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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Please Welcome Troy Remy – CBC’s VP of Human Resources!

Message from Merritt Lane, President and CEO of Canal Barge Company:

Earlier this year, I announced that Tom Smith, our long-time Vice President of Human Resources, would be transitioning to a new position of Vice President of Quality and Customer Service on our Operations Team, and that we were conducting an extensive nationwide search for a new CBC Vice President of Human Resources. That search is now complete.

I am extremely pleased to announce that Troy Remy has joined the Canal Barge Company family as our new Vice President of Human Resources.  Troy has over 20 years’ experience in progressive Human Resources management positions in industries as diverse as energy, aggregates and marine transportation.

As most of you know, we believe that people make the difference at Canal Barge Company. Accordingly, we have made every effort to be thoughtful in making this critically important decision. I am confident that we have found the right HR Leader in Troy.

Please join me in welcoming Troy and his family to the CBC family!

Sincerly,
Merritt

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2012 Jones F. Devlin Awards for Maritime Safety

On May 23, 2013, the Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) honored the U.S. Maritime Industry for safe marine operations at the Annual Safety Awards Luncheon held at the Loews Hotel in New Orleans. Jones F. Devlin Awards are given to vessels that have operated for at least two years without a lost-time injury.

At Canal Barge Company, we know that confidence starts with good people and we are proud to announce a total of 18 CBC towboats and 2 Illinois Marine Towing (IMT) towboats earned 2012 Jones F. Devlin honors. Five CBC vessels have operated 10 consecutive years or more without a lost-time injury! Canal Barge continues to be proud of our exceptional crews for demonstrating our strong commitment to safety and environmental stewardship.

MV ELIZABETH HUGER – 17 years
MV NED MERRICK – 14 years
MV CHOCTAW – 11 years
MV LIBERTY – 11 years
MV SPIRIT – 11 years
MV MARY LUCY LANE – 9 years
MV CAROLINE – 7 years
MV MARIAN HAGESTAD – 7 years
MV HAMILTON – 6 years
MV ELLY LANE – 6 years
MV JOSEPH M. JONES – 6 years
MV LAKE CHARLES – 6 years
MV BULL CALF – 5 years
MV KILLIAN L. HUGER – 5 years
MV MERRICK JONES – 4 years
MV INNOVATOR – 4 years
MV CHANNAHON – 3 years (IMT vessel)
MV MARY C – 2 years (IMT vessel)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Doug Downing Interviewed on WWNO’s “Out to Lunch” Program

Canal Barge Company CFO Doug Downing and Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange joined Peter Ricchiuti, Assistant Dean at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, for WWNO’s “Out to Lunch” program. Each week, the “Out to Lunch” program features guests from the New Orleans business community joining Peter for an interview over lunch at Commander’s Palace.

Doug, Gary and Peter discussed the national importance of waterways commerce and why the Port and river system is vital to New Orleans and our local economy. To listen to the interview, click here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mississippi River’s Many ‘Parents’ Look To Unify

On April 19, NPR ran a story on the Mississippi River system. Del Wilkins, Canal Barge Company VP of Northern Operations and Business Development, discusses how critical barge transportation is to the nation, as well as the inland river infrastructure that keeps it running. The full text of the article is below. To access the story on NPR’s website, or listen to their audio file of the story, please visit their website here: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/25/177954961/mississippi-rivers-many-parents-look-to-unify?sc=17&f=2.

Mississippi River’s Many ‘Parents’ Look To Unify

by David Schaper
April 19, 2013

Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.

Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi’s most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation’s largest river system.

So far, that hasn’t been easy.

Critical, Crumbling Lifeline

Sixty percent of the nation’s agricultural exports move by barge up and down the Mississippi River system, as do billions of dollars’ worth of petroleum, coal, steel and other commodities. It’s a critical lifeline for the nation’s economy, but one not without problems.

One of the problems is infrastructure, like locks and dams, canal walls, flood walls and levees, says Del Wilkins with the Canal Barge Co., which operates barges and tows all throughout the Mississippi River system. “Infrastructure is old, and it’s crumbling,” he says.

Wilkins says one barge can carry the freight equivalent of 144 trucks or 46 rail cars, yet the nation’s water infrastructure, he says, is generally left out of the transportation funding conversation in Washington — until there’s a crisis. And over the past two years, the Mississippi River has endured two near-catastrophes.

“The extremes that this nation has faced in the heartland — from the largest recorded flood in the history of the lower Mississippi River, which is pretty astonishing, to the worst drought in over 50 years and all the challenges that brings — has clearly focused political attention in a way that we haven’t seen in quite a while on the issue of navigation,” says Maj. Gen. John Peabody, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Those weather disasters led to the Corps blowing up a levee to operate a floodway one year, and then blowing apart underwater rock outcroppings to keep barges from running aground the next.

There are almost constant dredging needs up and down the river. There are not only issues with the locks and dams, but some levees may not withstand the next great flood; and then there’s the battle against invasive species such as the Asian carp.

And all the channeling of the Mississippi upriver is diverting freshwater and vital sediment away from the wetlands in the river’s Louisiana delta. The state’s Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne says that’s got to stop.

“We’re steadily losing Louisiana’s coastline, the equivalent of a football field of land in less than an hour, literally. And that’s just gonna accelerate if something’s not done,” Dardenne says.

‘800 Parents’

Other problems along the Mississippi include industrial pollution, as well as farm, chemical and nutrient runoff, affecting water quality all the way down to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

And while the Mississippi River is the lifeblood of a huge swath of the nation’s economy, it’s also a life source for nearly half of the nation’s migratory birds, a quarter of our fish species and the source of drinking water for millions of residents.

“When you’re talking about sustaining the river, you have to look at it from an environmental standpoint, from an economic standpoint, from a navigation standpoint, and every aspect of life along that river affects every other aspect of life along the river,” Dardenne says.

The problem is that there are so many divergent interests along the Mississippi and its tributaries across 31 different states.

“The system is so large, it intimidates cooperation,” says Val Marmillion, managing director of America’s Wetland Foundation. He says that as a result, the Mississippi’s problems are usually addressed only on a crisis-by-crisis basis.

Mark Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, agrees and says that’s led to a balkanized Mississippi River management.

“We don’t treat it as though it’s a river. For us, it’s like a child that has 800 parents,” Davis says.

That leaves the river an orphan, Davis says, whose needs are not always funded as a priority.

America’s Wetland Foundation is trying to create a coalition to speak on behalf of river issues with one voice. It also wants a compact among the Mississippi River states, similar to that signed by Great Lakes governors five years ago — one that protects the Mississippi River system for all the competing interests in it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CityBusiness Lists CBC in Annual “Top 100 Private Companies”

New Orleans CityBusiness listed Canal Barge Company as #11 in its annual ‘Top 100 Private Companies’ in the New Orleans area (based on revenue). Canal Barge has continued to move higher in this annual listing as we have grown our operations over the years. Canal Barge is pleased to receive this external recognition, which we believe is an outgrowth of our long-term vision, consistent management, and focus on our strategy.

The Special Focus article is featured in the March 15-21, 2013 issue of CityBusiness and includes an interview with CBC President and CEO, Merritt Lane. Merritt’s interview is below.

Interview by Ben Myers of New Orleans CityBusiness
Business Ebbs, Flows on Fluxing River

“The local maritime industry has been suffering annual crises in recent years.

In 2011, Mississippi River levels reached record highs, exacerbating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ strained dredging resources. Last year, a widespread drought created the opposite problem, shrinking river depths to the point that trade associations and politicians warned that commerce might halt altogether.

That didn’t quite happen, but local businesses such as Canal Barge Co. faced severe restrictions nonetheless. CEO Merritt Lane said the first half of the year promised to deliver the strong growth he had projected, but potential gains evaporated along with the shrinking river.

‘For six months of year, we fought a situation where we were not able to load as deeply, we had to cut back the size of our tows, we had more delays,’ Lane said. ‘All of that means less revenue and more expense.’

Lane envisions sharing more risk with shippers through different contracting methods. Strict daily rates aren’t on the horizon, at least not for Canal Barge, but he said tonnage-based rates force carriers to shoulder disproportionate risk during natural events.

‘It’s very common for business in the upper reaches throughout the year to have ice clauses. Maybe we need to have something like drought clauses,’ Lane said, acknowledging that ‘market acceptance’ of this idea is uncertain.

The good news for Canal Barge was that its 2012 revenue tally of $308.4 million was only slightly off the previous year, and precipitation is picking up again along the river. Improved water and manufacturing driven by low natural gas prices bodes well for the company, Lane said.

New chemical and steel plants popping up in the River Parishes benefit barge companies such as Canal in temporary and long-term ways. They can deliver components for new plants under construction and ship the water-borne products the facilities will make.

At the same time, Lane said, the building materials market is soft, in part, because Louisiana’s recession-resilient construction industry is attracting competition among transportation firms.

‘Too many people chasing the same thing tends to make for a rather soft market,’ he said.”

To subscribe to New Orleans CityBusiness, click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Resurgent New Orleans Attracting Seasoned Entrepreneurs

On March 15, The Times Picayune ran a story about how New Orleans is drawing an increasing number of entrepreneurs and professionals. The full text of the article is below.

Resurgent New Orleans Attracting Seasoned Entrepreneurs
By Mark Waller, The Times-Picayune

“It’s something that growing up, I never could have fathomed,” said Bradley Bain of TurboSquid about the new vibrancy of New Orleans.

It was a common lament among legions of New Orleans mothers and fathers, year after year. For their children to find the best professional and economic opportunities and the best settings to raise their own families, they had to leave. So off they went to Houston, Atlanta and other distant points. People called it the “brain drain,” and it seemed irrevocable.

That is, until now.

First there were the reports after Hurricane Katrina about idealistic, educated young adults streaming in to join the rebuilding and fuel an awakening of entrepreneurship. Now the surveyors of that entrepreneurial landscape say they are seeing a new development: Experienced professionals and veteran entrepreneurs, including New Orleans natives who left in the 1980s or 1990s to build careers elsewhere, are coming back.

Real estate leaders and economic developers say they see it. Tim Williamson, chief executive of The Idea Village entrepreneur support network that is holding its culminating annual event, Entrepreneur Week, over the next several days, held a reception for some of the newcomers and newly returned at his Uptown house in January.

“The purpose of this was really sort of to recognize something is happening,” he told his guests. Almost like an astounded longtime resident accustomed to reports of stagnation or decline, he said, “We’re seeing successful people choosing to come to New Orleans. There really is a huge group of people who are moving here with their families and choosing to move here.”

Williamson said it’s not just an emotional decision because of family ties or the alluring culture. It’s a practical decision, based on the conviction that New Orleans has become a center of opportunity.

A series of guests at Williamson’s party took turns telling their stories.

Among them was Kevin Wilkins, who had a successful career in finance in Boston and married a New Orleans native but only recently and suddenly felt compelled to move here. Also attending was Bradley Bain, who grew up in New Orleans and left for college and technology work in Austin, Texas, before, somewhat unexpectedly, deciding to move back. Neither Michael Bauer or his wife are from New Orleans, and Bauer moved around the country frequently for a career helping start-ups before discovering the potential of New Orleans and moving from Dallas. Carol Markowitz, a corporate finance expert who moved from Los Angeles, shared a story similar to Bauer’s.

Real estate analyst Wade Ragas said it’s too early to discern the movement in demographic details from Census numbers – a general update on Thursday found more than 25,000 people moved to the city from 2010 to 2012 as it crept to 81 percent of its pre-Katrina population, and more than 37,000 arrived in the entire metropolitan area – but Ragas said the reports are widespread from people who work in home sales and relocation.

“The anecdotal information from realtors is consistent with what is being said by The Idea Village people,” Ragas said. “That was not the typical person they saw coming to this market before Katrina.”

“Everyone’s got their fingers crossed, hoping that this holds up,” he said.

Richard Haase, president of the Latter & Blum real estate firm, said his agents are seeing more incoming corporate workers to the city and surrounding parishes, following announcements such as General Electric’s decision to set up a technology office in New Orleans.

“In the last two to three years, we’ve seen a gradual increase in the return of professionals,” he said. “It’s good news. We see it all the time.”

Haase said he thinks the city’s affordability relative to other urban centers and praise in national media for its business climate, economy, tourism preeminence and other attributes are helping drive the interest. “It seems like on a weekly basis I’m hearing or seeing a new top national ranking in a survey or study,” Haase said.

Gardner Realtors Operations President Glenn Gardner makes the same observations. “We do see a lot of young to middle aged professionals looking at New Orleans again more closely as a spot they may want to go,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s own son went to Houston for five years. And then he came back.

Gardner said the thinks a revival in health care is helping. The city lost a lot of doctors after Katrina when their patients scattered, he said, but now it seems to be regaining them.

The size and qualifications of the local workforce present perhaps the biggest speed bumps to this trend, economic developers and technology executives said. They say it still is easier to lure the young and unattached than people who are married and have children. At its annual meeting on Thursday, Greater New Orleans Inc. revealed a survey of companies that found widespread satisfaction with several business conditions, except for the adequacy of the workforce.

Michael Hecht, president of GNO Inc., also said his group is seeing a second post-Katrina wave of arrivals, this time consisting of more established people with families, attracted in part by the cost of living. “You can do better in New Orleans for less than anywhere in America,” he said.

He said demand for experienced workers still outpaces supply, but the situation seems poised to improve gradually. Research gathered by GNO Inc. showed that from 2002 to this year, the New Orleans region gained population in all but two age ranges, people ages 15 to 19 and those ages 45 to 50. The 25 to 35-year-old group made the biggest increase.

Williamson said start-ups need an influx of expertise as they mature. And out-of-town investors are watching the trend with interest. If the city keeps attracting people, the workforce shortcomings might change.

Finding a changed city

Kevin Wilkins, 47, was a brand manager for Proctor & Gamble, a marketing vice president for Fidelity Investments and a managing director for the pension firm State Street Research before the BlackRock investment firm bought it. He met his wife, New Orleans native and university administrator Ginny Wise, in college. They lived in Boston, had three children, and thrived there, he said.

“She’s always loved New Orleans,” he said. They visited her family regularly and each time concluded, “There’s no opportunities for us. So back to Boston we went.”

When they came to help family members after Katrina, he said, “We began seeing a different city.” It had a new sense of shared resilience, authenticity and hopefulness, he said.

Tulane University called Wise about a job as vice president of development, Wilkins had flexibility working as an investor after the State Street buyout, and changes in educational offerings in New Orleans seemed more accommodating for their children. For the first time they thought seriously about moving. In 2010, they did.

Now Wilkins works as an adjunct marketing professor at Tulane, operations chief for the Idea Village and a mentor to entrepreneurs in its programs, which he said he loves because it’s “like a Harvard business school case every day.” He said the entire family is delighted with the move, even the children who doubted it at first.

“I’m seeing a maturing ecosystem,” Wilkins said about the New Orleans start-up scene. “I’m seeing more complex companies. While it is a young market, what I’m seeing is it is a very engaged market. It’s really taking hold. It’s real.”

Opportunity suddenly emerges

After his own childhood in New Orleans Bradley Bain, 34, moved to Austin for college, where, he said, “There were so many opportunities, I never left.” He helped start a software development firm and often thought fondly of his hometown but didn’t consider New Orleans a viable alternative for his work.

The tug of home grew when his wife got pregnant. Still, he said, “We never thought that an opportunity would ever present itself.” He remembered New Orleans as a place his parents counseled his older brothers to leave early in their careers.

His mindset changed when he was introduced to TurboSquid, an animation and 3D modeling clearinghouse in New Orleans. He read more about the city’s resurgence. “All the sudden, we felt like it could happen,” he said.

He moved back last year to become a senior software engineer for TurboSquid.

Bain thinks state tax incentives have helped spur New Orleans, but the growth trajectory is young, and it remains easiest to recruit ex-patriates to the city. “I still think there’s a wall to be climbed,” in marketing New Orleans to people without family connections, he said.

In the meantime, he finds it emotionally stirring to watch the city progress.

“It’s something that growing up, I never could have fathomed,” he said.

“It’s really exciting to see how vibrant the downtown scene is,” he said. “It’s better than I can ever recall it. There’s an electricity about New Orleans that hasn’t previously existed.”

Betting on New Orleans

Michael Bauer, 44, senior vice president of global partnerships overseeing much of the operation of iSeatz, a software developer for the travel industry, lacked any family connection to New Orleans. He grew up in Dallas and lived around the country.

“I’ve had the privilege of living in new cities and checking out new cities,” Bauer said. When he visited New Orleans in times past, “I never said ‘I want to move here.’”

When iSeatz recruited him in 2008, New Orleans, closer to the raw aftermath of Katrina, was a harder sell than it is today, he said. He took the job more for the professional opportunity than the setting. Then the city started impressing him with its uniqueness and neighborliness.

His wife and 8-year-old daughter embraced it. Bauer watched with amazement as buildings were renovated, new restaurants and other businesses appeared, parks were better groomed, people stopped seeming surprised that he moved to New Orleans for a technology job and a “that’s just the way it is” attitude faded.

“I certainly am betting on the city,” Bauer said.

A place to have an impact

Carol Markowitz, 37, also had only a tangential tie to New Orleans. She was raised in Los Angeles. Later her mother moved to Baton Rouge and Markowitz got more familiar with New Orleans. She moved around for her career in corporate finance, working for a telecommunctions firm and eventually returning to Los Angeles to work for clothing and beauty retailers.

Then her husband, a music composer and producer, was ready for a change of scenery, she said. They sought a less expensive city and one closer to family. She started hearing the rave reviews for New Orleans.

“I was so excited by just how much stuff is going on,” he said. They moved in 2011.

Markowitz took time off to take care of their two young children. Then she discovered The Idea Village and became an entrepreneur-in-residence, consulting start-ups. “Part of the draw for me was moving where I felt I could have a bigger impact on the community,” she said.

She’s nearing the end of her residence but says the city abounds with opportunities. She’s getting involved with civic issues and wants to examine innovative solutions to the still persistent problem of crime. “The reality is just that we have to make a concerted effort to be sure we’re not seeing a tale of two cities here,” she said.

A welcoming business climate

Chris Mangum, 45, is from Arkansas but worked in Atlanta for 20 years for BellSouth and in venture capital before moving to Monroe as an executive with the Century Link telecommunications firm. His wife, who’s from New Orleans, was recently pregnant with their first child, and he craved more entrepreneurial pursuits. So he studied her hometown.

What sold him on the strength of the New Orleans market was a scene he spotted walking by the iSeatz office in the Warehouse District on the Friday evening before the 4th of July holiday. In the windows he saw programmers diligently working and then putting up a cheer when they met a deadline for a client. Having such dedicated people is key for start-ups, he said.

He moved to New Orleans in September and became and investor and partner in a start-up, Gotointerview.com, that offers an online job placement service for hourly wage workers.

“I cannot think of a better place to start a business,” Mangum said. He finds the entrepreneurship community more welcoming and nurturing than in more mature start-up hubs. “It’s very tight knit. The Idea Village has done a very good job of weaving together that fabric and being a focal point for it. It seems like all the cylinders are hitting for this entrepreneurial area.”

The city still needs more high-level corporate jobs and more investment money for start-ups in later stages of development, Mangum said, but he expects growth will attract them.

“It’s like a gumbo recipe,” he said, quickly adopting local analogies. “Right now it’s still at the roux stage. If you get this part of it right, the rest is going to be great.”

And he said, “The lifestyle here is hard to beat. It’s just a cool, cool place to live.”

©  NOLA.com. All rights reserved.

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

CBC Launches SAFE Campaign

Canal Barge Company is committed to continuous improvement. This is especially important when it comes to the safety of our people. To further our progress, we are rolling out a “SAFE” campaign that was developed by the Operations Team Safety Committee.

SAFE stands for:
Stop
Assess
Focus
Execute

In simple terms, SAFE is the thought process we should all follow as we go about getting our work done. Wherever we are, at work or at home, following this thought process will help all of us live and work safely.

We are asking for total commitment and support of this initiative from the CBC Family to move us closer to our safety goals. We want to turn our good safety performance and record into a world-class standard for safety performance.

As always, our goal is the elimination of all incidents and injuries.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thoughts of Thanksgiving from Merritt Lane

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year because it is a time that makes me stop and reflect. It’s common in the hustle and bustle of life to lose sight of all of the people and things that make life worth living and bring peace and happiness. I personally try to live with an “attitude of gratitude” but know that I can sometimes fall woefully short of the mark.

Among my life’s many blessings, I cherish the special bond and deep relationships within the CBC Family. I am so proud of all of our people and excited about the things we have and will accomplish together. The CBC Family exemplifies the best in teamwork, professionalism and high character and it shows up in the value we create for our customers, our country and each other. This is what we mean when we say “people make the difference” at CBC.

Thank you, CBC Family, for making the difference and may you and your families continue to enjoy life’s many blessings.
Stay safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Merritt Lane

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 Environmental Achievement Awards

At Canal Barge we know that confidence starts with safety and environmental responsibility. On November 13, 2012, the Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) honored U.S. maritime industry ships, tugs and towboats for operating consecutive 2+ years without a fuel spill. We are proud to announce that 19 CBC and 7 IMT vessels received 2011 Environmental Achievement Awards.

Congratulations to the dedicated crews of our vessels being honored with this award for continuing to demonstrate Canal Barge’s commitment to safety and environmental stewardship.

CBC Vessels:

MV MARIAN HAGESTAD – 13 years
MV MARY LUCY LANE – 13 years
MV MERRICK JONES – 13 years
MV HAMILTON – 11 years
MV LUKE BURTON – 8 years
MV SUSAN L. STALL – 8 years
MV KILLIAN L. HUGER – 7 years
MV LYDIA CAMPBELL – 7 years
MV ELIZABETH HUGER – 4 years
MV CHOCTAW – 4 years
MV COUSHATTA – 4 years
MV INTEGRITY – 4 years
MV JOSEPH M. JONES – 4 years
MV LAKE CHARLES  – 4 years
MV LIBERTY – 4 years
MV SPIRIT – 4 years
MV CAROLINE – 3 years
MV ELIZABETH LANE – 2 years
MV BULL CALF – 2 years

IMT Vessels:

MV AGGIE C – 13 years
MV ALBERT C – 13 years
MV CHANNAHON – 13 years
MV EILEEN C – 13 years
MV MARY C – 13 years
MV WILLIAM C – 13 years
MV WINDY CITY – 13 years

Monday, October 22, 2012

Louisiana Is a Great State for Business

A recent survey on the “Best States for Doing Business” conducted by Area Development, an economic development magazine, found that Louisiana is a great state for business:

  • #1 in Cooperative State Government (best of 50 states in the USA)
  • #2 in Incentives Programs
  • #2 in Economic Recovery
  • #3 in Leading Workforce Development Programs
  • #3 in Speed of Permitting
  • #4 in Overall Business Environment
  • #4 in Cost of Doing Business
  • #5 in Labor Climate
  • #6 Best State for Doing Business

Check out the full report here.