Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

Hollywood Trucks to provide vehicles to Mississippi's largest studio

Baton Rouge-based Hollywood Trucks announced today that it has signed an exclusive five-year deal to provide production vehicles at Mississippi's largest studio, Mississippi Film Studios, located in Canton. The announcement of the company's expansion into the Mississippi market comes roughly five months after it entered the Georgia market with a deal to supply vehicles to Pinewood Atlanta Studios.
Mississippi Film Studios is a 43,000-square-foot facility, including 8,000 square feet of production offices and more than 35,000 square feet of soundstage space located on 6 acres.

Red River, 'Advocate' among those submitting plans for new buildings

Red River Bank has filed a plan review application with the Department of Public Works for its proposed location adjacent to the Acadian-Perkins Plaza parking lot, signaling that it is ready to start construction there. According to the application, the project will cost $1.2 million. The building, addressed at 3191 S. Acadian Thruway, is expected to measure 2,800 square feet.
Before Red River Bank was able to purchase the tract in June, the property was caught up in a property dispute between the previous owner and Jon Claitor, who owns the plaza.
Red River market president Joanie Montelaro says the legal issues have been laid to rest and she expects construction to begin before the end of the year, at the latest, so that the branch can open next summer.

Cleco to be bought by Australian-led investors for $3.4B

An investment group led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets will buy the Louisiana power company Cleco for $3.4 billion. The group will pay $55.37 in cash for each share of Cleco, which owns the regulated electric utility Cleco Power. That amounts to a 15% premium on the stock's closing price of $48.27 on Friday, the last trading day before the deal was announced. The buyer group includes British Columbia Investment Management Corp. The deal, expected to close in the second half of next year, is valued at about $4.7 billion when $1.3 billion in debt is included. Cleco Corp., based in Pineville, will continue to operate as an independent company under local management. The company also says there will be no change in utility rates or employment levels. The company generates and sells electricity mostly in Louisiana, where it has about 284,000 customers. Cleco also supplies wholesale power in Mississippi. Cleco's stock has climbed 3.5% so far this year, a slightly better gain...

Before reaching deal with Spinosa, Perkins Rowe owners filed permit to build their own chilled water plant

One week before developer Tommy Spinosa finalized the deal to sell his water-cooling plant at Perkins Rowe to the development's new owners, the ownership group filed for permits with the city-parish Department of Public Works to build its own chilled water facility at the mixed-use development. According to records filed with DPW, on Sept. 30 Crawfish LLC—a subsidiary of the Texas-based investment group that has owned Perkins Rowe since late last year—applied for a new building permit for a 2,790-square-foot, $3.58 million chilled water plant at the development. One week later, Spinosa agreed to sell his chilled-water plant, Central Facilities, which was at the center of a dispute between him and Crawfish for months. Though Spinosa lost ownership of Perkins Rowe in a foreclosure battle, he...

'225 Dine': Nottoway Plantation gets new chef

A chef with a distinguished career is joining Nottoway Plantation. As 225 Dine reports, Michael J. Loupe, an award-winning chef who has logged time across Louisiana and in France, will start working as executive chef at Nottoway next week. At the historic plantation and resort, Loupe will head The Mansion Restaurant, which specializes in Creole-inspired Louisiana cuisine and seasonal menus. Loupe trained in Paris and most recently worked as executive chef at the Hilton Capitol Center for the past six years. Loupe has also headed the kitchen at the local Ruth's Chris Steak House, where he was in charge of the culinary team for two years. He was the executive chef at the Baton Rouge Country Club for more than three years, and has also worked at the Camelot Club. Loupe's extensive culinary career started at age 15 when he got a part-time job making nut butters and vegetable juices at the Yum Yum Tree in Plaquemine. After attending culinary school in the early '80s, Loupe worked...

Money panel agrees to La. construction spending

State officials have agreed to a list of $125 million in new construction spending this year—projects recommended by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. The Associated Press reports the Bond Commission approved the spending today without objection. It also gave preliminary support to borrowing $200 million to keep dollars flowing to pay for the state's construction work. Lawmakers gave Jindal decision-making power to choose among their projects in this year's construction budget, after packing the bill with projects costing more than three times the money the state had to spend. Louisiana has a cap on annual borrowing that limits spending on construction work to $355 million in the fiscal year that began July 1. The projects are paid for with dollars borrowed through bond sales to investors, paid off over years with interest. As previously reported, Jindal's capital outlay...

Bayou Country Superfest to include third day again in 2015

When the Bayou Country Superfest returns to Tiger Stadium for its sixth year over Memorial Day weekend next year, it will be a three-day festival for the second straight year. When Festival Productions Inc. confirmed the festival would return in 2015 earlier this year, it initially only indicated a two-day festival. Today, organizers confirmed the 2015 engagement will include a full lineup of artists on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 22-24. The first four festivals were all two-day affairs. The full lineup of artists for the 2015 festival is due to be released on Nov. 5. During this year's first three-day festival, area hotels took in a record $3.4 million, according to figures from Smith Travel Research. The extra day also boosted overall festival attendance to a record 135,000 fans. Last week,

Circle K gets approval for new Government Street development

Circle K will move forward with plans to raze an existing Shell gas station at the corner of Government Street and South Foster Drive, following the Metro Council Zoning Committee's approval on Wednesday of Circle K's plans for a new 4,400-square-foot convenience store with a gas station and a 1,040-square-foot car wash. When the project was initially proposed last summer, the Planning Commission staff recommended rejecting it because of issues both with access and the design. The Mid City Redevelopment Alliance also raised concerns about the design, arguing the plan doesn't align with the city-parish master plan or the alliance's pedestrian-friendly goals for the area. But the Planning Commission voted to approve the project at its meeting in September, and Planning Director Frank Duke says Circle K has modified its designs and he is now satisfied with the plans. "My hat's off to...

Oil slump means canceled projects as investment declines

The global crash in crude prices is reverberating through the oil and gas industry, pressuring producers to curtail investment to protect profits and avoid cuts to dividend payments. Bloomberg reports projects in the Canadian oil sands, offshore fields in Norway and drilling-intensive U.S. shale deposits—including the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale below central Louisiana—are among the most vulnerable as oil prices come perilously close to production costs. The world's largest oil companies have rarely spent so much for so little reward. Even before this week's sharp drop-off in prices, French research house IFP Energies Nouvelles expected investment in the industry to fall 8% this year. With oil approaching a four-year low, producers will be even more cautious about sanctioning investment, says chairman Olivier Appert. "Oil companies will think twice before launching new...

Nordstrom Rack coming to Mall of Louisiana in 2015, more new stores to be announced soon

Baton Rouge will be home to the state's first Nordstrom Rack store come next fall. The discount store announced today it be will moving into the Mall of Louisiana outparcel that is also home to Dick's Sporting Goods, DSW and Lane Bryant. Nordstrom Rack, the off-price retail division of Nordstrom Inc., is scheduled to open a 30,000-square-foot space in September 2015 if construction moves according to schedule, says Mall of Louisiana General Manager Tony Stephens. Nordstrom plans to renovate the space currently occupied by American Factory Direct Furniture. Nordstrom operates 284 stores in 37 states, including 162 Nordstrom Racks, but this will be the company's first location in Louisiana. Naomi Tobis, vice president of communications with Nordstrom Inc., says the company was attracted to the Baton Rouge location because it's already successful. "It already has great retail options," Tobis says. "It's anchored with stores and restaurants. We look for locations that are convenient for...

CATS progressing with bus shelter refurbishments, new routes

A committee of the Capital Area Transit System on Thursday will consider recommending approval of a $157,000 bid from Baton Rouge-based The Luster Group LLC to refurbish 72 bus shelters. The CATS Finance and Executive Committee will also consider signing off on a plan to expand the number of routes from 30 to 33. The full CATS board has already approved the route expansion, and the Metro Council will consider the proposal at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 22. In his official report to the board last month, CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said the targeted date for having the first 40 refurbished bus stops completed is Dec. 19. CATS is aiming to have the remaining shelters refurbished by Feb. 17. Mirabito also said at that time that 40 new bus shelters are expected to be in place by Nov. 29. CATS recently held public input meetings on the three new routes. CATS is proposing a new LSU Express Route, a Nicholson Limited Route and a Garden District Trolley. If approved, the new routes are expected...

NK Boutique replacing one Perkins Road location with another in overpass area

Yet another trendy destination has announced it is opening in the Perkins Road overpass area. NK Boutique, a 30-year-old local business, will replace its store behind AutoZone at 4469 Perkins Road, near the intersection of College and Perkins roads, with a new location at 2295 Hollydale Ave. The 1,092-square-foot space housed Noelie Harmon boutique until it closed in July. NK Boutique's Michele Percy says the new store, which is scheduled to open in the next two weeks, will have a funkier atmosphere than the boutique's two other locations at 7474 Corporate Ave. and 17455 Perkins Road. "Clothes will be more tailored toward college students, with a lower price point. We're excited about capturing a younger audience," Percy says. The new boutique, in a more neighborhood-friendly space with walking traffic, will give customers a better shopping experience, Percy says. Over the summer, NK Boutique

La. chemical manufacturers not panicking over tumbling oil prices, Borne says

Despite this morning's drop in crude oil prices to a 47-month low before a rebound to around $84 per barrel, Louisiana Chemical Association President Dan Borné says he hasn't heard any major concerns from chemical manufacturers yet. "That's not to say that a precipitous drop in the price of oil, with no long-term prediction of ever recovering, would not cause some reassessment of investments in U.S. ethane crackers," Borné says. "But oil is an international commodity and can quickly fall prey to geopolitical events that can cause large swings in its price." This morning's decline comes on the heels of a more than $4 per barrel drop on Tuesday—the biggest daily decline in more than three years. Oil closed between $80 and $90 a barrel last week, while U.S. natural gas closed between $3 and $4 per mcf, which Borné says is still a very healthy ratio that makes U.S. ethane production "wildly competitive" with the rest of...

Retail sales slump in September, producer prices also down

A pair of separate government reports out this morning show U.S retail sales retreated in September and producer prices also ticked down. The Commerce Department says that seasonally adjusted retail sales dropped 0.3% from the previous month. Sales have risen 4.3% in the past 12 months, slightly below their historical pace. The purchases of autos, gasoline, furniture and clothing all slowed in September, a sign that recent job gains have yet to significantly boost consumer spending. Auto sales fell 0.8% in September, after revving up 10.4% in August. Falling gasoline prices also contributed to a decline in retail sales, as purchases at service stations were off 0.8% in September. Purchases of clothing dropped 1.2% last month and spending on building materials fell 1.1%. The Associated Press has more on the retail sales report. Meanwhile, inflation was limited last...

Underlying assumptions

Louisiana is an unusual state in many respects. Because of its relatively low concentration of employment in the durable goods industry (4.6% employment versus 6.4% nationally) Louisiana tends to get hammered less by national recessions than other states and respond less vigorously to national recoveries than its sister states. The state is often further buttressed from the harm of a national downturn by its huge energy sector. Louisiana is the nation's No. 2 producer of oil and natural gas (if production from the federal waters in the Gulf is included), has the nation's second largest concentration of refinery capacity, and has enough miles of pipelines under it to circle the globe four-and-a-half times. That same huge concentration of energy firms can also send the state into a steep downturn when other states are prospering if oil and natural gas prices fall significantly. All these factors must be considered when generating forecasts for 2015-16.

Statewide overview

There are 64 parishes in Louisiana, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has taken 34 and separated them into eight metropolitan statistical areas. These parishes are all grouped around one or more major cities in the state. Map 2 shows the location of each and the parishes that are in each MSA. An important change will take place in 2015 when the definitions of three MSAs will expand: (1) Lafayette will add Acadia, Vermilion and Iberia Parishes; (2) Shreveport-Bossier will add Webster Parish; and (3) New Orleans will add St. James Parish. Starting in 2015, all labor data will reflect these new designations.

A look ahead

For many years, it has been our pleasure to provide you a glimpse into Louisiana's future at our Top 100 Luncheon by presenting Dr. Loren Scott and his econometric analysis of Louisiana's business and industrial outlook.

The outlook for Baton Rouge

There are an estimated 394,200 jobs in this MSA, the second largest behind New Orleans. It is the largest MSA in the state in terms of number of parishes—nine, including East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Iberville, St. Helena, Pointe Coupee, East Feliciana and West Feliciana (see Map 2). In terms of population, East Baton Rouge Parish was the most populous in the state in 2012 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Executive summary

In our 33 years of penning the Louisiana Economic Outlook, we have observed the economy go through some wild swings. One time it is a devastating set of hurricanes that causes a huge, permanent exodus of people from our borders. Another time it is a spike in energy prices that has parts of the state looking like a mining town during the gold rush days. Happily, our report this year deals with one of those good times. Louisiana is in the midst of an industrial boom unlike any other in our history, with over $100 billion in industrial projects either under construction or at the front-end engineering and design phase. Oil prices have the Gulf of Mexico surpassing pre-spill levels of production. There is an abundance of good news to discuss in this year's edition.

Around the state

We are projecting that the New Orleans MSA employment will add 8,300 jobs (+1.5%) in 2015, and 9,000 jobs in 2016 (+1.6%). These are excellent growth rates. In fact, there have been only seven years since 1980 when this MSA's growth rate exceeded those we have projected. This would rank the MSA's performance fifth among the state's eight MSAs over the two-year forecast period, mainly because of spectacular growth projected in the chemical corridor and the oil patch. The MSA will still be 48,200 jobs (-7.8%) below its previous 2001 peak.


We are so lucky to have the terrific financial support provided by our gold sponsors--Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, ExxonMobil, Home Bank and Cleco. BCBSLA added to its basic financial contribution by also printing the paper issues of the LEO. Financial support from these companies not only gets the LEO out, but it also provides some extra support to a cash-strapped Economics Department at LSU.

Louisiana Economic Outlook

A look ahead
For many years, it has been our pleasure to provide you a glimpse into Louisiana's future at our Top 100 Luncheon by presenting Dr. Loren Scott and his econometric analysis of Louisiana's business and industrial outlook. The release of his Louisiana Economic Outlook has become a much-anticipated tradition at our annual luncheon and Louisiana Business Symposium. Read the full column.

Salsbury's Dodge buys site farther down Airline for future expansion

The owners of Salsbury's Dodge have acquired a 12.2-acre parcel on Airline Highway south of Interstate 12, where they plan to eventually relocate from their current location at 9950 Airline Highway, just north of Old Hammond Highway. The move could still be a couple of years away, however, says Salsbury's general manager Frank Lopinto. "It's a real estate investment for the dealership, and at some point we will expand down there," says Lopinto. "But at this point I can't tell you if it's two years away or five years." The new location, which Salsbury's acquired for $3.5 million from the Broussard-Capozzoli family, is about 50% bigger than Salsbury's current 8-acre site. Perhaps more significantly, it's located along the growing south Airline Highway corridor, which is the home to several major car dealerships. "Airline from I-12 to Hwy. 42 is what Florida Boulevard between downtown and Cortana Mall used to be," says Mark Hebert of Kurz and Hebert Commercial Real Estate, who...

SJB Group buys building to house surveying division for $675K

SJB Group LLC, a multidiscipline engineering firm that often contracts with the city-parish, will relocate its surveying division to a warehouse it plans to remodel off of Picardy Avenue. SJB purchased the land from Triple P Summa LLC, managed by Mike Wampold, for $675,000. Alexandra Hughes, manager of marketing for SJB Group, says the new space will better suit the surveying division's heavy equipment and trucks. "The surveying division has really been growing, and we're excited for their new space," Hughes says. The division has outgrown SJB's current offices near the intersection of Essen and Anselmo lanes, but it was important that they stay close, Hughes says. "We do our work directly together. We work together all day," Hughes says. The division does not plan to operate out of the new building until mid-January, to allow for time to remodel the 13,000-square-foot warehouse into 5,000 square feet of office space and 4,000 square feet of storage for equipment. A fenced-in covered...

Cook: Kirk's automotive building sells

Kirk's Automotive has sold the building they currently occupy at 9555 Airline Highway to Brewster Road Holdings Baton Rouge LLC for $3 million. Brewster was represented by Robert J. Comeaux and Billie R. Comeaux. The purchase consisted of a 3.56-acre site improved with six buildings containing a total of 58,000 square feet. The improvements include not only a showroom, but also automotive repair and storage space. The sale closed on Sept. 30, and the sale price calculates to about $51.75 per square foot. Chris Pike with Mike Falgoust and Associates brokered the transaction. "The new owners are not prepared at this time to reveal what they intend to do with the property, but it will be an entirely different use, and will require some renovation," said Pike. Kirk's will relocate to a building they leased further south at 11740 Airline Highway that is a around 27,000 square feet and better fits its needs. The building Kirk's will lease was formerly occupied by Pro Power but has been...

'10/12 Industry Report': Nation's largest worker village set for construction in southwest La.

In preparation for a huge influx of workers in southwest Louisiana in the coming years, the largest worker village ever built in the United States is set to begin construction in Lake Charles. As detailed in a story by 10/12 Industry Report—a special publication from the publishers of Business Report—Pelican Lodge is being constructed by Lake Charles-based Greenfield Logistical Solutions. It will be located near Chennault International Airport on 250 acres owned by the Port of Lake Charles. Designed to house 4,000 people, the village could be expanded to include up to 8,000 beds in dorm- and apartment-style living spaces. "This will be an experience like no other," says Project Manager Sammy Pate. "We want these people to be able to come here to Lake Charles and stay here and be impacted. We hope they see the passion of this community and say, I've never had it that way before.' That's our goal." Accommodations, transportation and catering are just some of...

'Business Report': Should your company have a policy on employee use of social media?

Social media usage is changing the way we work and interact. It is now the norm—for both business and personal use—and posts are about as plentiful as the air we breathe. Today, social media is playing a vital role in many inbound marketing strategies; so is it counterproductive to restrict employees' ability to share content and spread the company message, or is it wise to rein in their online usage? As Business Report details in its latest Case Study feature, there's no single policy that's right for every company. And while setting some parameters is necessary, overly restricting social media use can be counterproductive. So how do you craft a policy that protects your business from potential backlash caused by a rogue employee while still allowing workers to act as brand ambassadors? Business Report asked three local business professionals—Jennifer Anderson, partner at Jones Walker; Stan Levy, founder/CEO of Fuse; and Erin Kilgore, partner at Kean...

A chilling end

The owners of Perkins Rowe reached an agreement with developer Tommy Spinosa to acquire Central Facilities, the plant that provides chilled water for the air conditioning system at the mixed-use development.

Talking Points: Will French

There were a few public disagreements at the Entertainment Industry Development Advisory Commission's most recent meeting in September, mostly about Louisiana Economic Development's allegedly poor management of the movie tax credit program and the fact that Baton Rouge is not a film "production center" under the current union contract, which locals say puts the city at a cost disadvantage against places like New Orleans that have the designation.

Behind the story of Highland Coffees

I always marvel at what galvanizes a community, though I have learned it is seldom the really important things.

Quickick 2.0

Quickick is getting a reboot.
Legendary LSU athletic trainer Martin Broussard created the sports drink in 1958 after discovering that the salt tabs and soft drinks consumed by his athletes weren't adequately replacing their electrolytes.

Deadline disasters

"Oh, the humanity!" That line radio reporter Herb Morrison famously cried out when covering the Hindenburg disaster, as the zeppelin caught fire and crashed in 1937, is familiar in business today. People occasionally take a personal nosedive in missing a deadline, and the fallout can be painful. Mistakes inevitably happen; we are human, after all.

Merger mania

The international insurance broker and claims administrator Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. has completed more than 300 acquisitions worldwide since 2002, including several well-established agencies in Baton Rouge.

Trae Weaver

"I was afforded the opportunity to go out and chase people ... not just in gas transmission groups, but gas gathering and production companies."

Perkins Plaza Center sells for $1.48 million

Perkins Plaza Center, just east of Siegen Lane on Perkins Road, has sold for nearly $1.48 million.

Developers unveil plans for eight-story downtown hotel

Developers and downtown officials today unveiled plans and a rendering for an 80,000-square-foot Courtyard Marriott that will be developed on the surface parking lot at the corner of Florida and Third streets downtown. The new hotel—which will be the sixth in downtown Baton Rouge—will have 147 rooms and eight floors. Construction is scheduled to begin in April or May and is expected to take 24 months to complete. "This is a great corner that is in the heart of downtown," says South Carolina developer Bo Aughtry, whose Windsor Aughtry Co. also developed the downtown Hampton Inn on Lafayette St. "We've been eyeing this corner for a long time." Aughtry, who puts the total cost of the project at $20 million, had actually wanted to build the Hampton Inn on the Florida Street lot, but at that time its owners, Gordon LeBlanc and Tom Adamek, had hopes of developing the...

Plans for downtown Courtyard Marriott to be unveiled this morning

Plans for a new downtown Courtyard Marriott hotel are expected to be announced this morning at the corner of Florida and Third streets, where the newly constructed hotel will be located. The Downtown Development District, hotel developer Windsor Aughtry, and hotel management company Hospitality America have jointly scheduled the "historic development announcement" for 11 a.m. Though the DDD and Aughtry decline to comment, Marriott officials have confirmed plans for the new eight-story, 147-room hotel, and Hospitality America includes the hotel on its website, with a scheduled opening date of 2016. The project will be the sixth hotel downtown—developer Mike Wampold is planning a seventh hotel but does not yet have a franchise deal—and is significant because it will give downtown more than 1,000 hotel rooms, which has long been the elusive number hospitality experts say...

CATS committee to get updates on alternative fuel study, transfer hub issues

The CATS Planning Committee will hear back from consultants with the the University of New Orleans who conducted a study looking into alternative fuel options at a meeting this afternoon. Committee members will also get an update on efforts to resolve issues that have arisen with new transfer hubs meant to ease bus routes. In July, for example, CATS and the Downtown Development District reached an agreement to relocate the North Boulevard hub to the riverfront during downtown events in Galvez Plaza. The Mall of Louisiana has asked CATS to relocate its Bluebonnet Boulevard hub in the mall parking lot due to traffic congestion. CATS has also faced relocating its Earl K. Long hub to the clinic that replaced the hospital in north Baton Rouge. The committee will also discuss...

Drusilla Apartments to be torn down

The vacant Drusilla Apartments complex at 2256 Drusilla Lane near Old Hammond Highway is scheduled to be demolished. The property, which has been an eyesore to residents of the area for years, is undergoing asbestos abatement and should be razed within the next couple of weeks. That will clear the way for the property's redevelopment, says Mark Hebert of Kurz and Hebert Commercial Real Estate, who is jointly marketing the 2-acre property along with the adjacent 1.5-acre site that previously housed a small strip shopping center. That shopping center, which was home to the Time Out Lounge, was destroyed by fire late last year. Though the two parcels are being listed as a single 3.5-acre property, they remain distinct tracts with separate owners. Hebert says he envisions several potential uses for the site, including a multifamily or a retirement development.—Stephanie...

Perry calls for unlimited oil and gas exports, could hurt La.'s boom

Less stringent regulations on natural gas and oil exports could strengthen the U.S. economy and help win more allies on the world stage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday at an energy summit in Mississippi, but such a move could hike up oil and gas prices inside the U.S. That could slow Louisiana's industrial boom, as chemical and manufacturing plants rely on gas to produce their goods. The Associated Press reports that Perry called for unlimited exports. "If energy is going to be used as a weapon, America needs to have the largest arsenal. But our arsenal, that arsenal of American energy, will not be used to bully other nations, but to set them free," Perry said. The report says loosening regulations could benefit Perry's home state, where Kinder Morgan is seeking to build an $8 billion LNG export facility. Companies need special permission to export gas to most countries. Louisiana already has Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass facility, which is approved to export even to countries...

'10/12 Industry Report': Timing is key for suppliers, subcontractors and vendors looking to tap into boom

"Owners of some businesses across south Louisiana may feel like characters in the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot," writes contributing writer Kathy Finn in the new 10/12 Industry Report, a special publication from the publishers of Business Report. "On the one hand, they're pretty sure that something significant will occur soon, but the longer they wait and the more they discuss it, the less certain they are of what to expect." Locals have become so accustomed to hearing about the huge investments planned by major companies that news of another billion-dollar project barely causes a stir these days. But that doesn't mean businesses aren't paying attention, especially those that hope to gain work as subcontractors, suppliers or services vendors on the big projects. "All of our members are very excited about what's coming to Louisiana and southeast Texas," says Al Bargas, president of the Pelican Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. He adds,...

Deal struck to replace Midla pipeline serving natural gas to EBR

American Midstream Partners, owner of the Midla natural gas pipeline system that services thousands of Louisiana customers in nine parishes from Ouachita to East Baton Rouge, announced today it has reached a deal to replace the aging pipeline that it sought to abandon last year. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission helped negotiate the deal between Midla's owners and the municipalities whose residents are served by the pipeline, according to a press release from Sen. Mary Landrieu's office. The agreement for the new pipeline still needs to be signed by all parties involved in the negotiations, Landrieu says. FERC will also have to give final approval to the plan, and American Midstream Partners says it anticipates getting approval by late this year or early next year. The pipeline owners asked FERC last year for permission to abandon the line, citing safety concerns. But Landrieu, chairman of...

Despite delays, Elio gives assurance his 3-wheel car will be produced in La.

Via telephone, Elio Motors founder and CEO Paul Elio assured a sparse audience in Shreveport on Tuesday evening that his three-wheel, ultra-high-mileage vehicle is closer to production. But The Shreveport Times reports everyone isn't sold. "There should be something tangible to see," says Harold Williams, a Shreveporter who attended a community meeting Tuesday to discuss the project and other issues. At the meeting, Caddo Commissioner Ken Epperson called Elio for an update on efforts to start producing his vehicle at the former General Motors assembly plant in west Shreveport. The conversation via speakerphone lasted barely six minutes. Afterward, Williams was among those who were still not convinced there is a large enough market for a three-wheel vehicle for Elio Motors to succeed. "You should see some kind of results by now," he says. Elio Motors has promised to bring 1,500 manufacturing jobs to Caddo, but a lack of capital has delayed production. That work now is expected...

Spill claims boss responds to BP's mismanagement charges

Patrick Juneau, the Louisiana claims administrator that BP says is too loose with its oil spill settlement money, has struck back. As reports, BP last month asked a federal court to remove Juneau from his post as the head of a claims administration office that has paid out more than $4 billion in oil spill damages to Gulf Coast residents and businesses. It says Juneau has misinterpreted its 2012 multibillion-dollar pact with plaintiff attorneys and has let hundreds of millions of dollars slip away to businesses that could not link their financial losses to the oil spill. BP has been fighting legal battles for more than a year over how the money has been paid out. But in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court late last week, Juneau says he's following rules set out in the agreement to the letter. Juneau says two years ago he made doubly sure BP supported his process for determining whether businesses met all of the requirements for establishing their losses were caused...

Some businesses on Jefferson may be added to Urban Design Overlay District

The Metro Council may look into the effects of extending the boundaries of an Urban Design Overlay District that currently governs the design of a mostly residential stretch of Jefferson Highway to include nearby businesses. At its regular meeting Wednesday, the council will consider requesting a report from the Planning Commission on the merits of extending the district. Urban Design Overlay Districts govern the greenspace, landscape and architectural features of properties within their boundaries. The current boundaries for this district stretch from the creek northwest of Drusilla Lane to Bluebonnet Road, including only properties that front the south side of Jefferson Highway. The area being studied for the district expansion includes properties fronting the north side of Jefferson between Drusilla Lane and Fairway Drive. Businesses in the proposed expansion area include McDonald's,

Emprint/Moran Printing inks lease for former Sears site on Industriplex

To expand its operations, Emprint/Moran Printing has signed a lease for the 20,000-square-foot warehouse at 12114 Industriplex Blvd. that previously housed the Sears Service Center. Emprint/Moran signed the lease on Wednesday last week and has already begun renovating the facility, which the company needed to accommodate new, state-of-the-art printing and binding equipment it recently purchased. "This will be a really great spot for us," says Emprint/Moran President Becky Vance. "This will enable us to expand our print and fulfillment capacity." The company is doing an extensive overhaul of the building, which Sears closed last summer after 22 years in business there. Emprint/Moran's headquarters will remain at 5524 Florida Blvd. It also has a separate warehouse on Mammoth Avenue. Mark Hebert of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate represented Emprint/Moran in the deal. Scot Guidry of Mike Falgoust & Associates represented the property's owner, Warmack Properties, which is based in...

La. home prices rise 3.8% in August

Average home prices rose in every state in August, compared to the same month last year, with Louisiana posting a 3.8% increase, according to the latest monthly report from CoreLogic. The 3.8% increase includes sales of distressed homes—that is, properties under foreclosure or advertised for sale by a mortgagee. Excluding such sales, home prices rose 3.7% in Louisiana compared to last August. Nationwide, home prices rose 6.4% during the month, marking a slight decline from a year-over-year gain of 6.8% in July. As The Associated Press reports, the pace of monthly gains continues to slow, helping to improve affordability for would-be buyers. Year-over-year home prices had been rising as much as 12% for several months at the end of last year. However, while national home prices remain 12.1% below their peak in April 2006,

Andrews: Interest rates stable to slightly lower heading into final quarter

At the start of the fourth quarter, there's little to say about interest rate trends. That is, rates are still historically low and have not yet begun their climb out of the cellar to more normal levels. The prime rate is still 3.25%, where it has been for several years, and the 10-year treasury rate is at 2.35%, down about 25 basis points from last year. Freddie Mac reports that a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is currently running at about 4.19%, almost unchanged from a year earlier. So there is not much movement in the pricing of loans currently, though speculation about near-term increases is that rates will start trending up somewhere around the middle of 2015. If you have not already refinanced your home mortgage—and there are precious few who have not—or if you have not locked in that rate on your commercial deal, you might have a few more months to procrastinate. But don't wait too long.

Cook: Circle K acquires more property at Highland and Staring for new prototype store

Circle K, which owns and operates the Exxon gas station at the northwest corner of Highland Road and Staring Lane, recently acquired a portion of the adjoining shopping center to expand for a new prototype location. Circle K closed on the 23,000-square-foot site on Oct. 1 from Starring Retail LLC for $694,000, or just over $30 per square foot. The site includes a 6,000-square-foot retail building that will be razed—along with the existing gas station—to make way for a new 4,000-square-foot convenience store. The sale was brokered by Mark Hebert at Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate. "The corner site is prime for a retail convenience store," says Hebert. "The deal took about 18 months to close, but Circle K recognized the high traffic counts and surrounding residential development, and knew this would be an excellent location for a new modern store." Circle K will begin clearing the site to construct a new store in the next few months.

Changes to zoning code being considered to streamline, simplify rezoning process

Property owners who are denied a rezoning request on a piece of property will no longer have to wait one year before submitting a new rezoning request for the same property if a proposed amendment to the city-parish zoning code is approved. The Planning Commission later this month will consider several amendments to the zoning code designed to streamline and simplify the zoning process. The provision dealing with the waiting period following a rejected request is among those proposed amendments. "Currently, if a case is denied a rezoning request, the applicant has to wait a year before coming back with any other proposal," says Ryan Holcomb, assistant planning director. "This waives that language and allows them to resubmit as long as they come back with a different plan." That's significant because it would prevent a property from effectively being taken out of commerce for a full year, which is currently the case. Other proposed changes to the zoning code include clearly defining...

Record pace of US natural gas output to spur exports to Mexico

Natural gas production expanding at the fastest pace in three years will spur exports to Mexico, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As Bloomberg reports, marketed production will increase 5.4% this year to average 73.98 billion cubic feet a day, representing the biggest volume and percentage gains since 2011, the EIA says in its Short-Term Energy Outlook released today. The forecast was raised from last month's projection of 73.93 billion. The boom in shale drilling at deposits from the Marcellus in the East to the Eagle Ford in Texas will expand natural gas output for the 10th straight year in 2015. The surge in supply is boosting demand for the fuel from Mexico, the Energy Department's statistical arm says. "The strong increases already seen in the Lower 48 states this year will continue," the EIA says in the report. "Growing domestic production is expected to continue to put downward pressure on natural gas imports from Canada and spur exports to Mexico."...

CATS seeking opinions on new routes for LSU, Nicholson and Garden District areas

As CATS looks to expand its number of routes from 30 to 33, it has set a number of hearings, beginning Wednesday and running through early next week, to get public input on its plans. CATS is proposing a new LSU Express Route, a Nicholson Limited Route and a Garden District Trolley. The new routes are expected to become operational at the end of next month. The LSU route would provide a direct connection from the campus to the CATS terminal at Florida Boulevard and 22nd Street. The Nicholson route would include limited stops between downtown, the LSU campus and residential areas south of campus. The Garden District Trolley is designed to be a circulator linking the neighborhoods of the Garden District to downtown. There are three options CATS is considering for the Garden District route. The public meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the following dates and locations: Wednesday, Delmont Service Center, 3535 Riley St.; Thursday, BREC headquarters, 6201 Florida Blvd.; and Monday,...

IBM consultants to use busy Friday night downtown as opportunity to study traffic

Friday nights downtown are usually busy during the fall. But much-larger-than-normal crowds are expected this evening as at least 10 activities and events will be taking place simultaneously and in close proximity to one another. "Downtown can handle it," says Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, who estimates the crowds will be in the tens of thousands. "Remember we have 140,000 people who come here to work on a daily basis and we have 19 different ways to access downtown from the streets and the interstate." Among the activities are Live After Five, Zombie Bash—which includes a fun run, 5K run, bike ride and pub crawl—several Southern University homecoming-related festivities, the Louisiana Art and Science Museum annual gala, and the Union of Police 30th anniversary gala. In the midst of it all, Rhorer will lead traffic planning consultants from IBM on a walking tour of downtown so they can get a firsthand look at some of the parking challenges...

Jefferson Highway shopping center sells for $880K

Jefferson Center, the shopping center at 8731 Jefferson Highway that's home to Jeff's Food Mart, Go Printing, Patio Lounge and a gold exchange, has sold for $880,000, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Jefferson Realty LLC, managed by Ahmad Shah Rajab Ali, bought the 7,500-square-foot center that sits on 1.5 acres from 8731 Jefferson LLC, managed by Mei Gui Xiao. Ali is the owner of Jeff's Food Mart, says Ty Harvison with NAI/Latter & Blum, who represented the property in the deal. The sale price works out to about $113 per square foot. Harvison says the center, which is about 40 years old and is located near the intersection of Jefferson Highway and Drusilla Lane, is in some need of updating. Meanwhile, other recent sales of note recorded by the clerk of court include the Exxon gas station at 8885 Highland Rd., which sold for $694,513 to Circle K Stores Inc. from Staring Retail LLC, managed by James Hatcher. Also, Hammond-based B & E...

Appeals court hands BancorpSouth a victory in suit over Greens at Millerville loans

BancorpSouth has scored a victory in the First Circuit Court of Appeal in its long-running legal battle with developer Windy Gladney over $2 million in construction loans. In a judgment rendered Wednesday, a five-judge panel ruled that 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant did not have the authority to throw out the bank's claims against Gladney, which the judge did in May 2013 on the grounds that the bank had "willfully refused to comply" with numerous discovery requests made by Gladney for thousands of pages of bank records, emails and other financial documents. In its Oct. 1 judgment, the First Circuit agreed the bank failed to comply with discovery requests, but said those failures occurred before court-ordered discovery and therefore " … do not, as a matter of law, support the ultimate sanction of dismissal ..." As a practical matter, the ruling will...

Apartment complex in Melrose East sells for $1.2M

A 72-unit apartment complex in the Melrose East neighborhood has sold for $1.2 million to a Los Angeles-area financial and real estate services company after the seller filed for bankruptcy. According to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court, B-G & G Investors LLC, the seller of Degas Manor, owes $1.49 million on the property. Sabal Financial Group, the buyer—which manages over $4.5 billion in assets in the U.S. and Europe for clients and investors—declined to comment on its purchase. The property, at 763 Monet Drive, is close to the intersection of North Lobdell Boulevard and Harry Drive, south of the future site of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority's Ardendale development. B-G & G formerly owned several apartment complexes in and around Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Degas Manor was the last of its Louisiana assets, according to Zack Gyler, a...

Entrepreneur: Lina & James Jacobs

Longtime sales professionals Lina and James Jacobs knew from extensive travel they had a unique business model. "No one else had the concept of doing the café/espresso bar format," Lina tells Business Report for the magazine's new Entrepreneur feature on the Jacobses. They planned to serve coffee "rooted in the foundation of Italian espresso" as well as local, organic and seasonal foods to give diners healthy lunch options. The couple did their homework; they studied the numbers. After attending barista school, they evaluated coffee roasters. And they lucked into leasing the very spot they wanted in which to locate Magpie Café. Since opening in May 2012, it has become a hotspot in the Perkins Road overpass area. Growth has been steady; this year revenue is up 25% over 2013, James says. How to account for it? "One thing we've learned as a small business: always being open to new ideas, always being ready to change and evolve," says Lina.

RDA transferring land in Ardendale to state for automotive training center, allied health facility

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is finalizing paperwork today to transfer to the state 20 acres of property at Ardendale for the construction of an 86,000-square-foot automotive training center and 45,000-square-foot allied health facility. Both facilities will be part of Baton Rouge Community College's new east campus, the centerpiece of the mixed-use development known as Ardendale, which sits on 200 acres north of Florida Boulevard in a neighborhood formerly called Smiley Heights. Once the transfer of the 20 acres is complete, the state will put out for bid the Center for Excellence in Auto Technology, as the automotive training center is officially known. Construction is set to begin in January, and it is expected to open in September 2016. The allied health training facility is scheduled to be completed in late 2016, as is a Career Academy High School, which will be developed on 8 acres that will be transferred to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in the...

Independent insurers group buys offices near Highland and Perkins

Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana has purchased an office building near the Highland and Perkins road intersection for $815,000. IIABL bought the property, at 18153 East Petroleum Drive, from Gizmo Investments LLC, headed by Gary Johnson, whose human resources management company, Detlafs Johnson, a division of Gallagher Benefits Services, works out of the offices now. Johnson could not be reached for additional comment by this morning's deadline. IIABL's previous offices, near the intersection of Bluebonnet Boulevard and Burbank Drive, sold to an engineering firm last week for $1.05 million. Lisa Young-Crooks, who handles communications for IIABL, then told Daily Report the organization plans to complete its move in mid-November. Young-Crooks said IIABL sought a new location because it felt the market surrounding the Bluebonnet offices is growing...

La. personal income grew by 1.5% in Q2

The personal income of Louisianans grew by 1.5% in the second quarter of this year compared to the first quarter, matching the growth rate of the U.S. at large and placing the state No. 27 in the nation for quarterly income growth. According to new figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income growth in Louisiana expanded by 1.1% in the first quarter of this year and by 0.2% in the final quarter of 2013. Personal income includes wages, rental income, and dividend and interest income, as measured before tax deductions. Every state posted growth in personal income in the second quarter as compared to the first, the data shows. "The acceleration in personal income growth was mostly attributable to property income (dividends, interest, and rent), which grew 1.8% in the second quarter after growing 0.2% in the first quarter," says the bureau in its analysis. U.S. personal...

EBR commercial, residential permitting falls in July, August

The number of building permits issued for commercial and residential projects across East Baton Rouge Parish fell during July and August. According to a pair of monthly reports just released by the city-parish Department of Public Works, a total of 127 commercial permits were issued over the two months, down from 163 during the same months last year. The largest commercial project to receive a permit during those months was a new 14,750-square-foot ministry building at the St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church on Highland Road, valued at $5.75 million. Year to date, 454 commercial permits have been issued through August, down from 542 during the first eight months of 2013. For residential projects during July and August, a total of 389 permits were issued, down from 416 during the months last year. Through August, residential permitting is up in EBR for the year, with 1,442 permits...

The rundown

• Red Stick Spice Co., satellite location in the Main Street Market at Fifth and Main streets downtown.
• Fresh Kitchen, offering healthy meals to go, 7474 Corporate Blvd.
• Brickyard South, a bar in the former Mud and Water, 174 South Blvd.
• Jolie Pearl oyster bar, 311 and 315 North Blvd.
• Pat's Cajun Seafood and Steak, 8200 Jefferson Highway.
Portico's Coursey Boulevard location, but the owners renovated and expanded the Southdowns location, 4205 Perkins Road.
• Curbside Burgers plans a return to the streets this month, in addition to a space inside the upcoming Barcadia at 3347 Highland Road (the old Serranos restaurant).
• Pronto, owned by Kathy Mangham of Gourmet Girls, recently set up its food service in front of her shop at 3025 Perkins Road.

News alert: Highland Coffees landlords want to reopen talks

The owners of the West Chimes Street building that is home to Highland Coffees want to reopen lease negotiations with the coffee shop's owner, Clarke Cadzow. The move comes one day after Cadzow announced he would close the business, which has been a fixture in the North Gates neighborhood for 25 years, on Christmas Eve because he was unable to come to terms on a new lease with the building's owners. The announcement prompted outrage from loyal customers, who flocked to social media sites and signed an online petition to save the business. “We didn't want Highland Coffees to move,” says Hank Saurage, one of the landlords. “We are willing to reopen these negotiations with Clarke, and we are hopeful his loyal customers will understand we need their support as well.” It is unclear if or when the two sides may meet. Cadzow could not be reached for comment.—Stephanie Riegel

BR rum distillery delayed, hopes to break ground by end of year

Cane Land Distilling Company, a new startup that will distill rum from its 1-acre site at River Road and Oklahoma Street near downtown, is hoping to begin construction on its 29,000-square-foot distillery before the end of the year. The company—which put up a sign last week on its property depicting the planned facility—had originally hoped to be in operation by now, but ran behind schedule for a variety of reasons, including the inherent challenges of building along the River Road. "You're only allowed to build along the river at certain times of the year, depending on how high the water is," explains Walter Tharp, who co-owns Cane Land with partner Jim Massey. Plans for the distillery call for a two-story building that includes the distilling and barrel storage areas, as well as a 1,300-square foot tasting room/bar and retail area that will sell bottled products and promotional merchandise. There will also be an outdoor space for events. Cane Land announced plans for...

BR roofing company buys Highlandia site of new office, warehouse

Baton Rouge-based Premier South Roofing and Sheet Metal has purchased property at 625 Highlandia Dr., on which the company's new offices and warehouse have been constructed and are set to be moved into next week. Premier South, which is currently located 11646 Industriplex Blvd., purchased the property as Premier South LLC from Highlandia R&D LLC for $1,214,919, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court today. A spokesperson for Premier South says the new facility on Highlandia includes a two-story office, as well as a warehouse. The company's offices on Industriplex will be vacated following the move. The listed manager of Highlandia R&D is Randy Poche. —Steve Sanoski

Cook: Third filing of Jefferson Quarters subdivision planned

Edward "Scooter" Stafford of Stafford Custom Homes has purchased a 4.41-acre site fronting Jefferson Highway south of Hoo Shoo Too Road from Randall and Rebecca Smith for $465,000, or about $2.42 per square foot. A preliminary plan shows the property will be used for the development of 20 single-family lots that will serve as the third filing of Jefferson Quarters subdivision. But representatives from Stafford homes say they are rethinking the potential development of lots and are also considering constructing a single-family residence on the site because development costs for subdivisions have escalated. Stafford acquired the property under BES Investment Properties LLC, and the Smiths were represented by Brent Struthers at Beau Box Commercial Real Estate. A plan shows 20 lots being developed with an average size of 50 feet by 130 feet. The site includes more than 300 feet of frontage on Jefferson Highway and about 50 feet of frontage on the dead-end of Doc Bar Avenue. The...

Ascension Parish industrial park approaches next phase

L.J. Grezaffi, the developer of a 700-acre industrial park at the intersection of La. 30 and La. 73 in Ascension Parish, says the next phase of the project can be expected to begin next spring after a 1.25-mile road is completed. The road cuts through the development and is needed to access some areas of the park that are not immediately accessible by highways 30 and 73. Grezaffi says the thoroughfare will relieve between 40% and 50% of the traffic on La. 30 going toward Interstate 10 from the plants in the area. The road will be as wide or wider than La. 73, Grezaffi says. Bids on the project, stalled due to the wet summer, will be taken in mid-October. Grezaffi says there are four companies that have negotiated a space off of the future corridor, but, "until you have it in writing, there's no guarantee." Two of those companies lease equipment that is used in nearby plants. Another, Grezaffi says, is a warehouse company. Several major projects are currently under construction,...

LNG facility to break ground at Port of Greater Baton Rouge next year

Construction on a natural gas liquefaction and fueling facility is set to get underway on roughly 80 acres at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge next year. Houston-based Waller Marine Inc. and Omaha-based Tenaska NG Fuels LLC announced today plans to build the facility, known as Tenaska Bayou LNG, with construction expected to take between 18 months and two years. Commercial operation is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2017. The facility initially will be capable of producing 200,000 gallons of LNG daily, the companies say. According to a conversion table provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, 200,000 gallons of LNG is the energy equivalent of more than 133,000 gallons of gasoline. The plant will also provide compressed natural gas. The companies say the LNG and compressed gas will be a lower-cost and cleaner-burning alternative for high-horsepower marine, transportation, natural gas and oil exploration, as well as production industries throughout the region. "Baton Rouge...

'10/12 Industry Report': Industrial construction curve has barely begun, but real estate markets are already booming

Many Baton Rouge-area companies are in a wait-and-see mode in terms of their expectations for an industrial business surge, but local real estate professionals don't have to be convinced of what lies ahead. As detailed in a feature from the new 10/12 Industry Report—a special publication from the publishers of Business Report—agents in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors all say rising demand is keeping them busy searching for space and scouting deals for clients. Not surprisingly, vacant warehouses are growing scarce. But available office space is also getting tight, says commercial agent Jonathan Walker at Maestri-Murell Inc. in Baton Rouge. Much of the office demand is coming from engineering firms that are expanding to handle large industrial design projects they have taken on. "They need a lot of manpower, and they fill up a lot of office space," Walker says. As professional services and other support businesses staff up, the action...

Andrews: Consumer protection group getting tough on mortgage servicers

On Monday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a relatively new consumer advocacy group created out of the Dodd-Frank Act, enforced new mortgage servicing rules against Flagstar Bank of Troy, Michigan, and hit the $9.87 billion bank with $37.5 million in fines. At issue are Flagstar's loss mitigation activities and the bank's failures "at every step in the foreclosure relief process" according to a CFPB statement. "Flagstar "took excessive time to process borrowers' applications for foreclosure relief, failed to tell borrowers when their applications were incomplete, denied loan modifications to qualified borrowers, and illegally delayed finalizing permanent loan modifications." As a result, "struggling homeowners lost the opportunity to save their homes," says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Furthermore, the CFPB says similar...

American consumer confidence decreases to four-month low

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly declined in September to a four-month low as Americans' views of the labor market deteriorated. As Bloomberg reports, The Conference Board's index decreased to 86 this month, weaker than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from an August reading of 93.4 that was the strongest since October 2007, the New York-based private research group says today. The median forecast called for 92.5. The monthly decline was the biggest since October, when a partial shutdown of the federal government weighed on confidence. Sentiment may have trouble advancing to higher levels without faster income growth that's sustained over time, one part of the labor market that has been lagging behind. At the same time, gains this year in payrolls and higher stock prices will probably help keep household spending, which makes up almost 70% of the economy, from faltering.

Port Allen restaurant nets national attention with discount for gun-toting diners

It hasn't taken long for a local story about a Cajun eatery offering a discount for diners who bring a gun into the restaurant to go national. Picking up on an original report by local NBC affiliate WVLA-TV late last week, Time magazine and The Huffington Post are the latest national news outlets highlighting the 10% discount being offered to gun-toting diners at Bergeron's Restaurant in Port Allen. Restaurant owner Kevin Cox tells The Huffington Post that the deal was first offered a few weeks ago to encourage law enforcement officers to visit the restaurant but has since been broadened to welcome all gun carriers. "It makes us all feel better when state...

Councilman Heck going into the concrete business

Metro Councilman Ryan Heck is laying the foundation for a new business: Concrete. Heck and partner Steven Cheatham have formed a new company, Cajun Ready Mix, that will specialize in light commercial work, though it will also do residential and industrial jobs. Heck and Cheatham are equal partners in the business, which they formed to take advantage of the building boom underway in the Capital Region. "We're excited to grow as Baton Rouge grows," Heck says. "This area will experience tremendous growth over the next few years, and we want to be a part of it." Cajun Ready Mix is starting out with 17 employees but has an aggressive growth plan that calls for capturing 30% of the local market share over the next four years. Heck, who has a bachelor's degree in construction management and a master's of business administration, worked as a senior procurement specialist at Albemarle Corp. from 2010 until 2013. He was elected to the Metro Council in Nov. 2012. Cheatham is an investor and...

Case study in analytics

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state's most prominent health insurer, is trying to nudge the market away from a fee-for-service model toward rewarding providers for improving patients' health.

Lina & James Jacobs

"One thing we've learned as a small business: always being open to new ideas, always being ready to change and evolve."

Highland Coffees to close after 25 years, be replaced by full-service restaurant

Highland Coffees, a beloved local institution that has operated for 25 years on Chimes Street just outside the North Gates of the LSU campus, will close its doors for good at the end of December. Owner Clarke Cadzow says he does not want to shutter the business he founded and has operated since 1989 but has no choice, as his lease was not renewed by property owner Hank Saurage. "We are very disappointed that our lease will not be renewed," Cadzow says. "We love our customers and have a deep connection with this neighborhood." Saurage bought the building that houses the 3,000-square-foot coffee shop in 2011, and put the property out to market earlier this year to see what kind of response it might generate. Within a week Saurage says he had received three "significant offers." "We like Clarke but it's time to do something different," Saurage says. "We've got something lined up that we think will be perfect." He declines to elaborate, except to say it will be a full-service restaurant...

IBM consultants begin work to address BR traffic woes

A team of IBM consultants will kick off a three-week study of Baton Rouge's transportation needs today as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. Baton Rouge was one of four U.S. cities selected earlier this year for the grant, valued at $500,000, which aims to help resolve a challenge unique to each city. Other cities chosen this year include Birmingham; Dallas; and Suffolk County, N.Y. Other issues IBM teams have consulted on in other communities include producing cleaner water, developing more jobs and improving public safety. "This will help us use our resources most efficiently, working with some of the best minds in the world," Mayor Kip Holden says in a press release highlighting a 10 a.m. press conference today to formally kick off the local effort. Over the next three weeks, IBM consultants will both gather data and conduct meetings with government officials, citizens,...

Ideal Market owners also planning Latino bar and grill at Sherwood South Shopping Center

The owners of Ideal Market have plans for a bar and grill to accompany the Latino grocery store under development in the Sherwood South Shopping Center at the corner of Old Hammond Highway and S. Sherwood Forest Boulevard. Ideal Market, a Latino grocery store chain with several locations in the New Orleans area, has nearly finished its remodel of space at 1817 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd. and plans to open in the next month or two. The same company has submitted a plan review application to the city-parish Department of Public Works to remodel a location at 1801 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd. into 3 Jefe's Bar and Grill. The remodel of the 1,800-square-foot space is projected to cost $216,000, according to the application. Representatives from Ideal Market declined to comment further on the project. —Kelly Connelly
Editor's note: This story has been changed since original publication to clarify the locations of the new businesses.

Candlewood Suites planning $5M hotel on Bankers Avenue

The hotel chain Candlewood Suites has plans to join the string of hotels in the College Drive corridor, according to a plan review application recently filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works. The hotel is to be constructed at 5353 Bankers Ave., on the nearly 2-acre tract of land behind the Raising Cane's at 5211 Corporate Blvd. that sold in early July for $785,000. Scott-based Mihir Enterprises owns the land and submitted the application. The building is projected to cost $5 million and cover 43,912 square feet, but the application does not include details on the total number of rooms or hotel amenities. Candlewood Suites is a branch of InterContinental Hotels Group, the parent company of both the Holiday Inn and the Crowne Plaza on Constitution Avenue. Calls made to IHG's real estate department for additional details were not returned as of this morning's deadline.

Talking points: Brian Wolshon

Pity the poor traffic engineer. Everyone thinks they're an expert on what you do. Some might even blame you for the length of their morning commute.
But as Brian Wolshon recently explained, there actually is a science to the profession. Unfortunately, the LSU professor who specializes in traffic and transportation engineering says, there are no easy solutions to our traffic woes, and a "fix" in one place often leads to problems elsewhere.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Whether you're a CEO of a multinational company or an entrepreneur running a startup from your garage, getting adequate sleep is essential for you and your business.

The new night shift

Deborah Sternberg's evening schedule sounds familiar to a growing number of professionals.

Game on

For at least a decade, California has watched its film business decline, as states like Louisiana lured productions with generous incentives. This year, California lawmakers decided to try to reverse the trend.

The name game

Where once .com, .org, .net and .biz prevailed, companies soon will have more than 1,000 generic top-level domains from which to choose to brand themselves online.

Data sleuths

Talk of big data is all the rage in technology circles these days, and though plenty of people don't have a clue what it is, practically everyone is involved in its collection.

How to kill a renaissance

There wasn't much fanfare at the time, but last April, the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality advising that after 20 years of effort and untold millions of dollars in investment on the part of companies like ExxonMobil, CF Industries, BASF and Dow Chemical, the five-parish airshed that includes East and West Baton Rouge parishes was at long last in attainment for EPA's ozone standards.

Should my company have a policy on employee use of social media? What should it say?

Social media usage is changing the way we work and interact. It is now the norm—for both business and personal use—and posts are about as plentiful as the air we breathe. Today, social media is playing a vital role in many inbound marketing strategies; so is it counterproductive to restrict employees' ability to share content and spread the company message, or is it wise to rein in their online usage? There's no single policy that's for every company. And while setting some parameters is necessary, overly restricting social media use can be counterproductive. So how do you craft a policy that protects your business from potential backlash caused by a rogue employee while still allowing workers to act as brand ambassadors? We asked three business professionals to weigh in on the subject.

5 tips from Mike VI's social media playbook

You probably don't know Ginger Guttner, but if you follow any of the official social media profiles of Mike VI, LSU's live mascot, then you've seen her work.

Feds provide more transportation funds to La. than most other states, report says

As Louisiana lawmakers continue to look for ways to raise new transportation dollars in an anti-tax environment to chip away at a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge repair and improvement work, a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says average U.S. state spending on transportation dropped by 20% between 2002 and 2011. That compares to a 4% drop in federal transportation spending over the same period. As Governing reports, the study shows how states are at least as much to blame for the drop in transportation spending over the last decade as the federal government. In Louisiana, the Pew report shows that between 2007 and 2011 the federal government provided about 30% of all surface transportation funding. That's higher...

New sorority house on LSU campus will be first in more than 30 years

LSU's Sorority Row will soon see the construction of a new house for the first time in more than three decades. Plans are in the works for the construction of an 18,000-square-foot, 50-bed house that will be located next to the Zeta Tau Alpha house, which is at 4010 W. Lakeshore Drive. The new sorority house will be built on a now-vacant lot that previously was the site of the Delta Chi fraternity house. The new house will cost $4.5 million to construct and is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2016. The state Legislature has approved the sale of revenue bonds and the use of university self-generated funds to cover the cost of the project. Unlike most of the Greek houses on campus, the new house will be owned and operated by LSU Residential Life, which will lease it to Alpha Phi, a new sorority that colonized at LSU in 2013 and has quickly grown. Currently, Alpha Phi is operating out of the LSU Union. In 2015, it will move into the LSU Press house, which was originally built as...

Henry Hub not the king of US natural gas trade it once was

For nearly a quarter-century, traders around the world have looked to a spot in Louisiana for the best price of U.S. natural gas. But now, Reuters reports, they're looking east. The Henry Hub in southern Louisiana—which connects to more than a dozen on- and offshore pipelines from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico—has been surpassed as the most active place for trading physical U.S. natural gas by hubs in shale-rich Pennsylvania. "How important is the Henry Hub as a price proxy for the Eastern U.S.? My thinking is that, before long, it won't be very important at all," says Teri Viswanath, director of commodity strategy for natural gas at BNP Paribas in New York. Only about 240,000 million British thermal units (mmBtu) per day of natural gas have traded in the day-ahead Henry Hub market this year, down 70% from an average of more than 825,000 five years ago, according to IntercontinentalExchange data. The Dominion South hub, a key supply point in the Marcellus shale in...

'225 Dine': Triumph Kitchen students take over Taco de Paco

Chef Chris Wadsworth and his students from Triumph Kitchen have taken over the day-to-day operations of local food truck Taco de Paco. As 225 Dine reports, Wadsworth and the group started working in the truck at the most recent weekly Food Truck Wround-Up. Wadsworth says he and the students will be redesigning the menu and rebranding the truck in the future in an effort to revamp Baton Rouge's food truck scene. "The food trucks here have kind of come and gone, and I see them trying to make their way back into the scene," he says. "A lot of the chef-driven trucks went away, but we have trucks like Cupcake Allie and the return of Nick [Hufft's] Curbside. I think it will definitely turn around." From the...

Independent insurers association sells Bluebonnet offices for $1M

BME Properties LLC has bought the former offices of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana, located off Bluebonnet Boulevard at the intersection of Burbank Drive, for $1.05 million. The building, at 9818 Bluebonnet Blvd., sits on 2.83 acres of land. JC Boyle, Denny Efferson and Greg Morgan are listed as members of the BME limited liability company. Together they also manage Trecon, an automation and controls systems engineering firm. Boyle says they plan to open a second branch of the company in the offices at the new property. Their current Zachary offices will be complemented by a south Baton Rouge location, Boyle says. “A lot of our new client base comes out of that area,” Boyle says. The building is divided into three sections, with two offices and a storage warehouse, measuring more than 10,000 square feet in total. Another noncompetitive engineering firm currently rents out the back office and will remain a tenant. IIABL, meanwhile, plans to move...

Scott to unveil economic forecast at Louisiana Business Symposium

As part of the Business Report Top 100 Luncheon, economist Loren Scott will once again unveil his annual economic forecast for the coming two years on Wednesday, Oct. 15. The Top 100 Luncheon is an event of the 2014 Louisiana Business Symposium, which also includes the inaugural Best Places to Work Awards breakfast, which will also take place on Oct. 15. Business Report is partnering with GBRSHRM (Greater Baton Rouge Society for Human Resource Management) and the Louisiana Workforce Commission for the new awards program. The awards breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. Tickets are $25, with tables of 10 available for $250. The Top 100 Luncheon begins at 11:45 a.m. Tickets are $45, or $450 for a table of 10. Both the breakfast and luncheon will be at the Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave. Louisiana Business Symposium sponsors include Camelot College, Mercedez-Benz of Baton Rouge, Venyu, Whitney Bank and WAFB-TV.

Capital Region home sales cooler in August this year

At 851 total sales across the eight-parish region, home sales in the Capital Region were down 5.7% in August compared to the same month a year previous, says the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors in its latest monthly report, released today. "While that is a decline, it does need to be noted that August 2013 closed sales were significantly higher than surrounding months, and thus skew the year-over-year figure," GBRAR says in a press release accompanying the report. In August last year, the 888 reported sales at that time represented a 43.7% increase over the 618 sales in August 2012. In the report released today, the August 2013 sales are revised upward to 902—which represents the best month for home sales last year and the only month during which more than 900 sales were recorded. This year, home sales in the Capital Region surpassed 900 in May (918) and nearly topped the 900 mark in June (896) and July (871). "Locally, August 2014 isn't so much a bad month for home...

Apartment complex near Nicholson sells for $732K

A 20-unit apartment complex on Iowa Street called Stadium's Edge—located near the area proposed for the mixed-use River District development on Nicholson Drive—has sold for $732,000 to Oregon-based Belle Property Group LLC, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The apartments at 2875 Iowa St. were purchased from G & C Interests LLC, represented by Howard and Cindy Richards of Franklinton. Belle Property's sole member, Constance DeMerell, is a New Orleans native and was represented by the Scarborough, McNeese, O'Brien and Kilkenny law firm out of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Plans for the first phase of the River District are scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. The city-parish also recently received a $1.8 million grant to...

La. facing second greatest risk from aging pipelines in US

Aging, obsolete natural gas pipes pose a health and safety risk across the nation, and a new analysis shows that risk is greater in Louisiana than in any other state except Texas. The USA Today analysis of federal data shows that leaks in the pipes that carry natural gas to homes and businesses are all too common, occurring somewhere in the nation about once every other day. The least serious of these leaks are safety hazards. The worst of them have killed 135 people and caused billions in property damage. Louisiana has experienced more significant gas leak incidents since 2004 than any other state but Texas. A total of 151 major incidents resulted in three deaths and 12 injuries. Many of the leaks are in old-fashioned pipes made of cast iron or bare steel, many installed before 1970. Federal authorities have been pushing utilities to replace the metal pipes...

Shale boom buoying businesses far from oilfields

From steel pipe manufacturers to companies that produce sand and gravel, the U.S. shale boom is buoying businesses far removed from the oil and gas fields, a new study finds. As reports, these companies are benefiting from the huge investments needed to explore, produce, process and transport oil and gas unlocked from previously inaccessible dense rock formations through advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. The report by Houston-based energy analyst firm IHS says the boom has been most generous to companies working in states with the most oil and gas activity, but the economic boost has also trickled down to steel-makers and machine tool manufacturers based in regions with no production. And companies with no experience in the energy industry are thriving, with businesses being created to meet the industry's demand for new services, such as supplies for water and sand, which are injected underground during hydraulic fracturing to crack and prop open...

Lake Charles: A case study

Leading the nation in new capital investment, Lake Charles has been called the biggest story in economic development today. Combined, Calcasieu and Cameron parishes have less than 200,000 people, and residents are being told to prepare for a boom that could dramatically increase the local population, straining the area's infrastructure while also bringing untold economic benefits.

Chabill's Tire Center buys property at Bluebonnet and Burbank for $823K

Jerry Pearson of Pearson's Travel World is continuing to break up a 16-acre tract of land he owns at the corner of Bluebonnet Boulevard and Burbank Drive, most recently with the sale of 1 acre to Charles L Gowland Sr. Family LLC for the development of a Chabill's Tire Center. The land sold for $823,480, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's office. Pearson says there are 11 to 12 acres of land left in his tract, 4 acres of which front Bluebonnet Boulevard. Peason says his asking price for that section is $22 per square foot. The 7 acres in the rear of the property are priced at $12 per square foot. "We feel like the growth area of Baton Rouge is in that corridor, especially with all of the residential construction nearby," Pearson says. "We feel like it's a very valuable piece of property." Goodwill bought the first section of the property...