As an increase to 2014’s workforce development series, the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation will be sponsoring a 7-part series of education workshops for local St. Tammany Parish businesses, a year-over-year increase from the successful 5-part series which was hosted in 2014.  Founded in 1981, the St. Tammany Parish

Economic Development Foundation (STEDF) has been highly integral in the attraction and retention of new business to the parish.  Even before Hurricane Katrina, this foundation had been gradually increasing business opportunities to the Northshore.  After Hurricane Katrina, the construction growth and economic development of the region has lead to national recognition of the I-12 corridor being one of the fastest growing regional areas in the United States for new business opporunities.

In 2014, the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation was responsible for the creation of 315 new jobs and the retention of 276 jobs with the completion of 13 projects which saw $54.3 million in investments.  The foundation is diligent in businss retention in St. Tammany Parish by utilizing “retention visits” to existing businesses to gauge their satisfaction and confidence in the local economy.  According to their annual report, the STEDF visited 112 different times to businesses which, all told, provided 7,891 jobs for residents of St. Tammany Parish.

This forward-thinking, proactive, and “preventative” approach to retaining business on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain has been the mission of the STEDF.  They are continuing that mindeset by offering the seminars and classes below:

April 28: Healthcare and Biosciences

May 19: Manufacturing

June 23: Digital Media

July 14: Construction and Coastal Restoration

Sept. 22: Energy, Oil and Gas

Oct. 13: Education and Training – Jump Start, Two-Year- and Four-Year-Colleges

Nov. 10: To be determined

“We hope this series will increase your knowledge of workforce opportunities, connect you to resources for workforce enhancement and training and provide insight about the future needs and trends of the workforce in our region,” Ashley Cangelosi Llewellyn, programs manager for the foundation, said in a news release.

To attend any of these workshops about workforce development opportunities, attendees must register in advance during the enrollment period for each program.  The classes themselves will be held in the STEDF conference room on Koop Drive in Mandeville from 9am – 10am with doors opening at 8:30am.  To register for the April event, email

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The act of sale for the nearly 300 acres of land that currently encompasses the former Southeast Louisiana Psychiatric Hospital – now known as Northlake Behavioral Health – will be held, Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 2pm.  The sale is between the state of Louisiana and St. Tammany Parish.  The parish negotiated a sales price of

$15.4 million to buy the property, and the parish plans on utilizing the land for a few different purposes: possible expansion for Pelican Park, a new roadway from Hwy. 190 (Florida St.) to 1088 reducing congestion for both Hwy. 190 and Hwy. 59, and to bolster the government’s wetland mitigation bank.

St. Tammany Parish’s wetland mitigation bank is served by Mossy Hill Mitigation Bank which also serves the wetland preservation needs of Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes.  It will also review requests for credit from areas outside of these areas on a case-by-case basis.  The idea is that builders and developers may purchase a one-time credit from the Mossy Hill Mitigation Bank to offset the impacts that their construction will have on the wetlands involved with the project.  They must offer another portion of the project that is close to or adjacent to the job that they own in exchange for this credit so that the wetlands in other areas are preserved.

“When impacts to jurisdictional wetlands are unavoidable, a one-time credit purchase from the Mossy Hill Mitigation Bank prevents mitigation cost overruns and irrevocably transfers your perpetual mitigation liability to Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP), one of the nation’s leading providers of environmental credits,” according to the website for the Mossy Hill Mitigation Bank.

St. Tammany Parish’s Pelican Park may purchase as much as 100 acres of the land involved in Thursday’s act of

sale to expand upon its already 321-acre park. In conjunction with the expansion is the hope that St. Tammany Parish will go ahead with the road building / expansion project between 190 and 1088 in order to construct a second entrance to Pelican Park on this cut-through road.

The “fate” of Northlake Behavioral Health is secured through this act of sale because one of the conditions of the purchase was that St. Tammany Parish leave the buildings and land belonging to the psychiatric hospital campus intact and operating as a behavioral health hospital.  Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, the current company that mangages operations at the hospital through a privatization program has expressed interested in purchasing the entire campus and land from St. Tammany Parish.

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The remodeling outlook is favorable for 2015 both locally and nationally according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).  As there are many types of memberships for a traditional home builders association, there are many facets of the national real estate market that the NAHB keeps tabs on with remodeling and renovations being one of them.  The remodeling business tends to trend upwards and downwards with the newRon Lee Homes offers remodeling and renovation services in St. Tammany Parish home and existing homes market.  Whether homeowners are getting their house ready to put on the market and sell, or they are building an addition onto their existing home in order to make more room because they feel the real estate market may not be stable enough to move makes a difference as to how much business a person in the renovation business can get.

According to the press conference hosted by the NAHB Remodelers at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, the remodeling business forecast projects a 3% growth year-over-year compared to 2014, and another 1.5% growth is expected for 2016.  The panel of remodelers who attended the press conference commented that it was changing homeowner demographics and financial security that have loosened up the market to allow more people to have renovations done to their homes.

“Remodelers are responding to calls from home owners on steadier financial footing than recent years,” said 2015 NAHB Remodelers Chairman Robert Criner, GMR, GMB, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Newport News, Va. “From major kitchen remodels and bath facelifts to room additions, the members of NAHB Remodelers look forward to providing professional remodeling services in 2015.”

According to the NAHB, the RMI (Remodeling Market Index) which surveys the confidence of remodelers in 4 categories – calls for bids, amount of work committed for the next three months, backlog of jobs and appointments for proposals – resulted in a score of 60 (any score above 50 means that confidence is high).  In all 4 categories, the RMI saw an increase, and the score of 60 was a record high for this survey.  Many economists, remodelers, contractors, and builders alike are cautiously optimistic that the real estate market has taken an upward turn that should not reverse itself.  Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish Louisiana now offers complete remodeling services for the St. Tammany Parish area.  For More Information about remodeling your home, Contact Ron Lee Homes today at 985-626-7619 or E-mail


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Living in St. Tammany Parish has many benefits and lifestyle value for those residents and homeowners who enjoy the small town life but also desire the convenience of access to shopping, dining, entertainment, and culture.  The. Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain is partially a bedroom community and slowly developing an entire commercial and retail sector which is supporting large corporate entities such as Chevron and Budweiser as well as thriving local businesses that hung on and were able to make money even through the recession.  Building a new custom home in any of the cities of St. Tammany Parish, such as Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, and Abita Springs affords you the benefit of making a living, working for the local businesses, corporations, and industrial warehouses, while still enjoying the feel and ambiance of small town life.

Before Hurricane Katrina, St. Tammany Parish was more of a bedroom community with a small and stable population.  With the flood of new home buyers coming across the lake after the storm, St. Tammany Parish was forced to grow at a faster rate, earning the I-12 corridor the label of being one of the fastest growing corridors in the United States.  Now, the Northshore retains its small town attitude but offers a full array of box stores, mall stores, formal restaurants and dining as well as exquisite local cuisine served at small but established venues.  One of the cities on the Northshore in St. Tammany Parish known for its culture and cuisine is Covington, Louisiana.  Covington just spent a significant amount of time and city budget completely renovating the streetscapes, landscapes, and curb appeal of its historic district.  In addition, the city also just celebrated its Bicentennial bringing many visitors and much exposure to downtown Covington.

This gorgeous and growing city can now add another feather to its cap because Mayor Mike Cooper just accepted the American Planning Association’s Great Place Award APA State Planning Awards Luncheon in Baton Rouge recently.  This award recognizes the city’s exemplary character, quality and planning, as well as architectural features, accessibility, functionality and community involvement.  The city of Covington, LA goes beyond the borders of downtown Covington’s historic district.  It also encompasses an entire commercial district that was just expanded with the Colonial Pinnacle Nord du Lac shopping district off of Highway 21.  A Winn Dixie was also built in this area and tucked behind all of this commercial development is the Stone Creek Club & Spa which offers a variety of luxurious services for Covington residents.  Covington, Louisiana also boasts the renovation of the town’s new courthouse finished just before Hurricane Katrina which just recently underwent another renovation, adding a new parking garage.

If you are considering moving to St. Tammany Parish, Covington, Louisiana would be the perfect place to build a new custom home in the many subdivisions located in that area.  Ron Lee Homes builds new homes in which are all located in the amazing St. Tammany Parish school district – a perfect place to raise a family.  Contact Ron Lee Homes today to begin the design and construction of a new home or new custom home in Covington, Louisiana.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, Louisiana, is home to many historic homes, newly renovated homes, and even turned homes – homes that have been fixed up and are now being sold.  In addition to the many beautiful French Acadian,

Colonial, and Creole Cottage floorplans, there are many different businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, located along this gorgeous lakefront property.  While most residents were thrilled with the restoration and renovation of the Rest Awhile Hotel on the Old Mandeville lakefront, many are now having reservations as to the direction that the developer / builder wants to take with this commercial property.

Developer and owner Barrett McGuire has plans to turn not only the main structure of the Rest Awhile Retreat into a restaurant / tavern but also to relocate the two historic cottages on the property in proximity to the main building in order to connect all three buildings together with a large outdoor deck with seating areas.  The two cottages associated with the renovation are called the Hadden Cottage and the Sophie B. Wright Cottage.  These two commercial construction structures would be taverns (mainly wine and cheese bars).  The square footage of the entire remodel including the outdoor seating areas will be 9,000 square feet.  The main commercial kitchen will be located in the center structure which used to be the Frapart Hotel.

During a Mandeville Planning & Commission Meeting, developer McGuire tried to address all reasonable concerns of Old Mandeville residents, mainly fire safety and parking.  To solve the parking dilemma which is always a dilemma on Lakeshore Drive, the new restaurant / tavern will have 30 onsite parking spaces, and the commercial renovation will be allowed 19 lakefront parking spaces as well – a total of 49, which is 4 more than is required by the zoning.  The lot is zoned “B-3 mixed use,” which includes restaurants and bars, so the Planning Commission now just has discretionary decision making about the influence of the newly renovated property on the adjacent homeowners.
Homeowners are worried about flooding on Lakeshore Drive during a hurricane, such as the fires that destroyed commercial properties and residential homes.  Fire fighters were not able to get down the streets to take care of the fires because of flooding.  However, McGuire plans to install additional fire safety equipment, buffers around the remodel to shield the property from the houses surrounding as well as fire sprinklers throughout all three structures.  The proposal was tabled with the Planning Commission until a future unknown date.  The renovation will continue with reinforcing and rebuilding the existing structure until then.

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It is now in the hands of the St. Tammany Parish Planning Commission to resolve the tension between the current 137-willow-exterior-2homeowners of Willow Bend and the developer Henry Billiot, an officer of Reiher LLC concerning a new subdivision which he will develop and build just north of Bootlegger Road on the east side of Willow Bend.  The controversy concerns the use of the road Willow Bend Drive to access the new subdivision which has been named The Willows.  Residents of Willow Bend feel that by using the same entry road as their subdivision that consumers will view the new neighborhood as a new phase of the same subdivision, thereby decreasing home values in Willow Bend.  The new community The Willows will offer 25 lots for sale with sizes ranging from roughly 9,000 to 18,000 square feet which will accommodate homes ranging from 1,650 to 2,200 square feet.  The price point for the community will be $250,000 – $400,000 where Willow Bend Subdivision has homes ranging in price from $300,000 – $800,000.


The St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission approved a zoning change for the land being developed from I-2 (Industrial District) and A-2 (Suburban District) to A-3 (Suburban District).  Commissioner Bill Matthews noted thatLot 52, Willow Bend some of the land for The Willows is currently zoned for industrial development. “Having an industrial park a few hundred yards away would not do your home values any good,” he told residents of Willow Bend.  The Commission also approved a Planned Unit Development Overlay designation which will allow smaller lots, but 25% of the community must have an approved allowance for greenspace along with other requirements from the Planning Commission.

There was talk at the zoning meeting about widening Willow Bend Drive to accommodate the extra traffic, but it will be up to the Planning Commission to unsnarl the tangle of concern from the residents of Willow Bend and the new developer regarding the new subdivision being built in St. Tammany Parish.  Check back with Ron Lee Homes to find out more about this story.  If you are interested in buying a new home or building a new home in Willow Bend, Contact Us Today to find out more about the new and custom homes for sale.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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The month of October in the real estate industry typically is a slower month than other more productive months of the year.  There is a sharp rise in activity in the Greater New Orleans / St. Tammany Parish area during the months of January – June.  During the Recession, the summer months of July – September definitely were slower but still 002_mlsactive, and then as October, November, and December approached, the housing market in our area tapered off until the holidays.  Post Recession, we have seen phenomenal, record-breaking numbers for the months of July – September, and this year’s October was nothing to “sneeze about” in the South in general either according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

During the month of October, single-family starts rose 4.2%, the highest they have been since November, 2013.  This is really not a surprising trend in that with the atypical frenetic activity during the summer months, there would have been many more signed contracts for new, single-family homes than is normal for that time of year, which would translate to early fall starts for new homes.  In addition to the sharp increase in housing starts, Total overall housing production for both single-family and multi-family homes rose 10.1% in the South, even though multi-family production was off slightly and brought the numbers down in all other regions of the United States (Northeast, Midwest, and West).

011_mlsIn the other regions of the United State, the recovery from the Recession has progressed a bit slower than for the Greater New Orleans area.  In fact, local employment statistics show that New Orleans’ unemployment rate has been dropping faster than the national average.  Even with this information, a 10.1% increase compared to a decrease in all other markets is a good sign for the economy and housing market in the South. Overall, building permits for single-family homes in October increased 1.4%, and building permits for both single-family and multi-family homes rose in the South by 8.8%.  St. Tammany Parish has also had record-breaking months for single-family home permits recently as well.

Business is booming for Ron Lee Homes on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish.  We have been so busy that we have been asking our valued clients to be patient with our building schedule because of the overabundance of business.  The construction and building industries’ gain is also a gain for the economy.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, the following statistics show the impact of the housing market on the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – the measure of the United States’ economy.

Information regarding building an average of 1,000 single-family homes:

• Creates 2,970 full-time jobs
• Brings in $162 million in wages
• Merits $118 million in business income
• Achieves $111 million in taxes and revenue for state, local and federal governments

“The rise in single-family starts is more proof that the economy is firming and consumer confidence is growing,” said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. “We expect continued upward momentum into next year.”

To Get More Information about building a new custom home in St. Tammany Parish with Ron Lee Homes, Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Based on building permit data, price information, and employment statistics, monitored metro areas and smaller towns are running at 90% of what is considered a normal housing economy according to the National Assocation of Home Builders / First American Leading Market Index (LMI).  The LMI was established during the Recession to monitor the recovery of a selection of markets throughout the United States from the catastrophic results of the Recession.  According to the numbers in November, 66% of these markets showed improvement and 7 new markets either returned to “normal” or exceeded normal activity and growth year-over-year.

“The markets are recovering at a slow, gradual pace,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. “Continued job creation, economic growth and increasing consumer confidence should help spur pent-up demand for housing.”

The top market in the list of the 350 select markets chosen by the NAHB is Baton Rouge, Louisiana which has already returned to normal activity and is now exceeding all expections.  The LMI score for Baton Rouge is 1.39 which means that it is 39% better in housing growth and employment than its normal market levels.  In the list of the top ten markets which have LMI scores that either meet or exceed normal levels, New Orleans is also included in that list, making Southeast Louisiana a “booming” recovery zone when it comes to real estate.

“An uptick in the number of single-family permits, which is currently only 44 percent of normal activity, is the key to a full-fledged housing recovery,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “In the 17 metros where permits are at or above normal, the overall index shows that these markets have fully recovered.”

Luckily, building permits overall rose 1.4% nationwide and are up 8.8% in the South.  A testimony to how well the Greater New Orleans area is doing economically is the fact that the unemployment rate nationally is at 6.1%, in New Orleans it’s 5.1%, and in the 2nd quarter of 2014, St. Tammany Parish’s unemployment rate dropped over 20% from 2013’s unemployment rate to just 4.4%.  Building permits in St. Tammany Parish rose to 315 for single-family homes in the 2nd quarter of 2014 which is a 23.5% increase year-over-year.  Also, new home sales went up by 11.1% year-over-year in the same quarter for St. Tammany Parish as well.  This speaks strongly as to how much real estate affects the economy, even locally in the Greater New Orleans area.  For More Information about building a new home in St. Tammany Parish, contact local builder Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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It seems that the faster that you keep up with the latest, state-of-the-art technology, the faster technology changes.  Builders both nationally and locally in St .Tammany Parish are learning very quickly that they either have to stay abreast of their knowledge of high-techn options and accessories for the new homes that they build, or they may lose potential home buying clients.  At Ron Lee Homes, there is a constant stream of education and educational courses

and seminars that are offered by the National Association of Home Builders, and both Ron Lee and Nancy Lee of Ron Lee Homes continually are attending these classes and courses in order to stay on the cutting edge of building technology.

Informational articles are also helpful to advise and inform both builders and home buyers alike about the latest trends in technology and how these trends affect the real estate market.  Below is a list of up and coming products that are being offered as high-tech accessories or necessities for new homes being built.

1. Lighting by Bluetooth: Technology has advanced so much that you can now build a network throughout your home where all of your lighting and light switches are on what is called a mesh network.  Each part of the network works off a node that “talks” to the other parts of the network, and the network can be accessed through Bluetooth and any smart device.  When using this network, you can install a new light switch by sticking a new plate to the wall by using double-sided tape if you would like.

2. Talk to Your Home: As you may or may not already know, there is technology out there that makes it so that you can control your thermostat, alarm system, lighting system, and garage door openers by using a smart device like a smart phone, tablet, or pad.  The systems are already “wired” or networked together and you can access them by using an app. The newest technology makes it so that you can use a language processor like Siri to “talk” to your home.  You simply speak the commands into your smart device, and then that device talks to the systems in your home.

3. Low Power Wifi: This is a fairly new development on the market . The idea behind this device which is a super long-lasting “battery” that has Wifi capability, is that it will “retrofit” existing features of your home which use batteries and turn them into “smart devices.”  One of the examples of this product is called the Roost.  The Roost is installed in your smoke detectors, and if smoke is detected, it sends a notification to your smart device.  This is just one of the many ways that such a device could be used to retrofit existing appliances and features of your home.

With technology moving, it seems sometimes, faster than the speed of light, it is the goal of Ron Lee Homes to stay on top of the latest trends and to be able to troubleshoot solutions to make the technology in the new custom home that you build with us user friendly for you and your family.  Contact Us Today to discuss your technology needs.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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The Tammany Trace is a highly unique lifestyle feature that sets the St. Tammany Parish community apart from other parts of the Greater New Orleans area.  Originally part of the Illinois Central Railroad corridor, the tracks were removed and paved over to form a walking, running, and biking path as well as an equestrian track in some areas.

The Tammany Trace is dotted with trailheads in Mandeville, Covington, and Abita Springs in West St. Tammany as well as where the trace ends in East St. Tammany Parish in Slidell, Louisiana.  The total length of the trace is 28 miles long, and parts of extend as far southward as the Mandevillle lakefront.

Residents of St. Tammany Parish are able to use the trace for exercise and recreation for even beginning workout enthusiast because most of the trace is very flat and easy to navigate.  It winds through scenic areas of the parish offering a nature experience as well as a scenic tourist experience for those individuals visiting Southeast Louisiana.  The Tammany Trace is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and to highlight that occasion, officials are updating, repairing, and adding to the safety and directional aspects of the Trace.  The work includes replacing signage with brighter more modern signage to signal caution, stops, and yields.  They are adding warning signs and repainting the crosswalks on the major road crossing to try to make the Trace safer, and they are also lowering the speed limit from 20 MPH to 15 MPH for that same purpose.

In 2013, a $92,000 grant was awarded to the City of Slidell to take the trace all the way to the Neslo Road terminus, but new plans are the works to extend the Trace all the way to Heritage Park in the center of town.  In the spirit of expanding the Trace so that all residents of St. Tammany Parish can enjoy it, a feasibility study is currently being conducted to see what it will cost and take to lengthen the Tammany Trace to Highway 21 in Covington where it will then turn South to Madisonville to the other waterfront are of the Tchefuncte River.  St. Tammany Parish is located on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain directly across from the City of New Orleans.  For those home buyers who are wishing to relocate to the Greater New Orleans area, this parish is an ideal place to settle down with a family because of our amazing school districts, family lifestyle, and land-based and water-based recreational activity opportunities.  The Tammany Trace is just one way to spend time with your family while living in our community.  To learn more about building or buying a new home in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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