NEW ORLEANS -- A legislative audit released Monday showed that the New Orleans Regional Business Park failed to generate any new business activity over the past three years.
Hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, crippled by past mismanagement, stung by the failure to renew its millage, the New Orleans Regional Business Park is barely hanging on.
The office space is almost unoccupied. The land is nearly vacant. And, as the audit points out, it's been like that for nearly three years.
Anchored by a single warehouse tenant, the business park boasts acres of undeveloped land and a prime office location in New Orleans East.
But with no new tenants in three years, a legislative audit released Monday shows revenue dipping below projections and a future that is uncertain.
Executive Director Joseph Shorter has cut to the bone, including the salaries of himself and his two employees.
"Very candidly, we've made some tough decisions here,” he said. “When Congress was discussing sequester, we sequestered ourselves. Every staff member took a 20 percent reduction in compensation, myself included."
Shorter said the rejection of the millage during last November's election will cost the agency nearly $220,000 a year. He also points to political disinterest: Between the City Hall and legislative appointees, only eight of 13 seats on the agency's board have been filled.
"It's tough. I will not sit here and tell you, oh, Mike, I got this man. I do not have this yet,” Shorter said.
Before Shorter was hired in January 2012, the park had been without a leader for two years following the dismissal of former director Roy Mack Sr. over ethics violations.
"It was a ship without a rudder, without an engine,” he said. “No wonder it floundered."
So now it's Shorter's job to attract new businesses, and despite the challenges, he said the political winds have shifted and the prospects are improving.
"I understand what we can accomplish here, and I'm doing my level best to help make that happen,” Shorter said.
Shorter said the agency recently derived some one-time revenue from a Hollywood movie production that rented space.
Since then the agency has been pushing to get a film production studio to set up a permanent location.