This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, March 07, 2014
Baker charter school finalizes purchase of Plank Road property
Charter Development Louisiana, an LLC run by Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, purchased an 8.4-acre tract of land at 14740 Plank Road in Baker for $1.25 million on Feb. 26, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court today. The seller in the deal was FR&W Baker LLC, represented by Larry B. Rabin. The property, which lies between Groom Road and Lake Mary Drive and includes a former Wal-Mart, will be the site of Advantage Charter Academy—a free public charter school opening in the fall of 2014. Construction on two thirds of the existing building will begin next week, according to a spokesperson for NHA, while the remaining space will be kept vacant for future expansion. Renovations will include a new HVAC system, a new roof, 28 classrooms, a media lab, a gymnasium, an art room, a music room, an office, and an outdoor play area. Advantage Charter Academy expects to occupy the building by mid-July. According to NHA's website, Advantage Charter Academy will offer kindergarten through fifth grades for the 2014-2015 school year and plans to add one grade per year until the school fills kindergarten through eighth grade. Advantage Charter Academy will be NHA's second Baton Rouge school—it also operates Inspire Charter Academy on North Foster Drive. NHA, which partners with local school boards to build and manage charter schools, plans to open Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette in August as well. The organization operates 76 schools in nine states. —Rachel Alexander
'Daily Report' Week in Review: B.R. gets high ranking for 2013 business expansions … Jindal outlines priorities heading into session … Ruffino's moving downtown and much more
Baton Rouge put another feather in its economic development cap this week when it was announced by Site Selection magazine that the city was ranked No. 2 among all U.S. mid-sized metros for its business expansions last year. Site Selection also placed Louisiana No. 3 in its listing of the state's with the most economic wins last year. "Being included on this list four years in a row is a testament to the strength of our region and the momentum underway," says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. With the opening of the legislative session set for Monday, Gov. Bobby Jindal laid out his priorities this week, saying aligning Louisiana's educational systems to state workforce needs is his top goal. Both inside the state and outside Louisiana, Jindal also garnered a lot of headlines this week when he amped up his attacks on President Barack Obama at the Conservative Political Action Conference. There was also a lot of local commercial real estate news to report this week. Among the top stories, the owners of Ruffino's told Daily Report about their plans to relocate its corporate headquarters and catering operation to De La Ronde Hall at 320 Third St. downtown, offering banquet and catering services for up to 500 patrons in the 8,500-square-foot space. —Steve Sanoski Read the complete Daily Report Week in Review.
'225' celebrates 100 issues
To mark the 100th issue of 225, this month's issue is full of articles centered on and celebrating the number 100. Among them is a list of 100 reasons to love Baton Rouge from contributors, residents and readers. While some love Spanish Town and dining at Beausoleil, to name just a few, others such as Baton Rouge Gallery Executive Director Jason Andreasen mention the ever more positive attitude the city is increasingly taking on. "I love the way that the creative class of Baton Rouge is lovingly taking the bull by the horns," he says. "The sheer volume of fun, interesting, thought-provoking, entertaining and unique events and programs that have been offered in recent years speaks to the way B.R. is embracing art, music, entrepreneurship, murals, theater, literature, fashion, dance and more like never before." The 100th issue also contains a 100-syllable poem from Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon and a look at the poeple working at culturally significant addresses in the city that include the number 100. Also in the new issue, resident Bob Courtney gives the magazine the scoop on how he lost 100 pounds in 180 days, and readers get a chance to vote for their favorite 225 cover of all time and win a local gift card. Check out the complete package.
BESE delays vote on $3.5 billion school funding formula
Apparently acknowledging it will not meet a March 15 deadline to present state lawmakers with a $3.5 billion school funding formula, BESE members today said they need more time to tweak the proposal, The Associated Press reports. BESE indicated it will conduct a special meeting next week to hammer out a final version of the formula that tells the state's 69 public school districts how much state funding they can expect in the 2014-2015 school year. BESE previously announced it intends to recommend spending increases on technical training and special education. Disagreement on details of the spending formula forced the delay. The Associated Press notes lawmakers can give a thumbs up or down to the funding proposal BESE offers, but they cannot change it.
Bernanke: Energy 'a bright spot' in recovering economy
The national oil and gas boom may have created a quarter of the jobs U.S. employers have added to payrolls since the economic downturn began six years ago, says former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who delivered the closing remarks at the massive IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston today. As FuelFix.com reports, Bernanke says energy production also has greatly improved the U.S. trade imbalance as exports rise, and it has boosted the nation's competitive position in the world. "It has clearly been one of the most beneficial developments" in the U.S. since the financial crisis of 2008, he says. "Foreign companies are investing in the U.S. instead of jobs going out. I don't want to overstate it, because the U.S. economy has a ways to go, but it's one of the bright spots. We are in fact regaining our very strong position in energy production." Today, Bernanke also revisited some of the most difficult trials of the past six years, from the failure of Lehman Bros. to scouting out wary buyers for distressed financial institutions during the crisis and pushing for unpopular government intervention in the financial system. In the financial crisis in 2008 and the recession that followed, the Federal Reserve "came full circle" to its original assignment, to help the U.S. financial system get out of major crises, he says. It was Bernanke's first public speaking appearance since his second term running the most powerful central bank in the world ended in January.
News roundup: First-time La. unemployment insurance claims rise … La. gains one rig on the week … Cassidy hosts School Choice Fair on Monday
Jobs wanted: First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending March 1 increased from the previous week's total. The Louisiana Workforce Commission issued a report today showing initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013. The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 2,119 from the previous week's average of 2,084.
By the numbers: Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 23 this week to 1,792. Of those, 1,443 rigs were exploring for oil and 345 for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,752 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained 20 rigs, California was up by five, North Dakota two, and Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Utah each gained one.
Classroom options: Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, says the School Choice Fair he's hosting on Monday morning will offer information on school choice options available in the greater Baton Rouge area, including representatives from charter schools, home schooling and private/parochial schools participating in the voucher program. It does not appear that representatives from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System will be at the event, which will take place at the Marriott, 55 Hilton Ave. from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Get more details.
News roundup: Solar jobs in U.S. grew 20% last year … Spy agencies scour phone apps for personal data … Two charged in alleged Bitcoin laundering scheme
Living in the industrial boom
Boeing to end pensions for non-union workers
Economy added 175,000 jobs in February