Lower admission standards yield higher enrollment for LSU business college
Starting with the 2011-12 LSU course catalog, the E. J. Ourso College of Business began admitting students with a 2.0 grade-point average into four of the college's eight bachelor's programs: economics, international trade and finance, information systems and decision sciences, and general business. Previously, all programs required a 3.0 GPA. Since then, enrollment has increased significantly, especially in the general business curriculum, which in the past year alone went from 332 students admitted to 871, a 162% increase, according to Tim Rodrigue, the college's assistant director of alumni and external relations. Overall admissions were up about 12% over that same period. The change in standards was approved by a vote of the college's faculty in 2010. "This is a strategic shift that will allow us to better serve the students, families, entrepreneurs and industry of Louisiana," former dean Eli Jones said at the time. The hope, he added, is that more students would be exposed to the college's various initiatives, centers and institutes. "Regardless of their field of study, students understand that having some business education makes pursuing their passion and becoming an entrepreneur easier," Rodrigue says. —David Jacobs
LaPolitics by Maginnis: Money moves made
With the next governor's election a mere 29 months away, prospective candidates are getting down to the first order of business: raising the money to fund whatever they decide to do. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne reportedly raked in $118,000 at a recent New Orleans event. But the real news was who hosted his party, national Republican consultant Mary Matalin, at the Uptown mansion she shares with her husband, Democratic consultant James Carville. Sen. David Vitter has said he has made no decision about running for governor, but he has taken steps to prepare in case he does. He will attend a $5,000-a-head September fundraiser for a PAC set up to support him in state or federal elections.
—Washington rates Senate races the way Wall Street forecasts stock values. Recent controversies embroiling the Obama administration, from Benghazi to the IRS, have caused one such rating agency, the Rothenberg Political Report, to downgrade Sen. Mary Landrieu's re-election prospects to "pure toss-up" from "toss-up/tilt Democrat." Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy's campaign was quick to alert the media of the change.
They said it: "If you don't have the Indians, you don't need the chiefs." —Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, in support of Senate Bill 204 to build more community and technical college facilities.
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
Coming off record year, Lee Michaels eyes further expansion
On the heels of a historic year for sales, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry is looking at opportunities to add more stores, says market president Scott Berg. "We're looking at a couple of different places at this time," Berg says. "I wouldn't say [where] because it's preliminary, nothing nailed down." But, he says, any expansion would be regional, and the company has been eyeing opportunities in Texas, in particular. Berg says fiscal year 2012, which closed March 31, was the best on record for the Baton Rouge-based, family-owned jewelry empire. "Our business was up double digits over our best year, so we've been extremely fortunate," he says, declining to reveal specific numbers. "That's all eight stores, not just Baton Rouge." Berg attributes much of the growth to a strategy of "reinvesting in our existing community" over the last seven years. That strategy has meant building a new freestanding store in Shreveport, adding a second location in San Antonio, opening a new store in Metairie's Lakeside Shopping Center, moving the original San Antonio store into a larger, better location, and doubling the square footage in Jackson, Miss., with a new freestanding store. "Those reinvestments have really paid off," Berg says. "We've seen substantial growth where we've kind of built a new footprint, and it's almost as if every store has become a flagship store." According to Business Report's 2012 listing of the top 100 private companies in the Capital Region, Lee Michaels had revenues of $52.7 million in 2011, a nearly 18% increase over the year previous. —April Castro
'225 Dine': Wood Fired Pizza food truck in neutral due to accident
A popular Baton Rouge food truck will be out of commission temporarily after it was struck allegedly by a drunk driver and destroyed. Bogdan Mocanu's Wood Fired Pizza truck was hit Tuesday night around 8:30 p.m. Mocanu says the incident occurred after a successful food truck event at Pecan Grove Elementary School in Gonzales. The Gonzales Police Department confirms the accident and states the driver hit the food truck trailer as well as another vehicle. Officers say the driver has been charged with a DWI and reckless operation of a vehicle. Mocanu says his trailer is destroyed. A day after the accident, Mocanu was in poor spirits. Though he wants to begin serving customers again as soon as possible, he doesn't see that as a possibility right now. "I think I will lay low for a little bit, and I hate doing this," he says. "It's my passion to cook for all these people. It's the way I live my crazy dreams. For me, I lost my way of expressing myself." Mocanu says he will meet with his insurance company and lawyer before making any decisions. The accident, he adds, has made him rethink how he serves his food. "I'm now thinking of opening a brick-and-mortar location at this point," he says. "It might be the time." Read the rest of this story and get more local culinary news in the new edition of the 225 Dine e-newsletter here. —Matthew Sigur
N.O. the nation's fastest-growing city between 2010 and last year
With a 6.2% increase in its population—or an influx of 21,450 people—between July 2010 and July 2012, New Orleans was the fastest-growing city in the nation during the two-year span. That's according to U.S. Census Bureau figures compiled by Governing magazine, which says the data suggests some cities that long struggled to add residents for years may now be making a comeback. New Orleans experienced a 28.4% decline in its population between 2000 and 2010, according to the data. Certainly, much of that loss can be attributed to the exodus of residents seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In Baton Rouge, meanwhile, the population rose by a scant 0.2% between 2010 and 2012, adding just 457 residents. The Governing report says population gains in the nation's fastest-growing cities are being driven by two primary factors: jobs and increased minority populations. Check out the full story and view an interactive map of population fluctuations in cities throughout the U.S. here.
Gulf restoration plan lacks several required components
The federal-state body that will oversee the spending of billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released on Thursday a "draft initial comprehensive plan" for spending the money on projects that will restore the coast's natural resources and also benefit the Gulf Coast's economy. But as The Times-Picayune reports, the draft doesn't include a 10-year plan for allocating the money or a three-year priority list of projects and programs to be funded, both of which were required to be completed by now by the RESTORE Act. The 20-page document released by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council—accompanied by a 112-page environmental assessment and a list of several hundred potential federal and state projects and programs that have been authorized but not yet begun—is required under the federal RESTORE Act, which dedicates 80% of the oil spill fine money to restoration projects along the Gulf Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The remaining 20% goes into a trust fund to cover the cost of future oil spills. The plan says the missed deadlines are the result of "uncertainty related to the overall amount and availability of funds deposited" in the RESTORE Act trust fund, the failure of the U.S. Treasury to issue procedures for spending trust fund money, and the council's intent to request public input on the plan. More details can be found in the full story here.
News roundup: LSU board to take up lawsuit appeal, hospital agreements Tuesday … U.S. durable goods orders rise in April … Summer travel forecast relatively flat
On the agenda: At a special meeting Tuesday, the LSU Board of Supervisors will consider authorizing an appeal of an April 25 judgment against the board in a lawsuit brought by several media outlets regarding public release of candidate names in LSU's presidential search. The board has said it will appeal the ruling. Also Tuesday, the board will consider cooperative endeavor agreements for several LSU hospitals. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the LSU System Office, 3810 West Lakeshore Dr. The full agenda can be found here.
Order up: U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rebounded in April, buoyed by more demand for aircraft and stronger business investment. The gains suggest economic growth may be holding steady this spring. Orders for durable goods—items expected to last at least three years—rose 3.3% last month from March, the Commerce Department reports this morning. The rise followed a 5.9% decline in March. A measure of business investment plans increased 1.2%. And the government revised the March figure to show a 0.9% gain, instead of a slight decrease. More details from the report can be found in the full story here.
Partly sunny: As the Memorial Day holiday weekend unofficially kicks off summer, airlines, hotels and campgrounds are commanding higher rates and seeing more customers than a few summers ago, and luxury hotels are selling out. But for a travel industry still stinging from the recession, probably the best it can hope for is another summer of steady but slow recovery. The blockbuster crowds seen in 2007 have become a distant memory. That's why AAA, citing the "up and down economy," estimates that 31.2 million Americans will hit the road this weekend—virtually the same number as last year. Read the full story here.
Today's poll question: How far are you traveling during the Memorial Day holiday weekend?