The Slidell fishing pier that was created from the wreckage of the Interstate 10 twin spans after Hurricane Katrina is one reason St. Tammany Parish is getting the 2014 Entrepreneurial American Community Award, a national honor that Parish President Pat Brister announced at a news conference Thursday.
The popular recreation site is emblematic of the parish’s ability to bounce back from adversity, Brister said. But the pier isn’t the only reason Partners for Livable Communities chose St. Tammany for the award, which has only one recipient each year. She said the honor reflects the parish’s “sheer volume” of entrepreneurial initiatives.
Most former recipients were recognized for a single success or a long-term project, she said, pointing to Chattanooga, Tennessee’s cleanup of its downtown and waterfront and Louisville, Kentucky’s effort to increase the number of college degrees within its workforce. Last year, Houston was recognized for bouncing back from the oil bust of the 1980s to become an economically and culturally dynamic city, she said.
St. Tammany’s award recognizes a broad array of public- and private-sector achievements, and Brister said the collaborative spirit saluted by the award is “what makes me the most proud of this honor for our parish.”
Factors that set St. Tammany apart include the Tammany Trace, the parish’s disaster planning and response structure, the establishment of the first operational community land trust in Louisiana and the first public wetlands mitigation bank in the country, Brister said.
She also pointed to the effort to privatize the former Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville in the face of the state’s decision to close the facility.
Private-sector contributions include the Maritime Pilots Institute in Covington that draws trainees from all over the world and Chemo Beanies, a venture that designs and markets accessories for women undergoing cancer treatment.
Joining Brister in announcing the award were two business leaders: Brenda Bertus, of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, and Dawn Sharpe-Brackett, of the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce.
Also on hand were a raft of public officials: Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan, Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere, St. Tammany Parish School Superintendent Trey Folse, St. Tammany Parish Council Vice Chairman Richard Tanner, St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain, St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1 Chief Chris Kaufmann and St. Tammany Assessor Louis Fitzmorris.
Brister said the award will be presented Dec. 11 in Washington, D.C.
Partners for Livable Communities, established in 1977, recognizes efforts to set a common vision for the future, discover and use new resources for community and economic development, and build public-private coalitions to further goals.
Brister said the award brings publicity to winning communities. Over the next few weeks, St. Tammany will be featured on the organization’s website, www.livable.org/livability-live. She said she hopes the recognition will encourage more entrepreneurs and innovators to consider St. Tammany for their ventures.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.