This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, January 28, 2013
Manufacturing boom predicted in La. despite uncertainty
Louisiana and the Gulf Coast likely will be the prime beneficiaries of a natural gas–fueled industrial building boom over the next several years, says David Dismukes of LSU's Center for Energy Studies. However, several variables— such as tax reform, which will be a hot topic at this year's legislative session—could affect the economics of some of those potential projects, he says. "Everybody's sitting back waiting and watching," Dismukes says, when asked about the state-level tax reform conversation. "They will sit down and redo the books on these projects as soon as they get a more concrete idea of how it's going to change things." The Jindal administration wants to protect incentives such as exemptions for business utilities and purchases of manufacturing machinery and equipment. However, Dismukes says the state's Quality Jobs and Enterprise Zone programs could be in play. Changes in federal tax policy and environmental regulations also could make a difference, although Dismukes says the Obama administration has "come around to recognizing the contribution that unconventional development has had, both in crude [oil] as well as in natural gas." West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio may be prime competitors with Gulf Coast states for greenfield projects, he says. More than $62 billion in manufacturing investments are planned in Louisiana over the next several years—peaking in 2016—resulting in about $20.2 billion in direct spending in the state and nearly $30 billion in increased economic impact, according to a recent Center for Energy Studies report. —David Jacobs
10-year-old boy charged in St. Joseph's threat
A 10-year-old boy from Iberville Parish was today charged with terrorizing and was released to his parents after officials say they determined he was behind a threat left Saturday on the voicemail system of St. Joseph's Academy. The investigation continues, notes a news release from Baton Rouge Police Department Lt. Don Kelly. The school was open as usual today amid heightened security, which included an unspecified number of uniformed BRPD officers. The department has not released the nature of the threat. Some parents, who were informed of the threat on Sunday evening, nonetheless kept their children home from school today; some classes reportedly had as little as one-third of normal attendance.
'Business Report' planner: LSU Health Care Effectiveness Forum on tap Tuesday … Alzheimer's Services hosts grant-writing workshop … BBB has Gautreaux at business-to-business breakfast
Tuesday — The LSU Health Care Effectiveness Forum will feature presentations by health care experts on safety-net health care and public health care redesign in Louisiana. The redesign is leading to the development of public-private partnerships between LSU hospitals and local community hospitals, altering the health-delivery model for the uninsured and highest-risk patients in the state. The free event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the C. B. Pennington Jr. Building, 6400 Perkins Road. Registration begins at 8 a.m.
Feb. 4-8 — Alzheimer's Services is hosting The Grantsmanship Training Program for area nonprofits interested in learning more about writing grants. Cost is $895. Complete details are available here.
Feb. 5 — The Better Business Bureau hosts a business-to-business breakfast with East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux at the Baton Rouge Marriott, 5500 Hilton Ave. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., with the program to follow from 8 to 9 a.m. More details are here.
The Business Report planner is open to events of general interest to the Capital Region business community. Items must be submitted no later than noon the Friday before the event occurs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with information.
For the full list of upcoming events, click here.
White refutes teacher attrition claims, says retirement is steady
The Louisiana Department of Education released a report today showing teacher attrition has held steady in the state for the third consecutive year at 12%. The release comes in response to a claim by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana that there's been a 25% increase in teacher retirements in recent years. The Department of Education says it granted more teaching licenses in the 2010-11 school year than it did during the 2008-2009 year, and that TRSL's reported increase in teacher retirements covers only employees with longer tenures and specific rights to benefits. "The data show that we do not have a statewide shortage of teachers and that applications for new positions are up," says Superintendent of Education John White. "But more important, the data show that our schools are keeping and promoting our best teachers, which is the issue we should be focused on." TRSL says the number of teachers retiring jumped from 2,598 in the 2011 fiscal year to 3,295 in the 2012 fiscal year that ended June 30—an increase of 26.8%. The Department of Education says it issued 3,136 teaching licenses for the 2010-11 school year. The department also says that the teachers leaving the system were more likely to be "ineffective" than those who stayed. Lisa Honore, a spokeswoman for TRSL, says the organization has no comment on the department's release today. —Adam Pearson
Editor’s note: This story has been changed since its original publication. An earlier version stated that the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana made a connection between an increase in teacher retirement and Gov. Bobby Jindal's education reforms. A spokesperson with the TRSL says the group does not ask teachers why they are retirement and is not speculating on what the cause of an increase in teacher retirement might be.
Super PAC could help Vitter in gubernatorial bid
A Washington, D.C., fundraising heavyweight is helping to set up federal and state super PACs to support U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a move that heightens speculation that the Republican legislator is eyeing a bid to run for governor. Lawyer Charlie Spies tells The Associated Press that Vitter supporters filed paperwork today with federal and state agencies creating The Fund for Louisiana's Future, a pro-Vitter political action committee. The federal super PAC could support a Vitter re-election bid in 2016, while a state PAC could aid him if he decides to launch a gubernatorial campaign in 2015. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited and can't run again. Vitter has sidestepped questions about his interest in the governor's race but hasn't squelched the speculation. Spies co-founded the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.
Report: Treasury allowed high executive pay raises at 3 bailed-out firms
The U.S. Treasury Department disregarded its own guidelines by allowing large pay increases for executives at three firms bailed out during the financial crisis, according to a report released today. The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program says Treasury approved all 18 requests it received for executive raises at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. Of those requests, 14 were for $100,000 or more. One raise, for the CEO of a division at AIG, was for $1 million. The three firms together received nearly $250 billion from the bailout fund. Only AIG has fully repaid its $182 billion bailout. The report says Treasury bypassed rules under the 2008 bailout that limited pay. Treasury approved raises that exceeded pay limits and in some cases failed to link compensation to performance, the report notes. Christy Romero, the special inspector general for TARP, says the guidelines require that compensation should not exceed the 50th percentile of pay for executives in similar positions at other financially distressed companies. Pay surpassed that level for 63% of the executives whose raises were approved, Romero says. The report says Treasury officials had been warned a year ago that the department needed to reform its procedures to ensure that the pay guidelines be followed. Patricia Geoghegan, the Treasury official who approved the raises, disputes the findings of the report. The full story is here.
News roundup: Pointe Coupee high school opens lab for industry-based certifications … Settlement reached in ACLU's suit over Super Bowl 'clean zone' … SBA launches site to educate businesses about Affordable Care Act
Classroom to career: The Recovery School District and Pointe Coupee Central High School announced today the opening of a high-tech Apple Mac computer lab that will offer students an opportunity to earn an industry-based certification. The digital media program at the school is part of the Career and Technical Education Program spearheaded by the Louisiana Department of Education and offered in the RSD. Under the program, the school partners with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and industry leaders to create curricula that prepare students for college and careers.
Blocking up the scenery: An agreement reached today has resolved a lawsuit over plans by the city of New Orleans to enforce a "clean zone," where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl week. The agreement, which still must be approved by a federal judge, would allow the city to enforce some limits on commercial activity in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. The filing says the city can prohibit "off-site and mobile advertising," such as signs attached to a vehicle or worn by a person. More details can be found in the full story here.
What's it all about? The U.S. Small Business Administration today launched a new Web page and blog dedicated to educating small-business owners about the Affordable Care Act. The SBA says the federal health care overhaul has many potentially beneficial measures for small businesses, including slowing premium cost growth and increased access to quality, affordable health insurance. Among other resources, SBA's new Web page breaks down key provisions of the changes based on business size in the following categories: self-employed, fewer than 25 employees, fewer than 50 employees, and more than 50 employees. Check it out here.
News alert: Axiall Corp. announces potential $3 billion investment in petrochemical sector
City against city