News roundup:  EBR sales tax collections close 2014 up 3% … Firm to breathe new life into Pineville mill closed since 2009 with $2.4B investment … La. crawfish catch slow, but showing signs of progress

    The receipt: East Baton Rouge Parish netted approximately $180 million from the 2% city-parish sales tax in 2014, or about 3% more than the $174.8 million collected in 2013. According to the Finance Department’s year-end report, released Friday, collections inside the Baton Rouge city limits totaled $98.3 million last year, up 7% over the $91.9 million collected in 2013. Outside the city limits, collections totaled $81.7 million, a decrease of 1.5% from the $82.9 million collected in 2013. The totals include collections on vehicle sales, which are typically more volatile than collections on retail sales. Vehicle sales tax collections in the city-parish rose to roughly $15.1 million last year, up 5.5% over the $14.3 million collected the year previous. See the complete sales tax report.

    Here’s the plan: American Specialty Alloys Inc. will invest $2.4 billion in Pineville to transform an International Paper mill that closed in 2009 into a manufacturing facility that Louisiana Economic Development estimates will create 1,450 new jobs. ASA expects to break ground on the 1,200-acre mill complex later this year, with a targeted completion date of 2020. To secure the project—which ASA had been considering locating in several other Southern states, according to the Mississippi Business Journal—Louisiana is providing the firm an incentive package that includes a $34 million performance-based grant to offset site-related infrastructure costs, as well as other incentives. LED has more details on the project and the incentive package.

    A muddy outlook: When LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant agent Mark Shirley recently surveyed a crawfish pond south of Abbeville, he found both good and bad news for connoisseurs of crawfish—cold water, but a healthy supply of very small crawfish. As the AgCenter reports, Shirley says the catch has been slow for the area but not unusual for late winter. He found the pond’s water temperature to be 52 degrees, which is cold for cold-blooded animals like crawfish. They typically are not actively feeding under such conditions, which makes crawfish difficult to catch. But Shirley did find a good number of small crawfish, and says conditions are improving as the warmer spring months approach. Read the full story.

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