As we head toward the beginning of real Summer here in South Louisiana – you know, the day you wake up and it’s H-O-T – we might typically have vacation and hurricane season as top-of-mind issues. But this year things are different. Who knows if you’ll be able to take a vacation? With all of our Covid anxieties do we have the capacity to worry about hurricanes as well? Plus we have a whole range of new unknowns: The Saints, LSU, and back to the office. On this edition of out to Lunch, Peter Ricchiuti, Stephanie Riegel and Christiaan Mader run through those three current unknowns.

The Saints

It’s no secret that not everybody in the state of Louisiana has warm feelings for New Orleans. In towns across Louisiana it’s not unusual to find a certain amount of political and financial resentment about the amount of money and attention given to New Orleans.

But all of that melts way when it comes to football. The name of the team is The New Orleans Saints. But it might as well be The Louisiana Saints. From Shreveport in the North, to the most Southern point of Barataria Bay, Saints fans are everywhere. And so, along with all of our individual problems that we’re grappling with as we work our way through this pandemic, we have one question that unites us: What’s going to happen to football?

Whatever else happens during football season this year, one thing is becoming increasingly apparent. And that is, football stadiums are not going to be allowed to be packed to capacity.

Ed Lang - Saints and Pelicans CFO

Are you going to be able to go to the Dome this Saints season or are you going to have to watch games on TV? Saints & Pelicans CFO Ed Lang lays it out

Ed Lang, Chief Financial Officer for The New Orleans Saints, and The Pelicans, discusses the question that I’m sure every team in the league is trying to answer: Is there a way to have an NFL season where football becomes a sport more like golf or tennis, where most of the audience is not in the stadium, and revenue comes from sources other than ticket sales? Is that model financially possible for the NFL?

LSU

There are a lot of unknowns in our future. One thing we do know for sure though is, the State of Louisiana is facing a massive financial shortfall. Whenever this has happened in the past, the first victims of cost-cutting out of Baton Rouge are healthcare and education.

This time, the Governor is proposing to cover the budget gap with Federal funds. However, as of today, that is far from a done deal. So it won’t be surprising if we start to hear some of the familiar economic-crisis catch-cries coming from the capital. One of the old faithfuls is taking the ax to LSU – including proposals to close down whole departments. If this happens, one department that will not be on the chopping board is the department that might be the future of education itself – online learning.

Distance Learning expert Dr. Sasha Thackaberry from LSU

Are we going back to the classroom or is the future of education on Zoom? Distance Learning expert Dr. Sasha Thackaberry from LSU says probably it’s “yes” to both

Dr Sasha Thackaberry is LSU’s Vice President of Online and Continuing Education. The stay-at-home learning that colleges have had to suddenly adopt over the Covid lockdown is being talked about as possibly changing the nature of college education forever. As every single department is now looking at putting at least some of their curriculum online, Dr Thackaberry is suddenly a central figure in the future of LSU.

Back To The Office

Over the past couple of months, if you have an office job… Well, we might have to come up with a different title for your occupation.

We’ve traditionally called it “office work” because it was done at an office. But, as we have all discovered, you can do office work at home.

Working from home has turned out to have all kinds of advantages.  Office workers can avoid commuting and enjoy a more integrated work/life balance. And employers can cut down on the expense of running an office.

But what do these changes mean for people whose life and livelihoods revolve around the office? And there are plenty of them. Realtors. Food courts. Commercial cleaners. And almost every retail outlet in downtowns and CBD’s everywhere that revolve around the foot traffic that clusters of offices generate.

Ashley Thibodeaux Herbert from Bart's Office

Are you going to stay working from home or go back to the Office? Ashley Thibodeaux Herbert says you might do both – it’s called “hoteling”

Possibly nobody is more affected by these changes – or more of an expert at being able to predict the future of office work – than Ashley Thibodeaux Herbert. Ashley is CEO of a New Orleans-based company called Bart’s Office.

Bart’s Office is a full-service office moving company. But it does more than just move office furniture. Bart’s does everything from making sure you buy the furniture you need, to setting up your internet network. One of the clients they worked with in 2019, for example, was setting up the new New Orleans International Airport. So Ashley is in a good position to look at the what might be the future of the office.  is this whole work-from-home period going to be something we look back on as just a temporary phase? Or are we looking at a permanent change to our relationship with the office?

Photos by Jill Lafleur (except for the photo of Ed). More conversation about the Louisiana Covid economy is here.

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