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Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso is raising questions about the role attorney Mary Olive Pierson is playing in the city-parish's legal attempts to fight the proposed incorporation of the city of St. George. Earlier this year, Pierson was hired—at $175 per hour, not to exceed $17,500—to defend the city-parish in a case filed by Woody Jenkins challenging the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and other properties. Annexing property has become a key strategy in the city's efforts to fight St. George, and Pierson, so far, has been successful in defeating the Jenkins' suit.
But Amoroso says Pierson is going too far.
In published statements Monday, Pierson said the city would file suit to challenge the legality of an incorporation petition submitted to the Registrar of Voters by St. George organizers. She has also recently said she traveled on her own dime to Kansas City to meet with officials of L'Auberge Casino & Hotel to persuade them to sign a petition requesting annexation into the city.
"It is my understanding that Ms. Pierson's contract is limited only to the Jenkins' litigation …" Amoroso writes in a letter to Assistant Parish Attorney Lea Ann Batson. "It would appear that Ms. Pierson is expanding her contract as our lawyer without our authority."
Amoroso says he has heard from multiple constituents in his generally pro-St. George district that share his concerns.
Pierson tells Daily Report that while she technically does not have a contract with the city-parish to file a legal challenge to the incorporation petition, a legal challenge will be filed—even if she does it herself.
"I will file a challenge on behalf of somebody," she says.
—Stephanie Riegel Read the full story.
The economic forecast for Louisiana over the next two years is so positive economist Loren Scott says he ran out of superlatives in preparing his annual outlook for the region, which he presented today at Business Report's Louisiana Business Symposium Top 100 Luncheon. In his annual forecast, which is co-authored by economist James Richardson, Scott notes that Louisiana has $100 billion in industrial projects either underway or in the front-end engineering and design, or FEED, stage. Of those, more than $60 billion are sure bets, meaning they are already under construction or complete. "We're really in an unusual time," Scott said. "In the past, a good year was $5 billion in new projects. Today, we're talking about more than $100 billion." Those new projects, though primarily in the industrial construction sector, also include new high-tech projects in Baton Rouge like IBM and Sistix, and are expected to create some 66,700 jobs statewide over the next two years. "This year we outperformed the most aggressive numbers that were forecast here last year by Loren," BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp told Daily Report following Scott's presentation this afternoon. "So the bigger question is, are we on track to continue to outperform?" Scott said he believes low natural gas prices in the U.S., high natural gas prices in Europe and the differential between oil and natural gas prices will ensure continued growth in Louisiana, which he predicts will have more than 2,000,000 non-farm jobs for the first time in 2015. A total of 19,600 new jobs are projected for the Capital Region over the next two years. Three potential problems could throw things off track, however. They include the possibility the EPA will lower ozone emissions standards, the impact of the Affordable Care Act on big business and the lack of office space in the Capital Region. Access the complete economic outlook for 2015 and 2016. As reported in Daily Report AM, the winners of the inaugural Best Places to Work awards—presented by Business Report, the Greater Baton Rouge Society for Human Resource Management and the Louisiana Workforce Commission—were revealed and honored at an awards breakfast this morning to kick off the annual Louisiana Business Symposium. —Stephanie Riegel
Developers and downtown officials today unveiled plans and a rendering for an 80,000-square-foot Courtyard Marriott that will be developed on the surface parking lot at the corner of Florida and Third streets downtown. The new hotel—which will be the sixth in downtown Baton Rouge—will have 147 rooms and eight floors. Construction is scheduled to begin in April or May and is expected to take 24 months to complete. "This is a great corner that is in the heart of downtown," says South Carolina developer Bo Aughtry, whose Windsor Aughtry Co. also developed the downtown Hampton Inn on Lafayette St. "We've been eyeing this corner for a long time." Aughtry, who puts the total cost of the project at $20 million, had actually wanted to build the Hampton Inn on the Florida Street lot, but at that time its owners, Gordon LeBlanc and Tom Adamek, had hopes of developing the lot themselves. LeBlanc says they changed their mind after seeing what a good job Windsor Aughtry did with the Hampton Inn. "My only condition to sell was that I wanted to be an investor in it," says LeBlanc, who with Adamek is a partner in Stonehenge Capital. He says the sale of the parking lot will not be finalized until next year. He declines to disclose the sale price, except to confirm it is between $1 million and $2 million. —Stephanie Riegel
I always marvel at what galvanizes a community, though I have learned it is seldom the really important things.
On Oct. 6 L'Auberge Casino & Hotel applied for annexation to the city of Baton Rouge.
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A new angel investor fund is looking for potential investment partners in Baton Rouge to raise some $4 million that will be used to help fund startup businesses along the 10/12 corridor. The fund, South Coast Angel Fund II, will be the second fund created by South Coast, a New Orleans-based entity established four years ago that creates early-stage venture capital funds. The first South Coast Angel Fund raised $2 million and invested between $300,000 and $500,000 each in five startups, including two in Baton Rouge and three in New Orleans. Fund executive Jon Atkinson says the second angel fund will be about twice as large, and that plans call for the creation of additional South Coast angel funds in the future. "The capital community in south Louisiana is not well-organized," says Atkinson. "That is the pain a lot of entrepreneurs are feeling." South Coast is one of the few committed angel funds in the state, which means members invest in the fund up front, decide collectively on which startup companies to fund and share in any returns. South Coast Angel Fund II will have a Baton Rouge chapter, where members can gather to hear startup pitches, which will be made twice a month in person to the membership. This evening from 6 to 8 p.m., Atkinson will lead a free educational session on Angel Investing 101 at the offices of Kean Miller downtown. Register to attend. —Stephanie Riegel Read the full story.