Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Fri, June 14, 2013

Capital One building sells

A group of investors led by David Weinstein and local architect Dyke Nelson acquired the Capital One Bank building today for $4.3 million. The new owners are looking for potential commercial tenants for the eight-story, 111,000-square-foot downtown building, while they explore options for mixed-use redevelopment that could include residential space. They also plan to immediately add a 6,000-square-foot ninth floor on the building for use as a penthouse office. "There's so much momentum right now that we just think that it's a good time to be investing in downtown," Nelson says. Several potential tenants have inquired about the space, but none has signed a lease yet, says Jonathan Walker of Masestri-Murrell, who represented the buyers in the deal and is marketing the property. Weinstein and Nelson signed a purchase agreement to acquire the building early this spring. Weinstein and Nelson are also involved in the redevelopment of the Tessier building on Lafayette Street; the Lafayette House, a condo project behind the Tessier building; 223 Third Street; and 421 Third Street. "Dyke and his partners are part of a wave of young entrepreneurs who are investing in downtown," says Davis Rhorer, executive director of the DDD. The 1950s-era building is in a "beehive of activity" in the heart of downtown, Rhorer notes, near the future home of the IBM development center and the Commerce Building, also slated for redevelopment. —David Jacobs and Stephanie Riegel

EBR sales tax collections rise in April

East Baton Rouge Parish collected approximately 14.8 million in sales taxes during April, or about $400,000 more than was collected on the month last year—a rise of 2.8%—according to a report form the city-parish Finance Department released today. Collections inside the city limits were up 7.8% during the month and accounted for the overall gain, as collections outside the city limits were down 2.5%. The figures account for taxes collected on goods and vehicle purchases. Year-to-date, collections inside the city limits are at $29.9 million through April, or about 0.3% less than was collected in the first four months of last year. Outside the city limits, year-to-date collections stood at about $26.7 million through April, an increase of nearly 1% compared to 2012 figures. Total city-parish sales tax collections are at $56.6 million through April, an increase of 0.3% over last year. You can find the complete April sales tax report here.

Second victim dies after blast at Geismar plant

Authorities say a second victim has died following an explosion at a south Louisiana chemical plant. Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain says 47-year-old Scott Thrower of St. Amant died today at Baton Rouge General Hospital. Another worker, 29-year-old Zachary Green, died in Thursday's explosion at the plant owned by Williams Companies Inc. Williams officials and a spokesman for the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration say the cause of the blast wasn't immediately known, but the FBI ruled out terrorism. OSHA is investigating the blast and fire. Alan Armstrong, the company's president and CEO, says it's unclear when plant operations will resume. Louisiana's health department says 88 people were evaluated at hospitals after the explosion and at least 81 had been released by this morning. More than 300 people were evacuated from the site Thursday, but some stayed behind, officials say. Ten workers stayed in an explosive-proof control center as the fire raged, Cain says. The workers performed vital tasks, including shutting valves to render the plant safe.

SU small business center holds ribbon cutting

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University held a ribbon-cutting ceremony today. The new center previously housed a campus bookstore. Chancellor James Llorens says the center will make Southern a "viable partner" in the small business community. According to the university, independent research shows that businesses whose owners utilize LSBDC services grow faster and have a greater probability of success. Every business day, the university says, LSBDC clients create nine new jobs, save seven jobs, open one new business, obtain $190,058 in capital and increase sales by $374,423.

Louisiana ranked No. 49 for higher education attainment

With 27.9% of the state's 2.4 million adults aged 25 to 64 holding a two- or four-year degree, Louisiana is ranked 49th in the nation for its share of residents having completed some form of higher education. That's according to a new study by the Lumina Foundation, which promotes the attainment of higher education degrees and analyzed 2011 census data, the most recent available, for the report. Louisiana trails only West Virginia, which had just 0.1 percentage point fewer residents with a degree in 2011, according to the report. "Also, Louisiana's rate of higher education attainment is far below the national average" of 38.7%, it says. In East Baton Rouge Parish, 39.5% of residents aged 25 to 64 have at least an associate degree, which is the highest percentage in the state. "Clearly, [Louisiana's] economic future depends on producing more college graduates—and an excellent place to begin is with those who have attended college but not earned a credential," reads the report. "In 2011, nearly 546,000 Louisiana adults—22.7% of the adult population—had gone to college but lacked either a two- or four-year degree." You can find the full report here, and an overview of Louisiana's figures in the report here.

'225': Devoted dads

This Sunday is Father's Day. To mark the occasion, 225 spoke with five devoted Baton Rouge dads for a feature in the June issue. The dads discussed the popular misconceptions about their roles, gave tips for other busy parents and more. Among those profiled is Oscar Udoh, the 60-year-old coordinator for Planning & Evaluation and adjunct professor for Southern University Agricultural Center. Udoh says busy dads should schedule family prayer time with their children. "You can find out their cares, concerns, anxieties or worries through this forum," he says. Udoh also recommends eating dinner as a family as often as possible to engage in conversation. Another dad profiled in the feature is Michael Pasquier, the 33-year-old assistant professor of religious studies at LSU. Though Pasquier is away from home often, he finds time to read his children stories. "The imaginations of my children never cease to amaze me," Pasquier says. "They are my teachers." Read all the profiles here and check out the rest of the June issue of 225 here.

Top 100 submissions sought

Business Report is preparing its annual list of the region's top 100 private companies, which will be published July 23. If your company is privately held, headquartered in the Greater Baton Rouge area, and generated revenue of $10 million or more in 2012, yet you have not received a request from Business Report for more information, please contact Jennifer Gennaro at [email protected] to be considered for inclusion on this year's list. The deadline to submit information is June 21. You can find the 2012 Top 100 here.

News roundup: Jindal signs salt dome bills tied to sinkhole … Search committee formed to find Tulane president … IMF says U.S. economy improving but spending cuts a drag

Fixing a hole: Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law three bills tightening regulations on salt domes, a response to the 15-acre Assumption Parish sinkhole that caused evacuation orders for 150 homes. Stricter guidelines will be required for monitoring and assessing areas around salt domes, and stiffer penalties will be available in the event of violations. Jindal announced the bill signings today, saying the laws will protect public safety.

Here's the plan: Tulane University has formed a 14-member committee to search for its new president. The Times-Picayune reports that Tulane announced the names of its search committee members today. Tulane's current president, Scott Cowen, announced in May that he will retire in June 2014 after 16 years at the school's helm. The search committee hopes to find his successor by the end of 2013. The full story is here.

The state of the nation: The U.S. economy is on sounder footing than it was a year ago but is still being restrained by government spending cuts and tax increases, the International Monetary Fund says. The IMF's annual report on the U.S. economy, released today, notes that the underlying fundamentals are gradually improving: Home prices and construction are rising, household finances have strengthened, and employers are steadily adding jobs. However, it also notes spending cuts are acting as a drag on the economy. The full story is here.

Sign up for E-Newsletters