Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Tue, September 02, 2014

Commercial redevelopment planned next to downtown Raising Cane's

Downtown property owner Mike Crouch says he's ready to begin redeveloping the 4,000-square-foot, ground-floor space that is adjacent to Raising Cane's in his building at Florida Boulevard and North Third Street. For the past several months, Crouch has been preoccupied with the residential space on the second floor of the building, which is being redeveloped into three high-end apartments that will be available for short-term and corporate lease. Now, he is ready to turn his attention to the commercial space, which fronts Florida Boulevard and is next to Cane's. "It could be restaurant or retail," Crouch says. "We're not really sure yet but we have several people who are interested in it ,so we don't think it will be a problem." Crouch, who bought the historic building last year for $1.2 million, declines to discuss the status of negotiations over the neon Coca-Cola sign that sits atop the building. Since last spring, the sign has been at the center of an ownership dispute between Crouch and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. "We want to resolve this soon, and I think everyone is close to being on the same page," he says. "But the agreement is to keep everything quiet until there is an agreement." —Stephanie Riegel

BR called 'gold standard' for downtown development by 'Clarion-Ledger'

Readers of Jackson, Mississippi's daily newspaper The Clarion-Ledger woke up Sunday morning to a glowing headline and front-page story about the success of downtown Baton Rouge's redevelopment over the past two decades. "Baton Rouge: From vacant to vibrant," reads the headline to the story, which goes on to report that "from a growing residential population to a booming hotel industry, downtown Baton Rouge is accomplishing what Jackson leaders have envisioned for the heart of their own city: a renaissance." For Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, the story was an unexpected surprise and a welcome shot of free publicity. "They interviewed me back in the summer," Rhorer says. "I had no idea when the story was coming out. It's just great for Baton Rouge." Read the full story. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU-area condos purchased for $575K

An LSU-area condominium complex has been purchased by S.B.M.D. LLC for $575,000, according to land sale records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court. Records refer to the 10-unit complex as University Place Condominium. The complex, at 428 E. Boyd Drive, faces Janet Avenue and includes parking. The LLC is directed by Stanley Bienasz, an anesthesiologist who works with the Baton Rouge General hospitals. He bought the property from Lafayette-based BJD Properties LLC, represented by George William Buller III. Bienasz was not available for comment on his plans for the property as of this afternoon's deadline. Other recent land transactions of note filed with the clerk of court include:
• M & M Plumbing, located at 6757 Complex Drive, bought the building it was leasing for $304,000, according to Thomas Murray, a business partner.
• Slidell-based Coast Builders LLC bought three vacant lots on Westmoreland Drive in the Capital Heights area for $390,000 to develop into homes.
• TDJ Investments LLC, located in Covington, bought the Chuck E. Cheese's near the Sherwood Forest Boulevard and N. Harrell's Ferry Road intersection for $875,000 from Nebraska-based Empress Theatres Inc.
• Level Ventures LLC pushed another four properties, totaling over $234,000, closer to the construction phase in the nearly complete Shadowbrook subdivision.
• Six properties in the Magnolia Lake subdivision were sold to Delhi-area Dawson Farms LLC for nearly $1.23 million. The LLC is managed by Lev Dawson. —Kelly Connelly

Cook: Local brokers open new Sperry Van Ness firm

Steve Legendre, Ben Graham and Justin Langlois have opened a new local commercial brokerage firm in association with Sperry Van Ness, a national franchise. "We partnered with Sperry Van Ness because it will give us a nationwide presence and provide referrals from sources we may not have gotten otherwise. The company will give us a national reach, coupled with local expertise," says Langlois. "It was the right time to make a move because the market is beginning to expand and we wanted to take advantage of that. The software that Sperry Van Ness provides is agent focused. The ease at which it does the mundane task of paperwork, allows the agent to do what they are supposed to do, which is get out and sell." The new company will be housed at 6160 Perkins Road, in exactly the same suite where Mike Falgoust and Edward Rotenberg opened as Sealy Falgoust Commercial Real Estate years ago. "All three new owners have worked together, either at the same company or on brokerage deals, over the last few years, and each of us has a unique skill set to bring to the table," says Graham. The suite on Perkins Road is over 2,500 square feet, so there is plenty of room for additional agents to come on board with the new company, but none of the partners would comment on who else might be interested in joining. "You will just have to wait and see," says Legendre.

(Appraiser Tom Cook owns Cook Moore and Associates. Reach him at 293-7006 or TCook@cookmoore.com.)

Andrews: Local economic, housing prospects rosier than national outlook for rest of 2014

The good folks at Fannie Mae have reviewed our nation's economic progress over the first half of the year and have both good news and bad news for us. In a recent news release, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan notes improvements in the general economy and projects good things for the rest of 2014. "The August outlook supports our expectation that the economy will grow in the second half of the year at slightly above trend and push full-year growth into positive territory, albeit still weak by historical standards," says Duncan. "We expect the forecast will get a boost from consumer spending, which appears positive in the current quarter given the improving trends in personal income and hiring." But he doesn't have such positive things to say about the housing sector. "With respect to housing's contribution to growth this year, we have downgraded our outlook following the disappointing housing activity seen during the first half of the year," Duncan says. "The impact on mortgage rates from the market's expectation that the Federal Reserve would soon start tapering their securities purchases, combined to some degree with the weather effect in the first half of 2014, led to very little seasonal growth in housing." Duncan closes by predicting that 2015 "will not be the breakout year that most had been expecting." While the aggregate view of the economy and housing nationwide might have this outlook, things are brighter in our areas as our regional economy is outperforming the national averages. In our areas we are projecting continued improvement in job creation and wage growth, as well as sustained improvement in housing, through the end of next year. The wild card will be availability of affordable and reasonable housing finance when interest rates rise, but that looks good through the end of 2015 as well. In short: It is still good to be in south Louisiana.

(Brian Andrews is assistant director of the Real Estate Research Institute at LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business. His private practice is Andrews Commercial Real Estate Services, and he can be reached at brian.andrews@acresllc.com.)

Red Stick Spice Company to open second BR location at Main Street Market

Come Saturday, the Main Street Market will have a new tenant. Red Stick Spice Company announced this morning that it's expanding beyond its store at 7970 Jefferson Highway and opening a second specialty store inside the downtown market at 501 Main St. In December 2012, the spice company was purchased by Anne Milneck, who personally blends many of the spices herself. Gloria and Lee Easterwood originally opened Red Stick Spice Company in January 2010. The Main Street Market, which is located adjacent to the Red Stick Farmers Market, houses six locally owned restaurants and specialty shops. The market expands to include more local vendors during the farmers market each Saturday morning. Red Stick Market is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. —Steve Sanoski

BR the nation's 45th largest export market in 2013, report says

With total merchandise exports last year of $6.3 billion, Baton Rouge was the nation's 45th largest export market, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Total exports from Baton Rouge grew by $441.3 million last year, compared to 2012 figures, or 7.6%. Exports from Baton Rouge accounted for approximately 13.6% of all goods shipped out of Louisiana, according to the report. Meanwhile, the New Orleans metro area recorded a record $30 billion in goods exported in 2013—a 23.3% increase from 2012—ranking it eighth in the nation. The Lake Charles metro area, with $5.7 billion in exports last year, also made a listing of the nation's top 50 areas for exports last year, at No. 49. Goods exports supported 282,540 jobs in Louisiana last year, the report says. Across the nation, exporting directly and indirectly supported an estimated 11.3 million jobs in 2013. See the complete report, or see figures from the report specific to Baton Rouge. —Steve Sanoski

Executive Spotlight: Preston Q=Petersen

In spring 2008, when Preston Q=Petersen became general manager of Team Automotive Group, the national recession was gathering steam. "There were significant concerns about the future of our lenders and their lending practices," he tells Business Report in its new Executive Spotlight feature. Within the year, the group—which comprises Team Honda, Team Toyota, Team Honda South and Team Collision—also encountered fallout from the "Toyota pedal recall." A shortage of parts and a surfeit of misinformation were among his team's daily challenges, Petersen recalls. Six years later, he prizes the achievement of weathering that uncertain period. "Our organization came through it all much stronger, more focused and more capable in the end," he says. The TCU grad brought a special range of experience to his role as GM. His father had created Team, purchasing Baton Rouge Honda in 1988 and Levis Toyota in 1993, and Petersen had worked in every one of its departments. Perhaps as important, he was trained in wilderness leadership and had spent two years as a trip director and instructor after college. "I think about the basic principles of outdoor travel and awareness in almost all my daily challenges," he says. Read the Q&A with Petersen. Here's a sample of what you'll find:
What does the "Q=" in your name refer to?
"My full last name is Qvistgaard=Petersen handed down from my great-grandfather Aage of Denmark. This obviously takes up a lot of space when signing your name, goes against everything you are taught in second grade with a V following a Q, and makes things pretty confusing at the doctor's office. Over time my family migrated to Q=Petersen to shorten and simplify whenever possible."

'Business Report' planner: GBRIA hosts awards banquet … BRAC monthly luncheon to serve up primer on Affordable Care Act … Livingston chamber hosts 6th District candidate forum

Thursday: The 2014 Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance Craft Workforce Development Awards banquet will take place at the Renaissance Hotel, 7000 Bluebonnet Blvd., beginning with a 5 p.m. cocktail reception followed by dinner and awards program at 6 p.m. Individual tickets are $95. Tables of 10 are available for $850. Register to attend.

Sept. 9: The Baton Rouge Area Chamber's monthly luncheon will feature Michael Bertaut, health care economist and exchange coordinator at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, who will discuss what every business owner needs to know about complying with the Affordable Care Act. The meeting will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Manship Theatre. Cost is $20 for BRAC investors, $30 for guests, including lunch. Get complete details and register to attend.

Sept. 10: All qualifying candidates for Louisiana's 6th District congressional seat have been invited to participate in a breakfast forum being hosted by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Forrest Grove Plantation, 8743 Stephenson Drive, Denham Springs. Cost is $20 for chamber members, $25 for guests. Get complete details and register to attend.

The Business Report planner is open to events of general interest to the Capital Region business community. Items must be submitted no later than noon the Friday before the event occurs. Email ssanoski@businessreport.com with information.

For the full list of upcoming events, click here.

News roundup: Virdia Inc. to build $60M sugar and biofuels plant in La. ... Phillips 66 donating $750K to LSU … Cassidy lands endorsement from Ben Carson … LSU names new vice president for strategic communications

Sweet deal: Company officials from Virdia Inc. were joined by Gov. Bobby Jindal this afternoon in announcing a $60 million capital investment to build a biochemical processing facility in Lafourche Parish that will convert sugarcane bagasse into industrial sugars and biofuels. The processing plants will be installed beside the Raceland Raw Sugar Corp. mill in Raceland, where Virdia has secured an agreement to use 80,000 tons per year of the mill's bagasse, the fibrous material left after sugarcane juice is extracted. The project will create an estimated 81 new direct jobs, as well as 469 new indirect jobs. Louisiana Economic Development has more details on today's announcement.

Get your kicks: Phillips 66 will join Dow Chemical, Entergy, Chevron Corp. and others in its donation to LSU's expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall, which will roughly double the space used by the College of Engineering. Phillips 66 committed $750,000 for an interactive classroom that will be technology-equipped and geared toward collaborative, engaged problem-solving, according to a press release. Read the full release.

Birds of a feather: National conservative figure Ben Carson, a doctor, author and potential candidate for the 2016 presidential race, announced he would endorse U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in his race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. "Dr. Cassidy's career has been one of leadership on behalf of individuals and patients, particularly the uninsured," Carson says in a statement. "If we are to build a healthier America with more freedom, choice and opportunity, we need committed reformers like Bill Cassidy in the U.S. Senate."

New stripes: Linda Bonnin has been named LSU's vice president for strategic communications, pending approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors. Bonnin, who will report directly to LSU President F. King Alexander, comes to LSU from the University of Memphis, where she has worked since 1997. She was named vice president for communications, public relations and marketing at the University of Memphis in 2012 after serving as its associate vice president for 12 years. The position Bonnin will hold is a consolidation of chief communications jobs at both the flagship campus and the system office.
Sign up for E-Newsletters