Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Thu, July 18, 2013

Investar buys Highland lot for new branch

Baton Rouge-based Investar Bank will build a new branch on a piece of vacant land off Highland Road that it purchased Wednesday, says Chris Pike of Mike Falgoust and Associates, who represented the bank in the deal. Investar bought the land, which is located in front of Alexander's Highland Market and measures about 30,000 square feet, for approximately $750,000 from Highland Marketplace LLC, which was represented by George Kurz of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate. "This deal has been in the works for years now; really, since that property was purchased (for Alexander's Highland Market) about six years ago," says Pike, who has represented Investar in its local land deals since the bank's inception. "They've wanted to let the grocery store and some other development take shape in that area before they started talking about closing on one of the outparcels, and we're finally there." Pike says he doesn't have any specific details on when the bank plans to build the branch, but speculates it will be sooner rather than later. "They bought this for immediate use," he says. "They didn't buy this to hopefully build something in the future. They want to locate a branch there right now." It would be Investar's third Baton Rouge branch, while it has two others in Mandeville and one each in Port Allen, Prairieville, Denham Springs, Hammond, Metairie and Lafayette. Investar reported total assets of $400 million at the end of March. —Steve Sanoski

Juice bar planned at Perkins Road overpass

The co-owner of Yoga Bliss is planning to bring a cold-press juice bar to the Perkins Road overpass-area space vacated last fall when Bosco's Frozen Yogurt shut down. Kim Matsko, whose Yoga Bliss studios are on Highland Road and South Sherwood Forest Boulevard, has signed a letter of intent with property owner Ryan Jumonville to lease the space at 3430 Perkins Road. She hopes to open the juice bar, which will also sell smoothies and health food items, later this year. "We actually wanted to open this at the studio (on Highland Road near Kenilworth) for a long time," says Matsko, who will be joined in her new venture by friend and Los Angeles restaurateur Samir Abdo. "But we didn't have enough space there, and then we decided to do cold press rather than juicing so we decided to get a separate location." Cold pressing is a more effective way of maintaining the nutrients in freshly squeezed juices, Matsko says. Blenders and juicing machines also run on electric motors, which introduce heat and air into the juicing process. "That makes the drinks airy and decreases their shelf life," notes Matsko. "This is a totally different process that uses stainless steel hydraulic plates to press the juice." Matsko and Abdo plan to bottle and sell their products both in the bar and at local grocery stores. Matsko also has plans to franchise the concept—which has a catchy name that she is not yet ready to disclose. —Stephanie Riegel

'225 Weekender': Art Melt celebrates 10 years

It has been an art-filled decade for Baton Rouge, and Art Melt has been there every step of the way. On Saturday, the Forum 35 Art Melt celebrates its 10-year anniversary at the Capitol Park Museum starting at 5 p.m. On Friday at 7 p.m., a preview party will be held at the museum, with artists, sponsors and industry professionals in attendance. The party will feature an open bar. Cocktail attire is recommended. Tickets for the preview party are $50 for Forum 35 members, $75 for nonmembers. The main event on Saturday is free to the public. Check out more information on Art Melt from 225 in a recent story here, and see what other events are on tap in the Capital Region in the new 225 Weekender e-newsletter here.

'How Green is my State?' assessment puts Louisiana in the middle

Using green-friendly metrics such as renewable energy production, gas consumption, air quality, recycling and other measures, Louisiana is ranked in the middle of the pack compared to other U.S. states on the "How Green Is My State?" assessment by MPHonline. Louisiana receives its best rating in the assessment's recycling category, with a No. 19 ranking. The assessment says about 25% of the state's residents recycle. Louisiana is also ranked No. 20 for mass transit use; No. 26 for renewable energy production; and No. 28 for gas consumption. Louisiana's worst category rankings come for water quality (No. 44); CO2 emissions (No. 44); and air quality (No. 49). Still, of the five colors states are shaded to represent their overall rating—from bright green to the rust red representing the least environmentally friendly—Louisiana gets the pale yellow in the middle. MPHonline analyzes information on public health education programs. You can find its "How Green Is My State?" asessment here.

Today's poll question: Do you recycle?

$16 billion worth of additional rigs expected in Gulf by 2015

The deepwater Gulf of Mexico, shut down after BP's record oil spill in 2010, has rebounded to become the fastest-growing offshore market in the world, Bloomberg reports. The number of rigs operating in waters deeper than 1,000 feet in the U.S. Gulf will grow to 60 by the end of 2015, says Brian Uhlmer, an analyst at Global Hunter Securities LLC in Houston. As of last week, there were 36 rigs working in those waters, according to industry researcher IHS Petrodata. Producers will need $16 billion worth of additional rigs to handle the expanded drilling, analysts estimate. While deepwater exploration in the Gulf has been increasing since 2011, the magnitude of the growth and the potential for revenue and profit for the service companies is underappreciated, says Jud Bailey, an analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group in Houston. Demand is driven in part by exploration successes in the lower tertiary, a geologic layer about 20,000 feet below the sea floor containing giant crude deposits that producers are only now figuring out how to tap. "Right now, the Gulf is the fastest-growing deepwater region in the world," says Chris Beckett, CEO at Pacific Drilling SA. The revival will add to surging crude oil supplies from the U.S. shale boom, with Gulf production climbing 23% to 1.55 million barrels a day by December 2014 from 1.26 million in March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Get the full story here.

U.S. rate on 30-year mortgage to 4.37%

Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages declined this week as concern waned in the financial markets over the Federal Reserve's possible slowing of its bond purchases this year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan slipped to 4.37%. That's down from 4.51% last week but is still near the highest level in nearly two years. Just two months ago the rate was 3.35%, barely above the record low of 3.31%. Rates had surged in recent weeks amid concern the Fed would reduce its bond purchases, which have kept interest rates low. The average on the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.41% from 3.53%. Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the Fed will continue to stimulate the economy, even after it begins to slow the bond purchases.

News roundup: Override the Veto Louisiana group says it's sticking around … Group asks La. high court not to hear Tony the Tiger case … Lafayette schools superintendent under investigation

Carry on regardless: A group that formed in hopes of pressuring lawmakers to hold a veto override session isn't disappearing even though the session won't be held. Leaders of Override the Veto Louisiana released a statement Wednesday saying they will continue to advocate for increased services for the developmentally disabled in the state. The organization says it will take a new name and will seek to work with lawmakers and the governor in the coming months to find more state money for disability services.

Going through the motions: The Animal Legal Defense Fund has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to let stand two lower court rulings that the owner of Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete cannot have a license to keep a tiger. The nonprofit group says it filed a brief Wednesday with the court saying the trial judge and an appeal court were correct to rule that Michael Sandlin was not eligible for a permit. Twelve-year-old Tony is the latest in a series of tigers that Sandlin has kept at the truck stop near Baton Rouge. He has asked the high court to hear his case. The Associated Press has the full story here.

Under review: The Lafayette Parish School Board will hire a private law firm to conduct an investigation into Superintendent Pat Cooper. The Advertiser reports the Gretna-based Grant and Barrow firm will be charged with looking into unspecified complaints against Cooper. Board member Rae Trahan initially made the request that was approved on Wednesday. Trahan says she is not looking to get Cooper fired, but wants to clear the air about some ongoing issues, which she did not specify. The full story is here.

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