Sunday, May 19, 2024

One of New Orleans’ oldest construction firms is planning a big expansion in Jefferson Parish

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One of New Orleans’ most prominent construction firms is planning a major expansion in Jefferson Parish, including the possible relocation of its corporate offices, as it seeks to grow a part of its business focused on manufacturing components of buildings and structures and assembling them in a factory.

RNGD, pronounced renegade, the new name of the builder long known as Palmisano Construction, is planning a $26 million expansion of its pre-fabrication factory near the Earhart Expressway in the Labarre Business Park. The expansion would also include a new training academy for construction workers and new corporate offices for the company, which is currently based in the Lower Garden District.

Wes Palmisano, CEO of the firm, is currently negotiating with Jefferson Parish for a multi-year property tax break as part of the proposed move.

The expansion will create an estimated 250 to 260 permanent new jobs over the next five years, more than doubling RNGD’s current workforce, and will have an annual payroll of more than $37.8 million, according to the documents.

JEDCO voted to begin discussions with RNGD over the terms of the incentive in April. The agreement hasn’t been finalized, and Palmisano said plans for the expansion and the potential relocation of the corporate offices are still tentative. He said he hopes to have an announcement in the coming weeks, and much still depends on how negotiations go with JEDCO and whether cost estimates show that the project makes business sense.







Wes Palmisano, third generation owner of the New Orleans construction company that has gone from post-World War Two housebuilder to one of the city’s major builders, with landmark projects like the Ace Hotel New Orleans on Carondelet Street.




“The long-term vision — to expand our prefabrication facility — is a constant,” Palmisano said. “But we are trying to decide if it makes sense. There are still a lot of balls in the air.”

In the meantime, the 30,000-square-foot headquarters of WJ Palmisano, RNGD’s parent company, at 1730 Tchoupitoulas Street is listed for sale for $10 million. Palmisano opened the building in 2017.

‘Exciting plans’

If the expansion project comes to fruition, it would further Palmisano’s goal of doing more off-site, modular construction as he tries to make building projects more efficient.

Palmisano’s grandfather founded the New Orleans-based firm as a homebuilding business after World War II. And though the company still handles most construction projects in the traditional way, by completing work at the work site, in recent years it has begun focusing more heavily on making components for buildings, bridges and roads in a factory that can be assembled more easily and efficiently.

In 2022, Palmisano opened a 35,000-square-foot factory on a 1.5-acre site in the Labarre Business Park for RNGD. Earlier this year, he began laying the groundwork to expand the facility, purchasing an additional 5.5 acres next to the factory for $3.8 million.

Expansion plans call for building a new, 80,000-square-foot manufacturing and steel fabrication facility, and expanding the existing facility that would enable RNGD to increase its production.

The company would also build a 20,000-square-foot building for Renegade Academy and a new 35,000-square-foot corporate office, according to documents filed with JEDCO.

Palmisano said plans for the training academy would enable the company to grow Renegade Academy, which trains employees in general construction skills and proprietary specialty skills used in its modular building processes.

With an expanded training facility, Renegade Academy could branch out into soft-skills training and leadership development, both of which are badly needed in the construction sector, Palmisano said. 

“The training component is what is the most exciting thing about this to us,” said JEDCO Executive Director Jerry Bologna, who is working with Palmisano on bringing the project to Jefferson Parish. “It would be a good thing for the parish.”

Incentives

Both Bologna and Palmisano said it’s too soon to discuss the terms of the potential tax break the company is seeking, which is known as a Payment In Lieu of Taxation, or PILOT.

In general, such deals are usually for 10 to 20 years and enable a company to make an upfront or annual payment to the parish that is less than its property tax bill would be. Such incentives are tied to specific job creation and can be revoked if hiring benchmarks are not met.

In 2016, Before Palmisano broke ground on its 30,000-square-foot office building on Tchoupitoulas, it secured a 10-year property tax break from Orleans Parish.







NO.palmisano.051524

Staff Photo by John McCusker 1730 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans. NO.palmisano.051524




Palmisano said he hasn’t made a decision about whether to sell the building, which is two stories and was constructed in such a way that a third and fourth floor can be added. He said he listed it to gauge interest in the market.

So far, the building has generated a lot of calls but no offers yet, said Jack Egle a broker with Felicity Property Co., who is in charge of the listing.

“It could be for an owner-occupant or it can reconfigured as a multitenant building,” Egle said. “It could sell to an investor who could lease it.”

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