LOOKING AHEAD: Trade mission to New Orleans

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez this week will lead a group of business leaders, including representatives from The Walt Disney Company and Goldman Sachs & Co., on an investment mission to the New Orleans area. The May 4-5 mission is designed to inform companies that already have expressed an interest in investing in the Gulf Coast region about the opportunities available to them. At least 30 companies in industries including manufacturing, real estate development and finance have committed to participate.
During the visit, business leaders will meet with Gutierrez, federal rebuilding coordinator Donald Powell and other federal, state and local officials who will tout the benefits of the Gulf Opportunity Zone legislation and other tax incentives directed at new investment.
This is the first time the federal government has led such a mission within the United States, though trade and investment missions commonly are done between this country and others.
Caution: Pontificating ahead
The local debate season resumes this week with candidates for the May 20 runoff election squaring off in several forums. Monday will bring the first televised debate, with Mayor Ray Nagin and his challenger, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, squaring off on WWL-TV.
On Tuesday the Alliance for Good Government will hold forums pitting the mayoral candidates, the District 3 City Council candidates and the District 4 assessor candidates.
The American Marketing Association will hold a mayoral forum on “Addressing Our Image Problem,” on Tuesday. And the Algiers Economic Development Foundation will host runoff candidates for mayor, City Council at-large and Council District C.
Redesigning health care
Several task forces of the Louisiana Recovery Authority will meet during the next two weeks in Baton Rouge, including a committee considering a redesign of the local health care system.
The Public Health and Healthcare Task Force convenes Monday to resume its exploration of how to address the health care needs of New Orleans, including those of the city’s indigent people.
The group’s work has proven somewhat controversial thus far as at least one report it commissioned suggested that New Orleans has enough hospital beds, even after hundreds of beds were closed due to flood damage to local hospitals.
The same commission however also supports the development of a major teaching and research hospital that has been proposed jointly by LSU Health Sciences Center and the Veterans Administration.
More Festing to come
Music-lovers who didn’t get enough this past weekend will get a second chance when Round 2 of New Orleans’ biggest musical party begins. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival attracted many thousands on the opening weekend, with Fest officials speculating that Friday may have been the biggest opening day in the event’s history.
Among the dozens of musical acts coming up are Fats Domino, Lionel Ritchie, Nicholas Payton, Jimmy Buffett, The Radiators and Donald Harrison Jr.
Mouth-watering date
Much to the delight of restaurateurs an Louisiana seafood lovers, the inshore spring shrimp season will open Thursday. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will open state waters for shrimping from the eastern shore of South Pass of the Mississippi River to the western shore of Vermilion Bay and Southwest Pass at Marsh Island, the agency said in a news release.
Thwarting fears that the season would be delayed, the agency said it took into account the latest biological and hydrological data in deciding to open the waters. The commission will meet again this week to consider when to open additional tracts.

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