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Out To Lunch
Thursdays at 1pm; Sundays at 5pm

Out to Lunch finds Baton Rouge Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel combining her hard news journalist skills and food background: conducting business over lunch. Baton Rouge has long had a storied history of politics being conducted over meals, now the Capital Region has an equivalent culinary home for business: Mansur’s. Each week Stephanie holds court over lunch at Mansur’s and invites members of the Baton Rouge business community to join her.

Find episodes of Out to Lunch here.

  • In today’s hyper-competitive economy, even if you're a sharp business person you need a lot of tools to run a business - from everyday people-management HR skills to social media marketing, and that's not even touching the nuts and bolts of your business itself. To keep up and stay competitive, local business people are turning to specialized sources for help. Jody Mitchell is CEO of Directed Analytics, a Baton Rouge-based company focused on helping businesses with a range of services designed to generate ideas, develop systematic approaches, and come up with scalable solutions to help an organization succeed. Specifically, the firm uses technology and data to come up with new processes, procedures, and ways to measure productivity and performance in areas like accounting, workforce, IT, digital marketing and cybersecurity. Jody co-founded the firm in 2014 and in the years since has seen it grow to help clients in a range of industry sectors. When you get your business humming along and you're making money, you might decide it's a good time to sell. When that days comes along, selling your business isn't as easy as putting up a "For Sale" sign. Brandon Bourgeois is Senior Vice President and Marketing Director Of Sunbelt Business Brokers of Baton Rouge. The company is a local franchise of a national business brokerage firm that boasts it has sold more businesses through its more than two dozen franchisees around the country than any other business broker in the world. Sunbelt was started in the late 1970s in Charleston, South Carolina and specializes in helping mostly small businesses, offering an array of services that include not only pairing buyers and sellers together but helping a business owner decide how to price their business for sale and how to market it. Brandon is a Baton Rouge native and graduate of LSU, who joined Sunbelt in 2012 after learning about it around the family dining table. Brandon's father, Bob Bourgeois, is the local franchise owner, who has grown the company beyond Baton Rouge to include all of Louisiana, parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. You can find photos from this show by Erik Otts at itsbatonrouge.com. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  • In conversations about how cities ideally ought to run, you often hear the term "level playing field." That's meant to describe an urban environment that's equally accessible to everybody - physically, but also socio-economically. The concept behind this fundamental urban planning is, given that there are inevitably going to be wealth differences between different parts of town, as much of the structure of the city as can be controlled by ordinances and planning will ensure there are equally-distributed services like adequate public transportation, sanitation, green spaces and foliage. And conversely, there are not unequally created vast acres of concrete and food deserts. As you know if you've ever lived in a city, these basic tenets are not as easy to implement and provide as they might seem. And, despite its relatively compact size and adequate financial resources, Baton Rouge is no exception. We're the seat of State government and so our legislators see first hand every day, as they navigate the city, exactly where our deficits lie. And still, the city and its politicians can evidently only do so much to provide residents with the level playing field we all want as our urban foundation. In Baton Rouge, we're fortunate to have people and organizations who have stepped up to independently improve our social system and try and make the city a better place for all of us. Two of these people and organizations are Stephanie's guests on this edition of Out to Lunch. Samantha Morgan is Projects Manager at an organization called The Walls Project. The Walls Project's self-described mission is to lead programs, events, and alliances that work to break through and tear down the societal walls that discourage or prevent people from living safe, healthy, and prosperous lives. Even if you think you've never heard of the organization, if you've spent any time at all in Baton Rouge you've seen the murals they've sponsored and created all over town. They're too numerous to enumerate but if you've ever noticed an eye-catching mural on a wall in the city it's more than likely one of The Wall's Project walls. But painting on walls, if perhaps the most visible aspect of their work, is only a very small part of the organization's activities. Their programs range from a Tech Academy and a Coding Boot Camp in which kids who might not normally have access to such education learn tech skills that can lead to well-paid employment, to Baton Roots, a community farm and garden network. Darlene Adams Rowland is Executive Director of BREADA (Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance), the organization that owns and runs the Red Stick Farmer's Market. BREADA was initially created to "increase economic opportunities for small farmers," which in its quarter century of existence it has certainly accomplished. In bringing the products of small farmers to the city, BREADA has also created a permanent downtown market and a mobile farmers market serving those limited-access neighborhoods we have come to call food deserts. They also provide incentives to assist low income families to increase access to fresh food, and have created a kids club that teaches healthy lifestyles to our youngest market shoppers. Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. You can find photos from this show by Erik Otts at itsbatonrouge.la.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  • One of the biggest business stories in Louisiana today is in the growth of the renewable energy sector. With a growing acceptance of climate change, and policies in Washington that incentivize the development of renewable energy sources, it’s an exciting time to be in the clean energy space. Louisiana, because it already is home to so many petrochemical facilities, is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the growth. But renewable energy and clean energy are terms that get thrown around freely and actually cover a wide variety of energy types. There is even some disagreement about whether certain types of clean energy are really as clean as they claim to be. What’s going on in Louisiana and where do the opportunities lie? Renewable Diesel is a Big Deal One person who certainly knows what's going in the renewable energy sector locally and worldwide is Bryan Christjansen, General Manager of Renewable Energy Group’s facility in Geismar. REG produces about 75 million gallons of renewable diesel each year, and renewable propane, all sourced from leftover byproducts that nobody wants. The local plant on Highway 30 is one of 11 REG facilities in the US and Germany that together produce more than 500 million gallons of biodiesel per year. REG's industry leading stance in biodiesel from its home here in Baton Rouge is such a big deal that it attracted the attention of oil giant Chevron in June of 2022, which acquired the company for a figure north of $3B. REG is expanding to contribute around 25% of Chevron's worldwide bio-diesel production goal of 100,000 barrels by 2030. Here Come The Sun As you have no doubt noticed, there's a lot of sunshine here in Louisiana. That's why we're not only a leader in oil and gas and renewable diesel, but also in solar power generation. Pierre Moses is President of 127 Energy, a firm that specializes in developing solar- and battery-powered clean energy solutions for businesses, community institutions and individual customers. Pierre and his firm are experts in helping design and finance these clean energy systems, and have a mission to help make these systems more accessible to those who can least afford it, while also helping to address climate change. Pierre co-founded the firm in 2009, on the heels of founding another successful startup -- Make It Right Solar, a for-profit subsidiary of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, where he structured and completed more than 250 solar projects. If you believe the traditional group-think - that Louisiana is stuck in the mud and weighed down by our subservience to the traditional oil and gas industry - this edition of Out to Lunch is an eye-opener. It's nothing short of amazing to hear about the nationwide and worldwide industry-leader positions Louisiana is taking in renewable energy. Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. You can find photos from this by Erik Otts at itsbatonrouge.la.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  • In a part of the world where hurricanes and severe weather events are an ever present threat that appear to be getting worse, it would seem anyone who could come up with a way to predict not only how your general area would be affected by a storm but how much wind and water were expected at your specific street address... Well, you’d expect that person to be a world-famous gazillionaire and probably a figment of the collective imagination of a storm-weary public. But actually, there is a tool that can do precisely that. And it was developed right down the road at the Stennis Space center by a south Louisiana engineer. That engineer is Elizabeth Valenti, president and CEO of QRisq Analytics, the tech company that came up with this predictive technology. Qrisq uses geospatial analytics engines on big data to provide precise storm surge and wind risk analysis before and after a major storm. This is really important before a storm for all sorts of obvious reasons – like it can help you decide whether you should stay or evacuate, for instance, and whether it’s absolutely necessary to board up those windows. It’s also important on the back end because it can help resolve insurance claims, by determining whether a property was damaged by wind, which is covered by homeowners policies, or by flooding, which is covered by flood insurance. Elizabeth developed the technology in the early 2000s, when she was working at Stennis. In 2015, she spun QRisk Analytics off into its own company. Until recently, the tool was only available to government clients, like municipalities, who have used it to help inform their policy decisions about how to prepare their populations. Beginning with hurricane season 2022, Elizabeth has rolled out a web version of the QRisq app that will enable individual homeowners to determine the risk to their specific properties. Is this going to be an absolute game-changer for all of us living on the Gulf Coast who every time a storm heads our way have to decide whether to stay or run? Unfortunately it's taking a hurricane for subscribers to QRisq to find out. But as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, that day is coming. Elizabeth grew up in St. Bernard Parish, an area that has been battered more than a few times by massive storms. She received her electrical engineering degree from LSU. Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. You can find photos from this show at itsbatonrouge.la.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  • Food is something we know we do well in Louisiana. We’re renowned the world over for our Cajun and Creole cuisines, our seafood industry, and the many restaurants and famous chefs we have produced. But Louisiana also has a thriving culture for food entrepreneurs. People may bemoan that our tech or manufacturing sectors lag those of Texas or Silicon Valley, but they cannot quibble with the fact that food-based businesses in Louisiana are a slam dunk! Somebody who's seen more food entrepreneurial slam-dunks than anyone in the state is Gaye Sandoz. Gaye is Director of Foodii, the LSU Ag Center’s Food Innovation Institute. It's a business incubator that specifically helps food entrepreneurs develop, test, produce, package and brand that delicious salsa or healthy protein bars or to die for cookies they’ve made for years to the rave reviews of their family and friends. In the 10 years she has been at the helm of the incubator, Gaye has helped launch literally dozens of food business. She also has developed several successful products of her own, including the Clever Kitchen Microwave Barbecue Chicken Roasters, of which she has sold more than 60-thousand on shopping channel QVC. Gaye first began working in the industry Edible Enterprises in Norco and started her own company, Sandoz Marketing Specialists, to offer consulting services in marketing and food product development. Alvin Tanner is a recent beneficiary of Gaye's expertise. Alvin is owner of Alvin Ray’s Bayou Best Pickles, a food start up based in Gonzales that makes a variety of jarred pickles, the signature of which is a sweet, crisp tangy pickle that Alvin describes as a cross between a dill and a bread-and-butter. Alvin launched the company in 2014, when he started making the first of what would become three versions of his signature pickles. In the years since, he has grown his sales and distribution network, and today his pickles can be found in more than 400 supermarkets in six states, as well as in several local and regional restaurants. Bayou Best Pickles have also proven incredible popular on the rodeo circuit! (Who even knew there was a rodeo circuit in south Louisiana?) As the name on the label suggests, Alvin is from "down the bayou" and has been experimenting in the kitchen since he was a kid. He gave up his day job as a xx to work on Alvin Ray’s Bayou’s Best Pickles full time, and as he says in his inimitable Bayou Cadence, "I can't stop." Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. You can see photos from this show by Erik Otts at itsbatonrouge.la. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.