Thursday, May 2, 2019
Written by Brian Walker, CEO of 5 Stones Media
Today was a pretty amazing day. I had the pleasure of giving the invocation at the Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation’s (TEDF) Annual Luncheon at Southeastern Louisiana University’s War Memorial Student Union in Hammond, LA.
The slogan for this year’s event was “Small Town to Big Time”.
I currently serve as Vice President of the board of this amazing organization of which I am proud to be part of.
I’ve been to the annual luncheon for the past 4 years, but there was something special about this one.
This year, our presenting sponsor was Inner Parish Security Corporation (IPSC), and the keynote speaker was Edgar Ray Smith IV of Smitty’s Supply.
Carissa Leto Husser, daughter of IPSC founder, Mark Leto Sr, spoke on behalf of the Leto family and Inner Parish Security. Carissa gave a touching account of growing up watching her father build the business, and of the way the family supported him in his dedication to always honoring his commitments.
She teared up when talking about how, as a child, they would get a phone call in the middle of the night that an employee wasn’t going to make it to his post, so Mark would put on an IPSC uniform and the family would load up in the car to go drop him off where he would stand post himself.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was a defining moment for IPSC, when many of the major players in the security space left their clients hanging in the aftermath of the storm. IPSC would receive phone calls asking if they were available, and the answer was “yes”. Shortly afterward, a contract with FEMA propelled IPSC into the space of government contracting, and transformed them into the company that they are today.
The Leto family is proud to live, work, educate their children, and worship in Tangipahoa Parish. Their business has been built and continues to grow, all from their main location in Hammond, Louisiana.
Carissa ended her talk by stating that her family has always lived by the scripture (Colossians 3:23) that says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance.”
Next, Edgar Ray Smith IV gave the keynote speech on behalf of Smitty Supply, where we learned how it all started with “One man in a van”.
Smitty’s Supply is a supplier of petroleum based products. The company was founded in 1969 by Edgar Ray Smith Jr, who travelled the state selling supplies to garages, auto parts stores, and service stations from his van.
Over the years, Smitty’s grew from a van and a room in Ray’s house that was used as a warehouse to the worldwide distributor that they are today. As of this writing, the company has over 450 employees and over 14 acres of warehouse at their Roseland facility alone.
Smitty’s ships product nationwide and to over 90 countries throughout the world.
95% of their products are manufactured in-house, including the pallets, bottles and buckets their product is sold in.
Ray (IV) made it a point to say that his father instilled in them the knowledge that all of this has come to them as a blessing from God.
Smitty’s celebrates 50 years in business this year.
After our presenting sponsor and keynote speaker, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards took the stage.
Governor Edwards congratulated the Leto family and the Smith family on their accomplishments. He spoke about growing up having the opportunity to see both of these businesses grow into the powerhouses that they are today.
He then moved on to talk about the state’s economy and GDP of $255B, which has outpaced 80% of the states in the nation. Louisiana’s unemployment is at a record low, and the education system is on track to receive funding far better than anticipated. He even stated that Louisiana’s teachers will be receiving a long-awaited raise.
Tangipahoa Parish President, Robby Miller then took the stage. President Miller reiterated that Tangipahoa Parish is the best parish in the state, which it most certainly is! President Miller was then joined by TEDF’s Executive Director, Ginger Cangelosi, as they presented an award to Mrs. Dot Lavigne for her exceptional service to TEDF over the last 7 years.
Finally, Melissa Bordelon of the Hammond Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to speak. She thanked TEDF for allowing them to co-host the event.
This event was meant to showcase the worldwide impact of the Tangipahoa born businesses, and it did that well. But the real impact we feel is the one that happens right here at home, and we thank these businesses for being an amazing contributor to our community.