Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, May 30, 2012


B.R. construction employment rises 9% in April

According to a new analysis of federal employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America, Baton Rouge had roughly 3,400 more people employed in the construction industry in April than it did during the month a year ago—a 9% increase. That makes Baton Rouge the 27th-strongest metro in the United States for industry hiring during April, according to AGCA rankings. Roughly 43,000 people were working in construction in the Capital Region in April, up from 39,600 a year previous. Todd Waguespack, a partner with Level Construction homebuilders, says he's more confident about local market conditions than he has been in years. "It's definitely a lot more consistent than it's been in a long, long time," he says. "The past few years, we've sporadically gone from some pretty hot months to some really cold ones, but I think we're going to continue to improve the rest of this year and be fairly stable." About half of the metro areas in the United States—157 of 337—saw year-over-year construction job losses in April. Of the six metro areas in Louisiana tracked by AGCA, just two saw losses: Shreveport (down 600 jobs, or -8%) and New Orleans (down 4,600 jobs, or -14%). New Orleans' losses were among the worst in the nation, placing it No. 329 in the rankings. With a gain of 900 jobs, or 14%, Lafayette had the eighth-strongest job gains in April. See the AGCA's complete rankings for metro construction employment gains here. —Steve Sanoski

2012 class of Influential Women in Business honored by 'Business Report'

Since 1997, Business Report has annually honored women in the Capital Region who are leaders in their businesses and our community. The 10 women included in Business Report's Influential Women in Business class of 2012 are drivers of the health care, banking, economic development, legal, government and nonprofit sectors in Greater Baton Rouge. The honorees are: Barbara Auten, Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area; Shelly Dick, attorney; Kay Goodwyn, president & CEO, Roco Rescue; Jamie Haeuser, senior vice president of operations, Woman's Hospital; JoEllen Kearny, CPA/Financial adviser, Daigrepont & Brian; Dee LeJeune, CEO, St. Elizabeth Hospital; Janet Olson, relationship manager, Capital One Bank; Christy Reeves, director of community relations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana; Erin Monroe Wesley, senior vice president of governmental affairs, Baton Rouge Area Chamber; and Monica Zumo, managing partner, Hannis T. Bourgeois. Check out profiles of this year's honorees in the new edition of Business Report here. Each will be recognized at the 2012 Influential Women in Business Awards luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Tuesday. The luncheon will feature internationally recognized speaker and author Lisa Johnson, who helps organizations accelerate growth by applying the latest techniques in storytelling to common business challenges including leadership, sales, innovation and marketing communications. Tickets for the luncheon are $40 each—with tables of 10 available for $400—and they can be purchased online here through Thursday at noon. After that, tickets can be purchased by calling 928-1700.

Executive Spotlight: Dana Nunez Brown

Dana Nunez Brown has worked for 33 years as a landscape architect and planner in her native New Orleans as well as Baton Rouge, Boston, and Orange County, Calif. After 15 years in California, she returned to Baton Rouge—where she had lived as an undergraduate—to take a teaching position at LSU and be near her mother. Brown left teaching six years ago to practice full-time with her firm, Dana Brown & Associates, which has offices downtown and in New Orleans. Her work focuses on community planning, ecological design, public outreach and project leadership. Read the complete Q&A here. Here's a sample:

What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
"Attending and graduating from Harvard University Graduate School of Design while starting out with $750 to live on. I worked at several jobs at the same time to pay expenses, including teaching fellow, landscape architect at a Boston firm, and modeler at the Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics."

LSU's business and tech incubator adds four new tenants, graduates one

Four startup businesses—including a digital marketing agency, an LED products supplier, an environmental permitting and compliance consultant, and a specialized testing services firm—have graduated from the Louisiana Business & Technology Center's student incubator program are and joining the LBTC business incubator at LSU's south campus. "The entrepreneurial activity in the area is thriving as we are attracting many new companies to the incubator," says LBTC Executive Director Charles D'Agostino. "Many of these companies want the strong linkage with LSU that the LBTC provides." Meanwhile, Secure Nation, an information security–focused IT consulting and sourcing firm, is graduating from the business incubator on Friday. Since Jon Davis founded Secure Nation four years ago with two employees, it has grown to 14 employees. The startups entering the business incubator include BluReach, a digital marketing agency created by LSU students Trevor Reeves and Sean Simone; HITLights, which is already one of the leading LED products suppliers in North America; Global Environmental Solutions Inc., or GESI, which was established in 2010 by Brian Soucy and helps clients navigate the complex environmental permitting and regulatory process; and SCTCS Group, which was established in February by William Moe and offers a narrow range of specialized testing services related to settling and compression properties of hydraulically dredged sediments.

'225' launches new website

225 magazine invites you to join in a conversation. With the goal of creating a more engaging and relevant community gathering place, 225 is proud to announce the launch of its brand-new website. Beyond the fresh look and ease of navigation the site affords, 225's new online home features a number of significant improvements for users to enjoy. Streamlined comments sections and a new multimedia uploading tool allow users to converse with 225 staff and other readers, as well as easily upload content to our site. If readers attend an event or dine at a restaurant the magazine writes about, submitting their personal photos or videos from that event or restaurant is now a snap. In addition, we have rebranded our free weekly events e-newsletter, released each Wednesday, as 225 Weekender. With updated staff picks for the week and our community calendar, 225 is the best resource for filling your social schedule with excitement. Our restaurant directory is also updated and easier to navigate, and we continue to produce the free weekly e-newsletter 225 Dine each Thursday, featuring the latest culinary news and reviews from around the city. In addition to being Baton Rouge's guide for what to do and where to eat, 225 aims to stir community conversation on the news stories, people and local issues that are most important to the magazine's readers. 225's new site features an expanded roster of bloggers who are discussing a range of topics from politics, food and fitness, to arts, movies, music, television, smart growth and development, startups and other business news. Check them out and add your voice to the conversation. It's all at the new website here.

Computer virus briefly hits Iran's oil industry

Iran's key oil industry was briefly affected by the powerful computer virus known as "Flame" that has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users, a senior Iranian military official announced today. The comment is the first direct link between the emergence of the new malware and an attack inside a highly sensitive computer system in Iran, which counts on oil revenue for 80% of its income. The full extent of last month's disruptions has not been given, but Iran was forced to cut Internet links to the country's main oil export terminal, presumably to try to contain the virus. It would be the latest high-profile virus to penetrate Iran's computer defenses in the past two years, boosting speculation that Israeli programmers could have struck again. Experts see technological links between Flame and the highly focused Stuxnet virus, which was tailored to disrupt Iran's nuclear centrifuges in 2010. Many suspect Stuxnet was the work of Israeli intelligence. Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, claims that Iranian experts detected and defeated the "Flame" virus. He tells state radio that the oil industry was the only governmental body seriously affected and that all data that had been lost has been retrieved. "This virus penetrated some fields. One of them was the oil sector. Fortunately, we detected and controlled this single incident," Jalali says. The Associated Press has the full story here.

News roundup: Brees' apparel line to mirror Bono's Product Red … China says no to another massive stimulus plan … Iraq holds 4th postwar oil and gas auction

In the pocket: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, through their Brees Dream Foundation, are launching an apparel company this fall, reports The Times-Picayune, citing the foundation and the Idea Village—the business incubator that is partnering with the foundation to find someone to run the New Orleans-based venture. Idea Village founder Tim Williamson says the apparel line will be much like Product Red, a licensed brand that partners with companies like Gap and American Express to sell everything from shirts to credit cards bearing the Red logo. That company was founded by Bono, frontman of the band U2, as a way to get the private sector involved in raising awareness and money to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Read the full story here.

Seeing red: China moved to temper expectations of another massive stimulus plan amid reports the country was green-lighting more infrastructure projects to stabilize its slowing economy, The Los Angeles Times reports. "The Chinese government's intention is very clear, it will not issue another large-scale stimulus plan to boost robust growth," the official New China News Agency says in an article published Tuesday. The statement helped drive stock markets down across Asia today, as investors sought clues as to how the world's second-largest economy would respond to its biggest economic challenge in three years. Read the full story here.

Black gold: A Kuwaiti-led energy consortium today won the right to search for oil and gas in southern Iraq as part of the country's fourth postwar energy auction. Two natural gas exploration deals meanwhile attracted no bidders. Exploration rights in a dozen areas of the country are on offer in the two-day auction, with 39 foreign energy companies registered to compete. Iraq holds the world's fourth largest oil reserves and oil revenues make up nearly 95% of the country's budget. Since 2008, Iraq has awarded 15 oil and gas deals to international energy companies, the first major investments in the country's energy industry in more than three decades. The Associated Press has the full story here.

Today's poll question: Do you think a second chamber, as proposed by Woody Jenkins, is necessary in East Baton Rouge Parish?

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