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


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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 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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STEM learning is becoming more popular in the education field. STEM is defined as the types of skills that students learn and acquire by studying science, technology, engineering, and math.  St. Tammany Parish Schools have gotten in on the action. New Orleans native and Presidential Award winner in Science, Mathematics and Engineering, Dr. Calvin Mackie is the leader and coordinator of a new STEM organization called STEM Northshore.

STEM Northshore is an organization that puts the fun in science, technology, engineering and math.

‘We have created a unique method of community engagement to reach people where they are and then drive them to things they might be interested in,” Dr. Mackie said.

STEM Northshore and United Way put on a fun event for Covington students. Students enjoyed hands on experiences such as knocking down blocks, blowing up rockets, making slime and battling with robots. The Mandeville Sr. High robotics team, S.S. Prometheus and the Mandeville Jr. High robotics team, Dark Matter were there with their robots. NASA was on hand with tons of videos of the mission to Mars, while LOOP gave the students a chance to use an interactive device that included floods, levees and Katrina where students could try and save  New Orleans.

“We are so excited to partner with Dr. Mackie and STEM Northshore to expose children in our parish to the world of opportunities in the STEM fields. You can see the hundreds of kids and parents who are here. Dr. Mackie gave them complete permission to touch any and everything, so it is simply amazing. We are so thankful to our sponsors Shell, Keystone Engineering, Rain CII Carbon, Sharon Green State Farm, and LOOP Offshore,” United Way CEO Michael Williamson said.

“The best paying jobs now and in the future are in the STEM fields,” Williamson said.

“If we don’t give our kids the exposure, education and skills to make something of themselves, then we only leave them with the options we see on the news everyday and that’s why these kinds of events are important,” Dr. Mackie said.


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St. Tammany Parish is a bustling area and more people are moving to its communities. The Northshore is a fabulous place to live and is conveniently located to New Orleans. Last month, the St. Tammany Parish Planning Commission approved plans for four new subdivisions.

The new home sites will total 535 new homes in St. Tammany Parish. The request for approvals were voted unanimously by all the members of the commission that were in attendance.

Lakeshore Villages was among the approved projects. Phase 4 is a 158-acre phase that sits on the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline just south of I-10 in Slidell. Phase 4 will consists of 342 lots and is a part of a 1,100-acre planned community. There was also an approval to convert 10 existing single-family lots in Phase 1B to 100 garden home lots.

River Park Crossing, Phase 2, also had final plans approved. Located west of La. 25 at M.P. Planche Road, north of Covington, the phase includes 79 lots.

The last development to be approved was the final plans for Bedico Creek, Parcel 17 in Madisonville. The six acres will include 14 lots that vary in size. Parcel 17 is located in Bedico Creek south of Interstate 12, west of La. 1085 and Madisonville.

Other projects on the horizon to be approved in the near future are The Preserve at Goodbee Lakes and Perrilloux Trace. The Preserve at Goodbee, located north of I-12, east of La. 1077 north of Goodbee, will consist of 91 lots on 75 acres. Perrilloux Trace will consists 25 lots on 10 acres and is located south of I-12 on Perrilloux Road, west of Madisonville.

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Owning a home in a waterfront community in St. Tammany Parish is a wonderful experience. Having access to a river or a lake provides a peaceful and restful environment that is also kind of freeing, especially if you are a “water person.” With the environment of a river or lake also comes the lush vegetation and wildlife, such as water fowl,1657 Ox Bow Sitting Area turtles, and frogs. There is just a different kind of feel and sound when living on or near the water.

Being near the water also allows a homeowner to be able to enjoy recreational activities, such as water sports, boating, canoeing, swimming, floating, and fishing. Many waterfront communities also carve out walking or hiking paths around the water area for residents to enjoy. Having a home with a water view is also a tremendous advantage, both while you are living there and also as a benefit of selling your home.

Homes in waterfront communities tend to come at a higher price range because the lot on which they are built are often priced higher because they are a prized commodity.  With the right care and attention, a home on the water can be an incredible real estate investment.

Homeowners of waterfront homes must be sure to look out for damage that can be done to a home because it is located on or near the water. Problems caused by moisture in the air such as mold, degradation of stone, metal or wood, bug issues, and water intrusion can take a toll on the quality building of a new home for sale. Staying on top of the maintenance of your home by painting and sealing the exterior of your home often, keeping a current termite contract, and investing in sturdy building materials to begin with can go a long way in ensuring that your home stays in good shape both for you and your family and for if or when you ever decide to sell.

Ron Lee Homes is now offering a new, custom home for sale in a waterfront community in Covington, Louisiana, in River Club. This new home is just a brief walk down the street to an extensive boat dock, boardwalk, and pavilion on river. If you haven’t yet had the chance to tour this new community or our new home for sale, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail to schedule your private tour today!

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