CATS board to explore restructuring options, but no vote expected
In anticipation of greater-than-usual interest in today's CATS board meeting, the transit agency has moved the meeting location to a space that can accommodate more people. The issue that's generating a lot of buzz is the much-anticipated report from a New Orleans-based consulting firm that will recommend a handful of restructuring options for CATS, including farming out management of the agency to a private company. But CATS board Chairman Jared Loftus says "privatization" is too strong a term to describe what will likely be in the report, which has been kept under tight wraps, adding that no vote on any sort of restructuring option will be taken this afternoon. "Privatization will not be on the table," he says, "but I imagine that making people understand what 'privatization' means will be part of the conversation." Loftus says "privatization" means turning over all the assets and liabilities of the agency to a private company, something CATS will not be considering today. Some sort of outside management contract, on the other hand, is an option that will likely be vetted in the weeks to come. Sources say several private companies will be considered for such a contract. Loftus says whatever is recommended today, the board will take it under advisement and spend several weeks discussing it in committees, executive session and future board meetings before voting on it. The CATS board meets at 4:30 p.m. at the BREC office at 6201 Florida Blvd. —Stephanie Riegel
Sandwich shop planned for former Loft 3H space
By the time the St. Patrick's Day Parade rolls in mid-March, a new sandwich shop hopes to be open for business along the parade route, in the former retail space of Loft 3H in the Perkins Road overpass area. "I like that area; I think it has a good vibe," says Josh Priola, who, along with his wife, Melissa Priola, is planning to bring Street Breads to the Capital Region. The Priolas moved to Baton Rouge recently to expand with a second store, and possibly a third, after opening the original Street Breads two years ago in Lake Charles. "We're not a bakery; we're a sandwich shop," says Priola, noting that there will be 15 sandwiches on the menu, as well as quesadillas, salads and desserts. Street Breads will also have a limited wine list and selection of locally made beers. While the sandwiches are "culinary-minded," Priola says, the linchpin of Street Breads' menu is the artisan breads it uses from around the country, shipped partially baked and devoid of preservatives that often come in bread. "Really what I'm trying to source is: What is the best bread available on the market?" Priola says. While the retail space will require slight renovations, Priola says the bulk of the work in the building will require installing new kitchen equipment. Priola says he plans to open March 16, the day that the 27th annual "Wearin' of the Green" St. Patrick's Day parade rolls. "We've got a catering rig. I'm hoping at the very least we can set it up out there," Priola says. —Adam Pearson
Faculty head says LSU has fewer commercialization obstacles
LSU, which long has had a reputation for not working well with the private sector, recently has made a concerted effort to improve its commercialization efforts, says LSU faculty senate President Kevin Cope. "I think we've made considerable headway, with the cooperation of the former chancellor, Mike Martin, in clearing away some of the obstacles," Cope says. "However, there is still a long, long way to go." Inconsistencies remain, he says, in the intellectual property policies at the various universities across the state, making it difficult for faculty members to collaborate across systems. Cope says improving economic development through technology transfer and commercialization is an admirable goal, as long as it doesn't take away from the broader mission of the university. For example, he says, having EA Sports at LSU is great, but it doesn't do much for the humanities. "Last time I looked, there weren't many video games in which Shakespeare went up against Tiger Woods," he says. —David Jacobs
B.R. industrial services firm acquires local company
Triad Control Systems, a subsidiary of Baton Rouge-based The Newtron Group, says it has acquired Control Systems Consultants, also located in Baton Rouge. Under the deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, CSC will now operate as Triad Control Systems, and its co-owner, Alan Cook, will serve as a manager for the company. CSC has been in business since 1974, providing electrical and instrumentation services, custom-designed controls and panel development for various industrial facilities. Triad Control Systems President Michael Redd says the acquisition allows the company to expand its services. "We can now offer our clients a complete control systems solution," he says in a prepared statement. Triad Control Systems is located at 8646 Kiowa Ave.
Number of working poor families grows as wealth gap widens
The number of U.S. families struggling with poverty despite parents being employed continued to grow in 2011 as more people returned to work but mostly at lower-paying service jobs, an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures released this morning shows. Reuters reports more working parents have taken jobs as cashiers, maids, waiters and other low-wage jobs in fast-growing sectors that offer fewer hours and benefits, according to The Working Poor Families Project, a privately funded effort aimed at improving economic security for low-income families. The result is that 200,000 more such families emerged in 2011 than in 2010, according to the report. About 10.4 million working families—or 47.5 million Americans—now live near poverty, defined as earning less than 200% of the official poverty rate, which is $22,811 for a family of four. Overall, nearly one-third of working families now struggle, up from 31% in 2010 and 28% in 2007, when the recession began, according to the analysis. The findings come three years after the nation's recession officially ended in the second half of 2009. Data shows that the top 20% of Americans received 48% of all income, while those in the bottom 20% got less than 5%, the report says. Read the full story here.
Oil companies read tea leaves to discern industry's future, formulate strategies
Predicting energy demand, population growth, policy changes and other global trends that will affect oil prices and industry strategy decades from now is far from an exact science. But as The Houston Chronicle reports, major oil and gas companies see value in trying. BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp. are among the companies that publish outlooks forecasting the future of the energy sector. BP's updated 2030 outlook is set for release Wednesday. The goal: to figure out what the energy world will look like in the future so they can make the most profitable exploration and production decisions today. By releasing their conclusions publicly, these companies also spark an annual conversation about the world's energy needs. "You have to know what the future framework is before you can make commitments that are in the billions to tens of billions of dollars," explains John Felmy, the American Petroleum Institute's chief economist. The challenge is how to forecast events 20 to 40 years from now in a field that changes regularly and is so unpredictable. Read the full story here.
News roundup: U.S. firms are expected to boost business travel spending in 2013 … Retail sales rose 0.5% in December across America … U.S. wholesale prices fall more than forecast
More for less: American companies are ready to write bigger checks for business travel this year. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Global Business Travel Association is expecting companies to spend $266.7 billion in 2013. That would be a 4.6% increase over last year. However, the group predicted that companies will trim total trips by about 1.1%. More details on the report can be found in the full story here.
Out of pocket: U.S. consumers increased their spending at retail businesses in December, buying more autos, furniture and clothing. The Commerce Department reports this morning that retail sales rose 0.5% in December from November, slightly better than November's 0.4% increase and the best showing since September. A 1.6% jump in sales of autos and auto parts led all categories. More details are available in the full story here.
On the way down: Wholesale prices in the U.S. dropped for a third month in December as food costs retreated, capping the smallest annual gain in four years and indicating there is little risk of a pickup in inflation. The producer price index declined 0.2% following a 0.8% decrease the prior month, according to Labor Department figures released today. Economists projected a 0.1% fall, according to the median of 77 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The full story has more details here.
Today's poll question: What do you think of the architectural design for the Knock Knock Children's Museum?