Houma to get business incubator, Parish to buy Whitney Bank building

Terrebonne Parish Government is set to purchase the Whitney Bank building and open a small business incubator.

Parish government is in talks this week with Whitney Bank to buy a $3 million building at 7910 Main St. in downtown Houma, according to Parish President Gordy Dove. Whitney Bank services will remain in the building, leasing space from the church. The government will then consolidate a number of its offices in the space and open a small business incubator on the first floor with Fletcher Technical Community College.

Between the costs, the rental income and the price for the 97,901 square feet, the church is getting a deal, Dove said.

“Remember the original Government Towers — completely full, I mean we couldn’t put anybody else in there — originally bought 24 years ago for $7.5 million, $70 a square foot,” he said. “We’re buying it for $3 million, $30 a square foot to $40 a square foot cheaper. I’m buying a lot of property. It’s a good deal.”

According to Dove, since Hurricane Ida, the church has been leasing multiple locations for office space for its staff, which gives the church $626,635 a year in rent.

The Parish Council accepted a letter of intent to purchase the building for $4.3 million. Dove said the additional $1.3 million is for building expansion. Whitney Bank will continue to lease 24,964 square feet of the building for $442,502 to continue its functions.

From 2018 to 2022, their average costs were $442,410 a year, according to estimates provided to the church by Whitney Bank.

According to Dove, the Terrebonne Parish Department of Public Works and Engineering, Terrebonne Parish Housing and Human Services, the Houma Police Department and the LSU Ag Center plan to move into the bank’s space after the purchase.

In addition to moving into the church’s numerous facilities, Dove said he is in talks with the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Bayou Arts Council, the Department of Veterans Affairs and others to see if they would be interested in sharing the space.

Fletcher Technical Community College Chancellor Kristine Strickland said the college has been looking for a place to open a small business incubator since earlier this year. When a pigeon approached him, he suggested opening one in a bank building.

“Fortunately, when I met with President Dove, he really had the same idea,” he said. “He was very interested in seeing a business incubator in Terrebonne Parish. It was like the stars aligned.”

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The incubator will offer start-up businesses space to use for activities such as conferences, lectures, meetings and general business. It will also offer classes and advice from business professors from Fletcher’s staff. The aim is to reduce overheads for start-ups and small businesses and also help budding entrepreneurs by providing information.

According to Strickland, who will be eligible to use the space has yet to be finalized, but he said it will likely be based on how much money the prospective business makes.

He added that he wants the classes to be accessible so that everyone can participate. They wouldn’t be the same as what someone would pay in college, but more like a smaller sized presentation focused on one aspect of the business.

“I think the real magic happens with some of the educational programs and training that we want to do there,” he said. “We’re hoping to have some classroom space, so we’ll be able to do some business classes. Not just your traditional college degree associate level, but short-term non-credit professional development.”

He said these would range from certification courses to general “what to look for when starting a business” lectures. He added that these will not only spread knowledge in the community but also create an environment that will help in networking with the participants.

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