NOT YOUR TYPICAL CPA
The Picard Group’s Director of Administration and Finance, Steve Cosminski, is not your typical CPA.
Upon closer inspection, Cosminski, a productivity fanatic, doesn’t appear to be your typical anything. Yes, he’s a wiz at finance, budgeting/forecasting, tracking key performance indicators, monitoring implementation of strategic business plans — all aspects of his job at TPG.
However, he also races a car he built and calls it “God’s Chariot.”
“It’s a 1989 BMW with a 1999 BMW M3 engine and drivetrain that I found in a junkyard in Indiana on eBay,” Cosminski explained. “Nothing on it is stock and it has parts from Mazda, Porsche, older BMWs, newer BMWs, etc. I learned a dozen or more new skills while building it. I’m a YouTube-trained mechanic.”
The Pennsylvania native races the Frankensteinian car in autocross events all around Louisiana.
“Of everyone in the firm, Steve took the oddest path to employment here,” said Tyron Picard, principal. “He started as a replacement babysitter for our family when he was in college.”
From there, Cosminski became bookkeeper for the medical equipment business owned by Mike Michot (TPG’s Senior Director of State Affairs). After becoming a CPA and earning his MBA, Cosminski became Director of Administration and Finance for TPG.
“With three offices and 15 employees, Steve is the constant steady hand in our firm’s administration,” Picard said. “Steve’s skill set makes it possible for the lobbyists and consultants to be more effective at what they do for clients.”
Anyone who knows Cosminski agrees that he has shattered the shy-and-introverted-accountant stereotype. He’s passionate about Louisiana food (with strong opinions on the best burger and gumbo around), culture and lifestyle.
“What have I learned since I got here? Never turn down good food,” he said, adding that he’s also learned something less quantifiable that has to do with community. “It’s unbelievable how tightknit this community is. Everyone always asks me, ‘Who’s your mama?’"
He loves that his job with TPG offers constant opportunity to touch new aspects of the business.
“And that’s partly due to all the things Tyron is involved with. He and this job are always bringing me new opportunities. Process improvement is a part of my job description,” Cosminski said. “My dad always said, ‘The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.’ I love trying to do things more efficiently and having complete autonomy over how I operate.”
Although an “adopted Cajun,” Picard said Cosminski remains a Philadelphia boy at heart.
“When Yuengling Beer, a Philly staple, first came to Lafayette last year, you would have thought we were getting running water for the first time,” Picard said. “Steve was so excited.”
Steve Cosminski’s Productivity Tips
Cosminski believes a productive morning leads to a productive day, which leads to a productive week, which leads to a productive life. He’s developed daily rituals to increase personal productivity that include:
1. Making sure he’s awake at least an hour before he’s looking at a screen of any sort — phone, computer, iPad, etc.
2. Keeping a bottle of water by his bed and chugging it as soon as he wakes up. (He says it’s improves his day considerably.)
3. Exercising in the morning — even if it’s only for two minutes just to get his blood pumping.
4. Making his bed. “It’s an easy win to start the day,” he said.
5. Journaling each morning. “This one is difficult for me, but I’m starting to see that it’s most important. I use the 5-minute journal approach. I identify three things I’m grateful for, what will make today great and some daily affirmation. It’s almost like a prayer.”
6. At work, he has friendly, face-to-face conversations at least every two hours.
7. Keeping a section of his desk completely clear at all times.
8. Before leaving work in the afternoon, he identifies and jots down two or three things to do the next day.
9. Constantly assessing at what time he does his best work to evaluate when to do certain tasks going forward.
10. At night, he puts out his clothes for the next day to limit the choices he has to make the next morning.
BELTWAY BRIEFINGS: Making The Rounds
The Picard Group traveled to Washington D.C. this week not only to celebrate Washington Mardi Gras but also to meet with Congressional leaders. Several TPG clients made the trip with staff. The Louisiana contingency made time to celebrate the spirit of Louisiana and meet with key Congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Cameron Parish Police Jury met with Congressional members to discuss liquefied natural gas plant updates, Southwest Coastal study, FEMA and flood risk issues.
The Lafayette Airport Commission updated key Congressional members on the new terminal under construction at the Lafayette Regional Airport and the upcoming FAA extension. Two rendering images of terminal options are now available for a public vote.
Chamber SWLA informed Congressional members on the highly anticipated LegisGator luncheon in August. This week, they shared their legislative priorities for 2017 which include the infrastructure package bridge reconstruction in Lake Charles.
Resource Environmental Solutions executives met with members of Congress from Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina and West Virginia, as well as representatives from the Trump Administration to discuss the ongoing wetland, stream and habitat mitigation projects they are currently undertaking on 60,000 acres across nine states in the US.
Dr. Joseph Savoie, President, University of Louisiana Lafayette, met with Congressional members to discuss ongoing research initiatives at the university, as well as higher education funding. Additionally, Dr. Savoie discussed the university’s 2017 legislative priorities with Congressional members and their staffs.
IT'S MARDI GRAS TIME!
The Mystick Krewe of Louisianians is gearing up for another season with its Washington Mardi Gras festivities slated for Feb. 9-11. The Picard Group’s Founder and Principal, Tyron Picard, is preparing for his 28th Washington Mardi Gras experience.
“The Washington Hilton becomes a large house party,” Picard said. “The ability to interact and make new acquaintances is great for Louisiana commerce. It would take you eight to nine months to see the people you see in a weekend in one hotel. It’s also a great way for Louisiana to host people from across the country.”
Picard says he is grateful for the tradition in our delegation of no partisanship during the weekend.
“There’s really nothing like it in the District,” Picard said. “When you think about scale and magnitude, you essentially have three very different and distinct parties with over 2,000 people on three consecutive nights — it’s amazing, particularly because it’s not the same people every night.”
Opening night is called Louisiana Alive — complete with Second Lines, food prepared by Louisiana restaurants and an array of Louisiana music and overall color.
The second evening is a formal black tie dinner dance with a presentation of more than 60 princesses and Louisiana festival queens.
The final night is the ball itself, with a complete presentation of all the princesses and queens with more than 300 masked krewe members throwing beads.
Picard, one of five senior lieutenants who manage the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians, says that experience has taught him how to manage the three days and nights of parties and he has advice for first-timers.
“It requires discipline and for those who don’t have discipline, they learn from bad experience,” he said. “It’s a matter of pace to get to the finish line on Sunday. After 32 years, that’s become a matter of institutional knowledge and knowing how to pace yourself. Gatorade and Pedialyte certainly help during the daylight hours.”
Picard encourages anyone who attends to find periods of downtime, particularly for the first timers. He says that he finds him and many of experienced Washington Mardi Gras-goers manage best by turning in before midnight on the first two nights.
Picard says that through the years that the parties, while becoming more extravagant especially during the last 17 years (at least one king brought the entire LSU band to perform), the parties have actually become tamer, thanks to cell phones and cameras! The weekend is not all partying.
According to a tradition that goes back to the ‘80s and Picard’s cousin, Father Pat Primeaux, many of the attendees stop their revelry for mass S
aturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“When it started, you’d have people partying and having a good time, and at 3:45, they’d close the bar and have mass,” Picard said. “Then at 4:30, the bar would open again. That has grown.”
Each of the lieutenants has an area of responsibility. Ted Jones, of Baton Rouge, manages krewe finances. Scott Crawford, also of Baton Rouge, manages seating for all the different events. Mark Ackel, of Lafayette, manages all the queens and princesses. Wayne Smith, who lives in Washington, D.C, manages all relationships with the Hilton Hotel and serves as liaison to the Congressional delegation, and Picard manages the krewe which has more than 400 members.
GETTING TO KNOW: The HERT Coalition
Unless you are directly tied to heavy equipment rentals, you may not be aware of or even be inclined to try to understand the predicament the state has created for the folks in this industry.
Louisiana is one of only eight states in the U.S. that tax businesses on all of their inventory. In response to the tax hit, several heavy equipment retailers came together and formed The Heavy Equipment Rental Taxation (HERT) Coalition.
The HERT Coalition is made up of ten member companies who employ more than 2,594 people and operate 123 locations across Louisiana.
“Several years ago, legislators realized that the inventory tax penalized businesses on the front end,” said The Picard Group’s Nick Cahanin, director of state and local government affairs. “They recognized that the inventory tax law written into the state constitution created a competitive disadvantage for attracting and keeping businesses in our state.”
So, they developed an inventory tax credit that would offset the tax on businesses. Initially, the tax credit operated as a dollar for dollar credit.
Then things got more complicated. In 2015, heavy equipment rental companies got hit with a double whammy. For purposes of the inventory tax, heavy equipment was classified as inventory. However, for the purposes of the tax credit, heavy equipment is not classified as inventory.
“It applies to them on the taxation side but not on the credit side,” Cahanin said. “We are the only state in the U.S. where that is the case. There’s a disparity in the law.”
The new penny sales tax created in the spring of 2016 further complicated matters for the industry and pushed at least one heavy equipment rental company to take inventory across the state lines to Texas — a state that has carved out special arrangements for the heavy equipment rental industry.
With more than $40 billion dollars of industrial construction in progress throughout the state, the heavy equipment rental is not only necessary — it’s big business.
Louisiana’s messy and inequitable inventory tax laws are causing undue strain on the industry and driving businesses to other states. Louisiana revenue secretary Kimberly Robinson and members of the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy agrees.
In November 2016, the task force acknowledged the sales tax disparity. The task force released a recommendation recognizing the need to correct Louisiana’s current tax policy as it relates to business inputs.
REFLECTING ON PAST INAUGURATIONS
With festivities and confirmation hearings well under way in our nation’s capital, The Picard Group’s Washington, D.C. staff looks back on previous inaugurations and Presidential transitions as new members of Congress get their offices up and running.
Former Congressman Rodney Alexander, senior director of federal affairs, participated in three inaugurations as a congressman.
“It’s a pretty awesome thing to be there with world leaders and ex-Presidents and watch a peaceful transition of power,” Alexander said.
When pressed for the most interesting thing he witnessed during an inauguration, Alexander said, “Well, this may seem a little silly, but when I was standing 40 feet from Beyonce performing, I had no idea she was lip synching! I didn’t know she wasn’t really singing until afterwards.”
Both Alexander and Emily Bacque, director of federal affairs, have attended various inauguration events, including balls around the city. Since 1998, Bacque has lived in the middle of inaugural events. Earlier this week, parking restrictions went into place throughout her neighborhood.
“They should luck out with the weather this year. I remember just how cold it was for Obama’s first inauguration — and how crowded it was,” Bacque said. “Being at an inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. The throngs of people and having to get up so early to wait through security to get into your ticketed section leave a big impression.”
Did you know…
... in 1953, Texas-born President Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed in the reviewing stand by a cowboy who rode up on horse?
…the fireworks display at Herbert Hoover’s 1929 inauguration cost $3,000 and was reported to be the most magnificent ever seen in Washington?
… in 1933, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution changed the ceremonial Presidential Inauguration date to Jan. 20? Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second inauguration was the first held on that day?
…George Washington gave the shortest-ever inauguration speech at just 135 words in 1793?
A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Cole selected for Leadership Louisiana, finally releases onion-bacon jam recipe
Dawn Cole, director of external affairs for The Picard Group, was selected for the Council For A Better Louisiana 2017 Leadership Louisiana class. The Leadership Louisiana program consists of six sessions around the state. Topics include education/workforce training, economy/strategies for growth, history/politics, news media, arts and culture, criminal justice, healthcare and poverty.
Leadership Louisiana’s goal is to arm citizen leaders with an understanding of the complex issues that drive Louisiana. By enhancing the capacity of emerging and current Louisiana leaders to address key public issues, the program empowers civic-minded citizens to affect change in their communities and state. The Picard Group is pleased to sponsor Leadership Lafayette’s reception set for Jan. 19 at IberiaBank in downtown Lafayette.
Cole joins Tyron Picard (2001), principal at The Picard Group; Mike Michot (2000), senior director of state affairs; and Gwen Guillote (2015), senior director of healthcare policy and services, in participating in Leadership Louisiana. Picard, Michot and Guillotte successfully completed the program and credit it with broadening their understanding of the state and building stronger relationships with colleagues around Louisiana.
“Dawn is a great fit for Leadership Louisiana,” Picard said. “This opportunity will only deepen her love of this state and dedication to its people. The Picard Group is honored to have her on our staff serving our clients. We also congratulate the Council For A Better Louisiana on building a credible, long-lasting program that is an asset to our state.”
Cole joined The Picard Group in 2013. With nearly 20 years of experience in external affairs, fundraising and event planning, Cole works closely with the firm’s clients — assisting them with general needs, connecting them to elected officials, and planning/executing a wide variety of engagements.
She also assists Picard in his role as one of the official hosts (Senior Lieutenant’s) of the annual Washington DC Congressional Mardi Gras Ball, sponsored by the Mystic Krewe of Louisianians. Prior to joining The Picard Group, Cole managed a consulting firm focusing on political and charitable fundraising, which allowed her to nurture many long- standing relationships in Louisiana’s business, civic and political communities.
Before starting her own business, Cole’s nine-year tenure at Acadian Ambulance as legal and governmental affairs coordinator, set the stage for deep insight into the state and its leadership and, for Cole, a commitment to community and professional dedication.
In a tale only told in Louisiana, once upon a time, Cole ran for Crawfish Queen but came up short. She is a graduate of Teurlings Catholic High School and Louisiana State University. These days, Cole stays busy entertaining, exercising and enjoying Louisiana’s beautiful outdoors with her two children, Kate and Parker.
She is obsessed with paddle boarding, is an avid Crossfitter and her favorite author is Brené Brown. Family and friends are often at her table appreciating the bounty Cole enjoys preparing. She loves assembling cheese and charcuterie boards, accented with her current favorite — caramelized onion and bacon jam.
THE INTERSECTION OF ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING
Through a new affiliation made public just this week, Lori LeBlanc, formerly the deputy secretary and economic stimulus director for the state Department of Natural Resources, will be lending her consulting expertise to the Picard Group’s notable list of clients.
LeBlanc will help enhance the firm’s energy, environmental and infrastructure advocacy efforts while focusing on regulatory and policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.
Under the affiliation, the Picard Group will also provide state and federal lobbying services to LeBlanc’s clients on an as-needed basis.
“We are excited about the win-win this affiliation brings to both Lori’s clients, as well as to clients of The Picard Group,” said firm principal Tyron Picard.
LeBlanc currently works on advocacy and grassroots efforts for several energy and environmental clients throughout Louisiana. She has been credited for her understanding of the complexities of governmental regulations and federal policy. Her distinguished list of clients include Morganza Action Coalition, North Lafourche Levee District, Port Cameron, LLC, Gulf Economic Survival Team and Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
“The Picard Group has an impressive reputation for successfully representing clients in Baton Rouge and on Capitol Hill,” she said, adding, “This exciting new partnership between our two firms will strengthen the services we provide to all of our clients as well as provide additional opportunities to help new and existing clients advance their programs or projects and achieve regulatory success."
DID YOU KNOW?
The 2017 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature will convene at noon on Monday, April 10, and adjourn no later than 6 p.m. on June 8. Retirement bills will largely show up in the hopper first and must be prefiled by Feb. 24. Constitutional amendments must be prefiled before noon on March 31 — any other subject matter bill must be prefiled before 5 p.m.. Once the session begins, lawmakers will only be able to introduce five additional bills each, with the final filing deadline falling on March 31.