Another amazing week for Harahan. As Stephanie Grace points out on NOLA.com, DC Mardi Gras is about hustling from meeting to meeting and telling your story. We have a positive story to tell and tell it often. And people listen. They want to help Harahan and be part of our success.
We go at it pretty hard. Here is a brief rundown of our efforts while in Washington:
Finalized and approved details of Grant worth $378,000 ($220,000 for City Hall/Police Station; $158,000 Senior Center*) – to strengthen/replace windows, doors and roofs
* This is in addition to the $251,000 secured from the State and Parish in 2023
Made presentations for additional funding to upgrade our parks.
Finalized legislation for consideration in BTR creating the “Harahan Economic Development District”. This will give us more tools promoting and encouraging positive economic development in “Historic” Downtown Harahan and along Hickory Avenue.
Shell Oil – Great interaction with Vice President, Gulf of Mexico and Community Development Director. Shell has between 800-900 employees in their New Orleans office. We discussed using Harahan as a recruiting and retention asset for Shell. Highlighting our short distance to their new River District location and status as a safe city to new any new employees. They loved the idea and our coming to visit City Hall in February.
Ports Association of Louisiana – with the potential acquisition of Avondale by the Port of South Louisiana, we better be building relationships with them. Like with Shell, 4,500 potential new jobs can have a significantly positive impact on our community.
Committee of 100 – We promoted Harahan at their annual reception. A literal Who’s Who in Louisiana business and non-profits. We are starting to see serious interest in our city from across the state – especially our efforts to refurbish our aging sewer system.
Center for Literacy and Learning - In the Russell Building of all places, we ran into newly appointed Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Richard Nelson and discussed how fundamental tax challenges small towns have in supporting quality education. Richard is bringing badly needed fresh ideas to the Capitol.
Multiple meetings with legislative, governmental officials and engineering firms about:
Flood Mitigation Project – Received a status update on this $3.5 million project at Zeringue Park. It is currently under review with an expected decision by March. It will have a major impact on street flooding along that stretch of Hickory.
FEMA/GOHSEP Fire Station – FEMA, the State and our engineering firm are making a final decision – hopefully soon, about the Fire Station. We either repair it or replace it with a new one. This has been a long and frustrating process, but we will continue to push from all angles for the best possible outcome for our fire department. Either way, this is between a $5 million – $15 million decision.
Wilson Street Sewer Project (Final Chapter) – Having secured $3.5 million in Capital Outlay for the replacement/upgrade of our sewer lines along the rest of Wilson Street, we finalized and submitted an outline of our plans to officials for review and approval. This is a much need continuation of what we started in 2022. All in all, we will have completed ~$12 million in sewer upgrades and replacements over the course of the last 4 years. None of this remotely possible without the help of Kirk Talbot, Big John Illg District 78 "Vote For Big", Deano Bonano Jefferson Parish Council District 2 and multiple other legislative officials.
We have also started the discussion about Community Project Funding from Congress about our vision for a River Center based on Environmental Research and National Security - even with interest from the US Coast Guard, the USCG Academy, and others picking up we are still years away, but it has to start somewhere. Great face-to-face meetings about this with the Kennedy, Cassidy, Scalise, Graves, Letlow and Carter teams. Even got a word in with Speaker Mike Johnson. Fingers crossed.
Believe it or not, Harahan has some important and interesting ties to the outside world. We can trace our roots as far back as 1719 when Joseph Chavier de Léry and his three brothers settled in what was called Côte de Tchoupitoulas. 6 of our citizen heroes are buried, memorialized or deemed unrecoverable on/in foreign soil or waters.
We will never forget their sacrifice.
Canada – The Canadian Embassy announced our new Sister City Partnership with Léry, Quebec, Canada on their Connect2Canada media platform last week. There is Harahan, right along side articles about Canadian projects in Atlanta and Los Angeles. We are also a national finalist for Canadian National Railroad grant. After hosting the Minister of Congressional Affairs and First Secretary, Economic Affairs at Louisiana Alive! Thursday night, the City of Harahan was welcomed to the Canadian Embassy and treated to an amazing tour of their facility – including their famous rooftop view overlooking our Capital Building. Establishing stronger natural ties to Louisiana is a priority for the Canadian government. If Harahan is the starting point to do just that, we are all in. Oh, and they like King Cake.
Belgium – We met with the Deputy Chief of Mission and Director of Communications. Harahan hero, Jules Haydel died and is buried in Belgium. His final resting place is the Henri Chappell American Cemetery in Welkenraedt. Additionally, the 708th Grand Railroad Division – trained at Camp Harahan was responsible for rebuilding most of Belgium’s rail infrastructure during World War II. They are helping us establish a Sister City Partnership with Welkenraedt. Also helping bring Jan Demeulemeester’s “My America” Art Exhibit to our Walking Track. They have their own pre-Lent celebration called the Carnival of Binche –it began in 1394!!! Oh, and they like our version of King Cake too.
Philippines – The Minister and Consul General hosted us at their historic embassy. Harahan citizen Thomas Picone died in a POW camp during World War II on July 2, 1942. He is buried at the Manila American Military Cemetery – along with 17,000 other Americans! Lionel Vicknair, who lived on Chris Laur is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the same cemetery. Lionel was killed aboard the “USS John Penn” in 1942 as well. The first Filipino communities in the United States were established in Louisiana in the late 18th century when enslaved Filipino sailors jumped ship from Spanish merchant ships while docked here. The communities of Manila Village and Clark Cheniere here in Jefferson Parish and St. Malo in St. Bernard have historic significance in U.S.-Philippines relations. They are working on establishing a Sister City Program for us as well as bringing an art exhibit to our walking track. No word if they like King Cake.
Finally, we visited with the Senior Investment and Trade Commissioner for the Australian Trade Commission. They have a $7trillion (with a "T") federal retirement fund and are looking for places to invest. We have a few ideas.