The return of Elmer's Island, cabinets and Katrina Cottages and more
THE RETURN OF ELMER'S ISLAND?

Located directly across Caminada Pass from Grand Isle, Elmer's Island is a continuation of one of the few land-accessible beaches in Louisiana. Camping and fishing on the 1,700-acre island was a deeply rooted family tradition for generations of south Louisiana residents, but Elmer's Island closed in 2002 in hopes a new owner would pick it up for public use again. Now it appears the federal government has finally gotten its act together.

The state's congressional delegation has secured $1.75 million through the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill. The money would be used to make the purchase and convert the land, ensuring the development is compatible with the state's coastal restoration efforts. "This is a critical step to the completion of the protection of the 1,700 acres for continued public use," says Larry Schmidt, director of the New Orleans branch of the Trust for Public Land. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, says public usage is important, but the funding also addresses conservation. "Elmer's Island boasts low dunes, mud and sand flats, marsh, lagoon and a tidal channel that provide prime habitat for many species of fish and birds that should be preserved," he says. ' Jeremy Alford

CABINETS AND KATRINA COTTAGES

Once known as a destination for hot sauce and canned black-eyed peas with jalapeño peppers, the vacant Trappey plant in New Iberia will soon ring with the sound of hammers and saws. New York City-based company JDBO Modular has bought the historic property as a location to mass produce cabinet units for the building industry. Iberia Industrial Development Foundation president Mike Tarantino has been negotiating with JDBO for about 18 months, and the destructive force of last year's hurricanes and the new GoZone economic development tax credit incentives helped bring the cabinet company to the table. JDBO's production goal is approximately 1,000 kitchen units a day.

A second phase may be of more interest to local residents whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. JDBO also manufactures modular housing, and the company folded the housing component of its business into the original plan, recognizing that it would be close to a major market for the housing. Now that the deal's been consummated, Tarantino says he plans to put JDBO in touch with the Louisiana Recovery Authority, whose architects have designed a variety of modular "Katrina cottages" for storm victims. While JDBO may be the first, Tarantino says it is not the only housing company interested in south Louisiana locations. "We've been approached by a number of modular companies over the past few months. We're pursuing relationships with them. This could be a very good industry for people who need to recover from the storm and for the city and the area." ' Mary Tutwiler

IPODS AND COLLEGE CREDIT

The Lafayette Parish School System has a new free program to allow high school seniors and graduating juniors to get an early start on their college education. UL Lafayette, South Louisiana Community College and Louisiana Technical College are all opening their doors to qualifying high school students, who can receive both high school and college credit for a variety of available courses. An informational meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 at the Vermilion Conference Center for interested students, who also will be eligible to win two iPods (the new video versions) and two $50 gas cards just for attending. For more information on Jumpstart, visit lpssonline.com or call its hotline at 521-7102. ' Nathan Stubbs

EVERYBODY LOVES ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Everyone's campaigning on economic development these days, no matter what the office. When Mitch Landrieu ran for lieutenant governor and won, he proclaimed his agency would take on more of an economic development role, despite the department's core mission of tourism, marketing and state parks. And of course, Gov. Kathleen Blanco had campaigned on the notion of doing the same with her gig. Now it appears the secretary of state post is swinging the same way, if you believe the campaign trail rhetoric. State Sen. Francis Heitmeier, a New Orleans Democrat, says if elected he would use the office to create jobs and rebuild the state economy ' but nothing more specific. He says the SOS can "make it easier to do business in our state," since it already handles a great deal of business filings. (The office also oversees elections and the State Archives.) Republican state Sen. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge posts the same on his Web site: "Every statewide official should be engaged in leading Louisiana's efforts to attract business and industry to our stateâ?¦" Not to be left out, former state GOP chairman Mike Francis is touting the same, even promising to serve as an international recruiter for new businesses. ' JA

A POLITICAL GHOST

Former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin might be retired from public office and already on to greener pastures as president of a major pharmaceutical lobby, but his congressional committee continues to linger around like some political ghost. According to second quarter financial statements, the committee account has $156,000 in the bank. In its heyday, Tauzin's committee pulled down hefty contributions from PACS and oil corporations to power brokers and conglomerates.

Donations are considerably down, almost to nothing, but the congressional committee still has enough money to cut checks. Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon received $2,000 from the Tauzin fund in May. A gaggle of other congressional candidates received $1,000 donations as well, including GOP Congresswoman Mary Bono of California. Tauzin, a Republican who chaired the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, gave up his congressional seat in 2004. He now heads up Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. ' JA

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