Content tagged “Economy, business and finance”

American consumer confidence decreases to four-month low

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

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

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

Councilman Heck going into the concrete business

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

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

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

IBM consultants begin work to address BR traffic woes

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

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

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

Candlewood Suites planning $5M hotel on Bankers Avenue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent insurers association sells Bluebonnet offices for $1M

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

Scott to unveil economic forecast at Louisiana Business Symposium

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

Capital Region home sales cooler in August this year

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

Apartment complex near Nicholson sells for $732K

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

La. facing second greatest risk from aging pipelines in US

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

Shale boom buoying businesses far from oilfields

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

Lake Charles: A case study

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

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

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

Some council members ready to OK deal with BRAF on downtown parking garage

Going into Wednesday's Metro Council meeting, some council members still have questions about a deal the council has been asked to approve between the city-parish and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation over the downtown parking garage on Convention and Third streets. But other council members, who initially had concerns over the issue, say that after meeting with BRAF leaders recently they're satisfied the new agreement over the parking facility is in the city's best interest. "I'm going to vote for it,'' says Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who earlier this month raised concerns about the new cooperative endeavor agreement for the facility. "I think it's a good deal for the city. I'm not so sure it's a good deal for the state, but that's not what we're being asked to vote on." In July, BRAF signed a $2 million, 91-year lease with the state for the 466-space garage. But the city-parish is...

Council to consider changes to bus bench contracts

The Metro Council is scheduled to take up a measure Wednesday that could relieve the long-unresolved headaches of the three advertising companies that are unhappy with limits on their contracts to provide benches at bus stops around the city. The city-parish doesn't have to spend money on benches because companies don't charge anything for them. The companies even give the city-parish a cut of the money they make from ads placed on bench backrests. But the advertising companies can no longer put up benches on state roads, sites that would draw more revenue. The state Department of Transportation and Development took down some of the benches on state roads because they weren't properly credentialed with the city-parish, which had no codified way to approve them. Councilman Joel Boé is sponsoring the item to direct the city-parish to approve the state road benches. Boé says the council needs to "get back to the original mission as to why these agreements were approved," which was to...

Andrews: Risky home mortgages may be getting easier to obtain

Fannie Mae's Third Quarter Sentiment Survey was released a few days ago and it indicates an expectation on the part of senior mortgage lenders that there will be lower purchase mortgage activity over the next three months. This slowdown on top of the already slow refinance market means slim pickings and increased competition for mortgage lenders as we close out 2014. Larger banks might try to combat this trend by pursuing demand for riskier mortgages and making those loans easier to get. According to Fannie Mae, "larger lenders continue to be more likely than their smaller counterparts to say they expect to ease their credit standards during the next three months, in particular for non-GSE-eligible and government loans, perhaps indicating an effort to boost purchase mortgage activity before the year comes to a close." Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at...

Cook: Shopping center in heart of Plaquemine sells for just under $4M

The Belleview Shopping Center in the heart of Plaquemine has been sold for $3,954,500. The property, which is 100% leased, is anchored by a 29,000-square-foot LeBlanc's Food Store, and also includes national tenants such as Dollar General, Little Caesar's, CitiTrends, Payless Shoesource, AT&T Wireless and Radio Shack. A total of 84,164 square feet of rental space is situated across 6.86 acres on the property's site off La. 75. Carmen Austin of Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate brokered the deal, representing both the purchaser, Ohio-based Carnegie Companies, and the seller, GLSK LLC.
(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)

All over the planet, countries missing emissions targets

When President Obama speaks at the U.N. Climate Summit, The Washington Post reports, he will be able to make a decent case for what the United States has done to help. His administration has tightened fuel efficiency regulations, followed through on mercury rules for existing coal plants, pressed India and China on controlling potent hydrofluorocarbons, and used tax breaks and Energy Department funds under the stimulus act to promote wind and solar energy. He will also boast about a smattering of other new initiatives—including an order that federal agencies factor resilience to climate change into international aid and investments. And he can also highlight the formation of a public-private partnership to figure out how to voluntarily lower the release of methane by natural gas producers. Yet it isn't enough. Not nearly. Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, driven by a hunger for energy as economies grow. Even many industrialized countries are going to...

Case Study: What can be done to manage online reviews of my company or product?

How your business leverages positive comments while managing negative reviews, and learning from them, is crucial to its success. Digital reviews are becoming increasingly influential, so Business Report recently asked three local business professionals—BlinkJar Media founder and CEO Jared Broussard; Covalent Logic CEO Stafford Kendall; and Gatorworks founder and President Brian Rodriguez—for their thoughts on the best way to manage an online reputation. Broussard suggests five tips for managing negative reviews, the first of which is just being aware of your online presence and reputation. Along with using tracking software and claiming your business profiles on review sites to best manage what people are saying, he says you should have a process in place for responding to negative reviews. "When your business responds to a negative review, it shows that your business cares and values feedback from the consumer," he says. The task of managing everything that's...

BRAF real estate arm buys Main Street building for $2.2M

Commercial Properties Realty Trust, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation's real estate company, has purchased the downtown building at 500 Main St. that is home to Stantec, formerly ABMB Engineers, for $2.2 million. In a sale that closed on Thursday, CPRT 500 Main LLC—which was incorporated in May by Commercial Properties General Counsel Ty McMains—purchased the building from Highland Road Properties Inc., which is owned by Mike Bruce, Mike McGaugh and Steve Boudreaux. All three are principals of ABMB, which was acquired by the Canadian engineering firm Stantec in 2012. Bruce declines to comment on the sale this morning, but sources familiar with the transaction say the firm has no plans to move at this time and will continue to lease the building from CPRT. A BRAF spokesperson did not return a call for comment by this morning's deadline. Last week CPRT celebrated the...

Mid City butcher shop to open in mid-November

Steven Diehl of Good Diehl, a personal chef service, is bringing a new butcher shop and quick service restaurant to Mid City in mid-November. Called Twine: Modern Meat Market, the shop will offer cuts of meat along with prepared dinners and side dishes, made with locally sourced products. "I am excited to open a market that will benefit local farmers and bring great products to the shelves for purchase all week long," Diehl says in a press release issued this morning. Diehl says he hopes to connect shoppers with the sources of their food and build a relationship as their butcher. Twine will also be open six days a week for lunch, focusing on a carryout service. Twine will occupy the former Unique Catering building at 615 South Acadian Thruway, a block south of the thruway intersection with Government Street. "We love Mid City, and there's not a shop in the area that offers anything similar. We feel like the area would appreciate what we have to offer," Diehl says. The shop will draw...

'Times-Pic' request for Kenner to rebid ad contract falls on deaf ears

The Kenner City Council has decided, for now at least, not to reconsider its selection of The New Orleans Advocate as the city's official journal of record. Earlier this month, NOLA Media Group, which owns The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, accused Advocate President and COO Dan Shea of inflating the newspaper's circulation data in the New Orleans area and asked the Kenner council to reconsider the contract it awarded The New Orleans Advocate in June, making it the city's official newspaper. At its regular meeting Thursday night, however, council members cited an opinion from the Kenner city attorney, saying there is no legal reason to throw out The Advocate's bid. At least one council member also said circulation data was not the basis for awarding the contract. NOLA Media Group Executive Vice President David Francis, who testified at Thursday's...

Tin Roof Brewery sells land on Oklahoma St. to BRAF for $350K

Land purchased by the Tin Roof Brewing Company last year for $115,000—once the planned location for a new brewery—has been sold for $349,308 to an entity affiliated with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's office. The vacant property at 635 Oklahoma St., at the intersection of River Road, measures just under 1 acre. Tin Roof bought it last August, just before plans for the nearly 30-acre, $50 million Water Campus research and office park were publicly announced in December. Construction of the Water Campus' first building is set to begin before the end of the year, less than a block from the parcel BRAF has purchased from Tin Roof. BRAF is a key partner in the development of the Water Campus. Tin Roof Brewing co-founder William McGehee III says the sale hasn't interfered with the brewery's...

'225 Dine': Ryan Andre to be executive chef of City Pork's second BR location

Ryan Andre, a local chef who previously worked at Le Creolé, has been named the executive chef for City Pork's second Baton Rouge location, 225 Dine reports. The restaurant is slated to open sometime this fall at 7327 Jefferson Highway, in the former location of Dempsey's. Andre has teamed up with the City Pork brand and says he's excited to bring his flavors to the restaurant. Already, he's started collaborating with City Pork Deli & Charcuterie executive chef Troy Deano on a menu for the new location. "We complement each other well," Andre says. "We're going to bring Louisiana flair to every dish. We'll be incorporating German, Asian influences and more, but keeping it local, using fresh, Louisiana ingredients." The new location will not include a butcher shop, as the original does, but will instead focus on the dine-in experience. Andre and Deano say the feel will be approachable and casual, but they want to impress local diners with the food. Construction on the interior...

Marriott owner still mulling possible sale of iconic high-rise

As of this afternoon, the Marriott at Interstate 10 and College Drive is not under new ownership. That's because no decision has been made yet by the hotel's owners on whether or not to accept the $21.4 million high bid made during an auction that closed Wednesday afternoon. The high bid did not meet the reserve, or minimum, price lenders were seeking, says bankruptcy attorney Brett Furr, who was not directly involved with the auction but represented the hotel lender—CCMS—in 2013 during foreclosure proceedings. CCMS is now trying to determine whether to accept the high bid, further negotiate with the bidder or "put a for sale sign on it." The online auction drew 10 bidders, according to Furr, who says he is not aware of the identity of the winning bidder. "They're playing it pretty close to the vest," Furr says of CCMS. Though it is unknown what CCMS set as the...

Social media lessons from Mike the Tiger

You probably don't know Ginger Guttner, but if you follow any of the official social media profiles of Mike VI, LSU's live mascot, then you've seen her work. And that's the way Guttner likes it: She wants you to interact with Mike online and forget that she's the human being behind the tiger's tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram pictures. "People really get into the fact that they think they're talking directly to Mike, and I don't want to interfere with that," says Guttner, who shared with the Baton Rouge Social Media Association this afternoon the evolution of Mike's online presence since LSU first made an official Facebook page for him in 2010. "People want Mike, not the administrator." While that may seem obvious, Guttner says it wasn't back in 2010, when she "fell into the gig" of handling MIke's online presence as director of public relations for the LSU Veterinary School of Medicine. Today, Guttner cringes while recalling her first Facebook post on Mike's official page: a dry...

News alert: Marriott auction closes with $21.4M bid; Wampold out of the running

An online auction of the iconic high-rise Marriott Hotel off Interstate 10 and College Drive closed this afternoon with a high bid of $21.4 million, says developer Mike Wampold, who was not the top bidder. The high bid did not meet the reserve, or minimum, price that lenders were seeking so it is unclear if they will accept the bid, negotiate with the high bidder—whose identity is unknown—or put the property back up for auction. Wampold was among those who bid on the 299-room hotel, but says he bowed out earlier today after the price climbed above his $13 million bid. Wampold says he was interested in the 43-year-old hotel but that it needs a significant renovation with an estimated price tag of between $50,000 and $60,000 per room, or between $11.4 million and $13.7 million. Lender CCMS, a trust, seized the hotel in May 2013 from Columbia Properties Baton Rouge, which owed more than $32 million on a $36.5 million promissory note. Three months later, it bought back the...

Bengals & Bandits opens 'pop-up store' inside Dyson House

Eric Hedrick, owner of Bengals & Bandits, is trying out a new "pop-up store" inside the Dyson House antiques and gift store at 7575 Jefferson Highway, just across from Towne Center. "As far as we know, we're the first retailer in Baton Rouge to do something like this," says Hedrick, who began filling up about 300 square feet of space inside Dyson House with Bengals & Bandits merchandise on Monday. "We were looking for a space in that area of town that we could put our toe in the water without having to completely commit to a long-term lease, and this was a great way for us to do that." Hedrick says he and Dyson House owner Louis Landry have agreed to keep the pop-up store open through at least the end of the year. "And then we'll sit down in January and look at the numbers and see where we're at, but the goal is to do it year-round," he says. Bengals & Bandits has been selling LSU gear at its brick-and-mortar store at 3340 Highland Road, just outside the LSU North Gates, for years.

Baby Lane to join Bumble Lane in Towne Center

Bumble Lane spa owner Casey Little says plans are unfolding for a sister store at Towne Center to be called Baby Lane. Baby Lane will sell children's merchandise, such as children's clothing, keepsakes and bedding, Little says. It's only two doors down from the spa, separated by the children's haircut boutique Pigtails & Crewcuts. The 2,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open in November. Little expanded Bumble Lane four years ago. He says the idea for the new space came out of necessity. The children's merchandise sold in the retail space in Bumble Lane does very well, "but it doesn't make sense to keep expanding that selection in that space," Little says. He hopes the two businesses will complement each other, and says Baby Lane will partner with Bumble Lane to offer spa party baby showers. —Kelly Connelly

'Business Report': From humble beginnings in garage, PreSonus changing global music industry

"The sleek contoured interior of audio engineering company PreSonus Audio Electronics' office resembles the designs of the recording equipment, audio mixer boards, and speakers created within these walls. And although the company moved into its new 44,000-square-foot headquarters six months ago, the new-car smell has yet to wear off," reads the new Business Report cover story on the rapidly growing Baton Rouge company that got its start in a south Louisiana garage and has since gone global. PreSonus was launched by former high school and LSU classmates Jim Odom and Brian Smith in 1995. "Late into the night after their day jobs as engineers, they worked in a garage warehouse that was part of a sonar company owned by Odom's uncle," reads the cover story. It took about a year for Odom and Smith to create the first product that could digitally control the dynamics of an analog audio signal. At the time, the other options were in high-end equipment that cost more than $100,000.

Despite marketing materials, BRAF says Acadian Village not on the market

HFF, a national real estate firm based in Dallas, is circulating an offering memorandum for the Acadian Village shopping center, Commercial Properties Realty Trust's retail development at the intersection of Perkins Road and South Acadian Thruway. But a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which owns CPRT, says the 11-month-old shopping center is not on the market. "The Foundation and CPRT are repositioning real estate assets," says BRAF spokesman Mukul Verma. "In doing so, we are getting an indication of the value of the assets. Only after that will we decide which, if any, assets will be sold." The 40-page offering memorandum suggests otherwise. According to the document: "An exceptional opportunity has been created to acquire Acadian Village, a 100% leased, 79,920-square-foot, grocery-anchored retail center located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana." The document goes on to say the property "is being offered free and clear of any existing financing thus allowing investors to...

How to do PARK(ing) Day right

The return of the global event PARK(ing) Day to Baton Rouge this Friday will create temporary mini-parks at 16 sites across the city—and will probably cause countless double takes from confused passersby.

Several BR businesses file plans for remodeling projects

LeBlanc's Food Stores, which will open up a LeBlanc's Frais Marche supermarket to replace the closed Hi Nabor in the Drusilla Village Shopping Center, has submitted a plan review application with the Department of Public Works, signaling the impending construction. Donnie Jarreau Real Estate bought the shopping center for $10.5 million in April, promising a facelift and new tenants. According to the application, the store will be over 30,000 square feet, which will be a significant expansion from the former Hi Nabor store, which measured about 19,000 square feet. Robert Holtzclaw from Monroe is the architect on the project. Renovations are expected to take between three and four months. The application is among a number received by DPW recently from Baton Rouge businesses with...

Mid City alliance disappointed with Circle K plans for Government site

The Mid City Redevelopment Alliance is disappointed with the Planning Commission's vote on Monday evening to approve plans for Circle K to expand its footprint at Government Street and South Foster Drive because the plan doesn't align with the city-parish master plan or the alliance's pedestrian-friendly goals for the area. Planning Commission Resource Center Coordinator Gilles Morin says the commission staff recommended denying the Circle K request because it doesn't fit with the area's urban design overlay district. Samuel Sanders, executive director of the MCRA, says he wishes Circle K had contacted the alliance with its plans before it went before the commission. "It's a challenge for us; while we welcome the investment, we would also appreciate alignment to the overlay district," Sanders says. Circle K plans to raze the existing gas station and car wash at Government and South Foster and rebuild a new 4,400-square-foot station and 1,040-square-foot car wash on site.

Alvarez buys 44 lots at $2.5M for Coursey area subdivision

Alvarez Construction has purchased land for a new 44-lot subdivision called Parkview Point, located off Stumberg Lane near Coursey Boulevard. The land was sold by DAGR LLC for slightly more than $2.5 million, according to paperwork filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. According to Sebastian Alvarez, executive vice president of planning and development, construction will begin before the end of this month and the neighborhood will be finished in eight to 10 months. Homebuyers will be able to move in even sooner than that, he says. "We can have a house finished in 65 days," Alvarez says. Homes will be built with a minimum of 1,600 square feet of living area. Alvarez says the homes will be priced beginning at $220,000. "It's a great location. The Coursey-Bluebonnet corridor has always been a really strong area," Alvarez says. The land purchase included a 1.3-acre common area for a pond at the entrance to the subdivision. —Kelly Connelly

Cook: Prairieville site purchased for new Keller Williams First Choice office

Bruce Johnson has purchased a roughly 1.7-acre site near the intersection of Airline Highway and Commerce Centre Drive, near La. 42 in Prairieville, from Neighbors Federal Credit Union. According to Justin Langlois with Sperry Van Ness, who brokered the transaction, Neighbors had acquired about 2.6 acres at the site a few years ago and is selling off a portion of their original purchase to Johnson. The sale closed for $495,000, or about $6.70 per square foot. Neighbors is retaining slightly less than an acre of land at the corner of Commerce Centre Drive and Airline Highway. Johnson will construct a 6,500-square-foot office building for Keller Williams First Choice. First Choice was looking for a site to take advantage of the growth in the Ascension Parish market, and this site fit their needs, Langlois says. Construction of the building should begin sometime in the next few months.

Mexico's interest in US oil could crack open export door

U.S. oil producers anxious to export booming supplies of domestic crude may have another way around a ban in place since 1975, this one via Mexico. As Bloomberg reports, Mexico's state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has expressed interest in importing some of the lighter oil the U.S. has in abundance, swapping it for heavier Mexican oil that U.S. refineries are able to process. If approved by the U.S. Commerce Department, it would be another exemption permitted by President Barack Obama's administration, which this year let two oil producers sell a lightly processed form of crude overseas. The drive to skirt the 39-year-old ban underscores a transformation as new drilling techniques have taken the U.S. from depending on oil imports to producing so much crude that Congress is debating an end to the prohibition. Legislation hasn't advanced, though producers have found ways of circumventing the ban to reach overseas markets. "There is no appetite for lifting the export...

New angel fund looking for partners in BR

A new angel investor fund is looking for potential investment partners in Baton Rouge to raise some $4 million that will be used to help fund startup businesses along the 10/12 corridor. The fund, South Coast Angel Fund II, will be the second fund created by South Coast, a New Orleans-based entity established four years ago that creates early-stage venture capital funds. The first South Coast Angel Fund raised $2 million and invested between $300,000 and $500,000 each in five startups, including two in Baton Rouge and three in New Orleans. Fund executive Jon Atkinson says the second angel fund will be about twice as large, and that plans call for the creation of additional South Coast angel funds in the future. "The capital community in south Louisiana is not well-organized," says Atkinson. "That is the pain a lot of entrepreneurs are feeling." South Coast is one of the few committed angel funds in the state, which means members invest in the fund up front, decide collectively on...

Jindal to release comprehensive energy plan today

Gov. Bobby Jindal will today unveil a comprehensive energy plan during an address in Washington, D.C., to conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reports "the proposal includes familiar measures likely to rally Republicans, such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as a few ideas that haven't been as widely embraced by his party, including a call to lift the ban on American oil exports." By releasing these policy prescriptions before the next White House race officially begins, the newspaper says, Jindal is presenting himself as a candidate well-versed in public policy, noting the governor in April released what many considered to be the first policy paper of the 2016 race

Recommended Reads

President/CEO, Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce

Face-off

In 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered the acceptable limit for ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion. That standard was weaker than what many of the agency's scientific advisers had recommended. Since then, EPA has been reviewing its ozone rules, but President Barack Obama, reportedly wary of placing new regulatory burdens on industry, has delayed implementation. This year a court ordered the federal government to issue new ozone standards, and the new limit is expected to be between 60 and 70 parts per billion when finalized next year. Business Report asked an industry advocate and environmentalist to spell out their positions on the anticipated standards.

Right structure, right price

Owners generally structure a company sale in one of two ways—as an asset sale or a stock sale—and each has different tax implications.

Jumpstart

Between the two of them, Carey Guglielmo Jr. and Billy Haile have more than 45 years of industry experience at Nike Inc.

Leading the dairy

Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has brought in new managers in three departments since quality control problems earlier this year cost the company several accounts and threatened to tarnish the adored local brand.

Permits filed for Crispy Catch seafood restaurant planned on Perkins

The owners of the former Kean's Fine Dry Cleaning building near the Perkins Road overpass have submitted plans with the city-parish Department of Public Works to redevelop the property into a new seafood restaurant called Crispy Catch. According to plans submitted to DPW's office of permits, the restaurant at 3901 Perkins Road will measure 2,393 square feet and will include the former Kean's space, as well as 805 square feet from an adjacent storefront that is part of the building and 700 square feet of canopy space. The application was submitted in late July by Tyler Pizzolato, whose parents, Tracie and Cliff Pizzolato, acquired the building in May for $564,219 from Frank Kean. Cliff Pizzolato is estranged from his siblings, who own and operate Tony's Seafood in north Baton Rouge and also Louisiana Fish Fry Products. The two factions of the family are embroiled in a heated legal...

Downtown mixed-use project breaks ground with completion expected by next fall

Officials gathered downtown this morning to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Onyx Residences, a $7 million, mixed-use development including 28 apartments that is expected to be completed in about a year. A project of Commercial Properties Realty Trust—the real estate arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation—the five-story building at the corner of Third and Convention streets will also include 5,600 square feet of commercial space. The 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments will be located above the ground floor commercial space and will range from 600 to 1,100 square feet. They'll rent for between $1,600 and $2,500 per month, with each apartment featuring a home security and home management technology package from Monroe-based CenturyLink, as well as a balcony or terrace overlooking Third Street, Convention Street or the Shaw Center for the Arts. "Downtown has more than a dozen new restaurants, more class-A office space, a new Town Square, hotels, the Shaw Center for the...

With tech taking over in schools, bills arise across US to curtail data collection

This year alone, Louisiana was among 36 states that introduced new legislation on student information privacy and security, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research group. And as The New York Times reports, the state's bill—which prohibits public school employees from collecting information about students' political or religious beliefs, family income, relationships with ministers or doctors, and gun ownership, as well as protects students or prospective students from having to give school officials access to their personal social media accounts or email addresses—was among about 30 bills passed nationwide. The bills are emerging as technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives—with few controls on how those details are used. Now California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the...

Chevron shuts down pipeline feeding La. hub following accident, worker death

Chevron Pipe Line Co. has shut down a natural-gas pipeline that feeds Gulf of Mexico production to the Henry Hub storage and delivery point in Louisiana in the wake of a deadly accident over the weekend. The Wall Street Journal reports a contract worker performing routine maintenance on an offshore gas pipeline was killed Saturday and two other workers were injured, citing company statements. The accident occurred six miles south of Timbalier Bay off the southeast coast of Louisiana, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Chevron declined to identify the workers and offered no details about what happened offshore, but says the company has launched an investigation. The gas-handling line had a valve failure Saturday around 11:10 a.m., says Gregory Langley, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. There has been no sheen on the water since the incident began, he adds. Gas flows through the pipeline have been halted until the investigation and repairs can be...

Planning Commission to consider alcohol sales at Mall of Louisiana restaurant

The city-parish Planning Commission will meet this evening to consider rezoning and approval for several projects, including a request by the Red Robin under construction at the Mall of Louisiana for rezoning into a classification that would allow alcohol sales. The Colorado-based burger chain, which offers gourmet burgers and beer shakes, is expected to open before the middle of next month. Also this evening, the commission will take up a request from another restaurant, French Market Bistro, to serve alcohol in a shopping center near the Perkins and Highland roads intersection. Other items on the Planning Commission's agenda include approval of a proposed subdivision called Audubon Parc near Tiger Bend Road at Chippendale Drive that includes 47 lots for single-family homes;...

Reinventing AllBrands

When he was in the seventh grade, John Douthat had an encounter with a pig that he thought was a sure sign of his future career path.

Best investments now

If anything can be said to sum up 2014 thus far, it is that it has been a year of twists and turns. How's an investor to navigate the extremes? We asked three Capital Region financial advisers for their take on the most advantageous path toward a prosperous portfolio in the coming next year.

Cashing out?

By almost any business measure, the recent merger of two community banks—the Bank of Maringouin and Guaranty Bank and Trust Co. of New Roads—seems a winner. The transaction rewarded shareholders of the Maringouin company while enabling the larger Guaranty Bank to extend its reach and bring more services to newly acquired customers.
But business impacts aside, the transaction was not easy for employees and owners of the 110-year-old Bank of Maringouin. "There's a lot of history here," says bank president Mel Chustz, noting that the decision to sell was difficult.

Business checkup

With 2014 beginning to wind down, it's time to check in on the health of your small business. Financial ratios can be powerful tools to help you determine how your company is performing, says Danny Montelaro, executive vice president of Regions Financial Corp. What follows is his breakdown of the key financial ratios in each category, how to calculate them and what they tell you about your firm. While some ratios are universal, others will be specific to your industry or company; but either way, knowing which are important in monitoring the pulse of your business is crucial, as trends can tell you much more than individual measurements. The key financial ratios pertinent to virtually any business fall into four broad categories: liquidity, efficiency, risk and profitability.

Garage to globe

The sleek contoured interior of audio engineering company PreSonus Audio Electronics resembles the designs of the recording equipment, audio mixer boards, and speakers created within these walls. And although the company moved into its new 44,000-square-foot headquarters six months ago, the new-car smell has yet to wear off.

DFG sells properties

The industrial services company DFG Enterprises sold the facility it occupies at 3555 and 3605 Delta Drive in St. Gabriel for nearly $4.2 million.

La. GOP, Landrieu each release audits on senator's campaign flights

The director of the Louisiana Republican Party is accusing U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of charging nine commercial fights to her Senate account to collect campaign contributions at events around the state. As Gannett Louisiana reports, that's in addition to the four flights Landrieu already acknowledged, says Jason Doré of the state GOP office, adding that if Landrieu did what evidence gathered in a Republican National Senatorial Committee audit indicates, she could be guilty of violating federal election law. When a USA Today article first pointed out that Landrieu and several other members of Congress had charged campaign flights to their House and Senate travel accounts, Landrieu repaid the money from her campaign account, claiming it was an accounting error. She pledged an audit of her travel since she was elected to the Senate, and she released her audit this afternoon, a few hours after news of the GOP audit was released. Landrieu says her audit found a total of $33,727.02...

'Times-Pic' accuses 'Advocate' of inflating NOLA area circulation numbers

NOLA Media Group, which owns The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, has accused The Advocate of inflating its circulation data in the New Orleans area and is asking the Kenner City Council to reconsider the contract it awarded in June to The New Orleans Advocate, making it the city's official newspaper. In a letter sent Thursday to Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni, NOLA Media Group Executive Vice President David Francis says The Advocate's President and COO Dan Shea overstated the paper's New Orleans-area circulation for the first quarter of 2014 by 18% and for the second quarter by 22%. Francis says Shea also overstated Kenner circulation figures by 17% and 22% during the same periods. "Mr. Shea should have known these significantly lower figures," Francis writes. "Instead, he stood at the podium and told you inflated figures." Circulation data is important because the...

Mirabito: CATS' Touchdown Express for LSU games on a roll, could expand

The Capital Area Transit System's gameday service to and from the LSU campus, dubbed the Touchdown Express, is attracting more riders than it can logistically serve, says CATS CEO Bob Mirabito. Tickets for the available 1,000 seats were sold out for the first home game of the season against Sam Houston State last weekend. "We haven't even marketed it," Mirabito told a meeting of the Finance and Executive Committee on Thursday. "Most of it is word of mouth." Mirabito speculated that if the board invests in a targeted marketing campaign, it could triple or even quadruple Touchdown Express ridership. But first, Mirabito said, he needs to work with LSU to find a way for buses to make more than one trip from the stadium after the game. The university's post-game contraflow traffic plan limits options for the 20 Touchdown Express buses, each of which have 50 seats. Mirabito said he hopes to negotiate with LSU to open up one lane on Nicholson Drive for buses to be able to return to campus...

Uber works to meet gameday demand in BR, changes pickup plan

While the first home game of the LSU Tigers football season may have been a lackluster athletic contest, it was the biggest weekend in Baton Rouge yet for Uber, which began providing its UberX service here two months ago. It's not as though the transportation network company hadn't geared up for the expected increase in demand. The company sent out emails and social media announcements prior to the game last week, offering four suggested pickup locations near campus. Even so, drivers had a hard time keeping up with the calls. It's a good problem to have, says Tom Hayes, Uber's general manager in Louisiana. But it's still a problem that needs to be addressed. "We did hundreds of trips last weekend," says Hayes. "Now we're trying to take what we learned and make it better." To that end, Uber has changed its suggested pickup locations this Saturday from four to two: Aster Street near Gov. Claiborne Drive, and Nicholson Drive near Southgate Towers. Because Uber does not employ its...

Schlotzsky's returning to BR with Essen sandwich shop

Schlotzsky's Deli plans to return to Baton Rouge with a restaurant in the small strip center at 5565 Essen Lane, across from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The restaurant will occupy the two spaces formerly occupied by PJ's Coffee and Verizon Wireless. Property owner M.J. Wolfe, a New Orleans-area businessman, says he has signed a letter of intent with a franchisee group of the Austin, Texas-based chain and that the deli should be open by early 2015. Two prior Schlotzsky's locations—one on Jefferson Highway and another on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard—have closed over the past two years. But Wolfe is optimistic his new tenant will do well at the Essen Lane location because it is an experienced franchisee group with multiple successful Schlotzsky's restaurants in the south. Though the strip center is along one of the busiest thoroughfares in Baton Rouge, it has experienced high turnover. PJ's, which opened in 2009 after Starbucks closed, shut its doors...

CATS committee OK's moving forward with long-term contract for Mirabito

A Capital Area Transit System committee today approved negotiating a long-term contract with CATS CEO Bob Mirabito, following several closed-door meetings in recent weeks at which committee members reviewed his performance as head of the system. Donna Collins-Lewis, who sits on the CATS board as a Metro Council representative, will take charge of ironing out the details of the contract with Mirabito should the full CATS board also approve the committee recommendation at its meeting Tuesday. Last fall, the board approved a contract for Mirabito that runs through the end of this year. He was first hired on an interim basis in May of last year, at a time when several board changes and the resignation of former CEO Brian Marshall had left the transit system on shaky ground. A report Mirabito gave to the Finance and Executive Committee this afternoon included numbers that could...

Local firms take over contract to oversee $200M worth of EBR schools construction

CSRS and Tillage Construction have teamed up to manage some $200 million in construction projects for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, a deal that is worth $6.9 million over five years. The local firms came together earlier this year to buy out Garrard Group—an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm that had been CSRS's partner in the management of school system facilities projects since 1999. "When the contract came back up for bid it was an opportunity for us to take all the business local," says CSRS owner Curt Soderberg. "Instead of having a partner in Atlanta I have a partner here." Though specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, CSRS has a 75% share of the joint venture. Tillage Construction has 25%. For Tillage, the significance of the partnership is as much about opening new doors as it is about generating a steady stream of revenues. "This gives Tillage Construction an opportunity to expand the services we offer, and it will give us a good piece of new business,"...

Feds OK groundbreaking on Sempra Energy LNG project in La.

The Energy Department today handed critical government licenses to the Cameron LNG project in southwestern Louisiana, giving it final authorization to liquefy natural gas and ship it around the globe. FuelFix.com reports that with the government's move, Sempra Energy can launch construction on its $10 billion Cameron LNG project, planned as an addition to an existing import terminal in Hackberry. Today's action came in the form of the Department of Energy finalizing Cameron LNG's existing conditional license to export up to 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to Taiwan, Japan and other countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States. Cameron LNG secured a separate required approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June. Only one other would-be LNG exporter in the continental United States has been fully authorized to ship to non-FTA countries: Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass project, which is nearing completion in Cameron Parish after...

Task force looks for ideas to generate road money

Lawmakers have launched their latest effort today to try to chip away at a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge repair and improvement work across Louisiana, seeking ideas to raise new transportation dollars in an anti-tax environment. An eight-member task force created by the Legislature opened its work by hearing about the current state transportation budget, along with details of financing mechanisms used by other states to upgrade infrastructure. The panel includes lawmakers, Louisiana's transportation secretary, and construction and engineering industry representatives. The panel expressed concern that failed infrastructure could hurt the state's growing economy. "All the money in the world isn't going to solve our problems if we don't maintain our highways," Lafayette area lawmaker Rep. Terry Landry said. The panel agreed that problems couldn't be solved with one meeting. But, despite that similar efforts haven't accomplished much in the past, Sen. Robert Adley, the...

Secrest rebranding three Fit-Blendz locations, adding downtown restaurant

Doug Secrest is rebranding his three Fit-Blendz restaurants in south Louisiana and is planning to open a fourth restaurant in downtown Baton Rouge. The restaurants' new name is Spotter's, and Secrest says the signage at the Denham Springs, Addis and Hammond locations are all currently in the process of being changed. A new menu will be introduced in the coming weeks, says Seacrest, who was recently featured in Business Report. As for his plans in Baton Rouge for Spotter's, Secrest says he anticipates finalizing a lease by the end of this week for approximately 1,000 square feet space at 521 Third St., Suite B. "There's a real need in the market for alternatives to fast food," Secrest says. "We're all about giving people an option for meals that are served quick and also have high nutrition value. But, ultimately, we don't just want to give our customers a quick, nutritious...

BR ranked nation's ninth-best city for Hispanic entrepreneurs

A new analysis and ranking of the nation's 150 largest cities shows Baton Rouge is the ninth-best city for Hispanic entrepreneurs. The ranking by financial website Wallethub.com is based on Hispanic purchasing power and business friendliness, both of which the website weighted equally. Nineteen defined metrics relevant to those dimensions were used as benchmarks for the ranking, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Kauffman Foundation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Tax Foundation and others. For Hispanic purchasing power, Baton Rouge is ranked No. 7 nationally, while it is ranked No. 51 for Hispanic business friendliness. The website also ranks Baton Rouge as having the nation's fifth-highest rate of Hispanic entrepreneurship and the second-highest income growth rate for Hispanics. The latter is second only to New Orleans, which has an overall ranking of No. 14 on the list.

Kleinpeter brings in new managers as it continues addressing quality control

Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has brought in new managers in three departments since quality control problems earlier this year cost the company several accounts and threatened to tarnish the beloved local brand. Changes to the dairy's management team include a new plant manager, a new quality control manager, a new sanitation manager—which is a newly created position—and a new sales manager. The management changes are among several steps the dairy has taken in recent months to address problems with the milk's taste and shelf life, which were detailed in a Business Report cover story in May. In a video posted last week on the company's Facebook page, President and CEO Jeff Kleinpeter says in addition to the management changes the dairy has set up temperature checks for all milk systems. It also records the temperature of each delivery truck when it makes deliveries and uses hand-held computers to...

BR gets $1.8M federal grant to begin planning Nicholson corridor streetcar

A federal grant program will contribute $1.8 million to Baton Rouge for the planning and design phase of a 3-mile streetcar line on Nicholson Drive that would connect the LSU campus with downtown. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program—coincidentally abbreviated as the TIGER program, but with no affiliation to LSU—doled out $600 million in grants nationwide. Engineer Mike Bruce, with whom the city often consults on transportation issues, tells Daily Report this afternoon he doesn't yet have a timeline on the streetcar project, but hopes the grant will speed up the process. "There are no guarantees, but that's the hope," Bruce says. When Baton Rouge applied for the grant earlier this year, Bruce told Daily Report the TIGER grant program is highly competitive, with only about 5% of applying projects receiving funding. In the...

Brickyard South to open Friday in former Mud & Water location downtown

Brickyard South, a new bar in the former space of Mud & Water at 174 South Blvd., is set to open Friday at 5 p.m. Co-owners Andrew Bayard and Metro Councilman John Delgado acquired the space in early August. Since then, Bayard and a crew have been renovating the space, building an outside bar with a covering, and adding tables to the outside patio and booths to the interior. The configuration of the bar’s stage was also changed. Unlike its predecessor, Brickyard South will not be a full-scale live music venue, Bayard says. "We'll have a mix of cover bands and original acts," he says. "It will be a couple times a month, but this is more or less an entertainment venue that supplements with live music. We're more concerned with having a fun atmosphere that's like a dive bar." Unlike Huey's, which is also owned by Bayard and Delgado and focuses on classic cocktails, Brickyard South's drink selection will focus primarily on canned and bottled beers and pre-made shots. The bar will...

Level looking to purchase more lots in Rouzan, Engquist says

Outside of the real estate community it may have gone largely unnoticed when, in late August, Level Construction and Development acquired 21 lots in Rouzan for $1.43 million, or a little over $68,300 per lot. But the deal is significant for the TND, which has been ever so slowly getting off the ground since 2008. It marks the first time a major builder has come in to develop a significant chunk of inventory in the project, much of which developer Tommy Spinosa has—until now—done through his own construction company. What's more, Level is a solid, aggressive company and its owner, John Engquist, has deep pockets and a keen interest in Rouzan, which is located off Perkins Road near the Southdowns neighborhood. Engquist has already started on the 21 lots and has his eyes on more. "I think if this development goes like we think it will we'll get through these lots very...

'Business Report': Industrial space is the new hot property

It's a market situation that gets real estate professionals excited: As supply and demand begin to converge, deals happen quickly and prices start to rise. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, the market for industrial space is approaching that point in parts of greater Baton Rouge as big plant expansions generate the first ripples of new business activity. "Demand is extremely high," says Mike Eades, president of Ascension Economic Development Corp., which scouts available space in Ascension Parish for prospective tenants. "There's not a lot of vacant space here, and what there is goes quickly." Sales and leasing agents say activity is brisk throughout Ascension Parish and in some neighboring areas, with no sign of a slowdown. But while they welcome the rising interest in industrial properties, some strike a cautionary note about the possibility that prices could reach a tipping point. There's no denying the market is tight. Of some 25 million...

Andrews: Long-term, fixed-rate commercial financing remains elusive

I've been speaking with my banker friends recently about trends in commercial real estate finance and have been told of an increase in borrower requests for long-term, fixed-rate (LTFR) financing. The request makes sense, given that rates are currently at historically low levels and some economists are projecting increases in 2015. The challenge is that banks typically do not fix rates beyond three to five years without some extenuating circumstance, such as a strong borrower, a strong tenant, low leverage or a combination of such factors. Of course there will always be stories told by a borrower who reports to having received such financing from a bank, but those situations will be the exception rather than the rule. The bankers I spoke with agreed, saying that they might entertain a LTFR loan for the strongest deals, but that their banks would not have any special programs available. There certainly might be some banks that have put together a special pool of funds available for...

Cook: Rickey Heroman's Florist building new shopping center near Bass Pro Shops

Rickey Heroman's Florist has purchased a 1.5-acre site on Bass Pro Boulevard in Denham Springs for construction of a new shopping center that will house the florist. The property is situated near the Bass Pro Shops outdoors superstore. The sale closed last week for $936,805, or about $14.33 per square foot, and was brokered by Joe Moore at Re/Max First and John Buzzell at NAI/Latter & Blum. Heroman, who purchased the property under HS Family Properties, intends to construct a 15,000-square-foot retail center that will be designed by Ritter Maher Architects and constructed by Cangelosi Ward. "We pre-leased about 60% of the center," says Buzzell, who is marketing the center. "Rickey Heroman's Florist will occupy about 4,500 square feet, and we have leases to Firehouse Subs and Red Wing Shoes, too. We have had strong interest in the remaining space, but are looking for the right tenant." Construction should begin sometime in the next few weeks.

Refiners, producers battling over crude exports

The battle between oil producers and refiners over exporting U.S. crude is heating up. FuelFix.com reports it started when four refiners blasted the government's decision to green light some exports of minimally processed condensate, suggesting the private rulings ran afoul of the 1975 law that bars most U.S. crude from being sold overseas. United as Consumers and Refiners United for Domestic Energy, the refiners Alon USA, PBF Energy, Monroe Energy and Philadelphia Energy Solutions have asked the Commerce Department to effectively overrule the previous orders on the exportability of that ultra-light oil and send a warning to other companies that no more exports would be in the offing. On Monday, an association of oil producers fought back. The Independent Petroleum Association of America blasts the CRUDE refiners group for mischaracterizing the Bureau of Industry and Security's decisions on processed condensate in "a thinly veiled effort to limit competition." IPAA suggests the...

'Business Report': What are the best practices for managing customer relationships?

In today's business world, the mention of customer relationship management might bring to mind a software tool that helps businesses track, record, store and then data mine customer information. But as local business professionals tell Business Report for the magazine's latest Case Study feature, customer relationship management can simply be providing customer service excellence and nurturing relationships. With more choices in the marketplace, retaining existing customers is a constant challenge, and it remains as important as ever to make a customer, not a sale. "Too often, customers are taken for granted, and some businesses lose sight of the fact that the customer has chosen to do business with them," says Amie Barton, Regions Bank business banking relationship manager. Sam Cavett, general sales manager at Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge, says "in order to establish and maintain lasting customer relationships, leadership must design, implement and follow a strict system of...

Walk-On's temporarily benching downtown 'Halfcourt' concept, expanding Happy's

Instead of establishing a new scaled-down version of Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar in the Lee Overton Building on Third Street downtown, officials with Baton Rouge-based Walk-On's Enterprises say they'll use the roughly 2,500-square-foot space to expand the neighboring Happy's Irish Pub that they also own. The company will now look for a larger space downtown for its new Walk-On's Halfcourt concept, says President and CEO Scott Taylor. Walk-On's announced in June its plans to open the new concept in the Overton Building, which it has leased for several years and is currently vacant. However, after discovering the space would only accommodate about 60 guests, Walk-On's co-founder and co-owner Brandon Landry says the game plan changed. "We still believe Walk-On's Halfcourt is a perfect fit for downtown, bringing a much-needed sports bar along with all the great eats and sights Walk-On's is...

La. agencies paying above-market office rental rates to Benson, audit says

Louisiana state agencies are paying above-market rates to rent office space from New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, and the state is paying $625,000 for space it isn't using, according to an audit released today. As The Associated Press reports, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office reviewed the lease, which was negotiated by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration in 2009 as part of a package of incentives that replaced a previous state deal with the NFL team. The deal keeps the Saints in New Orleans through 2025 and scrapped direct cash incentive payments the state had been making to Benson, in exchange for improvements to the New Orleans Superdome and the office lease arrangement. The Jindal administration has said the deal saves the state millions it would have paid under the old deal, while also keeping an economic driver for the state. Louisiana entered into a long-term lease to rent about 323,000 square feet of office space in downtown New Orleans from Benson's company Zelia...

Enraged La. shrimpers to stop work over low prices

Louisiana shrimpers this morning are kicking off a moratorium on harvesting to protest falling shrimp prices at the dock. The work stoppage, which is of an undetermined length, was decided upon at an informal, standing-room-only meeting of the Louisiana Shrimp Association attended by more than 250 shrimpers from across the state on Friday. "This is not a strike," association president Clint Guidry tells Gulf Seafood News. "This is a fisherman-initiated work stoppage." Shrimpers say prices they are paid for the shrimp they catch are falling below profitable levels. "Opening day of the May season we got $2.70 for 40-50s," The Comet quotes New Orleans shrimper Warren Delacroix as saying at Friday's meeting. "Right now they are $1.35 at some of the docks." "On the New York market the price hasn't fallen but a nickel or 10 cents, but it has fallen for us at...

'225 Dine': Curbside Burgers food truck rolling back into BR in October

Nick Hufft is planning to bring his popular food truck, Curbside Burgers, back to Baton Rouge, 225 Dine reports. Earlier this year, Hufft announced his plans to sling burgers inside the new Barcadia, which is slated to open this fall in the former Serranos on Highland Road near LSU. Hufft says he's in the final stages of getting the engine of his original truck repaired and is hoping it will be up and running by the beginning of October. The New Orleans native came to Baton Rouge to attend LSU in 2003 and started Curbside Burgers in 2010. After finding success in the Capital City, Hufft partnered with Barcadia in New Orleans and moved back home in 2013. "I didn't want to close [the Baton Rouge food truck] down, but it was becoming difficult trying to balance two locations in two cities," he says. "The support here is overwhelming and I'm excited to get back...

New software development center to create 245 jobs in Lafayette

St. Louis-based IT consulting services firm Perficient announced today it plans to open a new software development center in Lafayette. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined company officials in making the announcement, championing the project for the estimated 245 new direct jobs and 248 indirect jobs it will create. "Once again, our business climate, our quality colleges and universities, and our outstanding environment for technology investments in Acadiana have combined to produce a great win for Lafayette and our state," Jindal says in a prepared statement. Perficient plans to begin hiring in the fourth quarter, and will launch its operations before the end of the year. The firm is aiming to have made at least 50 hires by the end of 2015 and reached full employment within six years. At that time, the company is expected to have an annual payroll of $16 million in Lafayette. "We spent several months carefully assessing multiple markets and options across the United States for the build-out of...

BREW returning for fourth year with new Big Think event

Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week will feature a new daylong event when it returns for its fourth year in mid-November. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber announced this morning that it's teaming up with the Louisiana Technology Park to present Big Think, which will feature national speakers and panel discussions on entrepreneurship and will culminate with a Companies to Watch awards ceremony. The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Manship Theatre in downtown. "Entrepreneurship is central to our region's economic development strategy," BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp says in a statement. "The Big Think will bring together resources to support entrepreneurs, host national thought leaders, present compelling local success stories and highlight emerging trends." Tickets for Big Think range from $45 to $125, with discounts available for BRAC investors. BREW events will take place at venues across Baton Rouge during the week of Nov. 17-21.

Two BR credit unions merge

A pair of Baton Rouge-based credit unions have merged. Officials from Louisiana Farm Bureau Credit Union, which has no physical branch location but has serviced Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance employees since 1971, say they sought merger proposals from "some of the area's larger credit unions." They ended up selecting Pelican State Credit Union to merge with, due to "its family-like atmosphere and the distance it goes to help its members," officials say in a press release. Financial terms of the merger were not disclosed. Louisiana Farm Bureau Credit Union will now operate under the Pelican brand. "The merger gives Farm Bureau members access to 11 full-service locations, an ATM in Farm Bureau's main headquarters and an array of products and services not previously available including checking accounts, free credit counseling and online banking," says Pelican CEO Jeffrey K. Conrad in a prepared statement. Of Pelican's 11 locations throughout the state, local branches are located in...

RDA member buys former Pizza Hut property near Ardendale project

House on the Hill LLC, an entity attached to a Beauregard Town development project led by Susan Turner, who also sits on the board of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, has purchased property near the Ardendale development, an ongoing RDA project. House on the Hill bought the site of a closed Pizza Hut at 5175 Florida Blvd. for $154,500 from the Bank of New Orleans, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. The property sits near the intersection of Melrose and Florida boulevards, about a mile from the proposed Ardendale site. Ardendale will be a mixed-use development that includes community college buildings and a career academy high school set to open in 2016. —Kelly Connelly

MAPP part of joint venture tapped for LSU Taylor Hall construction

Skanska USA announced this morning that it has signed a $54 million contract to handle the renovation and expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall on the LSU campus. Skanska USA, whose parent company is headquartered in Sweden, says it will construct the project in a 70/30 joint venture with Baton Rouge-based MAPP Construction. Construction of the expansion to Taylor Hall—which will add approximately 126,000 square feet of classrooms, student support areas, engineering wet labs, office space, research labs and a new 200-seat auditorium—is set to begin in November. Work to renovate the existing building will begin in January, Skanska says. The LSU College of Engineering will see its available space in the hall, which currently measures about 306,000 square feet, double when the project is completed in June 2017. LSU announced in February that the College of Engineering had exceeded...

'Business Report': Can Tigerland be saved?

In 1971, 19-year-old Don White moved out of the Sigma Chi fraternity house on the LSU campus and into a brand-new apartment in Tigerland. As Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel notes in her cover story from the new issue, the neighborhood was less than a year old at that time. And White, then a sophomore, was doing what hundreds of other LSU students were doing: moving off-campus to Baton Rouge's hottest new neighborhood. "There was a lot of building activity going on back then," says White, who now owns and manages four Tigerland apartment complexes. "Tigerland was the place to live." While Tigerland remained a desirable location throughout the 1970s, by the 1980s it had begun a downward spiral that continued through the 1990s and reached its nadir sometime in the mid-2000s. "Today, Tigerland's future seems more questionable than ever," writes Riegel. "In the past three years alone, more than 1,700 units of new, upscale student housing have been completed around...

BR the nation's 45th largest export market in 2013, report says

With total merchandise exports last year of $6.3 billion, Baton Rouge was the nation's 45th largest export market, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Total exports from Baton Rouge grew by $441.3 million last year, compared to 2012 figures, or 7.6%. Exports from Baton Rouge accounted for approximately 13.6% of all goods shipped out of Louisiana, according to the report. Meanwhile, the New Orleans metro area recorded a record $30 billion in goods exported in 2013—a 23.3% increase from 2012—ranking it eighth in the nation. The Lake Charles metro area, with $5.7 billion in exports last year, also made a listing of the nation's top 50 areas for exports last year, at No. 49. Goods exports supported 282,540 jobs in Louisiana last year, the report says. Across the nation, exporting directly and indirectly supported an estimated 11.3 million jobs in 2013.

Commercial redevelopment planned next to downtown Raising Cane's

Downtown property owner Mike Crouch says he's ready to begin redeveloping the 4,000-square-foot, ground-floor space that is adjacent to Raising Cane's in his building at Florida Boulevard and North Third Street. For the past several months, Crouch has been preoccupied with the residential space on the second floor of the building, which is being redeveloped into three high-end apartments that will be available for short-term and corporate lease. Now, he is ready to turn his attention to the commercial space, which fronts Florida Boulevard and is next to Cane's. "It could be restaurant or retail," Crouch says. "We're not really sure yet but we have several people who are interested in it ,so we don't think it will be a problem." Crouch, who bought the historic building last year for $1.2 million, declines to discuss the status of negotiations over the neon Coca-Cola sign that sits...

BR called 'gold standard' for downtown development by 'Clarion-Ledger'

Readers of Jackson, Mississippi's daily newspaper The Clarion-Ledger woke up Sunday morning to a glowing headline and front-page story about the success of downtown Baton Rouge's redevelopment over the past two decades. "Baton Rouge: From vacant to vibrant," reads the headline to the story, which goes on to report that "from a growing residential population to a booming hotel industry, downtown Baton Rouge is accomplishing what Jackson leaders have envisioned for the heart of their own city: a renaissance." For Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, the story was an unexpected surprise and a welcome shot of free publicity. "They interviewed me back in the summer," Rhorer says. "I had no idea when the story was coming out. It's just great for Baton Rouge." Read the full story. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU-area condos purchased for $575K

An LSU-area condominium complex has been purchased by S.B.M.D. LLC for $575,000, according to land sale records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Records refer to the 10-unit complex as University Place Condominium. The complex, at 428 E. Boyd Drive, faces Janet Avenue and includes parking. The LLC is directed by Stanley Bienasz, an anesthesiologist who works with the Baton Rouge General hospitals. He bought the property from Lafayette-based BJD Properties LLC, represented by George William Buller III. Bienasz was not available for comment on his plans for the property as of this afternoon's deadline. Other recent land transactions of note filed with the clerk of court include:
• M & M Plumbing, located at 6757 Complex Drive, bought the building it was leasing for $304,000, according to Thomas Murray, a business partner.

Andrews: Local economic, housing prospects rosier than national outlook for rest of 2014

The good folks at Fannie Mae have reviewed our nation's economic progress over the first half of the year and have both good news and bad news for us. In a recent news release, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan notes improvements in the general economy and projects good things for the rest of 2014. "The August outlook supports our expectation that the economy will grow in the second half of the year at slightly above trend and push full-year growth into positive territory, albeit still weak by historical standards," says Duncan. "We expect the forecast will get a boost from consumer spending, which appears positive in the current quarter given the improving trends in personal income and hiring." But he doesn't have such positive things to say about the housing sector. "With respect to housing's contribution to growth this year, we have downgraded our outlook following the...

Cook: Local brokers open new Sperry Van Ness firm

Steve Legendre, Ben Graham and Justin Langlois have opened a new local commercial brokerage firm in association with Sperry Van Ness, a national franchise. "We partnered with Sperry Van Ness because it will give us a nationwide presence and provide referrals from sources we may not have gotten otherwise. The company will give us a national reach, coupled with local expertise," says Langlois. "It was the right time to make a move because the market is beginning to expand and we wanted to take advantage of that. The software that Sperry Van Ness provides is agent focused. The ease at which it does the mundane task of paperwork, allows the agent to do what they are supposed to do, which is get out and sell." The new company will be housed at 6160 Perkins Road, in exactly the same suite where Mike Falgoust and Edward Rotenberg opened as Sealy Falgoust Commercial Real Estate years ago. "All three new owners have worked together, either at the same company or on brokerage deals, over the...

Livingston has first site certified as development ready through LED program

A 93-acre site in Livingston Parish has become the first parcel of land in the parish certified as development ready through a program of Louisiana Economic Development, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Livingston Economic Development Council announced this morning. The land comprises the remaining available acreage in the Livingston Parish Industrial Park, located in Walker. Across the Capital Region, there are 20 LED Certified Sites. LED began the program in 2010, working with landowners and local officials to ensure sites are shovel-ready for major project development. To become a certified site, the property must either have all utilities and infrastructure in place, or have approved engineering plans to provide the utility infrastructure within 180 days. "Certified sites are crucial for the Baton Rouge area to succeed in securing new business," says Iain Vasey, BRAC's executive director of business development, in a prepared statement. "BRAC encourages industrial and commercial...

Holden helps kick off monthlong Trevor's Wish food drive

Mayor Kip Holden helped kick off a monthlong food drive in memory of Trevor Sims this morning, officially proclaiming September as "Trevor's Wish—Help Feed The Hungry Month" at an event at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Before dying of cancer on Oct. 16, 2013—just four days after celebrating his 11th birthday—Sims inspired the community to take up a weeklong effort to help feed the homeless and poor. The drive last year raised enough food and money to provide for over 433,000 meals. This year, those behind the food drive are aiming to raise even more. As 225 reports, the food drive kickoff festivities continue tonight with a party at Caliente Mexican Craving, 1072 W. Lee Drive, from 5 to 8 p.m. Those who bring one canned good will receive a free scoop of ice cream. The event, which coincides with September's Hunger Action...

The relative value of $100

How far does your money go? It depends on where you live.