Through its investment in The Lemoine Company, Bernhard Capital Partners is moving into the growing disaster recovery and resilience space.
Though Lemoine is one of the largest general contractors in the state and has built such well-known local buildings as The Shaw Center for the Arts and The Advocate headquarters, it was the company’s work in recovery and resilience that made it particularly attractive to the private equity firm.
That space is growing, as natural disasters are becoming more frequent and federal dollars to protect against and recover from them are becoming more plentiful. Billions of dollars
in Community Development Block Grants are headed to Puerto Rico and several coastal states, including Louisiana, affected by storms in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Lemoine will be poised to take advantage of opportunities made possible by those funds and others that will inevitably follow, says Jeff Jenkins, BCP managing partner.
“Resiliency is so huge and we see it continuing to grow because these events are happening every year,” Jenkins says. “We are focused on expanding their existing business and building out a national platform focused on resiliency projects.”
Lemoine’s experience in the resilience space includes rebuilding projects in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and construction projects through the Restore Louisiana program, created after the 2016 floods, among others.
The 84-year-old company will be the eighth in the growing BCP portfolio and will add some 375 employees to its total of some 18,000. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, The Lemoine Company reported revenues of more than $298.5 million in 2017, according to Business Report’s list of Top 100 private companies.
While BCP is expanding into the resiliency and recovery space, it is also moving into the utilities sector. Thursday afternoon, it will pitch the Ascension Parish Council on a public private partnership, approved by a council committee earlier this month, to build out new wastewater treatment infrastructure in the rapidly growing parish and take over management of the system for the next 30 years.
BCP has proposed creating a new company that will invest some $225 million developing the first phase of the system alone, which will consist of a new sewer treatment plant on the Mississippi River as well as the buildout of a network of sewer lines along state highways 73 and 42. Phase one will serve more than 16,000 households in the northern part of Ascension Parish.
As part of the deal, the company will acquire the largest private wastewater treatment provider in the parish—a company called Ascension Wastewater Treatment—that serves nearly 16,000 households.
Several months ago, BCP tried unsuccessfully to acquire the Lafayette electric company. Ascension Parish Public Works Director William Daniel says this effort is completely different from the firm’s failed experiment in Lafayette.
“They were trying to buy an existing utility, a mature company in a city where everybody had electricity,” Daniel says. “In Ascension, they will be creating a new company and building out a new system to bring service to underserved parts of the parish.”
The deal has broad support among council members, Daniel says.