Crushing the corridor campaign?
A campaign to promote the 10/12 corridor nationwide is on hold—for now.
At the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s request, GSD&M Idea City has revised the branding proposal twice—once to include the New Orleans region, and again to include all of Louisiana—in hopes of securing funding for a campaign from Louisiana Economic Development or another state agency.
However, at the 10/12 magazine Louisiana Leadership Forum in February, LED Secretary Stephen Moret announced he had hired Peter A. Mayer Advertising in New Orleans to produce a branding campaign for the state.
Moret did not respond to an e-mail about that campaign or whether he plans to use any of GSD&M’s work. BRAF Executive Vice President John Spain declined to comment, saying it’s too early to say what might become of the GSD&M campaign.
Critics have said BRAF should have hired a Louisiana firm to do the work, which could be a factor in Moret hiring Peter A. Mayer. But GSD&M has developed a number of high-profile branding campaigns, including those of Southwest Airlines, BMW and Wal-Mart.
GSD&M Senior Vice President & Chief Purposologist Haley Rushing, who oversaw development of the Louisiana project, says that by tailoring it to fit all of Louisiana, “we can create a strong case for government funding of a campaign that will help revitalize the entire state.” But she says the agency is waiting for a funding strategy before going into production and officially launching the campaign.
BRAF funded the initial project to brand the 10/12 corridor from Lake Charles to Slidell in hopes of differentiating the region. Last spring, however, the New Orleans region was added to the campaign, and in the fall, the effort was modified to include all of Louisiana in hopes of gaining support outside the corridor. That decision has proven controversial among corridor communities that bought into the initial concept.
GSD&M developed a series of advertisements called “Louisiana to the Rescue,” portraying the state as swooping in to save people from their mundane lives in other parts of the country.
Rushing says expanding the campaign to include all of Louisiana was a natural shift that won’t dilute the initial intent of promoting the corridor. “We can create a campaign that will restore the pride of all Louisianans,” she says, “and win the hearts and pique the interest of talented individuals around the world.”
Such a campaign will be pricey, however, which is one of the reasons BRAF is seeking an entity to take it over. GSD&M estimates upwards of $23 million for national exposure.—Penny Brown Font
Tip of the [InRegister] hat
Louisiana Business Inc., whose publishing portfolio includes Business Report and Daily Report, has acquired the social magazine InRegister, company officials announced earlier this month.
In addition to the monthly, full-color glossy magazine, LBI is acquiring Blacktie Louisiana, a licensed online site for nonprofit organization events, and InRegister.com, including the weekly e-mail, Kiki & Kate.
“Twenty years ago, Chris Russo Blackwood and her founding partner, the late Wanda Horn, launched a publication covering the capital city’s social scene,” said Rolfe McCollister, LBI chairman and CEO. “They built a solid brand, a successful business and a publication that others have tried to copy, but fallen short.”
Blackwood, president of Horn Media Consultants Inc., said the partnership would prove to be a good fit for the publication. “I know this move will provide new growth opportunities for InRegister and benefit our staff, readers, advertisers and community.”
Something to think about
When Gov. Bobby Jindal slammed the arts in his rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s address to Congress in February, he stirred some powerful emotions—and that’s not because his slam included poetry. Jindal’s criticism of the stimulus bill included claims that funding the National Endowment for the Arts did little to help Americans.
Enter stage right, the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In a public rebuttal, the nonpartisan association of 1,139 mayors responded with a breakdown of the nonprofit art community’s economic impact in Louisiana.
The U.S. mayors also thought it important to mention that while Jindal opposed the funding, which totaled only .00635% of the total bill’s cost, he was vacationing at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.—“an art and cultural national icon and a major draw for tourism.”—O.W.
• There are 7,013 “arts-related businesses that employ 27,117 people.
• Nonprofit art generates “$89.77 million in economic activity, supports 2,367 jobs and provides nearly $13 million in state and local tax revenue.”
• Louisiana launched the World Cultural Economic Forum post-Hurricane Katrina, showcasing “the link between the arts, economy and tourism.”
• A 2004 report from the Louisiana Cultural Economy Initiative showed that for “every state tax dollar spent, $5.86 is returned to the state treasury and citizens of Louisiana.”
• The stimulus bill will allow the National Endowment for the Arts to distribute $50 million to projects in all 50 states. In 2008, Louisiana received almost $1.5 million from the NEA.
$1.5 million x $5.86 = $8.79 million
Not a bad ROI.
Executive Spotlight: Brad T. Parks Sr.
Advanced Retail Systems
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge business owners are lucky Brad Parks isn’t closer to the ocean on a regular basis, otherwise he might have traded in business attire for flippers and an oxygen tank long ago. Rather than opening a dive shop, Parks is glued to his cell phone, helping his clients develop unique Point of Sale software for their businesses. It’s a passion that he dove into at the age of 29 and has kept him training and providing technical support to clients for eight years. For now, Parks keeps his flippers in the closet and his cell phone in his hand—that is, until vacation.
Want to find out more about Parks? Read the rest of his profile Q&A here.
Saving Green: Pump it up
A little-noticed provision of the stimulus bill includes incentives for geothermal heating and cooling systems in keeping with a broader national push toward renewable energy.
A geothermal heat pump (pictured) takes heat from the ground or ground water to heat a building, or moves heat into the ground or ground water to cool the building. Proponents say the process is more green than traditional heating and cooling because moving energy from one place to another is more efficient than producing it.
“I’ve been in the geothermal field since 1981,” says Alan Watts, CEO of Aweb Supply on Tom Drive. “Everything I personally own has geothermal on it, and it’s not just because I sell it.”
Watts says a home or business can save 40% to 60% on their heating and cooling bills with geothermal equipment. A top-of-the-line unit might cost almost 30% more than top-of-the-line air-cooled unit, or more than twice as much as a builder’s model air-cooled unit. But Watts says an equipment owner in the Capital Region can often make up the difference within five years.
“We’ve been promoting green before green was popular,” Watts says.
You can receive a 30% tax credit toward your own residential system, or a 10% credit or grant for a commercial project. A credit existed before the passage of the stimulus bill, but it was capped at $2,000.—D.J.
Fast Forward: Over and above
In an Jan. 16, 2001 Business Report story, “Against All Odds,” developer Richard Preis talked about the “radical transformation” that was set to happen at his Howell Place development in North Baton Rouge. Preis pointed to the Hilton Garden Inn, then set to start construction in a month, and said national retailers such as Albertson’s and Lowe’s were looking at building locations in the 200-acre tract.
The big-box retailers might not have arrived in Howell Place yet, but the development has become a cluster for hotels. “We’re a couple of years late, but we’re where we want to be,” Preis says.
A 78-room Microtel Inn and Suites opened a few weeks ago, and a 119-room Marriott SpringHill Suites is set to open by the end of April. Construction should start later this month on a Candlewood Suites, and a Holiday Inn Express is in the permitting process.
Another linchpin of Howell Place development has been medical facilities. The Greater Baton Rouge Surgical Hospital, the largest black-owned development of its kind in the U.S., opened in 2005, and a dialysis center opened several weeks ago. Between the hotels and the clinics, there are more than 1,250 permanent jobs—all created by the private sector without any federal, state or city assistance, Preis says.
In the next two or three months, construction should start on a 12,000-square-foot YMCA branch. And deals have been closed to build a 300-unit assisted living apartment complex and a mini-warehouse development.
The colorful and talkative Preis regularly says Howell Place is all about “bringing services to the people, vs. people having to go to the services.”—Timothy Boone
The Good Life: A taste of Italy
With each week, spring inches closer and sweet, crisp cocktails are almost always a part of the equation. But the good life is comprised not of cheap cocktails, rather legendary liqueurs up and with a twist. Enter limoncello.
Limoncello’s origin dates to the turn of the last century. On the Mediterranean island of Capri, limoncello is credited to a hotel owner who offered the yellow liquor to her guests. In Azzurra, limoncello is credited to a bar owner whose specialty was his nonna’s old recipe. And on southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast, large families always served limoncello to illustrious guests.
There are other stories that link limoncello to fishermen, who drank to fight off cold weather, and monks, who imbibed occasionally between prayers. No matter its origin, the popularity of limoncello has spread from Europe to the U.S., Great Britain and Australia.
Actor Danny DeVito helped give the drink notoriety when he appeared on the morning talk show The View in November 2006 reportedly still drunk from consuming limoncello the previous night. “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that was going to get me,” he said. Several months later, DeVito launched his own line of limoncello.
Although limoncello was originally a digestivo—an alcoholic beverage served just after a meal—that is best served cold, it has become a much-requested ingredient in colorful, trendy cocktails. It is easy—and relatively inexpensive—to make. Its only ingredients are sugar, water, lemon zest, alcohol [Everclear or 100-proof vodka] and time [anywhere from one week to more than one month] to mature.
For more immediate satisfaction, several quality brands of limoncello are sold in the Capital Region, including Limoncello di Capri [a personal favorite], Caravella and Danny DeVito’s.
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounces limoncello
Splash of fresh-squeezed lime
Combine first three ingredients in martini shaker; shake until cold; serve in martini glass; squeeze juice from lime wedge; serve over wedge of sliced lemon.
Pear Pleasure martini
2 ounces Grey Goose La Poire vodka
1 ounce limoncello
1 ounce apple juice
Splash of soda water
Combine ingredients in martini shaker; shake until cold; serve in martini glass over wedge of sliced pear.—Scott Gremillion
Fortnight March 11-24
March 11 – On this day in 2004 – The Legislature was encouraged by the Louisiana Board of Ethics to ban elected officials from receiving gifts of food and/or money from lobbyists or those that might seek to sway decisions. Last year’s ethics legislation imposed stiffer regulations that state officials have not fully implemented.
March 12 – The Louisiana Association of Business & Industry is conducting its annual Legislative Issues Conference to discuss upcoming priorities for the 2009 session relevant to the fiscal and regulatory practices of its constituents. For more information, go to labi.org.
March 14 – On this day in 1999 – Baton Rouge city officials announced that it had beat out Salt Lake City to host the 2005 American Bowling Congress—a projected $60 million boost to the economy. In order to fulfill the event’s requests, the Centroplex [now River Center] had to build a large exhibition hall. Now the facility, including the completed exhibition hall, is in need of further expansions to attract additional revenue, according to city officials.
March 18 – The fifth annual Louisiana Food Processors Conference is being held at LSU’s Lod Cook Conference Center. Louisiana Economic Development, the food processing industry and supporters will discuss challenges to the ever-changing industry. For more information, go to lsuagcenter.com.
March 21 – On this day in 2006 – The first public workshop to develop Smiley Heights, a mixed-use, mixed-income traditional neighborhood development, was held at the Bon Carré Business Center by Commercial Properties and Bardwell Development. Plans for the smart growth neighborhood came to an indefinite stall in early 2007 after failed talks with government programs and authorities that would have created conditions necessary to facilitate the development.
March 22 – For the fifth year, the U.S. Small Business Administration is hosting its Connecting Business with Contracts conference in Baton Rouge. Assisted by Southern University, the Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, the conference will educate participants on contracts procurement. For more information, call  589-2756.
March 24 – Community and business leaders will leave the Capital Region for Richmond, Va., and the 2009 canvass trip. The four-day visit allows participants to learn from the development and community issues of their host city in hopes of applying the knowledge gained to Baton Rouge’s strategy for growth.
Business of Politics
Editors note: This story has been changed since originally published.
Musical chairs in Senate race
There are still another nine months to go until the 2010 U.S. Senate race really picks up speed, but already there are casualties and new players surfacing almost weekly. While state and national Democrats have yet to coalesce behind a candidate to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, there is a bit of jockeying for the flag. Most recently, state Sen. Rob Marionneaux of Livonia threw his hat into the ring. He’s an anti-tax, conservative Democrat with enough personal wealth to get the ball rolling.
But he’s not alone. Also flirting with a bid is former Acadiana Congressman Chris John, who now serves as chief of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. While John is perfectly positioned for a reentry into politics, he’s staying quiet about challenging Vitter for now. He has the Blue Dog credentials that the electorate has taken a liking to in recent years, has access to deep pockets in the energy sector and is young enough to hit the road hard. “I’m sorry – at this time I have no comment,” John says.
Then there’s Jim Bernhard, CEO of Shaw Group and short-lived head of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Bernhard didn’t reply to a call for an interview, but he’s been shaking the bushes for months. Sources close to the party say his bank account has scared off a few potential candidates, but until he goes on the record, his campaign can be found in the “maybe” column.
As far as Democrats who have removed their names from consideration, look no further than Congressman Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville, who said many times last year that he was considering the contest. But as the only Louisiana Democrat in the Democrat-controlled House, his fortunes in the Lower Chamber are better than ever. Now he says it’s practically out of the question. “Never say never,” Melancon says, “but I’m not contemplating a run at this time.”
The GOP side of the race is just as interesting. Tony Perkins, the former GOP state representative and current director of the D.C.-based Family Research Council, briefly dipped a toe in the waters, but later decided against running. Additionally, Internet reports had former Congressman John Cooksey feeling out the field, but now he says it was just a rumor. Some are also encouraging Secretary of State Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge to take on Vitter in the Republican primary, but he’s staying mum.
Finally, there’s a sideshow element to this race as well: Baton Rouge native and porn star extraordinaire Stormy Daniels. Recruited by Democratic operatives to point out Vitter’s connections with an illegal prostitution ring, Daniels says she will be conducting a “listening tour” in Louisiana in the near future.
While Louisiana’s erosion problems are well-documented, new research has surfaced that shows a continuing loss of coastal wetlands in the eastern United States. The additional attention being given to the issue has its benefits, but it could also mean more competition for Louisiana when it comes to federal funding. The report, conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shows a loss of 59,000 acres each year in the coastal watersheds of the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from 1998-2004.
Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, says it’s time to take the message beyond the bayou. “This report shows the nation’s need to expand the effort to conserve and rebuild valuable coastal wetlands,” he says.
Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on board. Michael Shapiro, acting assistant administrator for water at the EPA, issued a written statement saying, “This report emphasizes the need for action to protect these valuable resources.”—Jeremy Alford
Clear for takeoff
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy announced that the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport would receive a $4.42 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen runway safety. Cassidy says the funding will help improve the airport’s operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration will administer the grant. Anthony Marino, director of aviation for the airport, sought money for resurfacing after the runways were torn up by heavy traffic following Hurricane Katrina. The airport also has a terminal expansion in the works, as well as $1.5 million in ongoing beautification projects and a five-level parking garage scheduled for completion in May.—S.C.
Divided we fall
Local officials are bringing in a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm to help create a strategic plan for three Baton Rouge business incubators, which critics say have historically not worked well together. New Economy Strategies will examine the Louisiana Business & Technology Center, the Louisiana Technology Park and the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center. It also will conduct case studies of five other cities to see how those cities manage similar assets.
Consolidating operations of the three incubators could be one option considered. “Everything is on the table,” says Adam Knapp of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which is supporting the effort along with LSU, Southern University, Louisiana Economic Development and the Research Park Corporation.—D.J.
New digs: Cornerstone Glass, formerly at Perkins Road and Acadian Thruway, has moved to Florida Boulevard as a result of plans to shave off a portion of the old location’s parking lot and convert it into a turn lane to help ease congestion at the intersection. Cornerstone’s old digs, a gas station in a previous incarnation, will soon disappear.
Busted! Officials from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the District Attorney’s office are meeting to work out a way to enforce laws against writing bad checks and prosecute people who break the law. One option is to set up a program where a business owner only needs to make one trip to the D.A.’s office to start a bad check case.
Cosmic discoveries: LSU researchers’ work in physics has been named among the “Top 10 Physics Discoveries of 2008” by the American Institute of Physics. LSU researchers Jim Matthews, John Wefel and T. Gregory Guzik were included for their work with cosmic rays. Matthews collaborates with the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina on cosmic ray research.
Show some appreciation: Home prices in metro Baton Rouge dropped by 0.3% during 2008, putting the city 100th on a list of how much house costs went up over the past year. According to the study, released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, local home prices fell by 0.7% from the third quarter to the fourth. But over the past five years, prices were up 33.6% in Baton Rouge.
Good growth: The number of Louisiana jobs during the second quarter of 2008 increased by 26,364 compared to the second quarter of 2007, according to figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Average employment for the second quarter of 2008 was nearly 1.9 million, an increase of 1.4% from the previous year.
A healthy jump: Amedisys posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, with net income rising 58% to $26.3 million, or 97 cents a share. That compares with the $16.7 million, or 63 cents a share the Baton Rouge-based home health company earned in the last three months of 2007. For the year, Amedisys had $86.7 million in net income, or $3.22 a share.
Chronic congestion: A study of traffic congestion in the 100 largest U.S. metro areas found that Baton Rouge was the only city to report an increase in 2008. Traffic congestion was up 6% in 2008, according to Inrix, a supplier of live and historic traffic information.