Terrebonne Parish government is set to buy the Whitney Bank building and open a small business incubator.
Parish government is in talks with Whitney Bank this week to buy the building at 7910 Main St. in Houma for $3 million, according to parish president Gordie Dove. Whitney Bank services will remain in the building, renting space from the parish. Next, the government will consolidate several of its offices into the space and open a small business incubator on the first floor with Fletcher Technical Community College.
Between capital costs, rental income and the value of 97,901 square feet, Parish is getting a deal, Dove says.
“Remember the original State Tower — it’s completely full, I mean we can’t put anybody else in there — it was originally bought for $7.5 million, $70 a square foot, 24 years ago,” he said. “We’re buying this for $3 million, $30 a square foot — $40 cheaper. I’m buying a lot of property. That’s a good deal.”
According to Dove, since Hurricane Ida, the parish has been leasing several lots for its employees for office space, which costs the parish $626,635 a year in rent.
The Parish Council passed a letter of intent to purchase the building for $4.3 million. An additional $1.3 million will go toward expanding the building, Dove said. Whitney Bank will continue to lease the 24,964 square foot building for $442,502 to continue operations.
According to calculations provided by Whitney Bank to the public, their average profit expenditure from 2018 to 2022 was $442,410 per year.
Such as Dove, Terrebonne Parish Public Works Administration and Engineering, Terrebonne Parish Housing and Human Services, the Houma Police Department and the LSU Ag Center.
Moving through several parts of the parish, Dove said he has been talking to the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Bayou Arts Council, the Office of Veterans Affairs and others to see if they would be interested in sharing the space.
Fletcher Technical Community College Chancellor Christine Strickland said the college has been looking for a location to open a small business incubator since early this year. As Dove approaches her, she floats the idea of opening one of the bank buildings.
“Fortunately, when I met with President Dove, he actually had the same idea,” she said. “He was very interested in seeing a business incubator in Terrebonne Parish. It was like the stars aligned.”
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The complex provides space for start-up businesses to use for conferences, lectures, meetings and general functions. It also offers lessons and advice from business professors on Fletcher’s staff. The goal is to reduce costs for start-ups and small businesses and help start-up entrepreneurs by providing information.
According to Strickland, the details of who will be eligible to use the space have not yet been ironed out, but she noted that future business will likely depend on how much money it makes.
She added that she wants anyone to attend the classes. They won’t be the same as what one would pay in college, but more like a bite-sized approach focused on business.
“I think the real magic happens with some of the educational programs and training that we want to do there,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have some classroom space, so we could do some business classes. Not just your traditional college degree associate degree, but short-term non-credit professional development.”
These range from certificate courses to general “business considerations” classes, she said. She said that these not only spread knowledge in the community, but also create an opportunity to create a relationship with the audience.