Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

Stabiler buys more property near restaurant under development on Jefferson

Wayne Stabiler, the owner of restaurants such as Little Village, Le Creolé and Stab's Steak and Seafood, closed deals Tuesday on two properties worth $1.25 million that are adjacent to the site of a new restaurant under development. The restaurant is planned to open in the former Bank One building at 7666 Jefferson Hwy. The new properties are in the Bocage neighborhood at 7655 Rienzi Blvd. and 2620 McCarroll Dr. Stabiler says he doesn't yet know if those properties will be used in connection to the future restaurant. "We have no plans for it yet, but we'll get that together in the next 30 days," Stabiler says. As for the restaurant, Stabiler says he's not sure when it will open either. "Once the permitting is finished everything will move fast," Stabiler says. "We're set up to get everything moving as soon as permitting is finished." Stabiler bought the bank property in March for...

DSLD buys lots for Magnolia Lakes, Lake at Anselmo subdivisions

Denham Springs-based home builder DSLD has purchased additional lots for the third filings of two separate subdivisions in the Capital Region. DSLD bought 50 lots for the Magnolia Lakes subdivision off of Burbank Drive for $2.4 million from Magnolia Lakes LLC, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. It also bought 12 lots for the Lake at Anselmo neighborhood, just off Perkins Road between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard, for $480,000 from Level Ventures LLC. DSLD partner Saun Sullivan told Daily Report after the company's second filing in Magnolia Lakes that it had a total of 100 lots at that time. DSLD prices homes in that neighborhood from $180,000 to almost $250,000. CFO Jeff Purpera Jr. said in April that he expects houses in the Lake at Anselmo to sell in a comparable range, for between $190,000 and $250,000. Construction on the second wave of Lake at Anselmo homes got underway early this summer. Purpera said the company plans to...

'Business Report': Is La.'s billion-dollar investment in film an economic boon or fiscal drain?

In 2002, Louisiana enacted a relatively modest Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit Program. Since then, lawmakers have expanded the program into arguably the most generous in the country. As Business Report details in its new cover story, the incentive program has made film and television a nearly billion-dollar industry in the state. Without question, the program has been wildly successful in attracting movie productions. In 2013, Louisiana hosted more major studio feature films than any other state, including California. Overall, Louisiana is competing with Georgia to be the No. 3 state in film production behind California and New York. Film incentives are doled out as tax credits; they're not really "tax breaks." Films typically are produced by single-serving limited liability corporations with out-of-state owners that don't have Louisiana tax liability. Producers can sell the credits on the open market or back to the state at 85% of face value. "It's not an investment,"...

Coursey Boulevard could see second Walmart Neighborhood Market

Walmart Stores Inc. has applied for a new building permit for a Walmart Neighborhood Market at the corner of Coursey Boulevard and Sherwood Commons Boulevard. The application filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works does not specify a street address for the proposed store. Both corners at Coursey and Sherwood Commons are currently occupied by a Shell station and ACGO Automotive, and there is a vacant lot that borders the Shell station to the south. According to the permit application, the project is estimated to cost $1.93 million and the store will measure more than 43,000 square feet. Walmart declined to comment on either the new project or whether it plans to keep open the Walmart Neighborhood Market farther east on Coursey near Jones Creek Road. Other recently submitted planning applications of note include:

La. attorney general sues State Farm over auto repairs

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell filed a lawsuit today against State Farm, alleging Louisiana's largest auto insurer is illegally steering customers involved in car accidents to repair shops that use junkyard parts and choose cheap fixes over safety. The Associated Press reports the lawsuit, filed in state district court in Baton Rouge, accuses the insurance company of violating Louisiana's unfair trade practices act with a systematic effort to lower its costs at the expense of its customers. Caldwell says his office's investigation started in March after receiving complaints from around the state about shoddy repair work. He said his office has found hundreds of violations. "We rely on our insurance companies to guide and direct us and hold our hands through the stressful process of an auto accident. ... But as our investigation has uncovered and our petition alleges, what happens next is often not in the best interests of consumers," says Stacie Lambert deBlieux, an assistant...

New planning director begins rewriting BR zoning code

The Planning Commission at its meeting Monday night gave Planning Director Frank Duke the green light to begin rewriting several areas of the city-parish zoning code that he believes are problematic—among them, the ordinance that governs the Historic Preservation Commission. Duke, who has been on the job since mid-June, says he's a big supporter of the HPC, which was created to regulate land use in the city's two historic districts and has often found itself in the crosshairs. But he believes the ordinance governing the agency is complicated and convoluted. "This ordinance requires a Certificate of Appropriateness for any change to the exterior of a structure—even if you cannot see what that change is going to do from the street," he says. "If you can't see it, it shouldn't be that big of a deal." Duke says he would like to simplify the HPC ordinance in order to make it easier for neighborhoods to become historic districts. At Monday's meeting, Duke also got approval to...

Andrews: Changing down payment requirements are good, bad news

Prospective homebuyers recently got a good news-bad news sort of report from Bloomberg. The bad news is that homebuyers are faced with higher down payment requirements to qualify for mortgages these days, delaying the ability for many potential first-time home buyers to own a home. Of course, these higher requirements are somewhat of a return to more traditional lending, and they get us further away from the days of easy money that tanked the housing market. Still, many of us have short-term memories and only remember those "good old days" of no money down. Requiring more of a down payment delays the purchase until buyers have saved the money needed for the loan. But this is also good news in that the pool of mortgages now being generated are of a much higher quality that will generate solid returns to mortgage investors who supply liquidity to lenders. And while this sounds like a better scenario for the big investment guys than the homeowners, we should remember that more quality...

Mid City business owners plan area improvements

An outdoor stage, green space and splash pad are in the works for the unused triangular-shaped median on Eugene Street between Boudreaux's Catering and Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The Mid City Merchants are pushing the project. Community Development Committee Chairman Coleman Brown said at a meeting this morning that the project will complement the state's plans to slim Government Street to three lanes. Brown said the area, which may be called Mid City Plaza, is projected to be 14,000 square feet. The group is also pushing several other projects, including returning Main Street and North Street to two-way roads east of Interstate 110; establishing a pedestrian crosswalk, similar to the golf cart crossing at Webb Park, where Capital Heights Avenue crosses North Foster Drive; constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Lobdell Avenue, Independence Boulevard and Government Street; and widening the entirety of Airline Highway from four to six lanes. Most of the Airline project...

Developers say reducing Government Street to three lanes won't hurt Mid City businesses

Laurence Lambert with Stantec, a development firm working with the city-parish and state to reduce Government Street from four to three lanes, told a group of Mid City business owners today that the project won't decrease the number of cars that drive by their businesses. Initial studies show that more cars may use the road because it will be more "user friendly," Lambert told a meeting of the Mid City Merchants this morning. "It's going to be easier to get in and out of your businesses," Lambert said. Lambert compared Government to a slalom ski course, with drivers rapidly changing lanes to avoid being stuck behind turning vehicles. Once Government has a turning lane and dedicated left turn lanes, Lambert said, drivers will be able to focus more on the businesses around them. Lambert said the goal is to finish designing the project by the end of the year and complete...

Metro Council to take up Time Out Lounge rezoning request Wednesday

Despite a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission on Monday evening to reject a rezoning request from owners of the Time Out Lounge to allow for the opening of a bar at 3180 Valley St., the Metro Council on Wednesday will take up the issue at its regular zoning meeting. Normally, a request that is unanimously rejected by the Planning Commission would not appear before the Metro Council, says Council Administrator Casey Cashio. However, a technicality has given the prospective bar owners another shot at having the rezoning request granted. Cashio confirms that since the issue was introduced, advertised and placed on the Metro Council zoning agenda prior to Monday evening's vote by the Planning Commission, which initially deferred the issue in late July, it will be heard Wednesday. However, because of the Planning Commission's unanimous vote against the measure, it will need to be...

Commencement for first-ever Home Builders Institute in BR is Friday

A new program aimed at teaching construction skills to area 18- to 24-year-olds who are disadvantaged, have not finished high school or do not have basic skills, will graduate its first class on Friday. Commencement exercises for the first-ever Home Builders Institute, which the Mayor's Office of Community Development is partnering with the Capital Region Builders Foundation to present, will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at the Family and Youth Service Center, 1120 Government St. The institute provides Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training curriculum over a 12-week program, including classroom, shop, lab and primary hands-on experience in carpentry, painting, electrical work, plumbing and other skills needed for careers in construction or facilities management. The mayor's office says the institute will now work closely with the Capital Region Builders Association to assist the program graduates in finding jobs in the industry. The Mayor's Office of Community Development is...

Atlanta company to invest $41.5M in West Monroe paper mill

Graphic Packaging International Inc. will spend $41.5 million in its paper mill in West Monroe to upgrade production machinery, company officials and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced today. Today's announcement comes after the Atlanta-based company announced an $8.6 million enhancement and expansion of its consumer carton production in June 2012. That project created 47 new direct jobs and retained another 456 existing jobs at the company's carton sites, according to Louisiana Economic Development estimates. It also enabled the company to quadruple container production at the consumer carton plant and introduce new packaging for beverage product lines that saved 15,000 tons of paper annually and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 32%. LED says the investment announced today will retain a total of 1,340 employees at the company's three Louisiana sites. The state is providing Graphic Packaging an incentive package for its latest investment that includes a $720,000 Modernization...

Cook: Louisiana Culinary Institute buys office warehouse

Event Holdings LLC, an affiliate of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, has purchased an office warehouse on a 1 acre site at the corner of Jefferson Highway and Arnold Road. The seller, Topaz of Louisiana Inc., was represented by Scot Guidry of Mike Falgoust & Associates Commercial Real Estate. The culinary institute was represented by Bobby Smith of NAI/Latter & Blum. Topaz was an industrial pipe line contractor and had occupied the building since 1977 when it was constructed for their use. "In 1977 there was very little other development around the building but as the city grew up around it the building began to have more of an upscale potential," Guidry explains. The property is zoned C-2 commercial and includes about 8,500 square feet, of which 2,500 square feet is office space and 6,000 square feet is warehouse. The sale closed for $722,500, or about $90 per square foot. "I don't think we would have gotten $90 per square foot if the building were located inside an industrial...

One costly ride

Louisiana is the second most expensive state in which to operate a motor vehicle, according to a new Bankrate.com report.

Becoming a media darling

From time to time, business owners and professionals will get a call from a reporter who wants to quote you as an expert for a story, review your product, or invite you to write an exclusive article for a publication. It can be a major coup. It means that your marketing efforts are paying off.

Flimflam and fraud

Show business has a long history of, shall we say, "creative" accounting, while Louisiana government is known for a somewhat flexible approach to ethics.

Figuring out the ROI

So what's the ROI? It's complicated.

Recommended Reads

Dean, LSU College of Engineering

Transforming Mid City

On Aug. 18, the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority was scheduled to select one of two firms to do a $190,000 predevelopment plan for 115 blighted acres of inner-city property that sit between downtown, which is being transformed into a model live-work-play district, and Mid City, which is slowly being reborn as a funky, trendy arts district.

Rolling pipelines

The impending industrial boom will bring billions of dollars in investments and greater job opportunities to Louisiana. But with three of the nation's top 10 refineries and a sizable petrochemical presence calling this state home, the Capital Region will experience a significant rise in something else: hazardous material shipments by rail.

Inside the acquisition

As its name suggests, Business First Bank has positioned and promoted itself since the day it first opened its doors as a commercial lending institution with a focus on business clients.

Making a billion-dollar wager

There is an argument in philosophy known as Pascal's Wager. In essence, the argument is that if you find yourself forced to make a choice between two opposite and unknowable propositions, choose the one with the most upside potential.

Louisiana's billion-dollar investment in film:

In 1987, director Taylor Hackford and actor Dennis Quaid came to Baton Rouge to make Everybody's All American, about fictional 1950s football hero Gavin Grey. It wasn't the first big-budget movie to shoot in Louisiana, but the film business was pretty much a novelty here, and thousands of locals served as extras or body doubles.

Marsh Master buys site

A company that manufactures amphibious marsh vehicles has purchased a .92-acre lot on Highland Road with plans to expand.

Ardendale cleanup, property transfer approved by RDA

Plans for the Baton Rouge Community College's first buildings in the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority's Ardendale mixed-use development are closer to fruition. Two elements of the first phase of the development, located between Ardenwood Drive and Lobdell Boulevard, were approved by the RDA at this morning's meeting. The authority approved a contract worth $536,000 with Baton Rouge-based Wilson Kimble Contractors Inc. to clear out the area and ready it for construction. The job includes drainage projects that will work to satisfy the Army Corp of Engineers' environmental mitigation requirements for the development. The RDA also approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, its foundation and state departments. The development will see three buildings go up over the next two years, James Andermann, an RDA project manager,...

LSU creating tech and cyber research center to pursue federal, commercial projects

The state and LSU are partnering to create a new technology and cyber research center at the state's flagship university that they hope will land at least $10 million in research contracts by the start of 2016. LSU President F. King Alexander and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced the creation of the LSU Transformational Technology and Cyber Research Center today, saying the goal is for the center to have secured at least $30 million in contracts by July 1, 2017. The center will pursue major federal and commercial research projects in applied technology fields. Initially, it will be funded in part by the state and LSU in a challenge grant configuration by which the state will provide $1 and LSU $0.50 for every $10 in research funds the center attracts in its first three years. The LSU Board of Supervisors still needs to OK the center's creation and funding structure. The center is aiming to raise $34.5 million in funding over its first three years, with $3 million to come from the...

New Beauregard Town apartments in the works

Beauregard Quarters, a new apartment complex in the permitting stages a block south of North Blvd., will open up more residential space in the downtown area. Steve Duplechain, the developer and manager of the $3 million project, says construction will begin as soon as permitting and fire marshal review is complete. Construction is expected to take a year. Duplechain says the four-story, 25-unit complex will include 15 two-bedroom and 10 one-bedroom apartments. It will face Napoleon Street at its intersection with America Street. The property spans three currently vacant lots. "We'll start promoting occupancies 90 days before we expect completion," Duplechain says. Covered parking, secure parking and some garage parking are planned.—Kelly Connelly

Home builder buys land for new subdivision in Central

Central-based Dunbar Construction LLC has purchased approximately 33 acres of land on the corner of Sullivan Road and Sparkle Drive for $1 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Home builder Justin Jackson, founder and owner of the company, says Dunbar aims to develop a residential neighborhood on the property, but adds that plans are still in the early phases. "We'd like to start construction next summer," Jackson says, "but we're waiting on the road to be finished right here—on Sullivan Road, which should be finished hopefully by next summer." Jackson says the subdivision will comprise approximately 80 lots, and homes will range from about 1,800 to 3,000 square feet. His company hasn't yet decided on a name for the neighborhood, Jackson says. "We're still working with the city" to get the details worked out, he says. —Rachel Alexander

Naaz Boutique closes its doors at Perkins Rowe

New Orleans-based Naaz Boutique has closed its Baton Rouge store in Perkins Rowe, which was located in suite E160 between Anthropologie and Sur La Table. The women's fashion boutique had a temporary tenant lease at Perkins Rowe, says Donna Taylor, senior vice president of asset management and new business at Stirling Properties, which in January became the property management company for Perkins Rowe. Taylor says the boutique closed its doors last month. "We have temporary tenant leases that we do at Perkins Rowe for tenants who come in and they're not quite sure whether or not this market is the right market to be in," Taylor explains. "In this case, Naaz found that [Baton Rouge] was not the market that they were going to be successful in." Taylor says that Naaz isn't relocating elsewhere in Baton Rouge. "They're simply closing [the Perkins Rowe] store," she says. Perkins Rowe does...

Judge rules in dispute over chilled water between Spinosa, Cinemark at Perkins Rowe

A federal judge has granted a partial victory to developer Tommy Spinosa in his long-running lawsuit with Cinemark Theatres over chilled water rates at Perkins Rowe. U.S. District Judge James Brady issued the ruling Aug. 6, nearly four months after a trial was held to determine whether Spinosa's water-chilling plant, Central Facilities Operating Company, has been overcharging the theater for the chilled water it needs to operate the air conditioner. Cinemark has maintained that CFOC's rates are unreasonably high and has, therefore, not paid for chilled water since opening at Perkins Rowe in 2007. CFOC says those unpaid bills amount to nearly $846,000. Cinemark contends that, based on fair market rates for chilled water, it should only owe about $235,000. In his ruling, Brady says the rate charged by CFOC was reasonable. He also denies Cinemark's claim that Spinosa defrauded the theater...

Restaurant IPO purchases downtown building for $2.2M

A little over two years after opening on Third Street, Restaurant IPO has acquired the downtown building from which it operates. Acting under IPO Baton Rouge Properties LLC, the locally owned restaurant purchased the building at 421 Third St. for $2.2 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Eric Macicek, co-owner of the restaurant, says there are no immediate plans to make any changes to the space. Macicek says Restaurant and Breakroom IPO—the bar located above the restaurant—will continue to operate as usual, while an adjacent suite in the building will continue to be leased to 3rd Street Pub. "We're just excited about having our own little piece of downtown Baton Rouge here," Macicek says, adding that the purchase secures the restaurant's downtown location for the long term. "We've seen the growth of downtown Baton Rouge and are excited about where it's headed," he says, "so we thought it was time for us to plant some...

Demolition underway on vacant portion of Esplanade Mall

If you've driven past the Interstate 10 at College Drive exit over the last day, you may have noticed work crews demolishing the long-vacant space in the back of the Esplanade Mall, which fronts Corporate Boulevard and includes such tenants as Sullivan's, Hooter's and the Melting Pot. Though details are scarce about the nature of the work, a permits officer at the Department of Public Works says Picou Brothers Construction Co. filed for a demolition permit to tear down the 30,000-square-foot space that formerly housed a bank services center. It sits in the rear of the 100,000-square-foot shopping center and has been vacant for several years. The property is owned by Richard Hartley and David Vey, who acquired it out of bankruptcy in 1993 for $3.5 million. They decline to comment on their plans for the property. Leasing agent Scott Bankston says he is not at liberty to comment. Agents with the property manager, NAI/Latter & Blum, say they are unaware of Hartley and Vey's plans. The...

Realtors group completes purchase of downtown BR home for new headquarters

The Louisiana Realtors Association is closing today on the historic downtown home at 821 Main St. that will be the site of its new headquarters. The sale comes almost six months after the association filed for permits to demolish the 90-year-old home to make way for a new office building. But after preservationists objected, it agreed to reconsider its request and eventually settled on a plan for an adaptive reuse. "This is a fantastic opportunity, and we're thrilled to be a part of the downtown community," says Norman Morris, executive director of LR, which is buying the property from Collis Temple, Jr. The sale price for the 4,500-square-foot building is approximately $650,000, though once renovations are completed the total investment in downtown will exceed $2 million, Morris says. Preliminary plans call for renovating the existing 4,500-square-foot structure and adding an additional 4,500 square feet onto the back of the house. State and federal historic tax credits will be used...

Quaker Steak & Lube to open in Gonzales shopping center

A roughly 15,000-square-foot shopping center set to go up in Gonzales near the Tanger Outlet Mall and Cabela's outdoors store will include the Baton Rouge area's first Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant. The center will also include a second restaurant, as well as enough retail space for up to four tenants, says Geno Iafrate, president and CEO of i-10 Hospitality, which is developing the center. Discussions are ongoing with prospective restaurant and retail tenants, Iafrate says. "We have had pretty substantial interest from regional and national concepts," he says of the restaurants that have expressed interest in the 3,500-square-foot space. Quaker Steak & Lube will occupy roughly 6,000 square feet in the center, for which a groundbreaking ceremony on a 2.5-acre site at 2706 S. Cabela's Parkway will take place on Monday, and the restaurant is expected to open sometime before Christmas. i-10 Hospitality

Mastering the master plans

Several firms are in the midst of redesigning areas of the city in ways that are a long time coming.

Uber eyes Baton Rouge Metro Airport for expanded operations

Uber, the transportation network company that began offering ride-sharing services in Baton Rouge in July, has filed paperwork with the Baton Rouge Metro Airport so that it can operate there. Airport spokesman Jim Caldwell says the San Francisco-based company has begun discussions with airport officials about how to classify UberX vehicles, which are neither taxi cabs nor limousines but provide rides to passengers for a fee. "It's all still being discussed ,and we haven't reached an agreement yet," Caldwell says. As a practical matter, that would mean UberX drivers are not technically authorized to drop off or pick up passengers at the airport. However, since those drivers use their private vehicles, it's difficult to regulate them. Caldwell can't say whether UberX drivers have been servicing airport passengers or not, and an Uber spokeswoman was unavailable for comment this morning. But Caldwell says airport officials continue to look at ways of drafting an ordinance that address...

La. ranked No. 5 nationally for share of residents with debt in collection

The average Louisiana borrower has debt of just under $4,200 in collection. And while that's the lowest average amount among all U.S. states, a new analysis from financial news website 24/7 Wall Street says the financial distress in the Pelican State is far more widespread than in most other states. Nearly 44% of Louisiana residents residents with credit histories had debt in collection last year, which is the fifth highest rate in the nation. 24/7 Wall Street says in an analysis of the numbers that low wages are one likely contributor to the high rate of residents with debt in collection. Louisiana is home to the third highest poverty rate in the nation, according to the analysis, with 19.9% of Louisianans living below the poverty line. Louisiana is also home to the nation's eighth lowest median income at $42,944. "Louisiana residents have lower-than-average credit card debts and smaller mortgages but take out larger loans for automobiles compared to most Americans," reads the...

BR leads nation again in quarterly housing survey

Though the numbers suggest the local market lost a little steam over the second quarter, Baton Rouge continues to lead the nation's largest metro areas in the latest Leading Markets Index from the National Association of Home Builders/First American. The quarterly report tracks approximately 350 U.S. metro areas and measures how they're performing compared to their pre-recession levels of economic and housing activity. Based on housing permits and prices, as well as local employment data, each metro area is given an index score. The nationwide score in the second quarter report edged up slightly to 0.89, meaning that based on current data, the U.S. housing market has not returned to its pre-recession normal and is running at 89% of normal activity. Baton Rouge's index score for the second quarter is 1.39, meaning it was performing 39% better during the quarter than it was before the economic crisis.

BR catering business nears opening of event facility in Prairieville

Lauryn's Fine Catering is less than two weeks away from hosting its inaugural event, a wedding reception, at La Maison De Bella, a new venue in Prairieville. Nineteen-year-old Morgan Leger—who took over as owner of the business just three months ago following the unexpected death of her mother and business founder, Lauryn Daboval—says getting the new venture up and running has been a family affair. "My grandfather's been here building floors, and my grandmother's been decorating," says Leger, who's beginning her second year at John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux. "It's a full family business, for the most part." Formerly a strictly catering and delivery business located at 16313 Jefferson Hwy., Lauryn's Fine Catering began renovations on a 10,000-square-foot warehouse building at 18380 Alligator Bayou Rd. in Prairieville earlier this year to expand its business and begin hosting events on-site. Leger says the Alligator Bayou property still needs landscaping around...

Andrews: Condos take backseat to townhomes in post-recession financing world

A client of mine recently described a potential development that was geared towards the vacation and leisure crowd looking for a second home. The concept and location looked great, but the big question was about the ability of purchasers to secure financing for their units. Taking a cue from my attorney friends I answered: "Well, it depends—tell me more." My interest was in the type of unit being considered and whether he was planning a condominium project or a townhouse project, because the end-user financing is not the same. After a little back-and-forth on the matter I contacted my friend Kenny Hodges of Assurance Financial to ask about the availability of financing for these units. According to Hodges, mortgage lenders can treat townhomes as conventional mortgages. "If they are townhomes and on or near vacation type locations, any lender can do conventional financing and treat the property as a second home," he says. "Townhomes are the key … condo financing is more...

Cook: Level Construction, Walk-On's complete deal for downtown property

A very complicated transaction involving a downtown property on Main Street and two prominent local companies has been completed for $650,000. As Daily Report first reported in May, the transaction was facilitated by Walk-On's Enterprises, which had outgrown its 4,500-square-foot property at 460 Main St. that it had rented for years from H & E Properties. Walk-On's has since moved its headquarters to a more than 7,000-square-foot space at 232 Third St. Level Construction, meanwhile, has also outgrown its 3,500-square-foot space at 450 Main St., which is next door to the former Walk-On's headquarters. Level has now purchased the former Walk-On's headquarters for $650,000, or about $154 per square foot, according to Mike Stinson with Saurage Rotenberg Real Estate, who brokered the transaction. "There were a lot of moving parts, trying to get more space for both Walk-On's and...

Top floors of IBM office tower in BR to be leased to commercial tenants

The top two floors of the new downtown IBM office tower, currently under construction on Lafayette Street at River Road, will be available for lease to commercial tenants. Though the 44,000 square feet of space on the ninth and 10th floors of the 220,000-square-foot building will not be available until 2015, New Orleans property management firm Corporate Realty is already marketing the Class A space for $30 to $32 per square foot/annually. That's more than 10% higher than the most expensive downtown office tower, II City Plaza, which rents for $28 per square foot annually; and more than 40% higher than the average downtown rate for Class A space of $21.75. But Corporate Realty President Mike Siegel believes there will be demand for the new property. "There's going to be a lot of interest," he says. "There is spectacular space with great views and great bones in the building." Each of the top two floors has 22,900 square feet of contiguous space available for lease. Though Siegel says...

French Market Bistro plans for expansion, improvements

French Market Bistro will soon become a little more comfortable, says Justin McDonald, who co-owns both French Market Bistro and Mansurs on the Boulevard. "We're taking over the suite next door and expanding," McDonald says. "The expansion is to give our guests more comfort in a couple of places: the restrooms and the bar." The restaurant currently operates out of suite B of Highland Place, a shopping center at 16645 Highland Road near Interstate 10. It will expand into the 1,800-square-foot adjacent suite C, which is on French Market's right if you're facing the restaurant. Suite C formerly housed Via Consignment Interiors but has remained vacant for about a year, McDonald says. The remodel will include new restrooms to the left of the entrance where the bar currently stands and a new and improved bar—which will feature a charbroiler for "our famous charbroiled oysters from Mansurs," McDonald says—in the new space to the right of the entrance. Other improvements include...

LABI: Louisiana needs additional tort reform

The Louisiana Legislature took positive steps to reform the state's unfriendly judicial climate in 2014, but significant changes still need to be enacted if the coming economic boom is to be a trend rather than the front end of a cycle that ends in bust, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry argues in a recent white paper, "Fact Sheet: Louisiana's Judicial Climate." "To harness the momentum of the economic success under way today, the state must tackle long-standing and persistent obstacles for growth, shortage of skilled workers, deteriorating infrastructure, excessive governmental regulations and mandates, and a highly litigious climate," the paper says. "Louisiana's reputation and reality as a poster child for lawsuit abuse is an ever-present challenge to businesses and citizens alike." Topping LABI's list of judicial reforms is lowering the threshold for jury trials from the current $50,000 to a number more in line with the national average. "Louisiana's bar for a...

New subdivision on Tiger Bend to break ground late fall

Plans for a new subdivision on Tiger Bend Road were among several planning and zoning applications submitted to the city-parish Planning Commission for today's application deadline. The subdivision, called Audubon Parc, will be located east of Jefferson Highway and just west of Chippendale Drive. The application includes plans for 47 residential lots, each of which average about 8,000 square feet. The subdivision's developers anticipate breaking ground sometime in late fall. Also submitted to the Planning Commission was Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews' application requesting to rezone the site behind BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Bar Louie at the Mall of Louisiana to CAB1. Tony Stephens, general manager for the mall, says that the 6,000-square-foot location for the Colorado-based burger chain is currently under construction and expected to open sometime between late October and November. —Rachel Alexander

Transformation of two one-way streets to two-way expected to improve downtown traffic

Two key downtown thoroughfares are getting a makeover that will transform them from one-way to two-way streets, a move that is expected to improve traffic flow downtown and make it easier to access the River Center Parking Garage. The streets are St. Ferdinand Street—which is one-way heading south and becomes Highland Road south of Interstate 10—and St. Louis Street, which is one-way heading north and becomes Nicholson Drive south of Interstate 10. Both streets will be restriped and redesigned with new traffic signals to accommodate two-way traffic. "This is implementing part of Plan Baton Rouge II," says DPW Interim Director Bryan Harmon. "It provides a little better circulation and access to facilities so you can have people coming in two different ways." For Downtown Development District Director Davis Rhorer, the changes, when completed later this fall, will be a boon for downtown. "It will remove the flow of St. Ferdinand northbound traffic into our residential areas...

Final investment decision announced on Cameron LNG project

Japanese partners in the Cameron natural gas liquefaction and export project in Hackberry announced Wednesday they have formally decided to go ahead with the $10 billion project that will send 8 million tons of natural gas to Japan annually from southwest Louisiana starting in 2018. The project entity has signed financing agreements amounting to $7.4 billion with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and commercial banks to develop and operate liquefaction facilities with an export capability of 12 million tons per year at the site of the terminal. CB&I will be a joint venture contractor working on construction of the plant. Cameron, Sabine Pass and more than two dozen other projects are in a race to sell relatively cheap, abundant U.S. shale gas to foreign countries where it can fetch higher prices. But just because Asian demand for natural gas is rising doesn't mean every project to serve the demand will go forward, The Wall Street Journal reports. Japan's demand for...

Baton Rouge construction company building $6.5M new headquarters

Baton Rouge-based James Construction Group—which has offices throughout Florida, Louisiana and Texas—began construction this week on a 35,700-square-foot office building at 18484 Petroleum Drive, which will serve as its new headquarters starting in April 2015, says Don Hoon, who's managing the project. The construction group is currently located in five different suites at 11200 Industriplex Blvd., and Hoon says the new office—projected to cost about $6.5 million to build—will allow the company to consolidate operations. "It'll be much more efficient," he says. "Right now, because we're in various locations, we have redundant services, and we have space that's not very efficient." Dallas-based Primoris Services Corp., the parent corporation of James Construction Group, purchased the land for the new office, located just off Highland Road, for a little under $1 million about two years ago, Hoon says. James Construction Group performs a wide range of projects...

'Business Report': Baton Rouge joins a global evolution in ground transportation

Baton Rouge is not typically quick to embrace change or newfangled trends. But earlier this summer, the Capital City collectively pounced on a stray suggestion in a media report that the transportation networking company Uber was considering coming to town. As Business Report editor Stephanie Riegel details in the magazine's new cover story, the swift and enthusiastic response to the mere possibility of this new way of getting around was noteworthy, even by Uber's own self-exalting standards. "That Uber was so sought after here before it even delivered so much as a single ride to a Baton Rouge passenger says as much about the state of local transit options in this sprawling, gridlocked city as it does about the ridesharing app," Riegel writes. "Now that it is here, though, will Uber do as well as initial enthusiasm suggests?" As much as Baton Rouge and Uber are feeling the love, the taxi industry is not, and the company actually got off to a rocky start when it began operating...

Cook: New retail center planned for Bass Pro Shops tract

A vacant 5-acre tract in the Bass Pro Shops development in Denham Springs will soon be home to a 47,000-square-foot retail center, according to Joe Moore, of RE/MAX First, who brokered the sale of the property. I-10 Equity Partners LLC, based in Sulphur, is assembling the approximately 5.11-acre tract, which is located next to Cavender's Western Outfitters store, for the construction of the retail center. The center will house national chain Quaker Steak and Lube, a boutique dress shop, a cell phone service provider and a fitness concept, Moore says. The tract is being assembled for a total price of $2,335,469, or about $10.50 per square foot. According to Moore, 62% of the center is pre-leased in the $18 to $23 per square foot range. Construction should begin in the next two months.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)

Andrews: When 'hustle' is not a good thing

I spoke at LSU's Fraud and Forensic Accounting Conference last week on the topic of structured finance fraud and was not able to get into an issue that was breaking just as the conference was being held. The federal government has filed several lawsuits against Bank of America alleging mortgage fraud at various levels, but the one that came to a head on July 30 was a little different—it involved funds used by BoA that came from a special governmental source and a little-known enforcement group using a novel legal approach. The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program was established by Congress in 2008 to prevent fraud, waste and abuse linked to the $700 billion relief program. TARP was the so-called "bank bailout" program initiated in 2008 to prevent widespread bank failures that would have crashed the U.S. if not the world economy. SIGTARP looked into BoA's mortgage activities after receiving TARP funds to see if there were any...

Mid City leaders, developers talk future of Westmoreland shopping center

Even with the Piccadilly Cafeteria in the Westmoreland Village Shopping Center closing at the end of June, interest in the 9.2-acre shopping center property's potential has resurfaced as several redevelopment initiatives for Government Street and the Mid City area gain momentum. "We're definitely sad to see [Piccadilly] go," says Samuel Sanders, executive director of the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. "But we remain very interested in what could become of that site." Sanders says the alliance is in ongoing conversations with Catholic High School, which purchased the shopping center under Hearthstone Properties for $4.85 million in late 2010. "We understand from their end that they are planning to put something out to invite developers to come out with their ideas," he says. "[CHS] is working on developing the RFP." The property includes the multi-suite building that Piccadilly...

Downtown law firm moving to be part of Nicholson corridor redevelopment

Williamson, Fontenot & Campbell LLC, a local law firm with offices downtown, expects to break ground on a renovation project for a new office space off Nicholson Drive by the end of the year, says Rob Campbell, a partner with the firm. Campbell says the new office—located at 955 McClung St.—will give the firm substantially more office and parking space, the latter of which is particularly scarce at the firm's downtown office, located at 343 Royal St. While the downtown office is about 2,000 square feet with two designated parking spots, the McClung Street office is approximately 3,000 square feet, and Campbell says the firm has plans in the works to renovate and expand the space and bring parking to a total of 14 spots. He says the firm has always been "a little behind the curve" when it comes to choosing a prime location, but he's confident the Nicholson corridor is the place to be. "We think that area is really going to blow up," Campbell says. "It could be one year, it...

'Times-Pic' adds Monday, Saturday print editions for fall

The Times-Picayune has announced it will publish two extra printed editions per week during the upcoming football and holiday shopping seasons. In a letter to readers, published online on NOLA.com Saturday and on the front page of the printed, Sunday edition of The Times-Picayune, the paper announced that as of Sept. 6 it will begin offering "bonus editions" on Mondays and Saturdays to its three-day, home-delivery subscribers at no additional cost. "The bonus edition will contain a full lineup of news, sports and entertainment news produced by Louisiana's largest news organization for the state's largest audience," the statement says. "Our readers' interest peaks in the fall and so does our advertisers' desire to reach them. So we are expanding our print coverage to meet the heightened reader intensity and to serve our advertisers, who depend on us to serve their customers." The move comes a little more than two years after the beloved New Orleans daily inflamed...

New Starbucks and Newk's Eatery in the works for Towne Center

New Orleans-based Vertical Construction Management has filed a plan review application with the city-parish Department of Public Works for the construction of a new 5,150-square-foot building in Towne Center Business Park for Starbucks and Newk's Eatery, a Mississippi-based café chain. As Daily Report previously reported, plans for the coffee shop and restaurant include renderings of a two-suite building on an approximately 1.7-acre plot—which Dallas-based Verdad Real Estate purchased for $1.66 million in June—between Chase Bank and Carrabba's Italian Grill on the corner of Commerce Circle and Corporate Boulevard. According to the plan review application, the building will cost $500,000. Other applications filed recently with DPW include:

Public Service Commission to question Cleco CEO about possible sale

Cleco Corp.'s top executive and several board members are expected to appear at Wednesday's meeting of the Louisiana Public Service Commission to answer questions related to a possible sale of the Pineville-based utility, The Town Talk reports. Bruce Williamson, Cleco's president, CEO and chairman, has voluntarily agreed to appear, along with at least four board members. In June, Cleco officials confirmed media reports that several parties had expressed interest in acquiring the company. Canadian group Borealis Infrastructure, Houston-based power company CenterPoint Energy Inc. and Spain-based utility company Iberdrola have all reportedly explored making bids. Cleco has had no comment on the sale process since confirming buyer interest in June. At that time, company officials said there was no definite timetable for the process and no decision on a potential sale had been...

One big bank

The merger of Baton Rouge-based banks Business First and American Gateway will create what is expected to be the largest locally headquartered community bank.

Richard LeMoine

AGE: 41
THE FRANCHISEE: After two decades in retail, Richard LeMoine became his own boss so he could enjoy more time with his family. His career choice: selling cured and exotic meats.
THE FRANCHISE: Beef Jerky Outlet began its franchise expansion in 2010 and now has more than 20 stores, with twice that amount scheduled to open in the next few years.

In Conversation: Chris John

The oil and gas industry mostly got what it wanted during the last legislative session. But it continues to be criticized for damaging the coast, accepting tax breaks, fracking and other issues. Against that backdrop, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association in July released its latest report about the economic value of the energy sector, which says the industry supported nearly 300,000 jobs and $73.8 billion in sales in 2011 and contributed $4.2 billion to state and local treasuries in fiscal year 2013. The Grow Louisiana Coalition, established to promote the industry statewide, now can take those numbers on the road. Business Report spoke with LMOGA President Chris John the day the study was released.

Sonya Burton

Business First Bank was just a year old in 2007, when Sonya Burton joined it in the role of internal auditor and compliance officer. "I was interested in Business First Bank specifically because it was such a young institution," Burton says. An alumna of LSU's Graduate School of Banking, she saw the move as "an exciting prospect": "To be able to establish a risk program from the ground up was a huge opportunity," she says. Her role at BFB grew "organically," in tandem with the bank's growth. "I was given the opportunity to view risk from a more comprehensive level," she says, "while we filled out the risk department with individuals who could specialize in a particular area." In March the bank announced that, to take advantage of strategic growth opportunities, it was reorganizing into three geographic regions, each with its own CEO, yet "centralizing enterprise risk management." Burton was promoted to the new role of chief risk officer, overseeing activities in all three...

Rosie the Riveter redux

Samantha Carney is training for a new career.

'Worse than it has ever been'

A glance at an occupational map from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a surprisingly clear snapshot of the role that welders play in U.S. industry. Dark splotches depicting heavy concentrations of welding jobs splash across the width and breadth of the map, with a swath of the most intense employment covering the nation's midsection.
Demand for welders has outstripped supply in the United States for decades. But a surge of industrial activity and construction that took hold in recent years as the country emerged from economic recession has severely strained the labor pool in some areas.

Industry 101

The manufacturing boom. A new industrial revolution. A renaissance. The biggest industrial expansion in Louisiana's history—more than $60 billion worth.
Whatever you call it, it's quickly apparent that economic benefits aren't the only thing headed Louisiana's way. With it come significant demands, affecting everything from infrastructure and housing to education.

From welder to auditor to the world of fashion

It's hard to see the welder from Walker in the 29-year-old man with close-cropped black hair, black-and-white Chuck Taylors, tuxedo trousers, and black and gray checked shirt collared loosely with a turquoise tie in a half-Windsor knot. Doug Secrest has come a long way.

Uber invasion

Baton Rouge is not typically quick to embrace change or newfangled trends. But earlier this summer, the Capital City collectively pounced on a stray suggestion in a media report that the transportation networking company Uber was considering coming to town.

Bad roads

The Capital Region's infrastructure long has been strained, and our transportation shortcomings only appear more critical with billions of dollars' worth of new investments likely on the way. With that in mind, we asked our state legislative delegation to tell us what they think are our most pressing infrastructure needs, addressing which would help with the expected manufacturing expansion. Generally speaking, these projects have not been funded; think of this more like, "In a perfect world, what would you like to see?"

La. has nation's best business climate, 'Business Facilities' says

Louisiana has been named the U.S. state with the best business climate in Business Facilities magazine's 10th Annual Rankings Report, released today. "Louisiana surged into the top slot in BF's annual state business climate assessment from last year's fourth-place finish. Utah, Texas, Tennessee and Indiana rounded out the top five, respectively, in this year's Best Business Climate ranking," says the magazine. Editor in Chief Jack Rogers says Louisiana has been a "perennial contender" for the top business climate designation in recent years, but that this year it was easy to place the state No. 1. "When we scrutinized all of the essential elements for a successful economic development program in today's highly competitive market—including workforce training, incentives, a business-friendly tax and regulatory structure, and a highly diverse, well-conceived growth strategy—we consistently found an aggressive standard for excellence in Louisiana," Rogers says. The...

EBR residential permitting up in June, commercial down

The number of permits issued for residential construction projects in East Baton Rouge Parish was up in June, while commercial permitting was down. According to the latest monthly report from the city-parish Department of Public Works, a total of 291 residential projects were permitted, up from from 203 permits issued during June last year. Six months into the year, residential permitting is down about 45%, with 1,053 permits issued thus far in 2014, compared to 1,912 through June last year. While total commercial permits were down in June, the city-parish signed off on some very large projects. The largest is the roughly 119,000-square-foot warehouse and beer distribution facility Crescent Crown Distributing is building at 9101 Tom Drive, valued at $9,657,000. The Arizona-based beer distributor with regional headquarters in New Orleans finalized its purchase of a 15-acre tract near...

Monsour says redevelopment authority funding to run out by end of next year

While the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with plans for the redevelopment of the old Entergy site on Government Street and also getting ready to begin construction on Ardendale—the RDA board is scheduled to approve a contract for infrastructure work at its Aug. 18 meeting—the agency's funding remains in limbo. The RDA has about $1.5 million, which is enough money to keep its doors open through 2015. After that it will have to find a permanent source of funding to cover both operations and project costs. "If we've got 18 months of funding to keep us in business, we—the board and the community—have to collectively identify how the RDA is going to be funded," says RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour. "So far, all of our programs have been funded with grants or Community Development Block Grant funds or Gustav funds, and while RDAs...

BR insurer being acquired by Calif. company for $35M

Baton Rouge-based Stonetrust Commercial Mutual Insurance Holding Co. announced today that it's being acquired for $35 million by Irvine, California-based Dhandho Holdings LP and Dhandho Holdings Qualified Purchaser LP. Stonetrust is the parent company of Stonetrust Commercial Insurance Co., which provides workers' compensation and employers' liability insurance coverage to over 5,100 policyholders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The $35 million cash acquisition will include Stonetrust Commercial Mutual Insurance Holding Co., Stonetrust Commercial Insurance Co. and Stonetrust Realty LLC, as well as Stonetrust Management Services LLC, the independently owned managing general agent. Once the deal is finalized—which is expected in the next 90 days, pending approval of policyholders and the Louisiana Department of Insurance—the Stonetrust companies will become subsidiaries of a new stock holding company created by the Dhandho partnership. Stonetrust...

Despite strengthening US job market, many not feeling the recovery

The U.S. unemployment rate has plunged since the start of last year to a five-year low of 6.1%. And The Associated Press reports the July jobs report being released Friday will likely show a sixth straight month of healthy 200,000-plus job gains. Yet for Douglas Hunter and millions like him, happy days aren't quite here again. Hunter earned $14 an hour cleaning oil drums before the Great Recession seized the economy and his job was axed. At 53, Hunter now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at two McDonald's restaurants in Chicago. "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom," he says. "It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." The Gallup Organization has found that consumers' view of the economy is the glummest it has been in seven months. As the economic recovery enters its sixth year, a number of factors help explain why many Americans don't feel better off: Income hasn't rebounded. Millions are working part time even though...

Redevelopment authority moving forward with plans for Entergy site on Government

Plans are moving forward for the redevelopment of the former Entergy site at 1509 Government St., which sits on 6.2 acres between downtown and Mid City. Six design firms have submitted proposals to the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority for the planning phase of the project, which will encompass a broader 103-acre swath of land bordered by Interstate 10, North Boulevard, 19th and Government streets. The Entergy property sits in the center of that area. "We asked the firms to look at the broader area to give us an inventory of residents, demographics and the assets that need to be brought to the area," says RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour. "That will help us determine what we can put at the Entergy site that will ripple out to the whole area." As currently envisioned, the Entergy site will be redeveloped into some sort of mixed-use development with retail and residential...

Red River Bank buys Home Bank branch on Bluebonnet for $1.35M

Red River Bank has finalized its second purchase of a Baton Rouge bank branch this week by closing on the Home Bank branch at 8810 Bluebonnet Blvd., between Perkins and Highland roads, for $1.35 million. But unlike the Red River purchase of the former Teche Federal Bank at 5063 Essen Lane for $2.4 million, announced Tuesday, bank officials say they're not looking at taking over the Bluebonnet branch. Home Bancorp will continue to lease the space, says Red River Bank Baton Rouge Market President Joanie Montelaro. "Red River doesn't have any immediate plans for utilizing the property," she says. "It's under lease for a couple of years." Still, Montelaro says the property fits well with Red River Bank's expansion plans in Baton Rouge, which include opening the newly acquired Essen Lane location in January 2015 and completing

Seven years in the making, Perkins Rowe rooftop pool finally set to open

Nearly seven years after Pekins Rowe's first tenants moved into the mixed-use development, the rooftop pool atop the condominium tower will finally open. Earlier this month, a new aluminum pool was lifted by crane to the fourth-floor pool deck and installed inside the original pool, which never opened because of a leak. Construction is currently being completed on the pool area, which is only available for use to condo owners, and the pool is scheduled to open the first week of September, says Donna Taylor, a spokeswoman with property management firm Stirling Properties. Completion of the rooftop pool—one of many issues that has plagued Perkins Rowe over the years—is one of several positive steps Stirling has taken to bring Perkins Rowe to the next level. The Covington-based firm was hired to manage the development early this year, after a new investor group bought the property. Stirling has also increased average occupancy in the 111 apartment units from 89% to 95%,...

'Business Report': Three generations of Dedmans have expanded a restaurant concept from carhop to catering

In 1972, a local restaurant owner named Frank Dedman Sr. made a life-changing decision. Eight years earlier, in 1964, he had opened a drive-in eatery that sold car-side burgers, poboys and homemade ice cream. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, the successful Blue Bird Drive-In grew to three locations in Baton Rouge, but Dedman predicted the eventual decline of the carhop concept and began considering a new format with staying power. He found it in the country breakfast. "My dad went from serving lunch and dinner to serving breakfast and lunch," says son Frank Dedman Jr. "He traded ice cream for biscuits." Dedman closed the Blue Birds but converted the one on Airline Highway north of Florida Boulevard to a new spot he named Frank's. The menu was steeped in Southern culinary staples. Breakfast was centered on buttermilk biscuits, pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. Lunch was known for plate lunch specials, which Dedman's wife, Carolyn, prepared. The...

Roofing supplies distributor opens first BR location

Dallas-based Roofing Supply Group, a wholesale distributor of roofing supplies and related materials with approximately 73 locations nationwide, has opened its first Baton Rouge branch, says Jeff Clay, vice president of strategic planning and corporate development at RSG. "We've serviced customers in Baton Rouge historically, but always out of New Orleans," Clay says, adding that the New Orleans location has been open for about 10 to 15 years. "We've got a big enough customer base that we felt like it made sense to go to Baton Rouge, so for the past 12 to 18 months we've had our eye on an expansion there." The roofing supplies company is leasing approximately 40,000 square feet of warehouse space and three acres of yard space at 7635 S. Choctaw Drive, Clay says. The warehouse, previously owned by Reads-Perkins Moving Systems, sold for $1.6 million earlier this year to a third-party...

The numbers game

Since 2008, Baton Rouge Area Foundation has been surveying residents about quality of life in the city, using the findings to put together an annual CityStats report.

Latte e Miele owner closes Jefferson Highway café, looks to sell

Two years after opening Latte e Miele at 7809 Jefferson Highway, near Bocage, co-owner Luca Di Martino has closed the popular café and gelato shop for good. Di Martino made the difficult decision to shutter the restaurant after spending several months caring for his father and business partner, Corrado Di Martino, who died recently from brain cancer at the age of 64. Di Martino says the restaurant did good business and had a loyal and dedicated following, as well as a talented staff that included chef Marcus Day. But Di Martino had also spent more than $100,000 renovating and expanding Latte e Miele—not including all new kitchen appliances he purchased—and could not afford to keep the business running while also tending to family obligations. "What small business owner can afford to be away for four months and not lose money?" Di Martino says. "They did an amazing job running things while I was away, but you can only sustain that for so long … Marcus deserved more...

La. lawmakers call for funds to finance oil-spill restoration

Louisiana lawmakers say federal agencies have been too slow to act on a law that steers money to Gulf Coast states to help them recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. "Louisiana is ready to go," Sen. Mary Landrieu testified at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on the status of restoration efforts under the 2012 RESTORE Act. "We don't want to delay or wait any longer." As The Advertiser reports, Congress passed the act two years after the spill killed 11 workers, polluted the Gulf Coast's ecosystem and devastated its economy. The region is still waiting on billions of dollars in fines and other payments from BP. Under the law, the five Gulf Coast states will finance restoration efforts using 80% of the spill-related fine money to be paid by BP. Lawmakers estimate the fines could range from $5 billion to $20 billion. The amount of the fines will be determined by an ongoing lawsuit under the Clean Water Act. Republican Sen. David...

'Business Report': After six decades, Jay's Bar-B-Q remains a family-owned culinary fixture in BR

In April 1954, a Pak-a-Sak convenience store manager in Baton Rouge named Jay Prothro got the itch to open his own business. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, the married young father didn't know what kind of venture to launch; he was simply driven by the idea of entrepreneurship. But inspiration wasn't far away. A friend was opening a barbecue restaurant in Lake Charles at the same time, and owning a barbecue eatery seemed as worthy a prospect as any. Prothro quit his job and sunk his savings into transforming a former hot dog stand on Government Street into a small barbecue spot he called Jay's. The simple menu consisted of barbecue sandwiches and poboys served with an unusually thin, savory sauce that diverged from Texas-style molasses-based sauces common at the time. Prothro set his prices higher than the norm in Baton Rouge in the mid-50s, but customers didn't balk. By 1960, Jay's Bar-B-Q had moved into new, larger quarters a block away on...

Mount Hope Plantation House sells for $1.4M

The owner of local event-planning, catering and reception company Highland Porch has purchased Mount Hope Plantation House, located at 8151 Highland Road, between Kenilworth Parkway and Staring Lane, for $1.4 million, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Lisa Anne Luther says the 4-acre historic site is the perfect complement to her small reception venue. “We do our smaller luncheons, like bridal luncheons and teas, at [Highland Porch], and then we’re going to do larger events at Mount Hope,” Luther says. “They’re going to be the perfect pair.” Built in 1817, the one-and-a-half-story antebellum home is just down the street from Highland Porch, which is located at 145 Ben Hur Road on the corner of Highland. While Luther and her husband, Gene Luther, will continue to operate it as a wedding and reception facility as did the plantation’s previous owners, they have some renovations and changes in the...

Red River Bank buys former Teche branch on Essen

Just three months after purchasing the site for its sixth bank in Baton Rouge, Red River Bank today announced its plans for another branch in the Capital Region. The Louisiana bank has acquired an existing building at 5063 Essen Lane near Our Lady of the Lake Hospital for an undisclosed price. The building formerly housed a Teche Federal Bank and recently became available following the merger of Teche and IBERIABANK, which was completed in June. "Red River Bank is committed to serving the financial needs of the people in the greater Baton Rouge area," says Joanie Montelaro, Red River Bank Baton Rouge market president, in a press release. "Therefore, we are strategically placing banking centers in convenient and accessible locations to meet those needs." Montelaro says Red River Bank plans to open the Essen Lane location's doors in January 2015. The bank recently announced its...

Zillow's $3.5B deal to buy Trulia creates digital real estate ad juggernaut

By the time many home shoppers call a real estate agent, they've already got a short list of properties—and data to support the prices they want to pay. As the Los Angeles Times reports, that's because real estate information websites such as Zillow and Trulia have in short order revolutionized one of the world's oldest transactions. The $3.5 billion deal announced Monday for Zillow to buy Trulia creates a digital advertising juggernaut that could control more than 70% of online real estate searches. And it could further open up information about the market to buy and sell houses, while vacuuming up advertising dollars in the process. It also could add tension to the already uneasy relationship between the sites and some agents and brokerages. Until recent years, agents had a monopoly on such market intelligence. "Before sites like Zillow, buyers would come to our office and we'd tell them what was on the market," says Mike Kelly of First Team Real Estate in Anaheim...

Andrews: Maturing CMBS loans face challenges

One of the top selling points of permanent commercial real estate loans made through the Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities market is the 10-year fixed interest rate, and when you lock in a low interest rate for such a long period of time you can get spoiled by the cash flows. An issue that is getting more and more attention these days is the flood of these fixed-rate CMBS loans that are maturing within the next few years, and the risk that they will not qualify for renewal if market interest rates increase. The issue is not credit quality or market fundamentals, but the amount of debt that can be serviced by project cash flow at the higher interest rates and the probability that property owners will have to pay down loan balances to meet the debt coverage requirements. Trepp Research recently ran the numbers on the percentage of CMBS loans maturing over the next few years that would not qualify for renewal at current market rates, at 25-basis-point increments. For office and...

BTR officials, Metro Council to work on airport ground transportation regulations

Officials with the Baton Rouge Metro Airport are planning to work with the Metro Council to draft an ordinance that would regulate the various forms of ground transportation at the airport. The move comes in the wake of Uber's entrance into the local market. The transportation networking company began offering its UberX ridesharing service here earlier this month, just weeks after the Metro Council passed an ordinance setting up a framework for which transportation networking companies can do business in Baton Rouge. The ordinance does not specifically cover operations at the airport, however, which has raised questions among airport officials such as: Where should ground transport vehicles park while waiting for passengers? How much should they have to pay for that space? And how should they advertise and promote their services on airport property? "We have taxicabs, limos, hotel shuttles, private companies that operate shuttles and a CATS bus, too," says Airport Director Anthony...

Flood insurance becomes political tool in La. Senate race

It's been months since Congress acted to protect thousands of homeowners from dramatic premium increases under the National Flood Insurance Program. But for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and the leading Republican in the race to take her seat, the issue is still very much alive. As Gannett Louisiana reports, Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, regularly remind Louisiana voters of their individual roles in helping win passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The bill, signed into law on March 21, caps annual increases in federal flood insurance premiums at 18%. The issue is among the tools that Landrieu and Cassidy, locked in a heated election race, use to score political points on the campaign trail. The race could be crucial in determining which party controls the Senate beginning next year. "This is an issue that both will use, and have been using, to say, 'Look, here's an example of what I've been able to accomplish in Washington, D.C.,''' says Joshua...

Sarepta Homes purchases lots in Burbank subdivision for $586,200

Local construction company Sarepta Homes Inc. has purchased 10 vacant lots of the third filing of University Villas, a subdivision on Burbank Drive between Lee Drive and Staring Lane, for approximately $586,200, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The individual lots ranged in price from $50,000 to $60,000, and a legal description of the land declares that homes on the lots shall each have a minimum living area of 1,600 square feet and include a two-car garage or carport. University Village Development LLC, represented by Arthur Lancaster, was the seller in the deal. In two separate transactions in 2012, Sarepta Homes purchased 10 lots from each of the first two filings of the subdivision for $500,000 each and has been building homes on the lots since then, according to Sarepta owner Bonnie Ferrell's professional website. Earlier this month, Ferrell

Ascension Parish may land chemical manufacturing facility

Chicago-based Stepan Company—a global manufacturer of specialty and intermediate chemicals—announced today that it has funded final engineering and design work for a proposed $60 million to $70 million chemical production facility in Ascension Parish. A final decision on whether to proceed to construction is expected in the second quarter of 2015. In a joint announcement with Gov. Bobby Jindal, Stepan President and CEO F. Quinn Stepan Jr. said that if completed, the project would create 33 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000 plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project would add another 98 indirect jobs. The company was offered an incentive package that includes a $500,000 performance-based grant to offset infrastructure costs, along with the comprehensive workforce development solutions of LED's FastStart. In addition, the company is expected to utilize Louisiana's Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs. Stepan...

'225 Dine': Gourmet Girls opens new food truck Pronto

Kathy Mangham, owner and chef of local catering service Gourmet Girls, is partnering with Hayden Phares of Zeeland Street Market and starting a new mobile food service called Pronto. The truck will be parked in front of Gourmet Girls at 3025 Perkins Road from Wednesday to Friday each week starting at 11 a.m. and serving until food sells out, Mangham tells 225 Dine. However, depending on customer feedback, she may expand the hours down the road. "A lot of people come and knock on the door [of the catering business] and want to know who I am, what I'm doing and want to buy food," she says. "This provides a way for those people who are not using catering services often to get my food." Pronto focuses on garden-to-table foods, using fresh, seasonal and, when possible, organic produce. Phares will help out with prepping and cooking a few items each day as well. "My goal is to cook things that are healthy and good for you," she says. "Everything is served in moderation. There's...

Louie's move pushed back until fall

Louie's Café won't be moving into its new location on Lake Street by the end of the summer as originally planned. Permitting and construction delays have pushed back the timeline, and owner Jimmy Wetherford says it could be October before the restaurant's new site—a former Wendy's—is ready. "But I'm not going to worry about it," says Wetherford, who has owned the popular 24-hour diner since 1978. "If we were a new business we'd be in a hurry to get in. But we're already open so we're not going to move until we're ready, because I don't want to risk doing it wrong." Wetherford and Louie's co-owner Frank Duvic acquired the former Wendy's property just down the street from Louie's current location in March for $825,000 and announced plans to spend $200,000 renovating...

Donelon cautions prospective rideshare drivers to double-check insurance policies

Two weeks after Uber began offering its UberX ridesharing service in Baton Rouge, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is urging potential drivers to carefully review their insurance policies before signing up with the company or other prospective ridesharing companies. "Drivers should review their policies and talk with their agents regarding their participation in such programs prior to signing up," Donelon says in a written statement issued today. "Virtually all personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage when personal vehicles are used to give rides for fees." Ridesharing companies like Uber contract with individual drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers, and the companies do not provide blanket liability coverage to those drivers in the event of an accident. Donelon says potential drivers may want to contact their insurance companies and inquire about a commercial insurance policy. "Potential drivers should verify the type of liability coverage they...

Merger of Business First, American Gateway to create largest locally based community bank

The merger of Baton Rouge-based banks Business First and American Gateway, as first reported by Daily Report this morning, will bring together one of the youngest banking institutions in the area with one of the oldest to create what is expected to be the largest locally headquartered community bank. It will also bring together a leading business banking institution and one that has a long-established personal banking portfolio. Though it's been just under nine years since Business First was founded by a group of businessmen including former Gov. Buddy Roemer—who now serves as chairman emeritus—president and CEO Jude Melville says the bank has grown very quickly and has already achieved a statewide reach. However, Business First has just one Baton Rouge location. Meanwhile, at 106 years old, American Gateway has a long local history and 10 branches spread across...

High oil prices are bad for La. motorists, but good for the state

Motorists complain about rising prices at the pump as the price of oil rises, but to the state of Louisiana, the higher the price, the better. As The Shreveport Times reports, that's because Louisiana gets about $12 million a year extra every time the price of a barrel of oil climbs $1 and stays there. And with the price hovering around $104 a barrel, it's possible that Louisiana could receive more money than anticipated, says Greg Albrecht, one of the state economists that present forecasts used by the Revenue Estimating Conference. "It would have to be there for a few months before we would see the existing forecast change," Albrecht says. "Higher prices can't do anything but help" state finances. The current state forecast for the fiscal year is $96.69 a barrel. If the market price of oil averages out to $97.69 for the year, the state would reap another $12 million. The current projection is the state will receive $511.7 million in royalties, rentals, bonuses and mineral...

News alert: BR banks Business First, American Gateway to merge

The parent holding companies of Baton Rouge-based banks Business First and American Gateway have inked a definitive agreement under which American Gateway Financial Corp. will be merged with and into Business First Bancshares Inc., the banks jointly announced. Upon completion of the merger at the holding company level—which is expected in the fourth quarter and is still subject to some shareholder and regulatory approvals—American Gateway Bank will be merged with and into Business First Bank. The combined entity will operate under the Business First brand and include 16 branch locations, more than $1 billion in assets, $870 million in deposits, $700 million in loans and $100 million in equity. In a press release, officials say the merger will significantly expand both institutions' reach in the greater Baton Rouge market and Louisiana at large. The merged institution is expected to be the largest community bank headquartered in Baton Rouge as measured by deposits. "While...

Insurance rate hikes sought in federal marketplace

Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could reach double-digits. The Associated Press reports more than 50,000 policyholders who get health insurance through the individual marketplace—which was expanded by the federal Affordable Care Act—are in line for rate increases topping 10% on Jan. 1 if they keep their current policies. That's according to paperwork filed with Louisiana's insurance department. Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says the average rate increase planned in the state's individual market for health insurance next year is about 12% to 13%. Insurance officials say the increases are larger than the type of price hikes enacted annually before the federal health care law was put in place.

HPC approves restoration plans for Spanish Town apartments

The Historic Preservation Commission this morning granted a historic designation for one of the two Dupree Apartment buildings in Spanish Town. Also at its meeting this morning, the commission OK'd a certificate of appropriateness for both of the Dupree buildings—located at 607 and 609 Spanish Town Road, one of which will be restored while the other will be demolished and rebuilt—says HPC Vice Chairman Bill Huey. Owners Robert Lay and Ben Stalter acquired the two 2,500-square-foot, two-story apartment buildings—built in 1924 but badly damaged in a December 2009 fire—late last year. Last month, they submitted an application to the city-parish Planning Commission and HPC to demolish and reconstruct one of the buildings, which was damaged beyond repair, and...

Trying for a turnaround

After months of battling quality control problems that have affected the taste and shelf life of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy milk, CEO Jeff Kleinpeter says the company continues to work hard to restore the quality of its products and is inviting customers back to “try the taste you have grown to love.”

Not a sweet deal

Louisiana lost more than $71 million in taxpayer money on a failed sugarcane mill in Jefferson Davis Parish that was sold for scrap late last year.

Open for business

Louisiana is open for business. That's the resounding battle cry that I heard on a recent trip to the state.

Reconnecting

President/CEO Oxford Alloys Inc.