Business News

Gov. John Bel Edwards talks flooding, transportation to Top 50 crowd

by Leslie Turk

The governor devoted much of his Sept. 1 address to ABiz’s Top 50 Private Companies to the recent flooding and recovery, telling the audience that the Louisiana National Guard is the finest in the nation.

Gov. John Bel Edwards
Photo by Robin May

Gov. John Bel Edwards devoted much of his Sept. 1 address to ABiz’s Top 50 Private Companies to the recent flooding and recovery, telling the audience that the Louisiana National Guard is the finest in the country. Edwards spoke with pride about how the guard and various state agencies and volunteer-based organizations worked together in the rescue effort and are continuing to do so through the recovery.

“By and large I’m satisfied with where we are today, but we are just starting a long journey,” the governor, who is in his first year office and has received widespread praise for his own work throughout the flooding, told the sold-out Cajundome Convention Center.

Edwards said 14,000 people have already enrolled in the state’s new “Shelter at Home” program, which allows people whose homes were damaged in the August flooding to take shelter in their own homes while they rebuild, instead of having to stay in a hotel, rental home or mass shelter. Work on those homes begins Friday, as construction crews start making the rounds to bring the homes up to livable condition, he said, cautioning people that their homes won’t be restored to their pre-flooding state. He called the program “a good start” for many families and stressed that every effort is being made to use Louisiana-owned companies and local workers for the program. (The governor, following a quick change of attire, toured Derby Heights subdivision after delivering his talk.)

View Robin May's photo gallery from today's luncheon here.

The governor then turned his attention to the state’s infrastructure needs, particularly the $12 billion backlog of transportation construction projects, and spoke at length about the transportation task force that will deliver its assessment of the state’s needs and how to fund them on Sept. 30. He encouraged the audience and legislators to keep working together to support some of the task force’s recommendations so that the state can begin to chip away at the backlog.

In July, Edwards announced that the state will receive $60 million in FASTLANE grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, monies that will allow the state to complete a nearly 15-mile pavement replacement and lane addition project between the I-10/I-49 interchange and the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Today he announced that the state would get another $40 million in federal highway money due to successfully obligating the full amount of its federal funding during the 2016-2017 federal fiscal year and because some states did not qualify. That money will be used to address the I-10 improvements from I-49 to the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge in the Lafayette and St. Martin parishes.

With the additional $40 million allocated, the governor’s FASTLANE grant application has been awarded a total of $100 million in federal highway funding for infrastructure projects along I-10.

Acadian's Richard Zuschlag
Photo by Robin May

The annual luncheon honors ABiz's Top 50 Private Companies and publicly traded companies as well, and this year Acadian Cos., which had $481 million in 2015 revenues, rose to the top of the private list for the first time in the history of the project. It was pure coincidence that the ambulance/safety services provider was celebrating its 45th anniversary on the day of the luncheon, a fitting time for top exec Richard Zuschlag to address the crowd and thank the community leaders, including his longtime mentor Red Dumesnil, and the company's many longtime employees for their loyalty and hard work over the years.

Rounding out the top five private companies in Acadiana were Louisiana Wholesale Drug Company Inc., Courtesy Automotive Group, Stuller Inc. and Doerle Food Services.

The Top 50 luncheon is sponsored by Whitney Bank and Allen & Gooch law firm. Additional sponsor support comes from The LHC Group, The Pinnacle Group, Frank's International and Vidox Motion Imagery.

Read more on Acadian and the Top 50 here and view a gallery of images from today's luncheon here.