The $220 pair of sneakers

The $220 pair of sneakers

As I studied the front page of The Advocate on Feb. 26, I was struck by how absurd our world sometimes gets. A small story on the left told of 600 people gathering at the Mall of Louisiana at 5 a.m. to buy a new pair of Nike athletic shoes. And next to that story was one about how 400 people had gathered at the Marriott for a symposium to discuss a crime-fighting plan for our community. The panel included Baton Rouge law enforcement and church leaders and was hosted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Working Interfaith Network of Baton Rouge.

Aren't you surprised that the “new shoe” sale attracted more people by 50%? Wouldn't most people say crime is the most important issue facing our community? And the sneakers cost $220 a pair. Really?

I guess the same could be asked about some athletic events, ticket prices and the crowds they attract. Or we could discuss the wild salaries we pay the athletes, compared to what we pay a great school teacher. And which has more impact on a child's life? Well, I am confused. It seems these athletes have so much influence that folks will line up at 5 a.m. and pay $220 to wear the same shoes as their idol. It seems bizarre to me. (But they also have those who camp out to be first to see a new Harry Potter movie or get the new iPad or iPhone. Isn't that a little strange, too?)

Can you imagine anyone camping out or lining up to be the first person to vote on the CATS transit tax? What if we all had that same motivation for education? Maybe then there wouldn't be a need for a symposium on crime in Baton Rouge.

More top rankings for city, state

For years we bemoaned anytime a list was released and Louisiana was on the bottom. We still have some lists out there we must change, but some have changed and we should celebrate the victories.

Last week we heard this news from Daily Report: “For the second straight year, Site Selection magazine has given the Baton Rouge metro area top ranking for creation and expansion of corporate facilities. The No. 1 ranking for 2011 is among all U.S. cities with a population between 200,000 and 1 million. The magazine uses its ‘new plant database' to track business development projects with significant impact, defined as projects involving capital investment of at least $1 million, the creation of at least 50 jobs and construction of at least 20,000 square feet of new floor space.”

Baton Rouge had 38 qualified projects. That's good news for the Capital City and something we can be really proud of.

Site Selection also had Louisiana finishing 10th nationally in its Governor's Cup for states with most new and expanded corporate facilities.

Also last week, Louisiana was in the spotlight with two more top 10 rankings in a national study, this one called “Location Matters: A Comparative Analysis of State Tax Costs on Business.” It was conducted by the Tax Foundation and KPMG and examines business tax burdens in each state. Louisiana was at No. 2 for “new firms” and No. 10 for “mature firms” (one of just two Southern states to make the top 10, Georgia being the other).

Daily Report noted, “A 2002 study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana—which ranked Louisiana 10th of 12 Southern states for business tax competitiveness—utilized a largely similar approach.”

That's quite a move, from the bottom in the South 10 years ago up to the top 10 nationally in two categories: new firms and mature firms. Things can change—and they have.

Oscar comes to Louisiana

If you were watching the Academy Awards, you saw Moonbot Studios of Shreveport win the Oscar for Best Animated Short for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. What a nice feather in Louisiana's cap.

Well, last week another Oscar winner announced it was coming to Louisiana to open shop. Daily Report said, “German visual effects company Pixomondo will open a Baton Rouge studio at Celtic Media Centre in May, company officials and Gov. Bobby Jindal announced. The studio is expected to create 75 new direct jobs in film, TV and commercial production work. It will be the 12th international studio for Pixomondo, which won an Oscar Sunday night for its work in Hugo.”

These are jobs that many young people who love the big screen or digital world aspire to—and that will average annual salaries of $65,000, plus benefits. The state has targeted the movie and digital industry, and with Pixomondo and Moonbot they get both.

And these two firms are here year-round with permanent jobs. That's good news for us who live in “Hollywood South.”

Education reform in the spotlight

In addition to being in the local news often as the legislative session approaches next week, Gov. Bobby Jindal's education package has got quite a bit of attention nationally. First a Wall Street Journal editorial called the ambitious reform effort a “moon shot.” The editorial said, “Mr. Jindal wants to create America's largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime—all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.”

And last week, The Weekly Standard wrote, “It's hard to summarize Jindal's education proposals—they're so numerous, comprehensive, and built upon other states' experience they might be described as a conservative policy wonk's Christmas list.” The magazine said, “Since Hurricane Katrina shook the state, Louisiana teachers unions have been losing power. The storm wiped out many of the state's infrastructures, including in education. It remains to be seen how Jindal's popularity and aggressive full-court press on education will influence the Legislature. Local observers have (said) it will be an ‘interesting session' but that Jindal just might make his shots.”

If the governor, reform-minded legislators and the public (including parents) have had enough of the status quo and will tell the unions, “We are done with the old way that has failed our children for decades,” then these publications and others will be back this year—and 10 years from now—to write about a time in 2012 when Louisiana had the courage to take a stand and turn things around in education for children. Now that's a story I want the nation to read. Our future depends on it.

But without people like you speaking up and calling or emailing your legislator (because the union members will call often), this could be an opportunity lost, and many more students will be doomed to failing schools. The nation waits and watches for the next three months.

You're invited

• The 29th annual Baton Rouge Business Awards & Hall of Fame banquet will be March 20, at the Crowne Plaza. Our honorees are featured in this issue and we congratulate them all on their success. You can contact our partner Junior Achievement at 928-7008 for tickets. We want to again thank our sponsors, Capital One Bank and Franklin Data Empowered Direct Mail.

• The Annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast will be March 28, at the Crowne Plaza. Doors open at 6:30 a.m. and program begins at 7:30 a.m. For tickets or table sponsorship, call Stephanie at 772-9230 or go to

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