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Welcome Jess and all you other Fools to the Bayou State! Sorry I did not greet you earlier but I have been out of town for the last couple of days and I just got home this evening.

Louisiana is really two or three states in one. You have New Orleans, a great American city with a culture all it's own, even different from the rest of South Louisiana. About a third of our entire population resides there. You then have Cajun Country, which includes New Orleans, and comprises the lower one-half to one-third of the state depending on who draws the line.

The northern portion of the state is made up of Piney Hills (that's where I live), rolling plains and flat Delta land. Though attitudes and accents are different, we all love spicy-hot food, cold drinks, good music and most tend to have a soft spot in their heart {or perhaps their head:)} for our hapless Saints.

In Louisiana we don't have counties; we have parishes. We prefer beignets over donuts and crawfish over shrimp. We can play three part harmonies with little more than a washboard and an empty bottle, and for many, "Laissez bon temps roullette" (Let the good times roll) sums up their philosophy of life.

I live in a town called Ruston that is in the very East-West center of the State on Interstate 20 and only about 30 miles from Arkansas. Ruston has a Mayberryesque aroma with a college-town flavor, only 20,000 people in town and 40,000 for the entire parish, where everybody knows everyone's name. Ruston is home to Louisiana Tech University. LTU is a selective admissions school known primarily for outstanding engineering programs such as the Biomedical Research Institute and the Institute for Micromanufacturing. We hope to someday leverage this braintrust into a high quality R&D Center, something along the lines of a scaled down (or who knows, maybe scaled-up) version of Research Triangle Park, NC.

We are sports Fanatics. Some of our more famous alums are Terry Bradshaw and Karl Malone. Our Lady Techsters Basketball program is a perennial feature of the NCAA Final Four and no less than five former Techsters are now WNBA standouts. We have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate this year in quarterback Tim Rattay. Last year's Bilitnekoff Award winner, "Sir" Troy Edwards, set a single game NCAA receiving record in 1998 with 405 yards against Nebraska, no less, and went 13th overall in the NFL draft to Pittsburgh; keep your eye on him. BTW, Hunzi, I made the trip to Lincoln. It's beautiful up there.

Four miles down the road from Ruston is Grambling, LA, home of Grambling State University. College football's most winningnest coach, Eddie Robinson, calls Grambling home. In fact, I happened to run into both "Coach Rob" and Tim Rattay earlier this week as I was making the rounds between meetings and appointments. (It's a small town, remember.) Coach Rob's successsor is Super Bowl MVP and GSU alum Doug Williams. You can catch him every now and then having breakfast or lunch at the Holiday Inn. Grambling has been struggling as an institution the last few years but now seems to be on the way back up under the leadership of a new President, Dr. Steve Favors. In addition to Coach Rob, they are best known for their school of Mass Communications and School of Nursing, and of course, the inimitable GSU Marching Band. They also have a faculty Jazz Ensemble that really cooks; I hire them on occasion when having a soiree.

I'm a brand new fool and I am just getting started myself with the Foolish Four so I haven't had time to research LA companies, but I can tell you about some that are nearby or of which I have some knowledge, though be it limited. I am ignorant, I am ashamed to say, in reference to their financial statements, but heck, I'm still trying to figure out who's who; who's what comes next. By the way Jess, you said you almost went to work for PHEL; do you fly slingwings?

I would love to see the list you referenced on MSN Investor, especially if it describes what each company does. Post 37 on this board by Shoffpau gives a names only list of LA companies. One company that is not on the list, because their national headquarters is in Oregon, is Willamette Industries (paper and forest products). However, a good portion of their company is right here in Ruston at their Southern Regional HQ (about four blocks from my house). Down the road about thirty miles in Monroe is CenturyTel, a wireless communications company. CLECO and Entergy are both public utilities in the electricity business. Avondale is a major shipbuilder in New Orleans. Hibernia is a statewide (now growing regionally out of state) bank. Piccadilly is in the cafeteria business and does a pretty good job feeding folks. Lamar Advertising is outdoor advertising and they are owned by Kevin Reilly, our state Secretary of Economic Development.

Well, I really must go now; gotta hug the wife and kids you know and all that good stuff. Hope this has given you a little insight into Louisiana. Glad to have y'all here and look forward to Foolin' around in the future.

Fool Speed Ahead

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