THE BIG STORY
City of stats
Crime was already a hot campaign issue in this year's mayoral race for East Baton Rouge Parish, which kicked off early in spring with Mayor Kip Holden fending off barbs about a lackadaisical approach to reducing it by challenger Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker. More...
And they're off
The election season doesn't officially kick off until Labor Day. But the race for mayor is off and running, now that Mayor Kip Holden has officially announced his re-election campaign. More...
In a continuation of a trend seen every month this year, home sales in the eight-parish region tracked by the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors were once again significantly better in May compared to the same month last year. More...
Department of Revenue Secretary Cynthia Bridges, who served three governors, abruptly resigned June 15. No reason was given by Bridges or the Governor's Office, but the announcement came the day after Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected Bridges' expansion of the state's alternative fuel tax credit. Former state Rep. Jane Smith, a Republican from Bossier City who authored the now-controversial tax credit law, was appointed interim secretary. More...
After nearly six years of sitting dormant, construction has resumed on the Bluebonnet Palms Office Park on Bluebonnet Boulevard at Jefferson Highway. More...
Two new programs and a generous tax credit available for entrepreneurs took center stage at a recent seminar for small-business owners hosted by BRAC. More...
The thrill of six lanes
Thousands of commuters now have the luxury of an extra lane both ways on Interstate 12. Gov. Bobby Jindal cut the ribbon June 12 on the newly widened 5.2-mile stretch from O'Neal Lane to Juban Road, just east of Denham Springs. More...
Protect your best asset
It may be just your imagination, but it seems the phone isn't ringing as much as it used to.
People aren't coming in the door quite as often, either, and you're not sure why. It could be the economy, but that's supposed to be getting better. It could be the market, or the fickleness of the buying public. More...
Charles 'Chip' Groat
Founding president and CEO, The Water Institute of the Gulf
Hometown: Westfield, N.Y.
Chip Groat is the founding president and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf, a new independent research organization based in Baton Rouge. The entity aims to advance the understanding of coastal systems and the way science and technology can be applied to the coast. Groat grew up in New York before eventually receiving his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin. From 1978 to 1990, he held positions at LSU and at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. He later served as executive director at the LSU Center for Coastal, Energy, and Environmental Resources. In 1998, he was appointed director of the U.S. Geological Survey under President Bill Clinton and retained by President George W. Bush until resigning in 2005.
I do what I do because I am invigorated by opportunities to support good science in the service of effective environmental and resource management.
People outside of Louisiana need to understand that in addition to the beauty and productivity of our wetlands and waterways, our coast is a working coast that provides huge benefits to the nation through its fisheries, energy, and industrial output.
It was a privilege to be the director of the U.S. Geological Survey and exciting to serve both Democratic and Republican presidents. The USGS is a wonderful science organization with great people and has an important role in providing science that enhances the management of our nation's natural resources and helps protect our citizens from natural hazards. The position helped me understand how important interdisciplinary research is in understanding natural systems. This will be a great help as we build the Water Institute.
I have been a runner for 40 years. I run very early every morning no matter where I am. This has great physical and stress-relief benefits, and I see lots of interesting places before normal people are awake.
We hope to galvanize the great coastal science and engineering capabilities present in Louisiana. As the institute builds its research staff and partnerships with university and private-sector organizations, we will develop approaches to coastal restoration and protection that have commercial value and will be exportable.
Click here to read the full Q&A.
Baton Rouge Little Theater
MISSION Provide quality, live theatrical opportunities to the residents of the Greater Baton Rouge area as audience members, volunteers, production workers and performers.
RULING YEAR 1946
TOTAL ASSETS $279,510
CEO/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Keith Dixon
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Jennifer Johnson, president
Hugo Andricain Jr.
Drew Lamonica Arms
Ed Barnes Jr.
Susannah Fowler Craig
J. Richard Williams
ON THE BEAT
Retail on the rise
April sales tax collections in East Baton Rouge Parish show retail spending increased 9.3% on the month compared to April 2011, excluding vehicle sales. Spending was up 9.8% when vehicle sales were factored in. Those figures come from a new report from the city-parish Finance Department, which also says year-to-date retail spending is up 8% over 2011, including vehicle sales. Inside the city limits, sales tax collections totaled $7.3 million in April, an increase of 2.6% over the $7.1 million collected in April last year. In the parish, collections totaled $7.1 million in April, an 18.3% jump from the $6 million collected during the month last year.
MidSouth doubles up
MidSouth Bancorp is doubling its Baton Rouge presence with the purchase of two bank branches shuttered by the merger of Hancock and Whitney banks. A purchase price was not disclosed for either branch, and both purchases are subject to regulatory approval. The branches sold are the former Hancock branch at 2927 South Sherwood Forest Blvd. and the former Whitney branch at 6031 Jones Creek Road. MidSouth says it plans to open the Sherwood location in September and the Jones Creek location in October. MidSouth currently has two Baton Rouge locations: one on Siegen Lane and the other in Towne Center on Corporate Boulevard.
Pixel Dash moves in
The newest member company of the Louisiana Technology Park is Pixel Dash Studios, a digital media production firm specializing in interactive media, video game development, mobile app development and 3D animation. The studio will start with a staff of five, all Louisiana talent. The company was co-founded by Evan Smith and Jason Tate, and got its start in the park's Tech Park U program, a 10-week “business boot camp” for tech startups. Since completing the program, the company has developed training simulations, apps and games for the Web, Facebook, iPhone and iPad, including their most recent title, Fans vs. Franchise. Tate, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate, began developing professional software in 2005 in a number of different fields, including video games, military and health care. Smith is a New Orleans native and a digital art instructor at LSU.
The LSU-affiliated Louisiana Business & Technology Center, which runs a business incubator, has held preliminary conversations with the LSU AgCenter and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to set up incubators tied to the latter two entities. Charlie D'Agostino, executive director of the LBTC, says he's had discussions about what it would take to create an incubator tied to the AgCenter and the LSU Department of Food Science that would be useful for business clients and help commercialize LSU research. Along the same lines, LBTC already sends a few clients to Pennington, and D'Agostino says the center, which has excess space at the moment, might also house early-stage companies while allowing access to outside innovators and entrepreneurs.
An award winner
The $7 million North Boulevard Town Square, which opened downtown earlier this year, has won a City Livability Merit Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayor Kip Holden accepted the award at the conference's annual meeting in Orlando. “This project has taken our downtown to the next level among American cities,” Holden says, “and that increases our ability to attract visitors and new businesses to keep our local economy strong.” The national competition annually recognizes mayors and city governments for developing programs and projects that enhance the quality of life in urban areas. Created over an acre of green space near the Old State Capitol and the new 19th JDC Courthouse, the town square includes two stages for concerts, a fountain, tables and chairs, a covered bus stop, and a media tower with a high-definition screen. The $2 million second phase of the project is slated to begin later this year.
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