It is always difficult for Louisiana to lose a corporate headquarters, but it is even more difficult when it involves a homegrown business. Recently, Smoothie King, a company started in Kenner, Louisiana announced the relocation of its corporate headquarters to Irving, Texas, in the Dallas metropolitan area.
Since the oil downturn in the late 1980’s, there has been a steady stream of energy companies moving their headquarters from Louisiana to Texas, usually Houston. This move offered the oil companies a chance to consolidate their operations and save plenty of costs, while trimming their payrolls. Many local residents faced the decision of leaving the state or losing their jobs.
In many ways, the business environment of the New Orleans area never recovered. This is why the news of Smoothie King leaving Louisiana brings back painful, yet familiar, memories. In this case, the expiration of a $2.4 million economic development package certainly played a role in the decision. Also, air travel is easier from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport with more nonstop international flights. Another big factor is the tax environment in Texas is very pro-business. The state has no income taxes, while Louisiana not only has an income tax; it also has the highest sales taxes in the country.
According to Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim, the Dallas area offers “a more centralized location, a larger talent pool to further enhance our growing team, and access to a greater number of quality vendors and suppliers.” There were no financial incentives offered to Smoothie King to encourage their move to Texas, but, Kim noted that “Dallas offers the advantages of being a major food and beverage hub.” Several competitors of Smoothie King, including Smoothie Factory and Jamba Juice, also call Dallas home.
After the move this summer, Smoothie King will continue with a smaller office in Metairie and will keep the naming rights on the basketball arena, the home of the New Orleans Pelicans. It is ironic that the arena will be named after a company that will be headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Currently, in Louisiana, only two of our corporations, Entergy and CenturyLink, qualify for the Fortune 500 list. Thus, it is almost impossible to find a local corporation that has the financial means to sponsor the arena or any other major sports complex.
This decision should be a wake-up call for our local and state leaders. Louisiana is not doing enough to retain our businesses and attract high paying jobs to the state. While there have been periodic announcements of start-up companies moving to the state, much more needs to be done.
A good first step would be to emulate the successful strategies employed by Florida and Texas, both states with no income tax and a thriving business climate. Otherwise, Louisiana can continue to watch other states prosper at our expense.
The second term of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will thankfully come to an end on Monday May 7 and it cannot get here soon enough. There is not an overwhelming desire for the new Mayor to take office, instead it is a powerful yearning for self-serving Mitch Landrieu to leave. As evidence, please visitwww.RingsidePolitics.com and see the failing grades being given to the Mayor in our online poll.
The day his term ends will mark the first time in 30 years that Mitch Landrieu has not been in political office. He started as an Uptown State Representative in the late 1980’s. In 1994, he made his first attempt for Mayor of New Orleans and lost. Nine years later, he ran for Lt. Governor and won 53% of the vote in a crowded field. Before the end of his first term, he ran for Mayor of New Orleans again and lost. In 2007, he won a second term as Lt. Governor and before the end of his term, he finally achieved his dream position, winning the Mayor’s race in 2010.
His eight years as Mayor have seemed like eternity for may New Orleans residents. Under Landrieu, crime has increased, while the NOPD has declined significantly. His interest in creating social programs to deal with crime has not worked. Despite Midnight Basketball programs and “Nola for Life” initiatives, New Orleans remains one of the murder capitals of the nation.
His leadership of the Sewerage and Water Board was abysmal, and it led to the diminished pumping capacity that created a massive flood from a moderate rainstorm last August. While the city was being overwhelmed in flood waters Landrieu refused to leave an Aspen Institute conference. His interest in hobnobbing outweighed his interest in serving his constituents.
In recent weeks, he has generated plenty of national publicity in his book tour from clueless liberal media outlets. None of the show hosts bothered to question the Mayor about the real problems in New Orleans. They just allowed him to spout his nonsense about fighting white supremacy and the legacy of racism by removing priceless, historic monuments.
His battle against the monuments and those who supported historical preservation in New Orleans was an egomaniacal quest to generate headlines and create support among members of the national media and Democratic Party leaders. The monuments were never racially contentious until Mitch Landrieu decided to spend two years and $2 million taking them down. He did not bring about racial unity in New Orleans, he created racial division. The sad thing is that he is proud of his record of promoting hate, while not providing public safety.
In the area of economic development, his record is very poor. In his eight years in office, there have been very few announcements of major employers moving to New Orleans. In addition, he has not redeveloped plenty of potentially viable projects. For example, the old Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East remains an eyesore today
Under Landrieu, rents have risen, while taxes and fees have skyrocketed. It is very difficult to afford to live in New Orleans for middle income workers.
While those who are employed are finding it challenging to survive in New Orleans, it is truly dangerous for African American men, who suffer from an astronomically high unemployment rate and are the ones most likely to be the victims of crime in the city. Poor neighborhoods throughout New Orleans are littered with blight, drugs, poverty and horrible street conditions. These areas have received almost no attention from a Mayor supposedly focused on battling racism.
Clearly, Landrieu is trying to use his national spotlight to run for President of the United States. He is being pushed by Democrat powerbrokers like James Carville, who compare Landrieu to Obama and Clinton. Hopefully, Democratic primary will not be fooled by Landrieu’s high-powered support and his progressive rhetoric but will examine his failed record as Mayor of New Orleans.
The only question to ask is, “Did Mitch Landrieu make New Orleans a better place to live and create a safer and more harmonious city?” The answer to clearly “No,” and if he failed in New Orleans, he certainly does not merit a promotion to Pennsylvania Avenue.