old N’tini’s are still present, the interior of the restaurant was completely renovated. Orgeron said with this location they wanted to create a more open space for family and group dining.

“It’s the same Felix’s, but we’re designing it for the business we know is big here,” he said.

Dividing walls were taken down and replaced with a long banquette and bar and oyster counter. The dining room has a view to the grills where patrons can watch the cooks prepare their meals. Large TVs have been placed in the bar and dining room which will show games and other sporting events.

Mandeville residence can look forward to the bigger menu which is served in their lakefront location. There will be more entrees, and a range of seasonal boiled seafood such as shrimp, crawfish, blue crabs and crab legs(also steamed).

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Freddie Mac reported a small bump up in the 30-year rate in their last data released, however it is predicted that the rates will come down this fall. According to the latest data, the 30-year fixed-rate average is now at 3.65 percent with an average 0.6 point and the 15-year fixed-rate is now at 3.14 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Many lackluster economic views are putting pressure on the mortgage rates to fall. Bankrate.com reported that close to three-quarters of economic experts predict the rates will fall this week. The U.S. Treasuries rose and yields have fallen. The 10-year bond dropped to 1.6 percent at the beginning of Oct. 2019 and just two weeks ago, it was reported at 1.8 percent. When U.S. bonds dip, the mortgage rates usually follow.

“Fueled by low rates and solid home-buyer demand, this fall’s mortgage market continues to be busy,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “Mortgage applications for both refinances and home purchases increased last week, and the year-over-year gains were even more impressive. With rates expected to stay around 4 percent, overall activity in the final three months of 2019 should stay solidly above last year’s levels, when borrowing costs were much higher.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications are on the rise. Their report shows an 8.1 percent increase from the previous week’s report. The report also relayed a 14 percent jump in the refinance index and a 1 percent jump in the purchase index.

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The year is coming to an end and we have now seen the second cut in rates in 2019. The Federal Reserve announced that there will be a reduction in the key, short-term federal funds rate by 25 basis points to a top rate of 2%. The cut stems from a set of increases enacted in 2018.

Another big move on the Fed’s part was a reduction in the interest rate it pays on bank reserves. This move came in hopes to improve the ability of the Fed to target the federal funds rate in markets.

Concerns in the future economy has the Fed’s leadership in disagreement and their hold on the interest rate it pays on bank reserves in a weaker state. Fed regional presidents, members of the FOMC, had a disagreement that was the highest number since the year 2014. Three of the Fed regional presidents voted no for the change in in the rate. Two opposing it altogether and one urging a 50 basis point reduction.

Even with a few concerns the Fed’s still believe the labor market is strong and the economy is still rising at a “moderate” rate. This fares the same in the home building industry. Household spending is still going strong.

The action of reversing the high cycles of 2018 has been a positive in the decline in rates this year. This has been a net positive for what the future holds for the housing demand and home construction. This comes off the 10-year low for housing affordability that occurred last Fall.

The National Home Builders Association forecast there will be another cut before year end.

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