2012 Top 100 Private Companies list unveiled
Judging strictly by Business Report's annual "Top 100 Private Companies" roster, being released online this morning, the Capital Region economy appears to be on an upswing. More than half of the companies on the list saw their revenue fall in 2009, while only about a third admitted to a drop in 2010. But on this year's list, which is based on 2011 revenue, only 16 companies reported a revenue decline, and only a few slipped by more than 15%. While generalizations are always risky, and there are sure to be exceptions, things appear to be looking up on the whole. With 2011 revenue of $2.7 billion (an increase of 8.5% over 2010 revenue), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana retained the No. 1 spot on the 2012 Top 100 Private Companies. Turner Industries Group also held onto its No. 2 spot, but the rest of the top 10 spots have changed since last year. Access the complete list, as well as all of the Top 100 stories that accompany the list in the cover package of the new issue of Business Report
Pinnacle announces B.R. casino will open Aug. 29
As part of a quarterly report released this morning, Pinnacle Entertainment announced it's planning to officially open the doors of its $368 million L'Auberge Casino & Hotel in Baton Rouge at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Pinnacle says the grand opening will "feature memorable entertainment, dining experiences and an unveiling ceremony capped off with a stunning fireworks display." Details on entertainment specifics were not released, but are expected as the opening date nears. L'Auberge Baton Rouge will feature a single-level gaming floor measuring 74,000 square feet, with nearly 1,500 slot machines, 50 table games and poker room. The hotel is 12 stories, and has 205 guest rooms and a rooftop pool. There are four dining outlets throughout the complex, as well as a casino bar with views of the Mississippi River, a multi-purpose events center and outdoor festival grounds. The covered parking garage encompasses 800 of the 2,400 total parking spots on site. "We are so proud of our talented team members' hard work to date and are thrilled to share the premier casino in the region with our guests and the Baton Rouge community; including its vibrant casino, breathtaking riverfront views and distinct dining experiences," says L'Auberge Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager Mickey Parenton.
Today's poll question: Do you think the Baton Rouge market can sustain three casinos, as it will have once L'Auberge opens?
B.R. foreclosure, mortgage delinquency rates down
The percentage of Baton Rouge homes in foreclosure fell to 2.36% in May, according to a report released today by CoreLogic, down from 2.39% the month previous and 2.47% in May 2011. The local mortgage delinquency rate—that is, the percentage of home loans three months past due or more—also fell in May to 5.39%. That's down from 5.54% in April, and 5.59% a year ago. The slight declines in both rates are similar to those seen in April, as well as most months so far this year. The foreclosure rate was 2.41% to start the year, and the mortgage delinquency rate was 5.79%. Baton Rouge's foreclosure rate remains more than a full percentage point below the national average—which also edged down slightly to 3.41% in May. It also remains slightly lower than Louisiana's 2.48% foreclosure rate in May, which was down 0.16 percentage points from the year previous. See a map from CoreLogic detailing foreclosure rates by ZIP code in the Baton Rouge area here.
Obama lands in N.O. as state Democrats struggle
President Barack Obama arrives in New Orleans today to help kick off the National Urban League annual conference. But as The Times-Picayune notes, Obama is landing in a state where his party, less than a month before the qualifying deadline, has yet to find a congressional candidate for any district outside the black-majority seat held by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans. In short, while the president may have plenty of admirers in New Orleans—as well as across Louisiana and the Deep South—he doesn't have a whole lot of political allies. State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who seized control of the Democratic party from Buddy Leach in April, says this is a year for "grassroots rebuilding." But so too was last year, when the party failed to field a single major candidate for any statewide office, including governor. Rebuilding is certainly the order of the day for the Democratic Party across much of the South, where the party's fortunes are lower than at any time since the end of Reconstruction, and where black political influence has suffered a sudden, symbiotic decline. "Black voters and elected officials have less influence now than at any time since the civil rights era," David Bositis, an analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, wrote in a stark analysis late last year. Read the full story here.
Fight over drilling ban postponed—for now
The anticipated showdown between House Republicans in Congress and Interior Department officials over the Obama administration's decision to temporarily halt deep-water drilling after the 2010 Gulf oil spill won't materialize today, according to The Houston Chronicle. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., postponed his panel's planned hearing with Interior Department officials late Tuesday after he said the administration did not commit that the invited witnesses would attend the hearing. Hastings said the rescheduled hearing, expected to occur in September, would allow time "to ensure cooperation." The panel has been investigating how the Interior Department assembled a report that recommended a moratorium on some drilling in the Gulf of Mexico roughly a month after the lethal blowout of BP's Macondo well. The committee is probing whether the report was packaged and edited so that it appeared professional engineers and industry experts who peer reviewed the document signed off on the recommendations, including the urging for a moratorium. Eight of 15 experts named in the report insisted they did not endorse the ban recommendation and maintain it was added only after they reviewed the document. Administration officials have insisted that they never meant to mislead the public. And the Interior Department later edited the report to reflect the concerns. Read the full story here.
U.S. new-home sales fall to 350K
Americans bought fewer new homes in June after sales jumped to a two-year high in May. The steep decline suggests a weaker job market and slower growth could make the housing recovery uneven. The Commerce Department reports this morning that sales of new homes fell 8.4% last month from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000. That's the biggest drop since February 2011. Sales in May and April were revised much higher. June's sales pace is 15.1% higher than the same month last year. But sales remain well below the 700,000 annual rate that economists equate with healthy markets. "While a housing recovery is under way ... fits and starts are to be expected and clearly this summer is one of the 'fits,'" explains Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at BTIG LLC. Read the full story on U.S. home sales here. In Baton Rouge, however, the June report from the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors shows sales increased 13.5% from the year previous. Halfway through 2012, local home sales in the eight-parish region tracked by the GBRAR are up 19% over sales recorded six months into 2011. Read the full story on the local report from Daily Report here.
News roundup: Denham Springs Smoothie King takes top honors nationally once again … Louisiana's state tax holiday next week … Clarke named president/COO of The Camelot Club
Smooth moves: The Smoothie King at 1122 S. Range Ave. in Denham Springs is officially known within the franchise as "store #346," but they might as well change it to No. 1. The store, which was Smoothie King's "Franchise of the Year" four years in a row between 2005 and 2008, was recently named the franchise's "Store of the Year"—and it's not the first time the store has received the award. That's a high honor considering there are more than 600 Smoothie Kings operating in 32 states, the Cayman Islands and the Republic of Korea. The store is owned by Stephanie and Roger Wilder, and J. T. Davidson.
A penny saved: Louisiana's forthcoming two-day state sales tax holiday is aimed at helping small businesses recover from the recession. On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3-4, shoppers can make purchases free of the 4% state sales tax. The exemption applies to the first $2,500 of the purchase price of each eligible item. Local sales taxes will apply unless the local taxing authority allows its own exemption. The state tax holiday does not apply to vehicles, meals, admission to events and taxable services such as hotel occupancy or rentals. For complete details, click here.
In the club: Michael Clarke has been named president/COO of The Camelot Club. Clarke was the club's general manager in the early 1990s, when it was owned by Club Corporation of America. The club is now owned by Tom Tanner of Baton Rouge. "The Camelot Club was my first experience in Louisiana. It feels like coming home," says Clarke, who has more than 30 years of private club management.