After the fall of the economy in 2007, policymakers want to keep a healthy balance in today’s economy. The Federal Reserve does not want to repeat what some economist consider to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to a statement released by the Federal Reserve, the labor market is continuing to strengthen and the “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate.”

This week Fed policymakers agreed to keep the rates the same for November 2018.  The reason for this decision was based on the continued growth of the American economy.  The Federal Reserve wants to make sure the growth stays at a healthy rate, neither too fast nor too slow. The benchmark rate, the determining factor for the cost of borrowing on credit cards, mortgages and other loans, will stay between 2% to 2.25%

Markets have gone up this month and the Fed will more than likely raise rates at the final 2018 meeting. This also suggest the rates will raise several more times in 2019. Policymakers explain that this is a standard reaction to the strong economy.  This will give central bankers some cushion if a downturn were to occur.

Not all of the aspects of the economy are at full force. Business investments have risen very little and the investors are curious to see if the Fed officials will anticipate a lower growth in next year’s forecast.

The job market is strong. In October, employers added 250,000 jobs.  Wages have also gone up 3.1% year-over-year. While this is good news for Americans, officials fear that low unemployment and higher wages might speed up inflation which could force the central bank to raise rates aggressively.

The economy is on the mend but still has a way to go.  Many people are seeing a pay raise but there are those who still have yet to see one since the up rise in the economy.  St. Tammany Public Works employees are hoping for a pay raise for 2019.

This hope stems from a proposal given by Councilman Richard Tanner during a recent public hearing. Tanner proposed a 2 percent raise to employees that work in the Public Works payraisedepartment. It would cost the department approximately $273,000 for the 2 percent pay increase minus the department director. He sees the raise is justified because the department has its own funding source.  This source stems from a dedicated sales and property taxes. Many others agreed during the public hearing on the proposed 2019 operating and capital budgets that the employees should be given a raise.

“Public Works does a fabulous job and it would be my pleasure to vote for this,’’ said Councilman Jerry Binder.

Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President, feels that giving raises to one department and not the others “is incorrect and wrong.”

“Everybody in this parish works just as hard as Public Works,’’ Brister told the council.

Brister voiced there is very little wiggle room in the Parish Budget.  The proposed sale tax increase was a no go with voters last election. The two sales taxes that were denied would have brought in $22 million dollars annually. The current budget that Brister will be presenting totals to $99 million and will be adopted by December 31, 2018.

As a community starts to thrive and grow, more and more businesses and residents move into the area.  Along with new growth, comes new buildings and homes in the community. What about the existing buildings in the area that might have lost their tenants due to previous lack of growth?  An existing building is a perfect place for future business owners to begin a new business.  Adaptive reuse, the process of reusing an old site or building for a different or new business, is a great way to bring new life into an old building.

One community that is booming with growth along the Northshore in the New Orleans area is Mandeville. Barrett and Jill McGuire, of McGuire Real Estate Group, are using adaptive reuse at two sites in Mandeville. Rest Awhile is currently underway and is now a restaurant complex and Band’s Food Store’s old building is currently under review to become a restaurant in Old Mandeville.

Currently under way, is the Rest Awhile restaurant complex.  Originally the restawhileRest Awhile building was the Frapart Hotel in the 1800’s which later became a retreat house for those in need. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building was left abandoned and now the project is preserving the old building into a sit-down restaurant.  Two other buildings on the site include the Hadden Cottage, which plans to be a coffee and tapas bar and the Sophie B. Wright Cottage which plans to be a tavern.

The McGuire’s second project is close to Barrett’s heart. Band’s Food Store, inbandsfoodstore Old Mandeville, was built in the 1940’s and served Old Mandeville for decades.  As a young boy, McGuire remembers sweeping the parking lot of the grocery store, located at Lafitte and Monroe, to earn money to buy baseball cards.  The couple purchased the site for $275,000 and hope to turn the building into a restaurant.  McGuire says they are focusing on “a lunch counter concept at this point” and as for the name, “we haven’t gotten that far yet,” he said.

Adaptive reuse is not only a smart and green way to reuse current buildings, but is also a great way to preserve a community’s memories and history. As for the McGuire’s belief on conserving the old grocery store site, “It’s a great little place. It deserves to be put back into commerce,” he said.

 

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The economy and housing market are the strongest they have been in the past 10 years.  As the housing market and economy thrive so does the ever-changing communities throughout the country.  St. Tammany Economic Development District wants to evolve with the ever-changing market.

The St. Tammany Economic Development District is the forefront of St. Tammany’s economy. As stated on their site, the agency’s objective is to “seek to preserve and promote the quality of life by strengthening and supporting vibrant economies.” Businesses and Residence can follow the community’s economic development, successes and future opportunities found throughout St. Tammany via the agency.

St. Tammany is a great area to both live and work.  With the low cost of living and the strong business climate, the parish is on a growing trend and is home to industries that include advanced manufacturing, corporate headquarter offices, distribution and logistics, oil and gas, information technology, and healthcare and biosciences. The current population of 255,000 and civilian labor force of over 126,000 keeps this strong economy going.

Along with the growth comes competition with other attractive communities throughout the state and the country. Chris Masingill, who leads the St. Tammany Economic Development District, announced a plan to attract and keep businesses in St. Tammany Parish to the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, November 10, 2018, at a breakfast held at Tchefuncta Country Club. First on the agenda is to rebrand St. Tammany Economic Development sttammanycorpDistrict with a name change to “St. Tammany Corp.” and a new logo.

Masingill explained that along with the name change, the St. Tammany Corp. will have a new framework for how it handles business in the Parish. They will focus on many factors which include how the Parish’s various communities interact with each other to the role of government and tax incentives in economic development.

“This is not just an academic exercise,” Masingill said. “We’re looking at everything.”

A study will be conducted on how the agency wants to expand its “regional reach.” Masingill wants to establish a good working relationship with other agencies in the Parish, the economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc. and even over state lines.  The plan for the new framework is slated to be completed by year’s end.

 

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Even though the housing market continues to see rising home prices throughout the United States as supply is shrinking, the demand for buying a new home or buying a home for sale has tapered off slightly because of the rising interest rates. The good news is that the economy has finally rebounded from the devastating effects of the Recession, but that means that in order to stem inflation and keep the economy in check, the Fed had to raise interest rates. Because of the this, buyers are being more careful and thrifty with their money and the amount of money they can spend on their monthly mortgage note which translates for sellers that even though it’s very much a seller’s market, sellers are having to make concessions in order to close the deal with home buyers.

In June, 2018, sellers cut prices on approximately 14% of all home sales in order to close the sale. At the end of 2016, the lowest price cut by sellers was 11.7%, so price cuts are on the rise as home prices, having been on the rise, might be reaching their ceiling.

Simple supply and demand have been factors in the cost of homes and the affordability of homes. Rising interest rates have also affected affordability with the ability of buyers to make a larger monthly note. The supply of houses for sale was affected by two huge factors – the so-called “millenial” generation coming of age to be able to buy a home for sale and the disappearance of homes through the foreclosure process that were then turned into single-family rentals, removing them as purchasable homes on the market.

Also, builders recovering from the Recession were cautious as to how many construction loans they took on, having been burned by the Recession and standing inventory. The slow start of builders to start to get “spec houses” out for sale, sticking to the guaranteed deal of having contracts to build a new home or build a completely custom home also contributed to the lack of supply on the market.

Even though the slowdown of the housing market might seem alarming to some people, economists predict rightly that real estate is finally returning to a normal market. Nationwide, there is not a reflection of a total overall slowdown though. Different markets with different factors including job growth and corporate buy-in’s give different locations encouraging statistics. One such market is Austin, Texas, which is enjoying an incredible housing market because of an influx of technology jobs.

“We saw intense bidding on homes over the past few years, but that is calming down with more inventory in the area,” said B Barnett, a real estate agent at Reilly Realtors in Austin. “Our inventory of homes is going up with new construction, and it is helping transfer power back to the buyer.”

Economic forecasts for 2019 show a slowdown of the GDP as the effects of the tax cuts and stock market surge level off. If you are interested in skipping the challenge of supply and demand in your market and would like to just build your own new home in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, Contact Ron Lee Homes, a custom home builder, directly at 985-626-7619 or email Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

 

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St. Tammany Parish is enjoying a robust housing market when it comes to the value and appreciation of homes for sale and new homes for sale. During the first 6 months of 2018, the price per square foot of homes in the Greater St. Tammany Parish area were calculated and then compared to 2017’s prices and the price per square foot of homes before Hurricane Katrina hit the Greater New Orleans area in 2005. The results of that comparison are spelled out below.

Homes for sale and new homes for sale which have seen a steady increase in value from Katrina to the first 6 months of the year include homes located in Folsom, Covington Central (70433), Madisonville, Mandeville (70471), Lacombe, Slidell (70460), and Abita Springs.

In Mandeville and Madisonville, the price per square foot during the first 6 months of 2018 is actually identical at $143 / square foot. In Mandeville, there was an increase of $31 and in Madisonville, there was an increase of $37 from 2005 to 2018. In Lacombe, there was an increase of $12, in Folsom it was an increase of $15, in Slidell (70460), there wan an increase of $14, and in Abita Springs, there wan an increase of $29.

The city which saw the biggest increase in the price per square foot of a home in St. Tammany Parish overall was Covington Central (70433) with an increase of $41 per square foot since 2005. Other cities saw an increase in 2017 and then a slight decrease in 2018, which is in line with the softening of the housing market as interest rates went up towards the middle / end of 2018. These cities inclued Bush, North Covington (70435), Pearl River, Slidell (70461), and Slidell (70458). In North Covington, the price per square foot of homes for sale stayed exactly the same from 2017 to 2018. In Pearl River, the price increased from $87 in 2005 to $105 in 2017 and then decreased to $100 in 2018. In Slidell (70461), there was also an increase from $87 in 2005 to $105 in 2017 to decrease just $2 to $103 in 2018.

Overall the increase in the price per square foot in St. Tammany Parish increased 3.1% from $118.70 to $122.40 per square foot. Average home pricing went from $253,553 to $264,754, and the city which saw the most amount of growth was in Madisonville. Residency increased in Madisonville to over 11,000 residents in 2018. This small charming town on the banks of the Tchefuncte River began as a town of 4,000 at the turn of the century, just to give context to the amount of growth.

So, if you’re in the market for a home to buy, check out the areas of St. Tammany Parish where you can afford to live. The housing market is hot right now, and available housing is tight – you might want to consider building your own home so that you get exactly what you want for the price you can afford. Call 985-626-7619 or Email Ron Lee Homes at Info@RonLeeHomes.com to start your building process today!

 

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The emergence of the St. Tammany Art Association (STAA), on December 1, 1958, was just the beginning of the life long celebration in the community of the arts. The idea of the origination’s concept came from the first meeting notes taken August 15, 1957 at a group meeting held at the Covington resident, Mrs. Miriam Barranger. In the notes it stated that their group’s motto was “to encourage education and interest in the fine arts in the community through lectures, panel discussions, exhibits and the screening of motion pictures. To sponsor classes in painting, sculpture, crafts and the fine arts generally.”

In the last sixty years, the STAA has not only lived out this motto, but the nonprofit, has superseded it by supporting local well-known and emerging artists. Throughout the years it has enriched the residents of St. Tammany Parish through cultural programs and activities such as three galleries, six annual art sttammanyartassociationmarkets, the Covington Art Market, Art Alley, the annual Fall for Art Festival, the annual Spring for Art Festival, both adult and children educational classes, holiday and summer camps, artists’ panel discussions and special programs such as Cancer to Canvas, Sizzlin’ Seniors and Veteran to Veteran.

With the development of Art Alley that runs along N. Columbia Street between STAA’s Art House and the historic H.J. Smith & Sons General Store, STAA brings a space for community gatherings and cultural commerce space. Kim Bergeron, the former executive director, turned the ordinary alley into a place of art celebration and the home of the Covington Art Market.  According to Bergeron, “Art Alley initiative is a Creative Placemaking effort designed to transform an ordinary alley into a community gathering and cultural commerce space. I intend to continue to work toward bringing that project to its full potential. The harmonica campfire concert with our Culture Camp children, led by GrayHawk Perkins, and the Holiday Children’s Tea in Art Alley were among my favorite events – truly magical. I see so many possibilities for Art Alley as a place to celebrate arts, culture and non-profit organizations.”

STAA will continue to serve the community and reach as many people from all walks of life in the celebration of art. As the nonprofit pursues a new executive director, STAA will remember their motto and all of the programs created by the former leader. Roswell Pogue, president of STAA’s board of directors describes Kim Bergeron by stating, “Her enthusiasm and drive have expanded our community outreach and profile. We are here, as an organization, to reach as many people from all walks of life as is possible, and Kim has been integral to that goal.”

 

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) and Army Corps of Engineers shows an abundance of stillwaterpredictionnoleveehurricane activity along the Southern Shore of Louisiana.  In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers created a map of potential stillwater elevations for a storm surge from a hurricane with a 1% chance of occurring that has a possibility to hit the New Orleans area in 2070. The 100-year storm would be a devastation to all areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain if proposed new levees are not built.

Congress has before them $100 billion dollars in various flood protection projects that the corps plan to build nationally. Many of the projects would greatly help and reduce tragic loss during hurricane season in the Greater New Orleans area. Fortunately, in 2014, Congress approved the 2014 Water Resource Bill which was the first step in the process of authorizing a levee to be built. Due to an emergency supplemental appropriation that is linked to the recent devastation from hurricanes and floods, the West Shore levee has been approved and fully funded. The West shore project makes up only 1 % of the $100 billion in projects before Congress.

According to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, the fast pace of the Congressional approval and funding for projects such as the West Shore levee is unheard of. Graves believes funding projects such as this should be the norm.  It is reported that the nation spends billions on restoring homes, businesses and infrastructure loss due to hurricane flooding. If the nation spent just millions on flood projects beforehand many of the devastation could have been avoided. “This project pays for itself,” Graves said. “Think about the cumulative money spent picking up the pieces from Hurricane Isaac,” he said. “We cannot continue to spend billions in the aftermath of disasters. We have to spend millions in advance.”

leveesThe West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane levee project is set to be completed by 2023 hurricane season. The $760 million-dollar project includes 17 miles of levee and a mile of concrete T-wall. It will mostly be located in St. John the Baptist parish which will include berms around Gramercy and Lutcher, a separate berm around Grand Point North and smaller berms around other smaller non-residential buildings. The 17-mile levee will separate populated areas west of I-10 from storm surges moving inland from Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and adjacent wetlands.

The New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers’ office announced the project will begin construction by early 2021. According to Col. Michael Clancy the project will be divided into 11 smaller projects and will be under the local sponsor, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. According to the federal law, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority will pay 35% of construction cost, however the Army Corps of Engineers will pay construction cost upfront and will allow the local sponsor to repay them over a 30-year period upon completion of the project.

Once the project is complete the Pontchartrain district will control and operate the levees. St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom looks forward to what the future holds for this project.  She feels it is the parish responsibility to allow its residents and business owners to participate in the $760 million-dollar project so the dollars spent will stay within the parish.

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There are many filters employers use when searching through applicants for a job opening. Sometimes good talent might fall through the cracks when too many filters are required. To tap into more talent, employers are tabling some requirements that have been previously used to filter out potential talent.

Employers are trying to find ways around the current tight job market by cutting down on hiring cost. In order to cut down on the cost they are offering more money upfront, they are lowering their standards and they are retaining their existing employees to fill new roles. For example, Hasbro a large toy company, took four marketing jobs (requiring an MBA) and split the jobs into eight lower-level positions. Other companies report they have skipped drug testing, criminal background checks and lowered education requirements.

The Wall Street Journal reported that jobs requiring a college degree went from 32% to 30% in the first half of 2019. For entry-level jobs, experience requirements dropped from 29% in 2012 to currently 23%.

With more jobs available to more candidates the demand for housing will rise. Multifamily will be the most in demand because of the rising cost of living and high single family home prices.

“Some of the new employment gained from lowered hiring requirements will bring second or third incomes to households, and it is definitely positive news for supporting housing demand. For a single person going from jobless to employed, it is good for that person to develop new on-the-job skills, but it will not immediately contribute to housing demand, since these jobs are likely to be entry level and pay below the average wages,” says National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

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Jeff Talbot and Saunders Conroy are the founders of the new bakery on Boston Street in Covington.  Autonomy Bakery will open July 25, 2019 and will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Talbot is the former owner of Ancora Pizzeria in New Orleans. Conroy and Talbot have known each other for several years and even worked together at Restaurant August and Artesia. They decided to partner and open Autonomy. The process has taken the owner’s over two years to open the bakery. It took longer than expected to completely redesign and renovate the location at 705 Boston Street. The space was an old storefront and warehouse that was in disrepair.

“We encountered every kind of delay possible,” Conroy said. “Needless to say, we’re really happy to be open.”

The two years was well worth the wait. The bakery know boast an open-air kitchen and baking area that is next to the dining area which seats about 40 patrons. The warehouse area at the back of the cafe will eventually serve as an indoor-outdoor area. The plans, that should be ready next football season, will include roll-up doors that allow patrons to watch a large screen during sporting events.

Patrons will enjoy an evolving menu of specialty breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, beer and wine. Western St. Tammany Parish has a wonderful selection of great cafes and bakeries but what makes Autonomy unique is the fact the it is a combination of both a cafe and bakery. The pastries and breads that will be sold there are baked on-site.

“We saw a need for something that the Covington area really doesn’t have,” Conroy said. “We’re not trying to put anyone out of business. We feel like there’s room for us all.”

Autonomy will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on most days, serving pastries in the morning, lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday. Brunch will be offered on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It will close at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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