Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

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.


President/CEO Oxford Alloys Inc.

Top 100 Private Companies

Click the images below to enlarge.

What book would you recommend to other executives?

by M. Walter Levine
"It talks about making a difference, helping people and going the extra mile. I am a firm believer that people buy from people. This book focuses on the people aspect of business. Building relationships with your customers is very important to success. My customers trust that I am going to do what I say and will fulfill their expectations with our products. They know that I will go the extra mile to ensure they are satisfied with the purchase and that we build a quality product that I will stand behind."
Chris Ferrara, president and CEO, Ferrara Fire Apparatus

James "Jim" Beard

In this issue of Business Report, Beard Construction Group is ranked No. 63 in the Top 100 List of Private Companies, up from No. 86 in 2013. But its president, James "Jim" Beard, isn't one to rest on laurels: "I always seem to be focused on the next quarter or the next business year, always trying to figure out where the next job is going to come from." Still, he recalls appreciatively the firm's early days, in 2004, when he and his partners didn't yet have an office. "Mr. Louis Witty, the dad of one of the partners, allowed us to clean out his garage and set up shop there," Beard says. "We each took a corner and hit the ground running." Their first contract: a landfill project in Alabama following Hurricane Ivan. "After that, things took off at a much faster rate than we imagined possible," he says. The civil construction firm's headquarters went up in Port Allen in 2005, providing easy access to Interstate 10. BCG has completed projects across the Gulf South and beyond,...

Millennials want an office that feels like home

While many companies allow employees to work from home, others are feeling the pressure to bring more home to the office to meet the needs of the millennial generation.

With renewed brick-and-mortar focus, BR sewing supplier expanding into Texas

Among those who sew, Baton Rouge-based is one of the best-known purveyors of sewing machines and related equipment, with five stores in Louisiana and an Internet presence that has dominated the market since the early days of the World Wide Web. Now the company is expanding into Texas. Earlier this summer, it acquired an existing sewing machine retailer in Houston—Sew Contempo—for $650,000, and it plans to continue growing in the Lone Star State. "We see tremendous opportunity in Texas," says's longtime owner John Douthat, who is also eyeing San Antonio for possible expansion. has been around since the mid-1970s, first as a franchisee of the Stretch and Sew company, then later as an independent retailer of dozens of brands of sewing, quilting, embroidery and fabric-care equipment and appliances. In the 1980s it owned 10 stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. But in the early 1990s, on the advice of Douthat's then-teenage son, the...

Magnolia Square buzz

Scott Rabalais of Rabalais Homes has purchased a 2.85-acre tract in the Village at Magnolia Square off Lovett Road in Central for $990,000.

Who's on the board

This organization incorporated in 1980 is a statewide nonprofit trade association of contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and associates who work to advance the construction industry by aggressively supporting the merit shop philosophy and the free enterprise alliance.

Strategic planning for small businesses

Many small business owners do not have a strategic plan for their business, notes Danny Montelaro, South Louisiana area president for Regions Bank. That's typically for one of two reasons: Either they think strategic planning is only for larger companies, or they simply have not made it a priority in the face of more urgent day-to-day concerns.

Learning to thrive

What makes a successful business thrive?

Uber oops

If you want to get attention in south Louisiana, associating your business with LSU football is a pretty good way to do it.

A Day in the Life of a Top 100 Private Company

Photographer Don Kadair spent a day each with three of the firms on our list of Top 100 Private Companies to capture the essence of their success.

Exploring the third dimension

3-D is no longer just for movies.
It has grabbed the attention of marketing firms, artists and other creative types in the Capital Region.
The technology enables them to design a digital 3-D object with computer-aided design software or scan a three-dimensional object with a 3-D scanner, then create that solid object with a 3-D printer. The technology has advanced rapidly and is now affordable enough to be widely available.

A Day in the Life of a Top 100 Private Company

Photographer Don Kadair spent a day each with three of the firms on our list of Top 100 Private Companies to capture the essence of their success.

Still in the family

In April 1954, a Pak-a-Sak convenience store manager in Baton Rouge named Jay Prothro got the itch to open his own business. The married young father didn't know what kind of venture to launch; he was simply driven by the idea of entrepreneurship.

Secrets of swag

Every year at the Oscars, the attention focuses on who goes home with one of the golden statuettes and who ends up on the best—and worst—dressed list.

Ready to launch

You've spent months—maybe years—working on your business plan, dreaming about turning your idea into a reality. And now that your new product or store is within sight, how are you going to tell the world—or at least your target customers—about it?

Mix and mingle

When Elizabeth Carter decided it was time to branch out into her own interior design firm, she learned the importance of networking.

Lord of the rings

The doughnut shop is an American institution.
Before gas stations became convenience stores, these establishments were one of the few places a consumer could purchase a cup of coffee without going to a full-service restaurant. National brands like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme spread like wildfire over the second half of the 20th century, sometimes coexisting with successful mom-and-pop doughnut shops.

The perfect home office

When Christopher Boggs and his wife built their house in 2012, a home office was a key component in the design.

Watch 'em rise

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, po-boys and homemade ice cream.

A Day in the Life of a Top 100 Private Company

Photographer Don Kadair spent a day each with three of the firms on our list of Top 100 Private Companies to capture the essence of their success.

Nouveau tradition

See more photos of the City Club.
At its august quarters on North Boulevard and Fourth Street, the City Club has long been a haven for Baton Rouge's business and social elite.
It's a place where top deals are made, clients are signed and connections are forged. Longtime members refer to the club's veteran waiters by name, and waiters, in turn, can quickly anticipate the members' needs.
For many up-and-comers, holding stock in the City Club is a social right of passage. Some of them will one day serve on the facility's board of directors.

CFX unmasked

CFX is the kind of company where the chief creative officer and media relations person can leave, suddenly, to attend the birth of her sister's child and have one of the founders step in to tell the story of how high-quality, horror masks came to be made in a mini warehouse on Pecue Lane.
As his wife, Diana, headed up the road to Woman's Hospital, CFX co-founder Wes Branton, 31, took off his production cap to talk about how he and partner Ken Decker, 33, started CFX eight years ago.

Florline Commons outparcel buildings at Cortana Mall sold for $11.85M

A California-based investment group has purchased Florline Commons—a collection of outparcel buildings at Cortana Mall totaling 202,200 square feet and including several big-box stores—for $11.85 million, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Jeffrey Seltzer of Tarzana, California-based Highpoint Capital Group, represented the purchasing group, HPC Florline Holdings LLC. Although Seltzer confirmed the purchase of the outparcel properties to Daily Report today, he could not confirm the exact buildings included in the deal or further discuss plans for them. The properties were collectively put up for sale to the highest bidder in October last year. According to a listing from Cushman & Wakefield at that time, Florline Commons was developed between 1985 and 2002 and was 89% leased when it was put on the block, with tenants...

EBR sales tax collections rise more than 5% in May

Sales taxes collected across East Baton Rouge Parish in May were up 5.65% over collections during the same month last year. According to the latest monthly report from the city-parish Finance Department, released today, collections totaled $15.4 million in May, compared to $14.6 million in May 2013. The breakdown of collections inside and outside the city limits of Baton Rouge shows May was a strong month for both the incorporated and unincorporated parts of the parish. Inside the city limits, $8.2 million was collected, up 5.6% from the $7.8 million collected during the month last year. Outside the city limits, $7.2 million was collected, up 5.7% from the $6.8 million collected in May 2013. Five months into the year, collections inside the city limits were at $39.3 million, which is 4.3% higher than year-to-date collections of $37.7 million last year through May. Year-to-date collections in the unincorporated portions of the parish stood at $33.6 million in May, up a scant 0.28%...

Vacant Wendy's on Florida sells for $475K

The former Wendy's restaurant at 10828 Florida Blvd., near the intersection of Sharp Road, has been purchased for $475,000 by 10828 Florida Boulevard LLC, represented by Charles M. Loescher II, a Slidell-based broker, developer and investor. The restaurant has been vacant for some time, and Loescher says he has no immediate plans for the building. He says he purchased the property as an investment and is hoping to land a national tenant for it, adding he's not exclusively looking for a restaurant tenant. Since closing on the property—which includes just under 1 acre of total land—on July 7, Loescher says he has already received some interest from prospective tenants. The seller was Diamond Land Company LLC, represented by Donald L. Feinstein, who is also board chairman of Stockton, California-based Diamond Food Co. —Diana Pietrogallo

'Business Report': Law firms adding data security to list of specialties

Though data security breaches have been the stuff of news headlines for years, the dangers may not have hit home for many people until a major U.S. retailer fell victim to electronic hackers. As Business Report notes in a feature from the current issue, last year's security breach at Target Corp.—the third-largest retailer in America—compromised the credit card accounts of as many as 40 million people who had shopped at Target stores, forcing many to cope with credit disruptions. Investigators concluded the criminals captured data that was stored on the magnetic stripes of cards that customers had swiped at cash registers. The breach put into the hands of the attackers everything they would need to create counterfeit cards. The rising incidence of companies failing to protect data they collect from customers and vendors sends concerns rippling through businesses of all kinds. Many whose data worries previously centered on storing information in ways that ensure...

Looking back, looking forward

As Baton Rouge continues to look at ways to reshape its infrastructure to fit a complete streets model, it might be helpful to look back at how the city grew to where it is today. The US Geological Survey has historical maps of the city dating back to 1908, when areas like Southdowns and along Highland and Perkins roads were little more than swamplands and fields.

CATS hires consultant to look at alternative fuel options for bus fleet

The Capital Area Transit System is looking at the cost-effectiveness of adding alternative fuel buses to its fleet. At the regular meeting of the CATS board Tuesday, the board unanimously approved authorizing CEO Bob Mirabito to hire the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute to provide a report evaluating alternative fuel options and recommending the best solution for CATS. Mirabito says the contract is for $91,000. "We are still negotiating details and are trying to move up the date, but we would like to see an October timeframe for the report. We are going with an institution of higher learning because it has no predetermined notion—it is technology agnostic and unbiased," says Mirabito. Mirabito says he and the board have previously discussed the possibility of adding alternative fuel buses, but that it hadn't moved past the conversation stage until now. What prompted the movement? "We have around 45 buses that will need to be replaced over the next four years,...

Expanded Bayou Country Superfest generated record-setting weekend for BR hotels

Baton Rouge-area hotels took in a record $3.4 million during the fifth annual Bayou Country Superfest, which was held over the three-day Memorial Day weekend at Tiger Stadium, according to figures from Smith Travel Research that were released Wednesday by Visit Baton Rouge. This year saw the festival expanded from two to three days, which boosted attendance to a record high 135,000 fans, festival organizers say. "Guests that I spoke to really enjoyed that extra night. It made all the difference," says Gary Jupiter, president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association and general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel. "We had guests from all 50 states and at least 10 different countries. We were definitely well-represented." STR figures show Baton Rouge area hotels took in $1.23 million on the Friday of the event weekend, $1.26 million on Saturday and $914,000 on Sunday. "Around five years ago, the hotel industry used to dread the Memorial Day weekend. Now we really look forward to it," says...

'Business Report': How will La. meet the new EPA rules on carbon emissions?

Baton Rouge entrepreneur Scott Van Kerkhove is a political anomaly: a Republican who takes the dangers of man-made climate change seriously. As Business Report's David Jacobs writes in a feature from the current issue, it's not because he thinks there's definitive proof on either side of the issue, but because he thinks the possibility of making the planet uninhabitable for future generations isn't worth the risk. Van Kerkhove is CEO of EnergyWise, an energy-efficiency and energy management company. He says his business is all about saving its clients money, not saving the world. EnergyWise does more than 90% of its business out of state. That's partly because Louisiana doesn't yet offer energy-efficiency incentives, but not entirely, Van Kerkhove says. "Some of it has to do with the attitudes and beliefs of business owners and homeowners in Louisiana," he says. "People in Louisiana have been less receptive." Louisiana officials have been less than receptive—putting it...

Uber vows to continue operating in BR despite noncompliance issues

Uber plans to continue operating its UberX rideshare service in Baton Rouge even though the local Taxi Cab Control Board says it is not in compliance with city-parish regulations. "We look forward to working with city officials to finalize the registration process and getting all the paperwork out of the way," reads a prepared statement from Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett. Bennett described the next steps in the process as "crossing our 'T's and dotting our 'I's," adding the company is "excited to wrap up the paperwork and keep the people moving across their city." According to the Taxi Cab Control Board, the necessary paperwork hasn't even been created yet, and Uber has not contacted the board. Under ordinance amendments recently approved by the Metro Council, the taxi board would oversee "transportation network application companies" like Uber that allow users to summon freelance...

DaVita Scotlandville Dialysis Center sells for $1.83M in north BR

Howell Boulevard LLC has purchased the newly constructed DaVita Scotlandville Dialysis Center in Howell Place Subdivision—a multi-use commercial and industrial park in north Baton Rouge adjacent to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport—for $1.83 million from 5265 Vance LLC, represented by Vincent Curran Jr., according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The facility at 7797 Howell Blvd. opened to commercial patients on June 30 and is awaiting Medicare certification, which could take from several months up to a year. It's located north of the ExxonMobil YMCA and south of the Hilton Garden Inn. The clinic operates Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two other DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. dialysis clinics are open in the metro area, one on O'Neal Lane and another in Gonzales. Other recent real estate transactions of note, as recorded with the clerk of court, include:

App for BR restaurants, bars in development

Although many Baton Rouge restaurants and bars use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to market their menus and specials, Bottoms Up—a new smartphone application preparing to launch in Baton Rouge in the coming months—hopes to connect patrons and establishments more efficiently by providing a platform exclusive to them. "This is a service that's built specifically for bars and restaurants to promote their specials and deals," Bottoms Up CEO Keith Martiny says, "whereas Facebook and Twitter are central networks that were amended to accommodate bars and restaurants." The app is free for users, who sign up to find out about special events like trivia night and redeem deals. Participating establishments—any establishment that has a liquor license and does promotional events—pay a $50 monthly or $500 annual fee following a 90-day free trial. In return, participating bars are made privy to patron analytics, including demographic...

UniFirst plans $6M facility near Cortana Mall

UniFirst, the national uniform supplier that purchased 6.2 acres near Sam's Club and the Cortana Mall in August 2013, has applied for a construction permit to build a $6 million, nearly 65,000-square-foot laundry facility. The Metro Council voted to rezone the property at the northeast intersection of Tom Drive and Oak Villa Boulevard from LC3, light commercial three, to SPUD, small planned unit development, in May last year to clear the way for the project. UniFirst services 260,000 business customer locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The new facility will service businesses throughout the greater Baton Rouge market. Some of its current national customers include Walmart, Hershey's, Honeywell, Target, GE and Goodyear. UniFirst Director of Marketing and Communications Adam Soreff says that as construction gets underway and plans are finalized the company will have more information on the details for the building and schedules, although he did not have any information on when...

Andrews: Underwriting interest rates are not the same as actual rates

I was asked recently about the difference between a lender's "underwriting rate" and the "actual rate" or "note rate" that a customer would be charged on his commercial real estate debt. This issue comes up when lenders are trying to determine how much they can loan against an income-producing property, based on the property's debt coverage ratio. Take a $10 million loan request on a property where the annual net operating income is $1 million. The lender has offered a 20-year amortization with a fixed rate of 4.5% with the requirement that the net operating income cover underwritten debt service at a ratio of 1.3-to-1 or higher. At first blush the loan seems to be in great shape as the numbers work out to a coverage ratio of 1.32-to-1, which exceeds the lender's minimum requirement. But the lender said "underwritten debt service" where the lender's minimum underwriting interest rate is 5.25%. If you run the debt service numbers again using this higher underwriting rate, the coverage...

Cook: Atlas Dermatology buys Burgin Avenue building for new clinic

Atlas Dermatology, which is operated by Dr. Trent Massengale, has purchased a 4,000-square-foot building at 163 Burgin Ave. for a new general dermatology clinic. The building most recently was occupied by Rogers and McDaniel Antiques and Interiors. The sale closed on Tuesday, July 8, for $535,000, which works out to about $133.75 per square foot. The deal was brokered by Tigue Bonneval with Beau Box Commercial Real Estate and Danny Watts with Saurage Rotenberg Real Estate. "Dr. Massengale really liked the location just off Highland Road near its intersection with Lee Drive, and the building has real character," says Bonneval. The building was reportedly designed by A. Hays Town and had been continually improved by Rogers and McDaniel. The property includes a very nice courtyard, and the interior is unique. Massengale will renovate it for his dermatology clinic, but it will not be your standard medical space. "We want the waiting room to be very inviting, and we intend to put in an...

'Business Report': Is BR losing new business for lack of large commercial workspaces?

By the summer of 2012, state and local officials had spent the better part of two years wooing IBM. As Business Report staff writer David Jacobs details in a feature from the current issue, the courtship hit a snag when the company couldn't find 100,000 square feet of suitable office space. Ultimately, the state, East Baton Rouge Parish and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation all got together to build and fund what will one day become IBM Services Center: Baton Rouge. Like IBM, many companies are having trouble finding large, high-quality office space in the Baton Rouge area. While few businesses need 100,000 square feet, fewer still command the attention of multiple levels of government and a wealthy foundation. Which means if other companies don't find what they're looking for, they might just move on to the next city. "We think that we're probably feeling [a negative] economic effect of not having enough commercial space," says Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge...

Healthy Corner Store Program helping BR businesses offer healthier options

Four corner stores in north Baton Rouge are in the process of receiving upgrades and improvements totaling $111,600 as a part of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority's Healthy Corner Store Program, an initiative to help corner stores offer healthy options to residents in areas where healthy foods as basic as fresh produce are hard to come by. Participating stores—selected through a competitive and extensive process with about a dozen applicants—include Beechwood Meat Market, Sewell's Community Grocery, Capitol Grocery and Kelly's Meat Market. The program is utilizing resources from Mayor Kip Holden's Fresh Beginnings Program, including a one-time grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, to provide each store with new refrigeration cases for produce, cash registers, dry goods bins, fruit baskets, plastic produce bags and cash donations for each store's first purchase of produce, as well as small business development training through Southern...

EBR residents support ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, CityStats poll says

Nearly 62% of all respondents in a parishwide poll say they support a local ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. The Metro Council will consider adopting such an ordinance at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, July 23. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation this morning released the poll results, which are a part of the group's annual CityStats report, which tracks the quality of life in the city-parish using 70 indicators. BRAF says the poll, which was conducted by LSU's Public Policy Research Lab, shows a majority of residents across all demographics and political ideologies back the ordinance. Specifically, 64% of self-identified Republicans support the ordinance, as do 63% of Democrats and 59% of independents. People with graduate degrees voiced the most support for the ordinance, at 73%, while 71% of people between 35 and 44 years old also support it. The poll was conducted in April and May, and included 522 respondents. It has a...

LSU awards $500K to faculty entrepreneurs under new grant program

LSU has awarded 15 grants totaling $500,000 to faculty members through its new LIFT2 (Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer) grant program, which provides funding to validate the market potential of the faculty members' inventions. Grants are for up to $50,000. "Some examples of the work being supported through the initial LIFT2 grants include a real-time, automated video analytics system; a novel chewing gum to prevent certain cancers; a system to manage irrigation at container plant nurseries; a biodegradable urethral scaffold; a method to reclaim treated wood and recycle it as a raw material for 'green' spray foam insulation; and software enhancements to smartphone apps for weight management," LSU says in a news release. LSU President F. King Alexander says in a prepared statement that "this program will help to see many of these projects advance from basic research to market." Results of the research from the first grants are expected within a year. The grant awardees...

Albemarle to acquire N.J. competitor in $6.2B deal

Baton Rouge-based specialty chemical maker Albemarle announced this morning it has reached a deal with one of its largest competitors, New Jersey-based Rockwood Holdings Inc., to acquire all outstanding shares of Rockwood Holdings in a cash and stock deal valued at $6.2 billion. As The New York Times reports, the deal will combine two of the world's largest specialty chemical companies, which produce four main types of chemicals: lithium, catalysts, bromine and surface treatment chemicals. Upon closing of the deal—which is expected in the first quarter of 2015—Albemarle shareholders will own approximately 70% of the combined company...

State lease of downtown parking garage draws criticism

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is leasing the rights to a state-owned parking garage in Baton Rouge for $2 million to help balance Louisiana's budget, a deal that appears to have the state taking a loss for the cash up front. The Associated Press reports the 91-year lease will generate less money than the state paid for the garage, while also giving away possibly millions of dollars the state stood to receive in parking revenue over the life of the contract. The governor's Division of Administration says the 466-space parking garage was built for employees in a nearby state building at 150 N. Third St. that was recently sold, so it wasn't needed. Spokeswoman Meghan Parrish says the lease will pay "for the highest appraised value of the property, allowing us to meet financial obligations while maximizing the use of the space." The attorney general's office criticized the deal,...

Level Homes expanding into Florida market

Baton Rouge-based Level Homes announced today that it's entering the Florida residential market with two new community developments in the Sarasota area. One of the projects, called Bayshore, will include 23 single-family homes, while another called Golden Gate will be a downtown condo project with 15 units. Level Homes Managing Member Todd Waguespack—Business Report's 2014 Young Businessperson of the Year—first unveiled the company's plans for expansion into Florida earlier this year, saying they hoped to be in the state by the middle of 2014. Level Homes calls itself one of the fastest-growing residential builders in the Southeast. In 2012 it branched into the North Carolina market, and it has since moved into South Carolina as well. Today the...

Bristol Place Apartments on Siegen sells for $38.25M

Bristol Place Apartments, a 312-unit complex at 5960 Siegen Lane that is 98% occupied, has been sold to Miami-based investment group Pensam Capital for $38.25 million. The seller of the complex—which was built in 2008 and consists of a total of nearly 282,000 square feet of rentable space across 10 three-story buildings, as well as a three-story parking garage—was AMG Bristol Place LLC, which is represented by a number of partners including A.C. Lewis Management. "We purchased Bristol Place Apartments in December of 2011 for $32.45 million and had concessions in place of over $30,000 per month," says A.C. "Bubba" Lewis in a prepared statement. "We were able to eliminate the concessions while maintaining a high occupancy, increasing the value and generating a significant return to the investors." The sale price works out to $122,596 per unit. The sale closed on Friday. A.C. Lewis Management, which has managed the property for the past two and a half years, says it was one...

Perkins Road retail center sells for $640K

The retail center at 10889 Perkins Road, which is located in the second filing of Wimbledon Estates and is home to Salon Chateau, Sugar Belle, Big Fish Presentations and Piano Pathways, has been purchased by LLPHAM LLC, represented by Lan Phuong Vu, for $640,000. According to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court, the seller was Karma Properties LLC, represented by Dr. Sheetal Verma-Bueche and Madhu Bhushan. The new owner says her tenants will remain and she has no immediate plans for changes to the building. Other recent real estate transactions of note recorded with the clerk of court include:

News alert: Uber officially launches in BR

Rideshare service company Uber has officially launched its UberX service in Baton Rouge, a company spokesperson confirms to Daily Report. LSU football coach Les Miles is among the first to use the service in Baton Rouge, serving as the company's “Rider Zero” in the market. Miles sent out a Tweet earlier today welcoming the company to Baton Rouge, saying it's a “great new service” for the city. Uber has outlined some service details and sign-up info in a blog post this afternoon, saying fares for the first two weeks of service will be $5. “If you don't see uberX at first, don't worry! Since Uber is still in testing phase, there may be times when availability is limited,” the blog post reads. “Just refresh your Uber app again after a few minutes to request a ride and you'll be on your way.

'225 Dine': Hanley's Foods to release avocado dressing this fall

Richard Hanley thinks he might have found "the new ranch." As 225 Dine reports, the owner of Hanley's Foods, a local food enterprise known for its Sensation salad dressing and seasonal Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing, says he'll release an avocado dressing this fall. The dressing has a creamy texture made of fresh avocado, extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and Spirulina, a super food rich in protein. There is no dairy in the product. Hanley says the dressing is "like ranch, but a lot greener," noting the health benefits of the ingredients he uses. Hanley is still tweaking the recipe, and is hard at work to get the dressing approved for shelves while taste-testing it with customers at local markets. "I've been getting a lot of feedback," he says. "I bring it with me and have people dip carrots in it and try it. They're really enjoying it."...

Councilmen meet with Lyft, say ridesharing firm 'very interested' in BR market

Uber isn't the only ridesharing service that's eyeing the Baton Rouge market. Within days of the Metro Council's June 25 passage of an ordinance clearing the way for ridesharing companies to provide service in Baton Rouge, representatives from Lyft came to the city to meet with councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado. "They are very interested in the Baton Rouge market," says Delgado. "I don't know if they're as ready as Uber to come here, but the meeting last week went well." Uber, meanwhile, is continuing to evaluate the market and last week held two workshops for interested drivers. "It's our way of making sure the market is viable," says Taylor Bennett, an Uber spokesman. "It's our way of gauging interest and making sure folks there are willing to partner with us so when it comes time to launch we have enough drivers." Bennett could not say how many potential drivers showed up for...

NK Boutique opens third location, closes online boutique

Between the opening of NK Boutique's third location and the closing of its online counterpart,, it's been a summer of change for the 30-year-old local business. The upscale women's clothing boutique opened at 17455 Perkins Road, near the Highland Road and Interstate 10 interchange, last month in the space that formerly housed Edit by LBP—another local boutique, which relocated to Acadian Village late last year. "We recognized that there's a market at the Highland and I-10 area that was missing" shopping options, says Michele Percy, who co-owns NK with Sari Turner. "We even get a lot of New Orleans customers that drive in to shop," she says. "We just recognized that it was a great opportunity." Percy says NK closed down the Eve's Apple website to focus all of its energy into the brick-and-mortar stores, but adds that the closure isn't necessarily permanent. "It's...

LABI president: Let's put economy on cruise control

Louisiana has all the advantages it needs to compete globally in the coming years, and if the state makes smart decisions about its workforce, legal reform and transportation, we can put the state's economy on a kind of cruise control that will last generations rather than a single economic cycle, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge as guest speaker today. "We've been here before. We know boom-and-bust cycles," Waguespack said. "Texas, North Carolina, Florida—they all go up and down like we do." But the overall economic prosperity in those states, Waguespack says, is baked into a diversified economy that has excellent educational opportunities, good vocational and technical education, a predictable legal environment and modern transportation infrastructure. If Louisiana doesn't emulate best practices from other states, Waguespack asked, what is our future after the next boom-bust cycle? Our citizens...

Lend a hand

There are several opportunities this weekend to help out with the arts in Baton Rouge and the betterment of our struggling communities—two things that are big topics on the Smart City blog. Read on for more information, and let us know in the comments below about other events and causes coming up around the city that need volunteers!

'Business Report': Is John Georges' big gamble on 'The Advocate' paying off?

A little over a year ago, John Georges launched an experiment that flew in the face of conventional wisdom: He bought The Advocate, a daily newspaper, and instead of going digital, like many other newspapers around the country, he expanded his print product and took it regional. As Business Report editor Stephanie Riegel details in the magazine's new cover story, the New Orleans businessman has spent untold millions in the 15 months since to change the paper, grow it and develop a new business model built around publishing three distinct editions of the paper every day and delivering them to readers in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. "Along the way, he has brought in new management, hired top-flight journalists with well-known bylines, and rolled out an aggressive marketing and advertising campaign," Riegel writes. "He even bought a historic building in New Orleans' Central Business District that will serve as the chic new headquarters for The New Orleans...

Dropping oil, gas industry preferences would cut taxes for all, assessor says

Eliminating a series of preferences granted to the oil and gas industry would result in a tax cut for every citizen who pays property taxes, says the chairman of the Louisiana Assessors Association Oil and Gas Committee. The Shreveport Times reports that Robert Gravolet, the assessor in Plaquemines Parish, told the Louisiana Tax Commission Tuesday that the commission's current structure grants huge breaks to one industry, and "tax rates could be lowered statewide" if those breaks were eliminated. Gravolet couldn't estimate how much equalizing assessment would save regular property owners, but he says it would be "substantial." The current assessment is "not uniform, it's not equal, it's not fair," he said. Assessors propose that the commission lift its current exemption on taxing horizontal drilling, change the way the apparatus used in drilling wells is taxed and set up a new tax structure for injection wells used to extract brine and those used at natural gas storage...

Land behind Raising Cane's on Corporate sells for $785K

An approximately 2-acre tract on Bankers Avenue, just off College Drive and behind the Raising Cane's restaurant at 5211 Corporate Blvd., sold to Mihir Enterprises LLC for $785,000, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Bankers Avenue Investments LLC, represented by Ashwin Sura, was the seller in the deal. Back in 2007, Bankers Avenue Investments purchased the land for $744,000 from Raising Cane's, which acquired the property in 2006 from Hills For College LLC for $573,500. At the time, a broker representing Hills For College LLC in the deal told Daily Report that Cane's was considering constructing a headquarters building on the plot. It is unclear what Mihir Enterprises LLC—represented by Shardulsinh Sayania—has planned for the site. —Rachel Alexander

Demolition of Broadmoor Theatre, neighboring building planned

To make way for additional parking at the Broadmoor Village Shopping Center—which will welcome a new Hi Nabor grocery store later this fall—the demolition of a 42,000-square-foot building neighboring the Broadmoor Theatre is expected to get underway in the next few days, says Austin Earhart of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate. The demolition of the theater is also planned, but Earhart says there's no hard timeline for that project just yet. "What's holding up the theater is that it's still occupied by [Randolph] Ogden, who subleases some of the space to a number of tenants and makes pretty good money on it," Earhart explains. "So, no one can blame him for wanting to stay in there, but the lease for the Hi Nabor store does require that the theater be demolished, and there are ongoing negotiations to work out when that will happen." As Daily Report has previously reported,

Andrews: Fewer foreclosures in La. means more price stability

It's not a topic we like to think about, but foreclosures are a natural part of the real estate finance landscape. They're the result of several factors, some of which are under the control of borrowers and some of which are not. And for whatever reason, they're still happening. Total home foreclosures in Louisiana are down from a year ago, and the local rate is lower than that of peer states that take back homes via judicial foreclosure (a process that takes far more time than nonjudicial foreclosure). According to the most recent CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report, published in May, Louisiana had 1.4% of its homes in foreclosure (lower than the national average) with 4.7% of mortgages in serious delinquency (a little higher than the national average, but lower than average among judicial foreclosure states). Well, so what? My home isn't in foreclosure so why do I care about these figures? Foreclosure inventory can negatively impact everyone in a neighborhood where lenders have...

Cook: Concord Park lots sell

Sales of vacant land are few and far between in older established subdivisions like Concord Park, located off College Drive and Perkins Road. Brian Andrews will recognize this as the subdivision that houses the Penthouse Club, just behind Hobby Lobby. Anyway, two lots on Old Forge Drive have sold for $223,800, or just above $6.75-per-square-foot for the 32,895-square-foot site. The property was brokered by Drew Pearson and Robert Pettit with Waters & Pettit Commercial Real Estate. The seller was Colony Spices Limited, represented by Ann M. Naquin, and the buyer was Old Forge Holdings LLC, represented by Donald L. David. According to Pearson, the new owners have no immediate plans for the property.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or

State Farm homeowners rates going up in La.

It's a double whammy of sorts for Louisiana's 308,000 State Farm policyholders. As Gannett Louisiana reports, the company's homeowner insurance rates are up an average of 8.7% across the state—at a time when the company's hurricane deductibles have gone from 2% to 5% for most customers. Longtime New Orleans area insurance broker Marc Eagan calls that size of jump in storm deductibles unusual. "I don't see a lot of increases coming from the majority of the insurance marketplace with homeowners insurance raising deductibles," says Eagan, president of the Eagan Insurance Agency. "I don't think I've seen too many 2% to 5% jumps just across the board." At 2%, homeowners would have to come out of pocket $4,000 on a $200,000 home before the State Farm coverage kicks in. At 5%, the out of pocket cost skyrockets to $10,000. Under normal circumstances, insurance customers are supposed to see the price of insurance drop as deductibles increase. But, according to the Louisiana Department...

'Times-Pic' pulls out of La. Press Association, associate publisher resigns from LPA board

The Times-Picayune/ has pulled out of the Louisiana Press Association, and David Francis, associate publisher of The Times-Picayune/NOLA Media Group, has resigned his position from the LPA board of directors. The newspaper notified the LPA of its decision in a brief letter dated Wednesday, July 2, that does not offer an explanation. Francis declines to comment on the situation. But LPA board members say they assume the move has its roots, at least in part, in the controversy that took place earlier this year when The Advocate successfully lobbied the Legislature to change state law so that it could compete to publish lucrative classified legal ads and public notices in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. The Times-Picayune/ fought the change. The LPA board met in February before the session and voted 6-5 to oppose the legislation. By the next day, the LPA board reversed its decision and, on another 6-5 vote, decided to remain neutral on the...

The future of print

Although John Georges got national publicity by increasing The Advocate's presence in New Orleans, that wasn't the only place he expanded.

Making way for whistleblowers

Whether you are an employee of a private company or the owner of one, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling could soon change the way your business operates.

The office shortage

By the summer of 2012, state and local officials had spent the better part of two years wooing IBM. The courtship hit a snag, officials said last year, when the company couldn't find 100,000 square feet of suitable office space.

More than an IT guy

Though data security breaches have been the stuff of news headlines for years, the dangers may not have hit home for many people until a major U.S. retailer fell victim to electronic hackers.

Going public

Investar Bank is now public. Nearly 2.9 million shares of the Baton Rouge-based bank's stock began trading last week on the Nasdaq, priced at $14 per share. Investar plans to use the proceeds to support growth in loans and deposits and bolster its capital to permit future acquisitions, among other plans. Since its founding eight years ago, the bank has grown through aggressive expansions and now has assets of $674 million and 10 branches. So how do companies know it's time to make the move to an IPO?

Getting to 40%

Baton Rouge entrepreneur Scott Van Kerkhove is a political anomaly: a Republican who takes the dangers of man-made climate change seriously. Not because he thinks there's definitive proof on either side of the issue, but because he thinks the possibility of making the planet uninhabitable for future generations isn't worth the risk.

Edward "Sandy" Comeaux

If you want to know what welders want in a cap, just ask them.

Keeping the home fires burning

An abiding principle in military strategy is, "Never fight a war on two fronts."

John Georges' big gamble

A little over a year ago, John Georges launched an experiment that flew in the face of conventional wisdom: He bought The Advocate, a daily newspaper, and instead of going digital, like other newspapers around the country, he expanded his printed product and took it regional.

Calloway Inn & Suites sells for $3M

The Calloway Inn & Suites at 10920 Mead Road, off Sherwood Forest Boulevard and near Interstate 12, is under new ownership. Baton Rouge Hoteliers LLC is the new owner, and Raj Hospitality LLC is the new managing entity. They took over the hotel on Thursday, says Britt Thompson, spokesperson for the companies. According to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court, Baton Rouge Hoteliers purchased the hotel—which has 125 rentable rooms—for $3 million. "We're in the process of revamping each department," Thompson says, adding that the company expects to increase business by 12% to 20%. "We're also going to add some food and beverage operations over here and attempt to get the meeting space ready for conventions and/or day meetings." Calloway has three meeting rooms that total about 3,500 square feet, as well as a breakfast room. While the breakfast room wasn't in use under previous ownership, Thompson says Calloway should be offering complimentary...

Central shopping center sells for $2.47M

Central's City Market Shopping Center, located at 18564 Magnolia Bridge Road, has been sold for approximately $2.47 million, says Justin Langlois of Mike Falgoust & Associates Commercial Real Estate, who represented the seller in the deal. Built in 2007 and patterned off of a shopping center in Destin, Florida, City Market is located 2.5 miles from Wax and Sullivan roads, an intersection Langlois calls the "epicenter" of Central. "It's located right at the base of the bridge that takes you from East Baton Rouge Parish to Livingston," Langlois says, "so it's strategically located. If you want to go to Denham Springs, you kind of have to cross over Magnolia Bridge Road." The roughly 18,000-square-foot, 14-suite shopping center houses about eight tenants, he says, including Chris' Specialty Meats and local doggie daycare Smooch My Pooch, but has approximately 3,800 square feet of space available for additional tenants. Because the shopping center is only seven years old, Langlois says...

Robert Mercer

It's hard to imagine a more experienced hotelier than Robert Mercer. With nearly 50 years in the business, Mercer took the helm at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel in October 2012. Previously, Mercer had managed numerous upscale hotel properties in major Southern cities—in Atlanta, Memphis and Orlando, to name a few. Though his employer is actually Davidson Hotels & Resorts, Mercer's job entails working closely with the developer and owner of the landmark Bluebonnet Boulevard property, Mike Wampold. "It is our job to ensure that his investment is well taken care of, well thought of in the community, and financially successful," Mercer says. The GM's transition at the award-winning hotel was free of surprises. "I knew before I arrived how beautiful the hotel was and that I would be able to have interactions with the owner, which I believe is most important in order to fully understand what drives him and what he expects from me as the general manager." Wampold Companies, he...

Emotions on high as Hi Nabor begins last week at Drusilla Shopping Center

After 25 years in business, Hi Nabor Supermarket in Drusilla Shopping Center will close its doors for good on Sunday. Jim Crifasi, president of the family-owned supermarket chain, says this will be an emotional week for longtime employees and customers, as well as Crifasi family members. "We've never had to close a store before," he says. "It's not something you ever want to have to do." The Crifasis were unable to come to terms on a new lease agreement with Donnie Jarreau, who acquired the Drusilla Shopping Center in April for $10.5 million. In May, LeBlanc's Food Stores announced it will open one of its Frais Marche-concept grocery stores in the former Hi Nabor space. Hi Nabor has since found a new location and

Lafayette lawyer fires back at BP after taking heat for handling of oil spill claims

Lafayette attorney Patrick Juneau has administered some of the biggest claims settlements in U.S history. He handled Vioxx and Toyota settlements. And he is the administrator for BP settlements, paying claims to those who can prove their businesses were damaged by the impact of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The BP settlement is complex and mammoth—more than 1,000 pages—and Juneau had nothing to do with writing or approving it. He was appointed by a federal court to administer it, which includes filing and reviewing claims in a timely fashion and keeping track of the company's appeals. Not once in his career, Juneau maintains, has a corporation attacked his integrity—until BP. In a recent interview with The Daily Advertiser, Juneau fights back. "BP's CEO Bob Dudley said I was willfully misinterpreting the settlement; that's a lie and, yes, it is actionable," Juneau says. "BP agreed to the settlement and its terms and it had the advice of some...

'225 Dine': Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar eyes September opening in downtown BR

Though an exact opening date has not been set for Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar, managing partner Derek Fitch tells 225 Dine the new downtown restaurant should be open in early September. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant is at 315 North Blvd., inside the historic Jolie building next to Fresh Junkie and facing North Boulevard Town Square. Fitch says Jolie Pearl will have a main oyster bar, a self-serve Bloody Mary bar, and additional space for private parties, meetings or live entertainment. The interior will have a rustic feel to capture the history of the Jolie building. As for the menu, Fitch says the restaurant will expand on the local oyster culture. "In south Louisiana, you can get oysters fried, raw or char-broiled, but nobody's expanded upon the ways you can have them," he says. "We'll have them baked, char-grilled … we'll have dozens of different toppings and flavors, and our raw oyster experience will be unlike any other." Jolie Pearl will also offer different...

Winn-Dixie on Coursey sells for $6.14M

The Winn-Dixie grocery store at 13002 Coursey Blvd. on the corner of Stumberg Lane has sold for $6.14 million—approximately $1 million more than what the same property sold for late last year—according to land records filed today with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Phoenix, Arizona-based Cole Credit Property Trust V Inc., a subsidiary of American Realty Capital Properties doing business as ARCP GS Baton Rouge LA LLC, purchased the 7.4-acre property as an investment "consistent with the investment strategy of acquiring net-lease real estate leased to high-quality tenants," says John Bacon, vice president of marketing at Cole. Bacon says the approximately 63,000-square-foot grocery store was renovated in 2014, and Cole has no immediate plans for further renovations. When asked about Winn-Dixie's future in the space, Bacon confirmed that the grocery store has a long-term lease. New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Kimco Realty, acting as Coursey 1713 LLC, was the seller in...

BR taxis working to establish downtown staging areas to improve service

Local taxi cab companies are working with the city-parish and the Downtown Development District to create designated staging areas for taxis downtown, thereby enabling them to respond more quickly to the growing number of downtown patrons. The plan would set aside as many as 10 metered parking spaces for cabs at various intersections near Third Street, where most of downtown's restaurants and nightclubs are located. "There is a lot of demand for cabs downtown but there is no parking on Third Street," says Keith Wyckoff, manager of Yellow Cab. "This will enable us to have a set place so the customers know where we are and we know where they are going to be. It's just logistics." The staging areas would be in effect at night only. The effort comes as ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are eyeing the local market. Last week, the Metro Council approved an ordinance clearing the way...

Construction to begin soon on homes in new Stumberg Lane subdivision

Stumberg Villas LLC has purchased an approximately 2.6-acre tract on Stumberg Lane for $925,000. The property will be the site of the first eight lots of a new subdivision by the same name—Stumberg Villas—says Bonnie Ferrell, co-managing partner of the LLC. Homes will range from 1,600 to 1,800 square feet of living area, she says, and will list in the low $200,000s. While only the first eight lots are developed at this point, Ferrell estimates the neighborhood will ultimately include between 33 and 38 lots. Plans for the remaining 25 to 30 lots are with the engineer right now, she says, and streets for those will be put in soon. Meanwhile, Ferrell says construction on the first eight homes will begin as soon as possible and is projected to take about six months. She adds that she will probably start marketing the homes as soon as the houses are framed, which should be in about three to four months. The seller in the land deal was United Community Bank, according to land...

La. home prices continue to rise in May, remain at post-recession peak

After reaching a new peak in April, Louisiana home prices were on the rise again in May. According to the latest monthly figures from CoreLogic released today, Louisiana single-family home prices, including distressed sales, rose 1.1% from April to May. And compared to the same month last year, home prices including distressed sales were up 3.3% in May, the report says. Excluding distressed sales—that is, properties under foreclosure or advertised for sale by a mortgagee—home prices in Louisiana were up 0.9% from April to May, but compared to May 2013 those prices are up 4.4%. Including distressed sales, Louisiana last reached the current peak in May 2006. Excluding distressed sales, the last time prices were this high in Louisiana was April 2006. For the nation at large, home prices have now risen for 27 straight months, according to CoreLogic's Home Price Index report.

Andrews: Exit strategies are key for home equity lines of credit

Before the financial crisis hit in 2008, one of the biggest temptations facing homeowners was to take out a home equity loan to pull cash out of their home value. Home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, were easy to get and had easy payment terms, with many carrying interest only for the term of the loan and terms up to ten years. The challenge with these products is the exit strategy, or how to repay the balance at the end of the "draw period." Borrowers will either have to 1) repay the balance in full with existing cash resources or by refinancing both the first mortgage and the HELOC, or 2) amortizing the debt over time with the HELOC lender. The challenge with paying off the HELOC through refinancing is that it might have been made when appraised values were inflated and/or the financial condition of the borrower was less of an issue than it is currently, making a refinance potentially difficult in today's environment. The challenge with the second option is that borrowers who...

Cook: Byers get back into BR development with Highland Court subdivision

Sam and Louise Byer have purchased a four-acre parcel on North Amiss Road, across from the Highland Road Park, with plans to develop a 17-lot subdivision that will be known as Highland Court. As Daily Report first reported, the sale closed on May 28. At $600,000 the sale price works out to about $150,000 per acre. The Byers intend to develop lots that are about 60 feet wide by 130 feet deep and build them out in association with Rusty Golden of LeJardin Homes. The Byers were active developers locally in the 1990s but left the area to live in Australia for a few years. "When we came back to Baton Rouge we realized that there was a real shortage of lots available, and any lots that were available were being gobbled up by the larger tract builders," says Sam Byer. "There was not a lot available for the little guy." The new development will allow for homes of around 2,300 to 3,500...

Investors buy, plan to renovate office warehouse complex off S. Sherwood

Bricksome at Sherwood, an LLC of local investment partners Mark Estep and Greg Howell, has purchased an office warehouse complex off of South Sherwood Forest Boulevard for $475,000, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The complex includes five buildings, located at 11837, 11843, 11847, 11853 and 11857 Bricksome Ave. Each building covers 2,000 to 2,100 square feet, Estep says, and is divided into four suites. Only seven of the twenty units are occupied, he says, but he and Howell expect to fill the other 13 suites after updating all five buildings with new interior flooring and exterior siding, landscaping and signage. "We're going to cater to small businesses," Estep says, adding that he owns a similar property—in which he invested in 2008—on Jamestown Court, off of College Drive. "We cater to small businesses there, and it's...

BR restaurateurs bring home statewide awards

The Louisiana Restaurant Association has named Peter Sclafani and Ruffin Rodrigue of Ruffino's as its 2014 Restaurateurs of the Year, while its Hall of Fame inductees this year are the Marino family, who have owned and operated Gino's Restaurant in Baton Rouge since 1966. Also, the 2014 Associate Member of the Year is Mickey Freiberg, sales manager of Capitol City Produce, and the 2014 Advocate of the Year is Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge. Sclafani and Rodrigue have been busily expanding their business over the past year. In May, Ruffino's completed its $250,000 renovation of De La Ronde Hall on Third Street and has relocated its corporate headquarters to the downtown building. Besides serving as office space for Ruffino's—which operates two restaurants, one on Highland Road and another in Lafayette that was

IBERIABANK moves into Dallas market with acquisition of First Private

Lafayette-based IBERIABANK says it has completed its acquisition of Dallas-based First Private Holdings Inc., which owns First Private Bank. With banking and wealth management branches in Dallas and West Plano, First Private Bank reported total assets of $358 million as of March 31, as well as $277 million in gross loans and $319 million in total deposits. Prior to the acquisition, IBERIABANK has not had branch locations in the Dallas area. "We are very excited about the growth prospects and client development opportunities of our combined organization in the dynamic Dallas market," says IBERIABANK President and CEO Daryl G. Byrd in a prepared statement issued this morning. Under the terms of the deal, shareholders of First Private Bank will receive 0.27 shares of IBERIABANK common...

Lafayette firm acquires 50% stake in La. oil leases

In a deal valued at $24 million, Lafayette-based PetroQuest Energy Inc. has reached an agreement with Houston-based Midstates Petroleum Company Inc. under which it has acquired a 50% stake in Midstates' lease ownership rights to approximately 30,000 acres in the Fleetwood area of the state, west of Baton Rouge. PetroQuest will pay $10 million to Midstates as part of the deal; $3 million now and the remaining $7 million in January next year. PetroQuest will also credit $14 million to Midstates' for future exploration drilling activity in the area, the companies announced this morning in a press release. "We have been excited about the organic growth opportunity this area possesses for quite some time but have been focusing our capital in our Midcontinent region," says Peter Hill, interim president and CEO of Midstates, in...

Editor: Reaction to Uber interest highlights BR's desperation for improved transit options

When Daily Report first reported on the potential expansion of ride-sharing app maker Uber into the Baton Rouge market, the story touched a nerve with readers and generated a level of excitement that suggests our market is not only receptive to the idea of such a service—but is desperate for it, says Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "'Please God let this happen,' posted one of our readers. Another replied, 'I agree. I would sell my soul to see this happen," writes Riegel. "Such musings would be funny if they weren't such a sad commentary on the state of the city's taxi service." In the weeks since the initial story, the Metro Council has approved ordinances welcoming companies like Uber to the market and establishing some...