October 31, 2019 (St. Bernard, Louisiana): On Tuesday, October 29, Chris Pilkerton of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) paid a visit to two small businesses located in St. Bernard Parish. The visit was intended to highlight the role of small businesses in a thriving economy while gathering feedback about SBA’s programs. The SBA is an advocate for the nation’s 30 million small businesses and provides services that help entrepreneurs start businesses, grow their companies, and create jobs in the local community.
Pilkerton’s visit began with a tour of Southern Services and Equipment Inc. in eastern St. Bernard. Twice recognized by Inc. 5000 magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States, Southern Services and Equipment Inc. (SSE) is a full-service facility for steel fabrication and structural steel erection. SSE President and CEO, Mindy Nunez Airhart shared how instrumental SBA has been for their business and her excitement over Pilkerton’s choice to tour enterprises in St. Bernard Parish.
“The SBA’s visit to St. Bernard is significant because it is apparent to those at the state and federal level that St. Bernard is an up-and-coming community that is home to a thriving base of small businesses,” explained Airhart. “We are appreciative to the SBA for highlighting our business, for the second time, as a shining example of how the SBA can help small businesses grow and thrive throughout generations.”
During his visit, Pilkerton also discussed Opportunity Zones and how he believes communities can leverage them for transformational growth. Established in 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, “Opportunity Zones were created to spur economic development in distressed communities throughout the country. It was great to be in St. Bernard Parish with local stakeholders to see firsthand the companies making a direct impact on their communities,” explained Pilkerton. “When federal, state and local leaders come together to discuss their economic development visions, the benefits of Opportunity Zones and workforce development initiatives are endless. President Trump’s Administration is laser-focused on ensuring that American businesses are prepared for these opportunities and that we have the workers ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation Executive Director, Andrew Jacques, echoed Pilkerton’s excitement for Opportunity Zones across the region and in St. Bernard Parish. “We were fortunate enough to have three census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones, including key areas like Arabi, parts of the riverfront, and Nunez Community College. We’re excited to coordinate with the SBA—along with all of our local stakeholders, landowners, businesses, and developers—on leveraging the new incentive program to drive business and real estate development.”
Arabi Sling & Rigging was also a stop on Pilkerton’s visit to St. Bernard Parish. For over 45 years, Arabi Sling & Rigging has manufactured lifting slings, cargo control, marine & industrial supplies and material handling equipment. The 3rd generation business shared their reflections on the visit and how the SBA has impacted its operations. “The SBA was crucial in helping us reopen after Hurricane Katrina. They worked with us to obtain SBA loans that provided the ability to rebuild our facility and purchase new equipment,” explained Holly Donnelly, Vice President of Arabi Sling & Rigging. “We are very grateful that Administrator Pilkerton took the time to visit our facility and meet some of our employees. We were excited to share our passion for what we do and our plans for growth as we finalize our move to a 51,000 square foot facility next year, right here in St. Bernard Parish.”
In Louisiana, 99.5% of all businesses are small and employ over 53% of the workforce. SBA delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships. The Louisiana District Office is located at 365 Canal Street., Suite 2820, New Orleans, LA 70130. Anyone interested in learning more about local assistance, educational opportunities, and funding programs can visit www.sba.gov.
About St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation
St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation (SBEDF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to retain and create jobs, build prosperity, and improve the quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. The Board of Directors consists of 29 voting members and 8 non-voting honorary members and public officials, all of which serve as volunteers to the organization. SBEDF's work is made possible through the general support of St. Bernard Parish Government and its donors the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, Port of New Orleans, and Valero at the Lead Investors Level; Ochsner Health System and St. Bernard Port, Harbor, and Terminal District at the Impact Champion Level; the Law Offices of Sidney Torres, III, Associated Terminals, Chalmette Refining, and Gulf Coast Bank and Trust at the Pillars Level; and Palmisano Group, Boasso Global, Park Investments LLC, Adams and Reese LLP, Cox Communications, Hancock Whitney, and Capital One at the Community Leaders Level. For more information, visit www.sbedf.org.
About Small Business Administration (SBA)
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.